Monty's Dream and The Development of the Five Star Method

Gregory Scott Sparrow, Ed.D., Professor
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Faculty, Atlantic University

A Paper presented at the 2009 PisberDreaming Conference of
the International Association for the Study of Dreams


As I drove across the Tappanzzee Bridge in the winter of 1978, I felt a bit apprehensive. Heading for Dr. Montague Ullman's home in Ardsley, New York, I would soon be joining a dozen dreamers for a weekend of dream work. I had never met "Monty," but had heard about his warm and unassuming style, and the power of his method. But regardless, it was new to me.

As I drove along, I reflected on the task that lay before me. ARE's Director of Education, Dr. Herb Puryear, had commissioned me to design a course in dream analysis in my role of Manager of Special Projects. Since I'd completed a thesis on lucid dreaming and had recently published Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light, the project certainly fit my aspirations, but it required me to bring more contributions to the table than just my background in lucid dreaming.

I learned a great deal from Monty that weekend, and became impressed with the power of his method. However, at one point I asked him if he'd ever considered exploring the theme of the dream, along with the feelings and images. To give you some background to my question, my friend Mark Thurston and I had, for some time, been puzzled by Edgar Cayce's terse analysis of dreams during his clairvoyant "readings." Cayce had a way of reducing long and confusing dreams to brief summaries without addressing the meaning of the specific content. In pondering his avoidance of the content, we eventually decided that Cayce's practice of extracting the dream's basis theme or narrative was, in itself, a method of analysis that revealed the underlying storyline of the dream. On the heels of this "discovery," I was thoroughly convinced that extracting the dream's theme provided a valuable supplement to Ullman's focus on feelings and images, and I was eager to share my enthusiasm. But looking back, it was presumptuous for me to recommend changes to a system that I'd only begun to learn!

In response to my question, Monty politely and simply answered, "No, I have never considered it."

Not knowing when to leave well enough alone, I asked, "Why?
He replied, "Because it doesn't seem necessary." And that was that.

The next morning, however, Monty said that he'd had a dream the night before that he wanted to share with the group. In his dream, a young man arrived in a red sports car. Monty went out to greet him, but felt a little thrown off by the man's energetic style. After the group had worked on his dream and Monty had reentered the conversation, he revealed that the dream character reminded him of me, and that the dream had probably been provoked by my question the day before. He added that I was the first person to have ever questioned his method. This did not seem to concern him. To the contrary, he treated me kindly for the rest of the seminar. Later, when I wrote and asked for his permission to incorporate some of his ideas into the course, Monty gladly consented. It was clear to me then, and now, that Monty exhibited a generosity of spirit that permitted me to ask my own questions, and to go on to develop my ideas about dream analysis. Who could ask for more in a mentor?

I have found over the years that there are a variety of dream analysis methods, and that each exponent or creator is equally convinced that his or her particular approach is the best one. This is not surprising, given the fact that we cannot easily compare dream work methods. Beyond the difficulty of setting up parallel interpretations of the same dream for the same dreamer, the dream itself doesn't make itself available for scrutiny in the usual way, as a consensual reality that can viewed and evaluated by anyone. What we have is a story––the dreamer's story–– which is subject to distortion and embellishment in the retelling. Our ability to make sense of the dream, and to exploit its value for the dreamer is largely tied to the dreamer's faith in our particular approaches, and our ability to artfully apply them. In the end, it is the worldview of the dream worker that is expressed by the methods. The dream remains a mute witness to our efforts to understand it.

With that in mind, I realize that I have been "driving a red sports car" since I began theorizing about dreaming and developing my own dream work method. That is, I have introduced some novel, if not provocative elements into the dream work community.

The incorporation of Ullman's emphasis on feelings, and his way of encouraging dream workers to experience the dream as if it were their own provided the first step of a comprehensive approach to dream analysis that I developed in stages over the course of the next 30 years. Not surprisingly, extracting the dream's theme became the second step. But the third and most important step in the Five Star Method of dream analysis occurred to me later, as an outgrowth of my dissertation on lucid dreaming in 1983 and my early clinical work. Perhaps it is again presumptuous of me to say, but I believe that by incorporating this third step into my approach, the FSM represents a turning point in the history of dream analysis.

The Dreamer's Response as the Key to Understanding Dreams

I had been licensed as a professional counselor for only a few months in 1983 when I began working with a woman who had been referred to me by counselor in a nearby state. The therapist had become aware of my work with spirituality and dreaming and, for some reason, believed that I would be able to help Barbara, a woman who had just previously tried to commit suicide for the second time. Prior to her second suicide attempt, she had been flying to New York on a monthly basis to undergo treatment with one of the foremost experts on depression at the time. She had also undergone two regimens of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) along with antidepressants––all to no avail: Barbara remained deeply depressed and suicidal.

Although she tended to disregard most of my initial interventions as all-too-familiar strategies that had been tried already, she brightened almost imperceptibly when I first asked her about her dreams. Shortly after our work began, she shared with me a remarkable dream that seemed to foretell of her eventual recovery.

In the dream, Barbara had arrived late for a family picnic beside a lake. When she went to get something to eat, she discovered that all of the food had been eaten. Only the bones of a large fish remained on a platter. For some reason that she could not explain to me, she took the platter down to the edge of the lake and lowered it into the water. As she did, the bones came to life again, and the fish swam away.

The initial situation in the dream paralleled Barbara's outsider status in her family of origin. Her mother had orphaned her at an early age. After being reunited with her mother several years later, her stepfather sexually abused her, and her biological father also abused her sexually when he came into her life for the first time. The content of the dream made the situation clear: Whatever nourishment had been available in her family had been consumed by others. However, what was remarkable about the dream had little to do with the imagery. It was Barbara's response to the dilemma that was puzzling in the context of her near-total sense of hopelessness. From that moment onward, I used the dream as "evidence" that she had the capacity to participate in her own healing process. And because she had experienced this capacity, if only for a moment, she could never entirely deny it.


Since ancient times, dreams have been regarded as a message, or a representational commentary about the dreamer's life. Historians point to Plato as the source of the theory of mimesis, or the belief that dreams (and art) imitate life. Sontag argues that this belief is arbitrary, but runs so deep in the Western psyche that we can no longer contemplate a dream without reflexively trying to ascertain what it is saying or what it means. This traditional focus works, as we know, to provide a wealth of information. But a strictly content-oriented approach to dreams might easily overlook what is arguably the most dramatic and surprising aspect of Barbara's dream––what she did in relation to the dream content, and how her response consequently affected the outcome of the dream. Only by treating the dream as an interaction between dreamer and dream content can the dreamer's response rise to the level of significance in the subsequent analysis.

The Origins of the FSM

The Five Star Method (FSM) is a dream work approach based on a relational, co-creative view of dreaming (Sparrow, 2006a, 2007a; Sparrow & Thurston, 2009). That is, it analyzes the dream as an
interplay between the dreamer's responses and the dream content. It assumes that dreams are indeterminate from the outset, and co-created only as the dreamer responds to the emergent content. Instead of treating dreams primarily as fixed texts or communications that need to be "interpreted," the FSM treats dreams as dynamic, unfolding processes, the quality of which is determined by the dreamer's ability to respond in creative and appropriate ways to the dream's emergent agenda.

The FSM has it roots in my early exploration of lucid dreaming and my subsequent experience as a psychotherapist. As the FSM evolved, it was continuously tested and refined in my practice as a psychotherapist. In its current form, it can be used by individuals who are working with their own dreams, by laypersons who are assisting their friends and associates, and by professionals whose dream work methods must fit within the constraints of the therapeutic hour.

I first began working with dreams in 1970. I was only 19, and I had just experience my first "lucid dream," defined simply as the experience of becoming fully aware that one is dreaming during the dreams. Hungry for more knowledge concerning dreams, I immersed myself in Jung's work, and acquainted myself with the few references to lucid dreaming in the literature at the time, most notably Celia Green’s
Lucid Dreams (1968), which mentioned the early work of Frederick Van Eeden (1913). Lucid dreams soon became a common occurrence in my dream life, and the white light described by the mystics became, in turn, a familiar experience in the context of the lucid dream. From the beginning, the possibility of becoming more aware and responsive in the dream state informed my work with so-called ordinary dreams. Rechtschaffen (1978) once said, "Only when we see the possibility of the lucid dream do we fully realize what a massively nonreflective state dreaming usually is." I saw it differently. To me, the possibility of the lucid dream suggested that dreamers could become more aware in every dream. In fact, as I began to look carefully at "ordinary" dreams, I also discovered that dreamers were already quite aware and responsive––a fact that had been overlooked by traditional dream analysis up to that point. Further, since I believed that lucidity is relatively unavailable to most dreamers, I wanted to explore the possibility of enhancing less obvious, but nonetheless significant occurrences of dreamer awareness and responsiveness in the dream. This shift away from focusing on lucidity per se toward an exploration of the continuum of dreamer awareness separated me from other lucid dream researchers at the time, most notably the work of LaBerge, who focused on lucid dream induction without regard to the enhancement of nonlucid dreamer capabilities (LaBerge, 1985; LaBerge and Reingold, 1990). It also coincided with my early work as a psychotherapist, in which having an effective and focused dream work methodology that acknowledged the possibility of developing greater awareness and responsiveness in the dream became increasingly important in my day-to-day therapeutic work with clients, many of whom had never had a lucid dream.

Implementing the Five Star Method

Step One: Establishing the Context for Effective Dream Work

Alongside my interest in assessing and enhancing dreamer awareness and responsiveness, I was interested in developing an approach to dreams that respected the integrity of the dreamer and the dream, but which also unleashed the dream worker's ability to assist the dreamer in seeing aspects of the dream that are nearly impossible to see from the inside. This, we know, is a tall order. How can we actively participate in the dream work without imposing our own agendas? While daunting, it is not an impossible mission. Indeed, it is a task which is quite familiar to family therapists, in particular, who frequently assume a very active role as change agents, but only after getting to know each family member, exploring the family's unique experiences and values, and assessing the family's relationship structure. I realized that effective dream work had to be preceded by what family therapists call “joining” activities in order to establish trust and congruence between the dream worker and the dreamer.

How To Do It. The first step of the FSM is really a threefold exercise: 1) The dreamer shares the dream in the first-person, present tense (Perls, ); 2) the dream helper listens to the dream as if it were his or her own as per Ullman's and Taylor's recommedations; and then 3) the dreamer and the dream worker(s) alike reveal the feelings that were aroused within them during the dream sharing, much as Ullman recommends in his initial step, but without establishing a boundary of silence between dreamer and dream helper(s). Although this initial step of the FSM precedes a more active exploration of the dream, it is not without surprise and discovery, because each of us experiences the same narrative in a different way.

Step Two: Formulating the Dream's Theme
Alongside my early work with lucid dreaming, I was in almost daily contact with two other dream theorists and researchers––Henry Reed and Mark Thurston––both of whom also lived in Virginia Beach and worked with the Association for Research and Enlightenment in the mid-70s and afterward We were in constant dialogue about dream work methods, and somewhere along the way Mark and I began to discuss the problem of distilling the essence of a dream from its often wildly disjointed narrative. In specific, we were puzzled by some of the dreams that were submitted to the famous clairvoyant Edgar Cayce for psychic interpretation. We observed that Cayce rarely went into much detail in his analysis of the submitted dreams. Instead, he seemed to summarize the dream in a very succinct but cogent statement about the person's life. Mark and I began working with this concept, and found that by temporarily ignoring the specific content of the dream and stating the dream's essential action, we were able to formulate a brief statement that accurately described the course of the dream's unfoldment. We also discovered that formulating a dream theme enabled dreamers to quickly identify areas of the waking life where the same theme was evident. As editor of the Sundance Community Dream Journal, Henry Reed asked me to write an article (Sparrow, 1978) for the journal titled "The Dream Theme Method." At the same time, Mark presented the technique in his book How to Interpret Your Dreams (Thurston, 1978, 1988). And so, the technique quickly became quite popular among lay and professional dream workers who were familiar with the ARE and the Sundance Journal. Gongaloff has built an entire system of dream analysis around this seminal concept (2006), and Garfield has featured it in her approach to dream analysis, as well (2001).

How To Do It. Those of you who have worked with distilling the dream's theme know that it is very difficult for beginners to do at first, because they typically want to jump ahead and discuss the interpretation of the dream imagery. So while the dream theme is fairly simple to formulate it requires considerable discipline to stay focused on the task. All one has to do is to restate, as succinctly as possible, the dream’s essential action while leaving out all mention of specific images and characters. The more general one can be, the better. The following statements are examples of correctly formulated dream themes:

"Someone is trying to get away from someone else, but no matter what he does, he does not escape."

"Someone is relieved to find that something that he thought was lost is still possible to locate."

"Someone is trying to decide between two things, one apparently easy and the other difficult and challenging."

This type of summary reveals and preserves the underlying "gestalt" of the dream, and organizes the subsequent steps in the FSM around a framework that the dreamer can quickly understand.

Step Three: Analyzing the Dreamer's Responses to the Dream

This step is typically overlooked by conventional symbol-focused dream interpretation, and yet it forms the heart of the FSM. I would suggest that the preoccupation with interpreting dream images, traditionally referred to as symbols, has effectively retarded our discovery of the obvious: that the dream is a richly interactive process in which the dreamer's choices and reactions are clearly distinct from the dream imagery and partly determine, or cocreate the dream's outcome. Focusing on the imagery alone has the way of rendering the dreamer a spectator, instead of an active agent who, in being free to respond in a variety of ways, bears some responsibility over the dream's outcome.

Barbara's dream is again an excellent case in point. What makes Barbara's dream especially powerful from a therapeutic standpoint is the fact that the dreamer herself––a woman without a shred of hope for herself–– somehow found the strength and wisdom to bring about the renewal of another hopeless condition. Her action in the dream became my strongest "selling point" in support of her capacity to recover. Throughout our work I was able to refer back to the dream as proof of her own capacity to survive and to recover. She could never refute the evidence of her own experience, and eventually––after years of therapy––her dream came true.

A traditional interpretive approach may have arrived at the same "good news," because the implications are clear. However, a traditional approach might overlook more subtle dreamer actions in favor of analyzing the imagery. These subtle responses can be just as crucial in turning the tide of the dream drama, and in the waking life as well.

Take for instance the dream of another client, who had been abused by her mother. The young woman was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and adamantly opposed to ever becoming a mother herself. After two abortions, she entered a 12-step program, and began psychotherapy with me. Later, toward the end of our work, she had the following dream:

She is standing on the seashore, near the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. She sees a wave approaching, and it turns toward her. A whale's back appears above the surface and comes all the way to the edge of the water where she stands. The whale's head is now above the water, and it turns its head until a single eye looks directly into the dreamer's face. There is a moment of breathless eye-to-eye intensity, and then it recedes, leaving the dreamer standing alone with a baby whale at her feet. She knows that she is supposed to care for it so she bends down and picks it up.

This, of course, is an astounding dream, with life changing implications. The content is "bigger than life," and deeply evocative. However, the most important dimension of this dream to consider from the standpoint of a response-oriented approach is the what dreamer does, and does not do. She stands her ground, which in itself is remarkable. And then, when she sees the baby whale, she assumes she is supposed to care for it, so she takes it into her arms. In the context of the woman's burnt-out life, the dreamer's
response to the immense challenge offered by the dream indicate her readiness to enter a new relationship with herself, and with "the mother" within and without. The last time I saw her, the woman was happily married and the mother of a baby girl.

Such dreams as these provide "leverage" for the dream worker to refocus the dreamer onto what might be considered the emergent competencies that we may still deny in ourselves. Once the dreamer is able to own these capabilities, such pivotal dreams can become additional support for their new sense of self, and just important, for a
new response to life. By focusing on the dreamer's responses as well as the content, the dream work process makes the dream work deeply empowering as well as a source of insight.

When a dreamer is convinced that he or she is unable to respond differently to the dream, I have found that there are two sources of evidence that may eventually persuade the dreamer to reconsider. First, I often cite the examples of similar dreams that I have heard from other dreamers. For instance, a young woman reported having a dream in which she is outside her childhood home, and sees a fleet of UFOs approaching, belching fire from their undersides and scorching everything in their path. The dreamer reacts by fleeing to her bedroom where she hides under the bed before awakening in fear. Her question to me was typical and understandable: What do you think this dream was warning me of?

Gently skirting her fear, I told her a dream that I had heard from another dreamer who also had seen UFOs approaching, spewing fire upon the earth. In his dream, his family is in panic, preparing to flee the home. Instead of joining them, he thinks, "If they have come to destroy the world, then there is no place where we can hide." He then wonders if the extraterrestrials would, by chance, stop destroying the world if they know that humans have spiritual aspirations. So he closes his eyes and begins to meditate, attempting to commune with the beings aboard the UFOs. The UFOs immediately stop scorching the earth, and eventually land on a beach. Their owners––sages in saffron robes––are greeted by throngs of singing people as the sages emerge from the spacecrafts.

These dreams have almost identical content, but move in opposite directions due to the dreamers' contrasting responses. Thus such comparisons can illustrate that the dreamer's response often makes the difference between a "good" and "bad" dream. However, sharing the dreams of other people can provoke defensiveness in anyone, so it must be done sensitively in the spirit of raising hypotheses about what the dreamer might want to do differently, if the dream should recur.

While citing the responses of other dreamers offers to broaden the dreamer's perspective, the best evidence comes over a period of time from the dreamer's
own repetitive dreams, in which the dreamer's change in response is clearly mirrored by a change in the imagery, and in a more positive outcome. For instance, I had a client who dreamt that he is floating above a barking dog. He flaps his arms, and rises up above the dog, but then starts to sink whenever he stops moving his arms. The dog seems intent on biting him and so the dreamer remains quite anxious until he awakens.

In discussing this dream using the FSM, my client realized that he mistrusted his own instincts, specifically his sexual and aggressive impulses. His father had abused him severely whenever he had expressed his feelings, so my client tended to dissociate from his feelings, and then turn to pornography or to explode when he could no longer suppress them. When we considered his responses in the dream, he decided that he needed to "come down to earth" and engage the dog in a friendly way.

A few weeks later, after working on embracing his emotional intensity, the man dreams that he is hovering over a beautiful woman, who is trying to grab his foot and bring him down to earth. He flaps his arms, once again, to elude her, but feels playful and aroused, as well as a bit anxious. When comparing the two dreams, my client was able to see that the therapeutic work that he had done, paired with a more playful response in the dream enabled him to see the beauty in his emotional nature, even though he still had some work to do.

How To Do It. The dream worker, or dream group, needs to look for the points where the dreamer responded––internally and/or behaviorally––in such a way that could have affected the course of the dream from there on. These points are like forks in the path where the dreamer effectively chose which way to go by his or her response to what was presented. Then the dream worker––in dialogue with the dreamer––critiques the dreamer's responses to the dream encounter, especially at the obvious response points in the dream. Where did the dreamer show a willingness to accept a challenge, or take a closer look at something ambiguous? Where, in contrast, did he or she turn away or avoid an encounter? Where did the dreamer respond creatively, and when did the dreamer react without thought of the full range of options open to him? Based on what the dreamer tells the dream worker, the helper assists the dreamer determine whether the dreamer's response is ordinary and predictable or a constructive departure from his or her usual reaction to such situations.

Then, the dream worker engages the. dreamer in expressing what he or she would like to do differently in future dream encounters with similar situations. Also, the dream worker involves the dreamer in imagining how the imagery might evolve as the dreamer adopts a more desirable (as defined by the dreamer) stance toward this issue in the dream. The dream worker also asks the dreamer to imagine what the culmination of such an encounter might be like, and to use active imagination to "dream ahead" and to experience the benefits of such changes.

Step Four: Analysis of the Imagery

At this stage in the FSM, the dream work takes on a more conventional, imagery-focused analysis. The dream worker is free to introduce various methods of analyzing the content, including Jungian amplification, in which the dreamer provides his or her associations to the imagery. Or the dream worker might introduce Gestalt dialoguing between the dreamer and dream images, or suggest other nonintrusive methods that leaves the dreamer in control of the process.

Regardless of the methods used, the dreamer will discover that the imagery analysis is much easier as an embedded step in the FSM than undertaken as a stand-alone approach. By first exploring the relationship between the dreamer and the imagery, the dream worker effectively establishes a context or framework in which the meaning of the the imagery can be more easily discerned.

When teaching the FSM to beginners, I often ask my students what it would be like to communicate only with nouns. I have them try, and it becomes rather comical as they engage in caveman-like pronouncements that severely limit what they can communicate. I compare this limited vocabulary to a dream work approach that considers only the images or so-called symbols, and then I suggest that the feelings in the dream are like adjectives and adverbs, and the theme of the dream emphasizes the verbs that tie the images together. The dreamer's responses, in turn, are specific actions, and therefore verbs, as well. Students grasp this parallel quite easily. Then I illustrate the ease of understanding nouns in the context of verbs and modifiers.

While standard approaches to imagery analysis can be introduced in Step Four, an altogether nontraditional method of content analysis proceeds from the FSM model.
Just as the dreamer's responses are no longer considered a given, the imagery itself is no longer considered static: Both can change in the course of the dream's unfoldment. Indeed, changes in the dreamer's responses and the dream content are viewed as reciprocally related, such that a change in one will usually mirror a change in the other. We might say that the dreamer's response to the emergent dream content "cocreates" the specific imagery. From this perspective, we can say that the image is not formed by the unconscious, but rather resides within us principally as a pattern or potentiality, which can assume many different forms depending on the dreamer's stance in relation to it. Even after it first appears in the dream, the image remains in a fluctuating state, deriving its stability from the response of the dreamer to the particular issue being presented. If our attitude toward the issue is unchanging, the image remains fairly constant. If, however, our attitude evolves or regresses, then the image usually becomes more refined, or regresses, in response to this change.

An excellent example of how imagery changes in response to the dreamer's response can be found in the above-mentioned dream of the man who dreamt of trying to escape the dog. Clearly, it is important to discuss what the dog relates to in the dreamer's life, but it is also important not to become too fixated on the specific image. After all, the dreamer soon experiences the dog transformed into a beautiful woman. Our approach to imagery must have sufficient latitude to anticipate such transformations, rather than regress into a "dream book" approach where each symbol has a specific meaning or referent. How does one get a beautiful woman out of a dog unless one considers the underlying issue (such as the dreamer's instincts or feelings), which can be experienced in a myriad of forms depending on the perceiver.

How To Do it. In practice, the dream worker evaluates any changes in dream imagery that occur and how these changes might relate to, or mirror the dreamer's changes in response. Obviously, when imagery is considered a fluctuating reality that mirrors the dreamer's responses, questions such as "What does this symbol mean?" become somewhat distracting and relatively useless. Instead, the dreamer learns to ask alternative questions such as, "What is the general issue that this image brings to mind?" and "How is my response to this issue affecting my relationship with it?" While these questions may not result in clear categorical answers, they respect the complexity of a dynamic relational process which, if honored and kept alive, can culminate in profound experiences of healing and integration.

Step Five: Applying the Dream Work

In any therapeutic or growth-enhancing approach to dreams, the dreamer must eventually consider parallels in his or her waking life, and formulate ways to bring about constructive change based on the insights of the dream work. Thus, the final step of this dream work process involves identifying areas of one's life where new responses can precipitate positive changes.

The summary might involve an analysis of what
general life issue, or life challenge, the dreamer encountered in the dream. Rather than seeing dreams as relating to very specific situations, dream workers can encourage dreamers to view their dreams as presentations of general developmental challenges, which may, of course, take on a variety of specific forms in our dreams and waking experiences. The Eastern concept of the chakras––and various Western systems that are based on this concept––provides one such developmental framework, in which five to seven dimensions are used to represent the complete spectrum of life. Among the issues that dreamers typically face are:

1) dealing with intimacy with, and resistance to, the opposite sex

2) struggling with anger and power issues

3) dealing with parental or authority figures

4) encountering suppressed feelings, or inner child issues

5) struggling with issues of one's calling or true vocation

6) meeting the "shadow" self, and considering the value of rejected aspects of oneself

7) dealing with an urge to belong versus a need for independence

8) dealing with one's relationship to the higher power

Given the nature of the challenge that the dreamer faces in the dream, the dreamer worker may ask: Where is this type of encounter occurring in your waking life? If the dreamer can see a parallel between the dream issue and some waking situation, then the dream worker may ask the dreamer to consider new responses that can be made in that waking-state arena to encourage working through the challenge. Your work on the dream might suggest creative and novel options which translate easily into the waking context. But, then again, it is not always a good idea to encourage a dreamer enact what is otherwise a desirable dream action in the waking state! Kissing a frog in public might bring you trouble! Dream workers should encourage the dreamer to think metaphorically in order to translate a desirable dream action into an appropriate waking action.

Applying the dream can also take. the form of preparing for future dreams. In some instances, dreamers will be unable to identify any parallels in the waking life, even after completing the first four steps of the FSM. In this case, planning for future dreams may be the only obvious venue for applying the dream work. But even when clear parallels with the waking life are evident, planning for future dreams can become part of this final step of the FSM, as well, especially if the original dream was unpleasant. The dream reliving process underscores the dreamer's freedom of choice, flexibility and creativity. Regardless of whether it bears obvious fruit in the context of a future dream, it will surely have an overall benefit on a person's sense of confidence and self-esteem.


The Five Star Method represents a competency-based approach to dream work based on the dreamer's capacity to become more aware and responsive in the dream environment. It signifies a movement away from treating the dream as a static message toward considering the dream as an interactive process that offers the dreamer a chance to respond to the dream and to waking life in a new way. By focusing on what the dreamer does, and can do differently, the FSM is a competency-based approach to dream work that enhances a person's sense of personal responsibility. While the FSM may seem at first to minimize the importance of dream imagery, it actually does what traditional dream work methods often fail to do––that is, to establish an affective and interactive context in which the images can be more easily understood.

Behind this method also stands the unspoken possibility of having direct experiences of light and encounters with embodiments of higher power. Indeed, by assuming responsibility for our reactions in our dreams, we may experience the kind of ecstasy and healing that we rarely allow ourselves to hope for. While I have lectured and written extensively about such pinnacle experiences (Sparrow, 1994, 1997, 2002, 2003), I rarely speak of such lofty fruits while I sit with my clients in the trenches of their ordinary struggles. But keeping these possibilities in mind and gently introducing them when the opportunities arise surely communicates something of what also may await them.


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