Some Thoughts on Daydreams and Logotherapy

By Panayiota Ryall

This article was first published in The International Forum for Logotherapy in 2018.

Dream interpretation from a Logotherapeutic perspective takes into consideration our unique levels of consciousness working together and an integral connection with our spiritual dimension. It is our spiritual dimension (our awakening dimension) that makes us uniquely human and therefore it is imperative that it is recognized and considered in dealing with our clients.

“… the dream is an utterance of conscience … expressions of the spiritual unconscious” (Frankl, 2000, p. 47, 49).

There is a way to tap into and explore the spiritual unconscious by way of interpretation of dreams.

“…our goal is to lift not only instinctual but also spiritual phenomena into consciousness — and into responsibleness. After all, dreams are the true creation of the unconscious” (Frankl, 2000, p. 47).

Logotherapy dream interpretation has already been discussed by others. These include articles by Logotherapist Jim Lantz (1998) and more recently in The International Forum for Logotherapy by Zelda Isaacson (2008).

In this paper, I will not be discussing nighttime dreams, but rather, my experience with the Logotherapy interpretation of daydreams. I discuss particularly the daydream worlds of adult survivors of child abuse. I call for further exploration of this potentially important treatment.

In working on the interpretation of daydream worlds I realized that, in spite of all the emotional turmoil that a child goes through as a result of the abuse, there is still a desperate cry for meaning. I believe it shows through in each unique daydream world that an abused child might have created.

Through Socratic Dialogue, in my work with Logotherapeutic dream interpretation, I encourage clients to discuss and reflect on their daydream in a comfortable and safe way. When traumas have been too painful to face directly, working on the symbolic nature of a daydream world can be a way of providing advice and answers to assist clients in dealing with their hidden or trapped inner-stories and drawing meaning from them. This can help to make conscious and clarify what was once unconscious and undealt with, thus making it easier to deal with previously unspoken fears and traumas. Clients can find more direction for their lives, and healing is thus facilitated. Clients usually become less frustrated, angry, fearful, and depressed once they can understand themselves and their life-stories with greater perspective on meaning and purpose potentials in spite of abuse and turmoil.

Logotherapists assist clients to distance themselves from the negative aspects of their pasts, to discover for themselves that they are not to be identified by their fears, weaknesses, depressions, complexes, or emotional struggles. They can then choose not to be victims of their past, their upbringing, status, genetics, and so on. They become aware that they have the potential to be so much more than their past experiences may have tried to convince them that they are. The Defiant Power of their human spirit is awakened to help them face and transcend their situation as they move toward what they truly value.

Interpreting our dreams, be they sleep-dreams or daydreams, can help us to become more meaning-aware and meaning-orientated. I see the interpretation of dreams as a way of receiving personal revelation for the strengthening and improvement of ourselves and our lives.

Once the potential meaning message/s of a daydream world has been established through the technique of Logotherapy Dream Interpretation, the daydreamer may never need to dream that dream again. This has been my experience and that of my clients.

I would say that in most cases of child abuse, if not all, children begin to experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and voicelessness as a result of the abuse inflicted on them. With nowhere to turn, they might feel as though they are invisible, alien, and separated from their real world. I have come to believe that creating a daydream world is a way of trying to make sense of what was really going on in the child’s real-life experience, and in some way create a new reality in an attempt to escape their actual reality that is often far too difficult, confusing, and painful to endure consciously. They turn their reality inwards and create a daydream world of their own; a world over which they have at least some control. It is there, I believe, that children create a value-laden story out of numerous possibilities; one child might create an invisible friend, perhaps to cope in an otherwise lonely world of rejection and neglect, while another might create a loving family for comfort … a subconscious self-nurturing strategy. Others might create a daydream world of punishments and horror (described as symbolic trauma re-enactment of their real-life experience) to try and make sense of it all, but even their daydreams can be found to be value-laden.

By working on daydreams in therapy, clients can come to understand and realize their true values. They can be helped to recognize their great potential to actualize those values.

My experience has lead me to believe that the earlier child abuse sufferers are able to share their unique daydream world with a Logotherapist who has been trained in assisting clients through Logotherapeutic interpretation of daydreams, the better. It might require a huge amount of courage for clients to share their daydream world, as it is so deeply and personally tied to their experience. Clients need to be able to trust the Logotherapist in order for them to take the, possibly highly embarrassing, sometimes frightening, and often-painstaking journey of discovery into their daydream world. Therapists might only gain such trust through their authentic, unconditional positive regard for their clients, while holding an acute awareness that upon entering their daydream world with them they will be treading on very sacred ground.

“Logotherapy… borrows from what the patient knows by the wisdom of his heart and in the depth of his unconscious” (Frankl, 2000, p. 128).

I have come to understand that it is through the ability to dissociate from reality in the here and now that abused children, or adult survivors of child abuse, are able to sink emotionally, so deeply into their daydream world. It can serve as an escape from their actual reality, into another reality of their own creation.

Daydreams often speak in hard-to-understand symbolic language. Symbols taken from the individual’s real-life experiences may be used within the creation of the daydream world, such as places they might have visited, stories they may have heard, or maybe a character from a movie that they felt connected to or disconnected from (a movie character who may represent the abuser or, alternatively, represent a savior in the child’s life). There are a multitude of symbols associated with abused children’s unique life experiences that they might subconsciously choose from their real world to create their daydream world.

“Frankl viewed the dream as reaching upwards to the noblest and most spiritual self” (Isaacson, 2008, pp. 38–42).
“Logotherapeutic dream interpretation takes the person deeper than the psychoanalytic level of interpretation, to the meaning that comes from and restores the person’s higher humanity” (Batya Yaniger, personal communication, August 26, 2017).
“No one will be able to make us believe that man is a sublimated animal once we can show that within him there is a repressed angel” (Frankl, 2000, p. 65).

Some study outside of Logotherapy has already been done on daydreaming. One that incorporates the concept of dissociation was recently published (Poerio, Kellett, & Totterdell, 2016).

I see potential in extending daydream study into Logotherapeutic Daydream Analysis, especially for those abused as children. I hope there will be further exploration and research in this area.