Have you ever laid out on the grass with a friend on a sunny day and looked up at the clouds floating across the blue sky and compared your observations about the interesting things you see in the cloud formations? “Doesn't that big cloud in the middle look like George Washington?" The process that enables you to transform some ambiguous stimulus like a cloud into a meaningful shape such as someone's face is known as “projection”.

Psychologists seeking to understand another person's personality have created various “projective tests” to facilitate their efforts. Probably the best known one is the Rorschach Ink Blot Test. A subject is shown a series of 10 cards, each of which contain a different inkblot, and asked to describe what sort of things he or she sees, and where on the card they see those images. No two people see the same patterns of images when looking at these 10 cards. Responding to the same card, one person might report seeing a bat flying, another might see a menacing, hooded figure, and yet another might report an x-ray of someone's insides.

Another projective technique involves showing a subject a series of cards containing drawings primarily portraying human figures. The person being tested then makes up a story which describes the people, the activities they are engaged in, what led up to this situation, and what is going to happen next. At one point, a totally blank card is introduced and the subject is asked to make up a story in response to it!

Dreams, of course, represent the ideal situation for projections to show up, since the dreamer's eyes are closed, and the sleeping individual is responding to the internal dynamics of their own unique personal history to create their dreaming stories. Since you are the only person familiar with all of the physical and mental details of your life, you are the only person qualified to determine the accuracy of statements that pertain to your life.

An organization devoted for over a quarter of a century to encouraging people to enjoy “the many benefits of dreamwork,” The International Association for the Study of Dreams [IASD], has proposed: “systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream's meaning to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand the dream.”

A popular technique frequently used to work with dreams in a group situation has been called the “Ullman" technique, in honor of the psychiatrist, Montague Ullman, who first developed it. After hearing a dream, members can ask clarifying questions such as, “What did the woman look like?”, “Where was the house?”, etc. The leader of the group then requests that everyone who makes a comment upon the overall dream to introduce their remarks with the statement, “If it were my dream”, rather than "your dream means …." If a group member reported that they dreamed about being high on a mountain top, one member might say: “If it were my dream, I would feel triumphant, because I had been successful in my efforts to climb the mountain. Another might say, “If it were my dream”, I would feel very frightened because it’s very dangerous up there and I might lose my footing and come crashing down.”

To support the principle of non-judgmentally honoring every dreamer and their unique dreams, DreamsCloud has taken the approach that rather than offering dream interpretations, all comments regarding another person's dreams are listed as "dream reflections". For some other online dream groups any remarks made about the dreams of others are always prefaced with the initials IIWMD (If It Were My Dream). If the principle of projection is acknowledged, then it can be readily understood that any direct “interpretive” comments by someone about another's dreams, are more a reflection of that person’s personality then they are of the dreamer's personality.

For more information about the International Association for the Study of Dreams, visit www.asdreams.org.