I was going downstairs to the playroom at night. It was very dark. When I got there I turned on the light and saw my father hanging from the ceiling. I found myself flying up toward him. I felt fear. I said, "No, no." I was awakened by my wife. My father was white and blue like a dead person, talking, muttering . . . nothing I could understand.

This dream is not meant to be taken literally, according to psychiatrist and dream worker Montague Ullman in his book Working With Dreams. The dreamer, he says, is an artist who creates visual metaphors to confront himself with some truth about conflicts in his life. Among the ways Ullman prompted group participants to elicit the dream's meaning, and some of the responses:

How does the dream make you feel?

"It gives me a scary feeling," said one participant, "to have that stark and dramatic portrayal of a gruesome death scene."

Try to get at the metaphors.

"Could it be like he represents a situation that's unresolved," said another. "A decision, maybe, or a conflict between him and his father, not necessarily his father -- maybe a conflict within himself that is left hanging . . . ?

Go back to the dreamer and see if any of the responses ring true.

"I do have some conflicts. Conflicts with work versus home," said Roger, the dreamer. "The conflict situation is one which I think every businessman faces. That is the sacrifice of having to go to work and dedicate yourself to the job versus coming home and spending time with your family and wife."

Try to establish a connection between the metaphor of the dream and the day-to-day experiences and conflicts of the dreamer.

"Might the father in the dream represent his role as a father?" asked Ullman in synthesizing group comments. "That's the conflict. Am I going to be a good father or am I just going to be away and absent . . . and unfatherly? Now, I think we're looking at the dream metaphorically.

*"He's concerned and anxious about preserving his viability as a father because the life is being squeezed out of that part of himself. Something has a stranglehold on his ability to participate in as fatherly a way as he obviously wants to participate.

"So it was a crisis dream," Ullman summarized for the group, "and that's why it was so powerful, so frightening, why it mobilized so much anxiety and why it actually ended up being a nightmare. The conflict developed to the point where the situation had infringed upon his paternal neck."