APPLIED in a WESTERN CULTURE
California School for Professional
Psychology, San Francisco
The dream work of the Senoi tribe of Malaysia bespeaks an elegantly simple and effective holistic system of community mental health. According to the limited material available (see references 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12,13,14, 15,16, 17,18), each morning over breakfast the children, beginning with the youngest who can speak, share their dreams. The family praises them and offers encouragement and suggestions regarding actions they can take in future dreams. Many of the adults then adjourn to a tribal council for further dream sharing from which they plan for the governance and welfare of the tribe.
The Senoi boast of a healthy, autonomous people who for approximately the past three centuries have experienced virtually no armed conflict, violent crime, or insanity. It is said that each day they spend only two or three hours farming and hunting, using simple and efficient methods refined over the years. The remainder of the day they develop projects based on gifts and symbols, such as making new kinds of traps, and teaching each other songs, poems, and dances, all originally obtained from the "spirits" of their "dream universe." They also prepare for evening celebrations by making paper costumes and decorating them with symbols from their most recent dreams.
The Senoi recognize that these "spirits" are manifestations of their own personalities, a synthesis of responses to both
This article copyright © 1975 by Jack Johnston. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I wish to thank Dr. Eric Greenleaf who first demonstrated the Senoi dream work process to me in a class at the California School for Professional Psychology, September 1973.