“That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it…. We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within our self.”–Paracelsus
What are your dreams trying to tell you? Are you listening?
Dreams have been a source of fascination throughout humanity’s history; yet only recently have we begun to understand exactly what purpose they serve. Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, asserted that dreams were unconscious wishes, fears, and urges that surfaced when the conscious mind was at rest. Jung built on Freud’s theory, suggesting that the language of dreams is symbolic and that the unconscious mind uses universal symbols to bring unconscious messages through to the surface of consciousness. Campbell built on Jungian theory even further, proving the connections between symbols through time and across cultures by identifying themes common to mythologies the world over. These themes also manifest themselves in dreams, weaving stories for the conscious mind to decipher upon waking. But how? Read on for tips that you can use to immediately begin decoding your dreams and using their wisdom to gain access to your own inner truths.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” — C. Jung
“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” — Virginia Woolf
- Begin with intention. Create a physical and emotional environment conducive to nurturing dreams. Turn off the television. Spritz your pillow with a mild and pleasant scent. Lavender is said to encourage peaceful sleep, or you may use a scent that you find personally soothing. Make sure the room is cool and quiet. Then simply relax. As you drift off to sleep, you can invite your unconscious mind to reveal its wisdom to you and mentally affirm your intention to remember your dreams. Or you can just say the word “dream” to yourself as a mantra. The intention will be understood.
- Consider using a journal. Have fun choosing a journal and a pen. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, but reserve it for dreams only. This signals your subconscious that your dreams are important to you, which creates more opportunities to write. If you’d prefer, you can use a handheld recorder to record your dreams and write them down later. I do encourage you to take the time to write your dreams out eventually. Your mind will analyze the content differently as you’re writing than it does when you’re simply recalling it aloud. If you decide to keep a notebook and pen, also consider a lamp, bright nightlight, or free-standing flashlight for those nights when a dream just can’t wait until the sun rises.
- Phone a friend. Beyond writing your dreams, describing them to an objective third party can sometimes prove enlightening. “What does it mean when my boyfriend’s driving me somewhere, and as we’re going, I start to feel like I’m slowly going nuts?” my sister asked one morning. “It’s like he was driving me… oh…. crazy.” Enough said.
- Combine intuition with common symbol interpretations. You can find a million websites that will tell you what each symbol means. Scan some of these, but keep in mind that you are your own best resource. If you frequently dream about flying or falling but you enjoy skydiving in your spare time, your dream may mean something completely different than it would mean according to dreammoods.com. The emotions and thoughts you encounter in dreams can reveal quite a bit about what the symbol means for you. Pay attention to emotional cues and what seem to be randomly occurring thoughts.
- Put the pieces together. Like any good puzzle, your dreams need you to take the pieces and link them together to get their points across. Once you’ve contemplated what the symbols mean separately, consider how they relate to each other. Your unconscious may present a number of symbols to reinforce the same message. Considering symbols in context can also show you specific areas or times of your life that the dream pertains to.
- A few cheats. Following are a few simple and common elements of dreams. Use them to guide your analysis and to provoke further insights. It may also help to create an index of your own interpretations for later use. This can act as your own personal pocket guide to your dreams. It can also help you in interpreting others’.
BEING CHASED: Anything behind or to the left typically represents your past, just as anything in front or to the right typically represents the future. Being chased often represents that your past is catching up with you in some way, or it could represent that a memory is trying to resurface.
HOUSE: The house represents your perception of your life as it is. Rooms within the house indicate various aspects of your life. Below ground rooms (basement) represent the unconscious, and rooms typically represent the aspects of your life associated with the activities that take place within those rooms. Social gatherings represent the people within your life. Note how you feel and your attitude toward the house. Are you trapped? Do you feel safe? These reveal important clues about how you perceive your life overall.
WATER: Water represents emotions and the unconscious. Pay attention to emotional content and the appearance of the water. Is it deep, or is it a drizzle? Is it clear and clean or cloudy and polluted? These provide important clues into your emotional state.
VIOLENCE: Keep in mind that characters in your dreams may represent others, but they may also represent some aspect of yourself. Violence indicates a desire to control or an anger toward something or someone. If someone else is acting in a violent manner toward you, you may be feeling victimized or a sense of shame or powerlessness associated with that person. Pay attention to surrounding clues.
FREEZING or BEING IMMOBILIZED: Symbolizes a feeling of powerlessness. Incidentally, this also occurs when the conscious mind awakens before the brain allows the body to awaken. While not a pleasant sensation (it can sometimes cause a heavy feeling on the chest and the sensation of not being able to awaken), this is the brain’s way of preventing you acting out your dreams, which sleep walkers can attest is not a pleasant sensation, either!