are more than random fragments spun from your waking life. Pay them proper respect and they will reward you with a greater
understanding of yourself and your world as you see it.
I began paying attention to my dreams
about six years ago. I had been dreaming all my life, of course, but my dreams always seemed to fade from consciousness within
an hour or so of waking (except for the occasional vivid or tiresomely repetitive dream). You know the ones.
But something important happened to me six years ago. I began to pay attention, to listen, and to record my dreams. In the
middle of an intense change in my waking life, my dreams became glittering jewels strung across my confusion, leading me somewhere
new. I considered them a special, if mysterious, gift, and still do.
Many of you are probably hoping
for a quick interpretation of last night's amazing visitation. Dream dictionaries are fun and sometimes helpful when you are
stumped about the meaning of an image or symbol in your dreams. However, there's something even more important than that.
You need a method more than a dictionary, an attitude more than an answer, when you work with your dreams.
If you see life as a process of growth, then your dreams can be viewed as guideposts along the way, pointing out something
you may have overlooked in your haste. Contemplation is in order! A dream may highlight a conflict or decision you need to
resolve. A dream may tell you that "this one thing" is the the most important thing for you to do or think about today.
Perhaps your dream is reminding you that there is a thread of life and meaning running deeper than your daily routine that
you need to grab hold of for a time. One of the most satisfying type of dreams is a message that you are finally ready to
hear. Up it floats from your unconscious, ready to be integrated with your waking life.
Types of dreams
There are different types of dreams,
of course. Prophetic or telepathic dreams, problem-solving dreams (aha!), recurring dreams, lucid dreams, nightmares, and
others. However, a good general rule is that the majority of your dreams, over time, are about you: your worldview, conflicts,
fears, loves, and progress through life.
Your dream may be very specific and down-to-earth about
something going on right now in your life. Or you may have a dream that requires a bird's-eye kind of perspective, as
if you are looking at the events from a great height or with the perspective of a lot of human history behind it (or a lot
of your history behind it). As you follow your dreams over time, you'll begin to understand what each dream
requires of you.
The people, animals,
in your dreams
Often, the people in your dream
represent qualities, not the literal, actual people represented. If you dream about a particular movie star, should you assume
you have a crush on that person? Not necessarily! Some movie stars play a particular type of character over and over again,
so your dreaming mind can point to that person symbolically and you know what personality, character trait, or situation is
being alluded to.
Animals or favorite pets may
begin appearing in your dreams and may represent a part of yourself in the action of the dream, a way of being. Some of us
identify strongly with our beloved pets! Animal symbols have been important in every human culture, from heraldry to astrology to totems. We have even created mythical animals
like unicorns or griffins or the phoenix to help us understand our lives more fully. Again, think in terms of qualities or
character traits symbolized by the animal.
Pay close attention to the setting of your dream. It
offers a context for your dream and provides valuable clues to its interpretation.
Is there activity
in the dream relating to an object? An ordinary, everyday object may symbolize a more complex concept. Think about it!
Keeping a dream journal
So, how do you begin listening
to your dreams? Like most profound acts, it begins with something simple. Keep a paper and pen by your bed. Be prepared to
write, draw or jot notes about what you've seen or experienced as soon after you wake up as possible. If you experience a
kind of half-awake, half-asleep state when you first get up, so much the better. Take advantage of it! You are halfway into
that other country, dreamland.
When something doesn't make sense, keep writing anyway. Keep fleshing
it out as best you can. Sometimes details will come forward you thought you had forgotten. In interpreting the dream, ask
yourself questions, and then answer them. Allow your imagination to guide you here, not your intellect. Usually, the first
thing that comes to mind is the most valuable. Write it down. Make associations. Be prepared for the unexpected, the illogical,
the humorous, even the grotesque.
If you can remember what was said in the dream (if anything
was), write it down, word for word. It may hold an important key to your interpretation. If you hear words as you are waking
up, be sure to write them down!
I use the margins to add my own remarks and interpretations that
come up while I'm recording the dream. That way, I have an accurate record of the dream events AND my first interpretations.
There may come a time when you will interpret your dream differently.
Remember, dreams are slippery things.
You are not in the land of one-to-one correspondences and literal interpretations. Symbols are open to interpretation and
context is highly important.
You are always the best authority on the meaning of your own dreams. But if you're having trouble
understanding a dream and you have a trusted friend to talk it over with, do so within the first few days of the dream while
it's fresh in your mind. Sometimes, the very act of talking the dream over will help you break through a block you've had
in understanding it. Pick a friend who thinks like you do and who's a good enough listener to let YOU work it out.
Next up in this area
- Why dreams are important to the creative process and how can you use
them. What various people and cultures have to say about the origin of dreams. More about Freud and, most especially, Jung.
- More poetry and other works based on dreams.
Read more about symbols now.