Dream Interpretation 101

There are many theories about why we dream, but no one knows for sure. Some theorists suggest that dreams are just our brains way of processing thoughts of the day, other’s believe it’s just normal brain activity, and many believe it’s a way of discovering underlying thoughts and feelings. Dreams have been used as a means for us to tap into another realm for centuries. It was only until the 1900’s, that Neurologist Sigmund Freud, converted this source of wisdom into a scientific process, called dream analysis or dream interpretation. Freud suggests that dreams reveal a person’s unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations and by strategically analyzing it, we can begin to understand the meaning behind them.  Since Freud, there have been many other theorists who have utilized dream analysis in their therapeutic work, as it has shown to be an insightful tool into a persons unconscious mind. 

Here are some practical ways of interpreting your dream:

Keep a dream journal. Therapists suggest keeping a dream journal in which you can record those dreams that you remember. If you think that you’re not a dreamer, that’s not true. Experts say that we dream at least four to six times per night. Dreams can occur anytime during sleep, but most vivid dreams occur during deep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when the brain is most active. So when you do remember your dream, make sure you record it before the memory dissipates. Keeping a record of our dreams allows for us to discover patterns, repeated symbols, images and other meaningful insights. Dreams have also been used as a tool for discovering inventions and breakthrough ideas!

Take note not just of the images in your dreams, but the feelings as well. Usually our dreams are a fusion of many random images, which perhaps is why we find it so difficult to explain when we wake up from it. One thing for sure, is that we often experience a lingering feeling when we wake up from a dream. Dreams can make us feel a wide range of emotions, and taking note of those emotions is essential in determining the feelings that we’re perhaps repressing, as Freud would suggest. Here is a dream, for example, that I recently assisted in the analyzing process. Let’s call this dreamer, Beth. 

Beth shared, “I dreamt that I saw my dog who ran away outside my bedroom window. Instead of feeling happy to see him, I felt scared and ran into my closet.”

When asked why Beth did not experience feelings of happiness to see her dog whom she dearly missed, she could not make sense of the question. It was only after deep thought into where the feelings of fear could have stemmed from, where we discovered her blockage from wanting to love again. Beth suffered so much from her pet running away, that she subconsciously closed herself up from experiencing any type of love in fear that it may leave her again. This little scene in Beth’s dream, was able to reveal a significant part of herself that needed healing. Therefore, pay attention not only to the images portrayed in your dreams, but to the feelings as well. It can serve as a pathway to understanding a deeper part of you that needs your attention. 

Consider the associations you have with the images in the dreams. For example, being in school could symbolize a desire to learn something new or it can symbolize a stressful environment. These associations could give us insight into feelings that we are currently experiencing and perhaps need to address. It could also symbolize a desire or need for change.

Consider the relationships you have with the people in your dreams. What do these specific people represent to you in real life? I was shocked to learn this, but in dreams, people aren’t always people, but often symbols of parts of ourselves. These different characters in your story can shed light into different parts of your own psyche. I find this fascinating because we all have a persona in which we share with the world, the fact that our dreams can shed light onto these other characteristics of ourselves that we perhaps haven’t discovered or don’t want to acknowledge, is honestly groundbreaking. Getting to know ourselves on a deeper level through our dreams, wow.

Look for repetitive/common symbols. Many theorists suggest to stay away from dream dictionaries, as each dream is unique to the person, however, in Jungian theory, there are symbols that can have common meanings throughout all of our dreams. Keeping a dream journal would be helpful in order to take note of common symbols that tend to appear in our dreams. For instance, a car driving out of control, can symbolize some part of ourselves that needs to be stabilized…Or being chased, can symbolize us avoiding something that needs to be acknowledged. 

Finally, ask yourself what the dream is telling you. Again, writing the dream out could be helpful in dissecting the different aspects of your dream. Noting the characters of the story, the associations you make to them and the images, the emotions experienced, and the repetitive symbols. This is something we can easily dismiss, but taking the time to understand our dreams could provide insight into a deeper part of ourselves that is longing to be exposed. 

I hope this is serves as a helpful guide to interpret your own dreams. Let me know your thoughts.


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