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Learn to Interpret Your Dreams
by Melissa Stratton
“ A myth is a public dream. A dream is a private myth” ~ Joseph Campbell
Dreams have been recognized throughout humanity’s existence as having significance. In earlier times dreams were considered prophetic. The dreams of important people in society from kings to clan leaders were analyzed by priest or shaman for their messages. Many tribal cultures such as the Iroquois and other Native American tribes had dream societies and considered dreams to be significant contributions to their art and culture.
Our modern Western concept of dream life basically began with psychologist Sigmund Freud in the early 1900’s. Since Freud’s time, psychologists have continued to study dreams and dream analysis is widely utilized in modern psychoanalysis. Beginning in the 1950’s, behavioral scientists began studying dreams from a research basis – how many times a night a person dreams, and what happens to a person when they are kept from dreaming for example. From this research we now know that everyone dreams several times a night. Most people average 3 to 5 dreams a night – whether they remember their dreams is a different story!
Today, there is an abundance of dream research and written material on dreams from professional publications, to new age type books, to popular tabloid “what your dreams mean” dictionaries, and on-line dream analysis sites. In spite of all this research and information since Freud’s time, there has not been much progress in the general public’s understanding of dreams. Many still believe dreams are basically caused by “too much pepperoni pizza”, or are simply emotional debris – frightening, bizarre or sexual in nature. This attitude is gradually changing. Popular Movies like Matrix, Inception and others are instilling broader concepts into the collective mind, and more and more people are beginning to claim their dreamtime and place it in the context of their entire life’s fabric. We spend one third of our life in sleep, and much of that sleep time is dreamtime.
Personally, I have been actively working/playing with my dreams and keeping dream journals for over 25 years, and have read too many books on dreams to remember them all. I cannot imagine living life without my dreams for guidance and inspiration. I fully believe that dreams and dreamtime are an integral part of our complete life process. It is only our entrenched material perspective that has divorced us from integrating our dream life with waking life. My intent with DreamWeavers is to help you learn to discover your own dream territory, and claim its vast beauty to enhance your waking life. In essence, to learn that dream life and waking life are woven together in a seamless whole. I hope with these techniques you can be well on your way to understanding the wealth of meaning in your own dreams, as well as your family’s and friends.
I agree with the philosopher Bertrand Russell when he said, “I do not believe I am now dreaming, but I cannot prove it.” After all, what we call “waking life” may be what our dreaming self calls “dreaming”.
Basically dreams can be placed into 4 different categories: biological processing, emotional/psychological processing, astral and communal or mass mind communication. Although all dream states can be combinations of all of these categories, each category has its particular “signature” and feeling state. With understanding and practice you can learn to differentiate between them. The first 2 categories are much more commonly recalled and recognized as typical “dreams”. Here is a brief description of each:
Biological – the physical body releasing information to the unconscious self, which if necessary is made into a strong enough form, such as a nightmare, to attract the attention of your conscious self. For example, if you are coming down with an illness, you may dream of crabs boiling furiously in a pot of water. Or if you are taking medication which is harmful to your body, you might dream of a battle with soldiers fighting.
Emotional/psychological – the subconscious mind digesting and attempting to integrate and process the events of the day (and of earlier life incidents as they relate to present events). For example, you have just started a new job. That night you have a dream where you are piloting a plane and you take off expertly, but when the plane begins to flounder you realize you don’t know what to do next. This could reflect your emotional state around the fact that although you got the job, you are concerned you may not have all the skills necessary to do it well.
Astral (or “Spirit Body”) – technically these “dreams” are not dreams at all, but are a symbolic recollection of being at the astral level, sometimes know as “out of body”. This sort of dream can easily be associated with the first two categories, and in fact, they can cross-relate. In other words, their symbolic content can give you information related to your physical and emotional condition. In this type of dream you can receive precognitive information; you visit people you know – relatives, friends, co-workers, even people you do not know in waking life. In these dreams you may take classes, teach classes, do healing work, and are worked upon in healing sessions. You might confront astral projections of all sorts from angelic to demonic, and travel into vast space. You also may just chat with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, meet someone from the past, or even someone who has passed on. These dreams seem much more “real” and vivid, as if you had been there in person, which in a way is true!
Communal/Mass mind communication – all of us on the planet participate in creating the reality in which we live. In these types of dreams you are in communication with this mass consciousness and decide together with others which course of events we will choose to be our consciously accepted “reality”. These dreams tend to be more obscure and less personally symbolic. Often these dream images are recalled as geometrical shapes, cosmic sounds, and vast indecipherable images creating feelings of awe. This type of dream is not remembered as frequently (if at all).
Multi-layering in Dreams – Another thing to keep in mind, is the multi-layering of dream types and dream imagery. For example in the biological category of crabs boiling in a pot, it certainly can mean you are coming down with an illness and you may even have a fever (boiling) that is working to kill the germs causing the illness. When this dream is considered from a psychological perspective, the same image could be telling you how you tend to avoid uncomfortable situations and hide like a crab inside your shell – but now you are paying for it! Even further, taking a look at your emotions, you may realize you are planning a family vacation to the beach where you always catch and cook crabs, although you have always felt squeamish about boiling them alive. In fact, if you thought about it further, visiting your family always brings up all the ways in which their values make you boiling mad! It is always beneficial to consider dream images in this multi-layered way. By following this process, you won’t miss out on a less than obvious meaning.
Techniques to Help You Remember Your Dreams
1. Keep a dream journal
The intention of writing or recording your dreams has been proven to help you remember your dreams better. Keep pen and paper, or recorder by your bedside to further reinforce your intention.
Each night as you drift into sleep, remind yourself to remember your dreams. You can even say “I’m going to remember my dreams.” out loud to yourself. Just this simple act further strengthens your resolve and deepens your intention, and eventually it becomes true.
3. Share your dreams
The act of sharing your dreams – whether it be with a family member, good friend, or a dream group – further reinforces your interest in your dream world. And you have the added benefit of gaining other people’s insight.
4. Drink a lot of water before going to bed
Sounds silly, but when you wake up in the middle of the night, it i easier to recall your dreams!
This is where you consider that every character in your dream is actually symbolic of some part of yourself. So if you dream about your husband or boyfriend for example, it can represent your inner masculine nature. If you dream about an old high school friend or relationship, consider what that person or situation represented to you then, and how this is being played out now in your own life now.
2. Symbolic discovery
This is a technique where you explore significant symbols in your dream, and try to discover what they mean for you personally. Symbols have bigger, archetypal meanings, but they also mean something to you based on your own life history.
Snakes for example are associated with danger and evil knowledge, sexuality, transformation etc. But if you love snakes and have one as a pet, then snakes for you personally could mean something entirely different if they show up in your dream.
3. Emotional – Feeling sensations
Note your feelings around everything in your dream – smells, colors, unusual images, animals, shapes etc. For example you might see a beautiful flower in your dream, but its smell may repel you. Or you could come across a strange insect-like creature, but are drawn toward it and find it attractive. Your feelings are often a major key to what the image represents for you.
4. Cultural context
In this technique you consider a dream image/symbol in the context of how it is perceived by your culture. Transportation for example: a car is your personal vehicle, essential in our culture if we are able to get anywhere independently. A bus is public transportation that involves other people – a driver, passengers etc. Boats are primarily pleasure vehicles, and so on.
Dissecting words for their complete meaning is one of the most effective dream interpretation tools I have used. For example, let’s say the actor/director Woody Allen appears in your dream. After you have considered the above techniques, you could then take apart the actual words and syllables in his name. So Woody might sound like “would he”, and Allen could be “all in”. So your dream symbol of the name Woody Allen could be a way of asking yourself “wood he be willing to give his all in…”.
Another example is bus which can sound like “be us”. If you dream about a bus, you could be playing with the idea of committing to someone – what would it be like to “be us” in a public way. When you pull apart words in this way, often their meaning becomes immediately obvious.
6. This Dream Means…
This technique is one which I had a hard time believing would work, but to my surprise works amazingly well. You write down your dream as you usually would, then simply draw a line at the end and write “This dream means…” and wait with pen in hand to see what comes up. Obviously it helps if you are in centered, un-distracted sate. Try it, you may surprise yourself!
Here are some sites with more background and cutting edge information on dreams and why we dream:
The Art of Creative Sleep – Stephen King
To Dream In Different Cultures – NYTimes
Sites on dream research and resources for further study:
Interesting Dream Events: