You spend one third of your life, the same amount of time dedicated toward your career, exploring existence in a topsy-turvy world of dreams and symbols. As if you have entered a world of mirrors, all that you encounter becomes a reflection of you. Taking the time to understand your dreams allows you to take ownership of your life. When you are facing crisis, dreams reveal the way ahead, activating self-knowledge and direction in life.
Since the time of Freud and Jung, enormous data and research has validated the patterns they wrote about that reveal how dreams demonstrate an organizing force within the psyche. Recurring dreams are a message that you are not 'getting' some type of message. Once the dream is understood and the message applied toward making changes in your life, the dream does not recur and the dreamlife moves on to the next step in your development. The more this input is ignored, the more aggressive and conflicted dreams become. Dreaming allows you to test your development while avoiding the real life crisis that can ensue from being off track to whatever destiny has in store for you.
The subconscious mind breaks through all barriers to provide this profound direction to the dreamer. As if some aspect of the brain has an understanding that transcends a sense of time and self-awareness, dreams function like another sensory organ that allows for the exploration of potential.
Since you rehash daily events in your dreams, you probably fail to see the special nuances that make the dream different from what you experienced. However, research shows that the mind is processing this information specifically because it may have impacted you in ways that you failed to recognize. When the opportunity to transform comes up against the walls of your beliefs, self-awareness still finds productive ways of breaking through. This process of self-enlightenment can be heightened when you take an active approach in understanding your dreams.
Freud called dreaming ‘a peculiar form of thinking.’ He suggested that dreams only appeared cryptic as a way to allow transformative information beyond the walls of defense mechanisms active while we are awake. Dreams allow us to understand existence from a broader perspective and Jung understood dreams as the compensation mechanism that balances the one-sided awareness of the ego. Dreaming takes place in a part of the brain that developed before language and therefore, communicates in images. Acting as the Mind’s Mirror, they offer an objective view of who you are, and hold the clues to your unacknowledged desires and potential.
The challenge you may face in understanding the language of dreams is in recognizing that everything that appears in the dream is a reflection of you. Characters portray unacknowledged aspects that you associate with them. Even the landscape, mood and objects will conjure up personal meaning designed to affect you in the same unspoken way that art and cinematic drama can move you.
Dreams provide a point of view that is unique and strange, but more importantly, can move you emotionally and inexplicably toward a change in perspective. Therefore, while you may not remember your dreams, they are changing you in profound ways. Since they usually reveal the exact opposite of what you believe to be true about yourself, understanding the language of the dreams will offer you an indispensable tool in harnessing the power of self-awareness.
• Prior to sleep, make a conscious decision to remember your dreams and ask for guidance. This actually improves your ability to remember a dream.
• A healthy and balanced diet in addition to a regular sleep routine will improve dream recall.
• Have a notebook or tape recorder next to your bed to immediately record the dream.
• Since dream imagery takes place in a different part of the brain, you will notice how allowing your thoughts of the day to intrude will make accessing dream content more difficult. Train yourself to stay with the dream, prior to thinking about what you need to do that day. If nothing else, capture the sense of emotion that the dream invoked, and use that as a thread to allow the dream imagery to return.
• Write down as many details as you can remember. It is not important to catch every aspect because many portions of the dreamscape will reveal the same message in several different ways. Start slowly, capturing the mood, landscape, and as many details as you can recall. The dreamscape lends itself well to association so even if you are not sure of the accuracy of the symbolism, in the beginning you can use whatever words or images come to mind. This will allow you to start recognizing the profound input that always emerges from within.
• Once you are able to easily recall your dreams, start looking for the less obvious symbols, like time of day, lighting, colors and numbers.
• You dream of the type of things that consciousness would rather keep ‘below the surface.’ Do not become frustrated when you are unable to recall the content. If accessing this information were easy, it wouldn't be the subject of your dream. Sometimes finding the appropriate words appears difficult, so try drawing images. Explore the ‘flavor’ of your dream and the feelings it created.
• The most important part of dream processing is the practice of recording information before your mind moves to analyze it. Approaching the content as objectively as possible to record the details will allow you to analyze it later. Even while it may appear nonsensical to you, discussing the content with a friend or partner can sometimes help you to understand it.
• Remember that the subconscious speaks ‘cryptically,’ specifically to allow repressed information to come forward so record everything.
• Assume that the dream knows more than you do. Gather the imagery and symbols and let the dream become your guide. The dream is trying to offer a fresh perspective about what you are failing to acknowledge in your daily experiences. Once the dream’s message begins to unfold, try to apply it toward the situations that you face.
• Those aspects of the dream that appear the most bizarre will in time, provide the most profound clues about your identity and destiny.
Analyzing the Dream
Approach the symbolism objectively and identify the setting, characters, symbols and theme of the activity. It will usually take a series of dreams before you begin to see how conflict and its resolution are being described by your unique associations. Since the story is unique to you, the symbolism will also be personal, although the Dream Dictionary can lead you in the general direction.
Trust that the information is relevant and is being revealed to you in the only way it can be expressed. The dream may appear just beyond the grasp of your memory. You can begin to observe how concrete belief structures ward off this emerging information. You dream from a more fluid awareness, and must use a similar free flowing consciousness when retrieving the content.
Explore the dream in pieces: a) I was in a car that drove off a bridge; b) I was at a train station with a strange man and forgot my baggage; c) There were several children playing in a garden where I walked through a door into strange house. All of these symbols describe essential elements of where you stand in relation to your growth. The car describes your ‘drive to move forward’ or motivation. The train station is a place of growth that shows your desire to go somewhere new or transform. The unknown characters represent unrecognized aspects of you. The strange man can be the idea of unrecognized 'masculine' traits, like being assertive or moving toward independence. The children can portray young or emerging sides of you, which are also represented by the unknown house. Forgetting baggage or 'the things' you carry with you is a common theme from the aspect of growth. The other symbolism will reveal how you are approaching change and what is necessary to move forward.
Without pre-judging the content, write it down immediately. Look at the words individually and objectively. You will see that in most cases, they are saying the exact opposite of what you believe to be true about yourself.
In dreams, all symbols have relevance, no matter how ridiculous they may appear. Besides things, look for colors, time of day and numbers.