What do your dreams mean?
Over the years I have discussed dreams with a lot of people. One thing that they always ask me is what do their dreams mean. Asking me what their dreams mean and me wanting to give them clear answers to their dreams creates a very large and complex problem. One reason for this is because dreams are very unique to each person and asking me, someone who just met them, to explain their dreams to them would end in catastrophe without some background as to why they had the dream and the context of who they are.
Many people on the internet today sware that they can tell others what their dreams mean. There are even automated systems out there that can analyze the dream symbology or words used in the dream and extract some type of general idea of what the dream is trying to convey to the dreamer. Both of these options I must say is very inaccurate and you are mostly a waste your time or money, the reason again is that dream content is unique and is created to be particularly relevant to only the dreamer in specific ways.
Dream Interpretation, Some History
Throughout modern psychology, many people have gone about addressing dreams and interpreting what they mean. They have done so by a number of ways and some of these systems seem to be more effective than others. Most of the modern dream interpretation that we see today on the internet stems from Sigmund Freud who believed that common symbology (images and themes) in the dream could be traced back to our evolutionary desires, or animalistic needs of sexuality, violence, and greed. Though many psychologists and oneirologists would strongly disagree with Freud, he did provide modern science with a basic understanding of the importance of understanding our dreams. He also was clearly right in some ways, as often our dreams do have some type of underlying meaning that we consciously seem to have no idea about, for one reason or another. Thankfully for us and the sake of our dream sanity, other psychologists have come forward to provide alternative ways to interpret our dreams.
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Carl Jung is often mentioned as one of the most important contributors to dream interpretation techniques that are currently being used today. He had an alternative way of looking at dreams than that of Freud by providing a two-way communication between the dreamer and the analyst which allowed for the dreamer to dig deeper inside the dream and also grasp what the dream was trying to convey. Jung also found that archetypes infiltrated the dreams of each individual and often these themes were common with each dream. This new way of looking at dreams provided the much needed personal insight that comes from the dreamer interpreting their own dream, but still had the psychoanalysis aspect that Freud supported. Many people still use Jung’s method of dream interpretation as it seems very effective but others have built off of his processes such as Medard Boss and his development of existential psychoanalysis of dreams.
Medard Boss is simply one individual in a sea of psychologist that have developed their own dream interpretation method, but what is interesting about Boss’s method is that unlike Freud and Jung, Boss looked at dreams as a human experience that is the experience on its own, not representing something hidden. This means that according to Boss, the dream encounter is the experience and doesn’t need to be interpreted, just understood. This, of course, would make room for a lot of unemployed dream interpreters as everyone is capable of understanding their own dreams, but there is hope still for our psychologists.
A number of years ago I read a book called “The Dream Game” by Ann Faraday which I found had one of the best ways for dream interpretation that I have been able to find. Faraday explained that by using a method much like Medard Boss’s existential psychoanalysis process, Faraday could direct the dreamer to understand their own dreams in a clinical setting. This made it possible for the psychologist to act as a guide as the dreamer recalled different parts of their dreams as they expressed themselves in the individual’s memory, and then the individual would recall its meaning. Not only did Faraday direct the individual to interpret the dream, but she also had the client recall the dream in more detail through her process. She would do so by having the individual sit in a chair and tell her the dream from memory with their eyes closed, and then after they were done, she would have them tell her the dream again. More often than not, the client would be able to recall parts of the dream they had forgotten. Faraday’s new approach seemed to work very well and in the result, she was known as one of the leading scientists of her time for reliable dream interpretation.
Video of Ann Faraday and her approach to the interpretation of dreams
Dream Interpretation, the Right Way
First, there is no right way to interpret dreams. There are countless options out there for you to read about as to how to understand your or others dreams. There are some best practices that I have found throughout my years of research that have provided myself and others great results.
The best way to understand a dream is to have a basic background in psychology and then spend some personal time reviewing your own dreams and trying to understand them. Often we get stuck on an idea in our dreams and can’t fully understand what the meaning is, even though we seem to know there is importance there. If that is the case, we can take a lesson from Ann Faraday book and improve our recall by first writing the dream down, or record the dream through voice, and then after recalling everything possible in the dream, to recall it again from the start. Once we can recall the whole dream or at least as well as possible, we can start to see what the story is about. Personally, I like to think of the dream as a friend trying to convey a message to me about something, sometimes its a bit cryptic but a message is there. I get engaged in my dream and truly listen to what it’s trying to say, being honest and open. By doing this often I know right away what the dream is trying to say and I can either choose to hear the message or pretend like I don’t. I often find myself like a child when it comes to dream interpretation, I know what my dream is saying, but I don’t always want to listen. This creates a unique situation where I pretend to not understand, and often when I am ready to listen, I find the meaning that I thought was hidden from me. Accepting the dream and its message may be all that is needed to interpret your own dream.
Dream Interpretation, What Are the Steps?
If you read all that or just skipped down to here and just want to know how to interpret yours or other peoples dreams, here are the steps:
- Understand your dreams and others dreams are unique.
- The best person to understand your dream is you, you are the expert when it comes to your dreams.
- Being honest with yourself and willing to listen to what the dream has to say is key to dream interpretation.
- Sit down in a chair, close your eyes and remember the dream from the start to the end. Recall every detail you can, smell, color, people, conversation, and even emotion.
- Recall the dream again as though you had never recalled it the first time. Same process again as number 4.
- Review your memory of the dream and listen to any internal voice that you have about what the dream is trying to convey and what message it is trying to tell you. Often the first initial meaning that you sense is the correct one.
- If you need more assistance after this, then you can always phone a friend or talk to others who have experience in this method of dream interpretation process.
If you find yourself needing additional help with your particular dream, that’s okay, there is nothing wrong with asking others for help. Just remember that you are the only one that can fully understand your dream, and often dreams are telling us very personal messages. Do your best to stay away from those who are telling you what the dream means, rather than having you reflect on some themes or symbols in the dream that you may find important. If you still find yourself stuck, maybe you are not ready to hear the meaning of the dream, or you are unwilling to hear the meaning. If you want to explore more, maybe try lucid dreaming.
There are a number of great resources out there for you to learn more about dream interpretation:
An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming: By Kelly Bulkeley. PhD
Dream Studies: Ryan Hurd, Dream Researcher
The Dream Game: Ann Faraday
Interview with Ann Faraday’s on Dream Interpretation
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.
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