Dream: A series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.
- The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Some people believe that dreams are tools we have to hand in order to gain better understanding of ourselves; that they are a way for the brain to communicate messages between the conscious and sub-concious mind, and relate to issues and problems raised in the passing day or two. In tribal communities, such as the native Americans, dreams are significant and important for every aspect of life, and the pharaohs used to have dream interpreters in their palaces, to help them understand their dreams and even dream for them. The majority of people dismiss dreams as insignificant nocturnal events that are not remembered in the morning. Even nightmares are dismissed as 'just a bad dream' and get no further regard than that. From childhood we learn to neglect our dreams and take on board more important things, such as toys and arithmetics.
This entry is loosely based on the method towards solving dreams which is displayed in the book The Dream Game by Ann Faraday who is a Jungian therapist and has written several books on the subject. This entry is offering a tool to people who want to learn a method of interpreting their dreams by themselves. Please note that this is only general advice and might not work for everybody.
The process of interpreting dreams is individual and takes a bit of discipline, but once you start you may find that you're making progress and want to investigate further.
The Dream Diary
The first step is to keep a dream diary. This can be done by writing or recording the contents of your dream as soon as you wake up. Keep the diary and pen right next to your bed, preferably in your reach while still lying down1, trying to move your head and body as little as possible, since any movement makes you forget bits of your dream. Write down whatever you remember of the dream, stressing the main focus of it. For example, if you're chased by a lion through a forest, which is more important: the lion, which you can see vividly, with a big mane, teeth and claws? Or the forest, which has oak and spruce trees growing in it, the sun shedding light on the path you're running on? Also, describe the feeling you have upon waking - happy, angry, sad, frustrated. Try and go back to sleep if it's not time for you to wake up - you may gain another dream to write down - and when you have woken up, try and think what issues were on your mind last night, and through the day yesterday. Or, better still, make a bullet list of subjects that are on your mind before you go to bed. It's worth remarking that you probably won't remember all your dreams and are more likely to remember your morning dreams. Because of the way we sleep, which is in cycles of wakefulness and deep sleep, we lose a lot of our night dreams. If you had a nightmare, write it down and try not to miss any details because when you read your account back later, although it will probably be very surreal and entertaining, it might not tell you very much. Nightmares are important - they are your brain's way of telling you you have been neglecting an issue that's troubling you for a long time.
Read Your Dream
Try and find a quiet time when you can focus on your dream and try and find what the symbols in your dreams mean to you. There's no point in chasing global symbols, because each person has their own catalogue of images, and while some people find lions beautiful and majestic, others may find the quality of freedom in them, or maybe sheer terror of the sharp claws and teeth of the wild animal, about to viciously murder its innocent victim. You can therefore see the same symbol as majestic, free, or vicious, and globalisation will not help you at all.
You may find, at times, that your brain has put together puns and word puzzles. Those can be very funny and weird, don't forget your brain has your sense of humour and similar ways of carrying messages across.
Your brain is communicating with your conscious self by way of images, and if you develop this dialogue it can help you get in touch with your feelings and thoughts about your life, be they good or bad. Dreams usually represent hopes and fears, and in this capacity, of course, tend to extremes. Nightmares could be seen as a dream gone to extreme measures and is there to try and 'wake you up'. It's usually nightmares that are harder to understand, and that's unfortunate, because as small children we are told that they're 'only bad dreams', when in truth they carry a message that is important to decipher and deal with promptly. This is where role playing is best used. Say you had a nightmare about a worm eating through your clothes, trying to get to your flesh. Either have a conversation in your head, or with a good, open-minded friend, who will be playing your role, while you play the worm. Just start by 'why are you chewing through my clothes?' and go with whatever comes to your head. It may sound silly, but if you let your mind go with it, you may find out fascinating things.
Lucid Dreams - After spending some time working on your dreams, you may be able to control yourself in the capacity of a dream. It may have happened to you before, when you knew you were dreaming, and felt awake within your dreams. This is a technique that can be developed in time, but has not been thoroughly researched, apparently.
Dream Summoning - Again, an advanced feature of dream interpretation, you can ask for a clarifying dream, if you're having difficulties understanding your recent dreams. The idea is that you can set a mental alarm clock in quite the same way. Go to sleep relaxed and focused on the clarification you need. Be as specific as possible, since the explanation will turn out more puzzling than the original problem if you don't go into enough details.
Universal Dreams - Research has shown that most people in any culture have common dreams, the main subjects of which seem to be flying, falling from high places and walking naked in a public place, or speaking in public while naked.