You know that horrible dream where you’re being chased by a pack of human sized tarantulas, or a scary faceless man in a trench coat jumps out at you as you just happen to be strolling through a dark alley at night, and you try and run but it's like you are stuck in molasses? Imagine if those dreams have a benevolent message for you. Wouldn't you want to know?
Many of you have been asking about dreams recently, the kind you have when you’re sleeping. So per your request let's get to the down and dirty on dreams.
Do I take my dreams literally? Or symbolically?
Symbolically, for sure!
In my practice, I look at dreams through the same lense as the theory of Carl Jung who believed that every part of our dreams represent some part of the self. He looked at dreams from the symbolic level, rather than literally. So if you dream of death or birth, that doesn’t mean your dream is necessarily about about death and birth. Usually this has more to do with an old part of you that is dying or that you are letting go of, or some kind of rebirth that you may be experiences as you evolve into a better version of yourself. In essence, you'd want to symbolically explore the meaning and messages of each aspect in your dream.
Often I find that dreams, even the most difficult ones, contain benevolent messages for the dreamer. But, you can’t get the gift, if you don’t stop and do a bit of reflection. If everyone and thing in your dream is a symbol of you, because it was created by your mind, what would each aspect symbolize? When you look at your dreams symbolically you will begin to see how they are related to what is happening in your waking life. The gift is that the messages in the dream are not always conscious. So exploring them can be very illuminating.
Dreams are what you make of them.
I operate from the perspective that dreams, like our circumstances in daily life, are what we make of them. And, that means you want to have some type of practice on hand that lets your process your dream.
So how do I go about exploring the meaning in my dream?
Treat dream analysis a lot like a thought download. The first thing you want to do is keep a notebook or dream journal next to your bed. As soon as possible after waking from a dream write down everything you remember about it. This includes what happened, who or what was in it, how it made you feel, any thoughts you have about potential meaning. Get it all down on paper, no filtering, no complete sentences, just stream of consciousness.
When working as a coach, since it is generally a quicker process than the work I do as a psychotherapist, we don't always get the opportunity to look at your dreams in more depth. If you are curious about dreams I like to use a simple approach created by Martha Beck, also Jungian, focused on identifying the key symbols in your dream. Then we get curious and ask that part of yourself what message it may have for you. It's a very intuitive process and can provide a lot of assurance and guidance on your path. If you’re interested in more about her process you can read about it in detail in Steering By Starlight by Martha Beck (starting on page 106).
Martha Beck writes, “dream analysis can be helpful in using the dreaming mind to heal the working mind. While the literal interpretations of a powerful dream can sometimes be most painful, the symbolic interpretation of the dream is actually quite healing.”
I love this. It is so true.
I can't tell you how many gifts and how grateful you can be when you receive the messages that your dreams have for you.
The key message I want to offer you is, your dreams, even your scary and unsettling ones, are in support of you. They are benevolent. They are information and, sometimes, picking a process of some type to look deeper at the meaning of your dream, offers you insights on things you know, but didn’t know you knew. ;)
And sometimes it's just a dream. Keep dreaming.