What is the meaning of our dreams?
How can we interpret them?
What do they try to tell us?
And what are they?
There are several types of dreams. Some of them are simply discharges of the emotional residual energy, for instance when we’re tired or stressed. Others appear under the influence of various drugs we might take. And there are sometimes descriptions of premonitory dreams and some people believe that these dreams can tell us what is to come in the future. Since I believe in personal free-will, I doubt there are premonitory dreams, but in reality, given the fact that most of us play a predictable script and we share a powerful collective unconscious, some premonitory dreams can actually be foreseen. For instance, if you remain in a given situation for a long time, and the general script is known, you can foresee that at some point a dream will point you towards the direction you are most likely to go.
However, the majority of our dreams are neither residual, nor premonitory. The usual dreams are comments to our past, present or future situation. They bring a new knowledge of the past situations, they offer creative solutions to the present problems or they open new perspectives on the situations that haunt us in the future. The dream should be seen as a partner and a friend, not as an enemy, and even the nightmares can teach us many things if we let them do this. Often, a nightmare is a violent way through which our unconscious mind focuses us on some details we tend to overlook for some time.
Another important aspect of our dreams is that they do not decide for us. It is our responsibility to make a choice, but if we decide to do something because we had this or that dream, it is still our responsibility. From this perspective, I believe that it is wrong and irresponsible to let our dreams decide for ourselves. But it is prudent to listen to their wisdom.
Next I will cover some of the most important techniques used for dream interpretation. They are listed in order, from the weakest technique up to the most powerful. And I will share a part of one dream I had several times because it is important to give examples. I understand that sharing something so personal increases my overall vulnerability, but in the absence of someone else, I will play this role. This fragment is only partial, but enough to give you an idea of how a dream interpretation might look like.
I had a dream that I was frantically running along a dark street during a night. The street was barely visible. I stopped at my grandparents’ house and I got inside. The house was in ruin and there was nobody inside. I got out of it and continued to walk rapidly towards an unknown destination.
This is the dream to be analyzed. So let’s begin!
1. Explore your personal meaning versus your dream! What do the objects or the persons in your dream mean for you? What associations can you make between the elements of your dream? Remember that each element in your dream has a specific meaning that is very personal for you. The books of symbols for dream interpretation are useless because each person has a private history and therefore has personal symbols that are unique in the world. Although some symbols tend to be common with the rest of the humanity, this is not the case all the time, so you should check everything carefully.
In my dream, the street is the symbol of my life. The house of my grandparents is the place where I lived during my childhood. The fact that there is nobody at home suggests some sort of emotional deprivation; although they were physically present, they were mostly absent emotionally.
Another important aspect of our dreams is that they are not defensive. They are always honest and always state the truth as it really is. Our body sensations, our dreams and the experience of a hypnotic trance are widely seen as the most trustworthy sources of information in one’s life. If you feel in your body that what you are doing is wrong (the gut feeling), your body is probably right. Same happens with the dream and the trance. But note that these 3 elements are always protective, but not always adequate. They will always keep you in your comfort zone following the line of minimum stress and minimum risk. For this supplementary reason, one should weight their dreams wisely…
2. Re-tell your dream at present tense – as if it happens now – and using as subject of all actions the pronoun “I”! This technique makes the experience extremely tense and immediate. And this also facilitates another process in the dreamer: assuming their responsibility for everything happening to them. Since all elements in a dream belong to the dreamer, he can assume them all. They belong to the dreamer. Nothing “just happens” in a dream. The dreamer is always the doer.
I am chaotically running on a dark street. I am barely visible [to others]. I go inside my grandparents’ house. I am empty. I am a ruin. I can’t find myself [or my meaning]. I run away from myself and continue my run. I don’t know where I’m going.
You can probably notice the dramatic change in the content of the experience. I can also tell you that I tremble and I’m highly emotional when I write this. You should try the technique on one of your dreams and feel the incredible emotional burden.
3. Express your dream non-verbally! Use either corporal expressions & attitudes (you play the dream in a mirror for instance and freeze yourself in some sort of sculpture) or stuff like colored pencils and a piece of paper so as to draw your dream! Or use a modeling substance like plasticine.
The photo of this article is one of the representations of my dream. It’s the house of my grandparents edited according to what I saw in my dream. I wanted to make it confusing and dark so that you find it hard to see distinct patterns or details. While looking at your own representation, you might get a glimpse of something you didn’t notice before. Look at it as if it was made by someone else and you see it for the first time. This way of looking at something familiar as something new is called “the beginner’s eyes view” and is commonly used in psychotherapy.
4. Re-tell the dream from the perspective of each character!
In my dream, I do not have characters, only objects. I will force the example and speak from the perspective of 2 of the objects in my dream.
I am the street. Every time when the night falls, there is a guy running chaotically on me. I am stressed by the repetitiveness of his steps that resonate in my head. He always runs, never walks. And he always runs without direction. He always stops in one place but never stays too much in there and resumes his run.
I am the house. Each evening, my peaceful life is disturbed by a young man who enters my existence searching for something. I don’t know what is he searching for, as there is nothing left in me, I can’t offer anything to him, and he knows it well, but yet, he keeps coming every time. After some time spent searching anxiously my rooms, he leaves me so as to return again the next time.
5. Imagine a different ending for your dream! This is a creative step and is sometimes made so as to conclude the dream interpretation and generate alternative behaviors or cognitions. The emotional quality is different and a solution might emerge.
I am running on a dark street. I remember what I’m about to do: enter the old house. I decide to turn around and I begin to run backwards, my eyes facing the opposite direction. This forces me to slow down. I am no longer able to find the old house as I can’t see what’s behind me and where I’m going. I eventually stop. I give up and sit in the middle of the road. I look around and I see that there are several trees and houses on both sides of the road. Some of those houses have lights at their front doors. Although I knew there are houses and trees around, I never paid attention to them, as I was too busy running.
This article was written using elements of Gestalt Therapy.