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Dream Interpretation

What Does Dream Interpretation Mean?

Dream interpretation (technically called oneiromancy) refers to finding hidden meaning behind the subject of our dreams. It is estimated that the average person will have 300,000 dreams in a lifetime, whether or not these dreams are remembered when they wake. Almost all dreams use metaphors (symbols) to represent issues in life. For example when I have a major decision to make and don’t know which way to turn I have the same recurring dream - that of a spider hanging over my head. Literally, something is hanging over me. People have been fascinated by dreams and what they mean for thousands of years. Biblical and ancient texts make reference to omens and prophecies that can occur in a person’s dreams. It is also an important method of divination for shamans (see shamanism). In modern times Sigmuid Freud (1856-1939) opened the door to studying dreams scientifically with his book The Interpretation of Dreams. He considered dreams to be the ‘royal road to the unconscious’. His work was built on by Carl Jung (1875-1961) who considered dreams to be an expression of the collective unconscious, a source of shared knowledge that exists around and in us all. They are the language of our unconscious and because they tap into the collective unconscious they utilize universal symbology. This is why a symbol in one person’s dream can mean the same in another person’s dream.

Starting To Understand Your Dreams

You cannot begin to understand your dreams until you remember them. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to keep a dream diary. Over time, you will find that you begin to gain an insight into your dream world, and into some of the events that influence your life. You will also become more familiar with the images of your unconscious mind and will begin to recognize and understand your own symbols.

Keeping A Dream Diary

1. Buy a notebook specifically for the purpose and keep it, with a pen, by your bed at all times. This means that even if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can scribble down your recollections of your dream, or dreams, immediately. It might also be useful to keep a torch by your bed.
2. As soon as you wake up and before you start writing, close your eyes for a few seconds and try to recapture some of the images in your dream. Most dreams are a series of images and remembering one could trigger the recollection of a sequence. If you can't recall any images, try to remember how you were feeling as this, too, could trigger a fragment of a dream.
3. Now start writing. You could use the left-hand page of the notebook to record the dream, and the right-hand page for your subsequent notes and comments. It is essential that you write your dream diary before you do anything else in the morning, so try to make it a habit. The more conscious you are in waking life, the less conscious you will be of your dream world, and any activity, such as having a shower or making a cup of coffee, will break your concentration and dissipate the dream. Try to include as much detail as possible, even the parts which don't seem to be relevant or don't make sense to you. Writing in the present tense will make the dream seem more immediate.
4. Once the bare bones of the dream have been recorded, you can begin to flesh them out. One approach is to look at the dream in categories. For example, you could analyse it under the following headings:
Significance: Is there a direct link between the dream and the day's events? Or does the dream reflect something from your past life? (Read about reincarnation and past lives).
Theme: Did the dream have a main theme running through it? Were you running away? Is it a recurring dream?
Setting: Where did the dream take place?
People: List the cast of characters.
Feelings: Make a note of any emotions you experienced in the dream. Were you happy, angry, scared or frustrated?
Symbols: Did any objects figure prominently, such as a bird, a tree or a train?
Words or phrases: Did any words or phrases in the dream jump out, or seem to have particular significance?
Other notes: Was a particular colour, time of day or season important in your dream?

How To Analysis Your Dreams

Once you have started your dream diary, you will have the material at hand for analysis. Remember to leave space on the pages for this. The longer you keep a dream diary, the more you will be able to make associations. Do certain objects make a regular appearance? Do you have a certain type of dream in times of stress? Are there any patterns to your dreams?

The first step is to decide whether a dream is worth studying more closely. Is it simply throwing up an event from the day before which is neither interesting nor useful? Or does it have some greater resonance, a feeling that stays with you or an event that seems important? You could assess it by looking at some of the categories you have already used in your diary:

Setting: Is the place in your dream somewhere you have been to recently, or in the past? How does it make you feel? Try to think of words to describe it. For example, if you dreamt you were back at school, the words might be "young, teacher, learning, test". If you dream you are being tested, perhaps you feel pressurized when you are awake?
People: Are they people you know? If so, what role do they play in your life? Or are they figures you have not met before? Again, try to think of words to describe them. For example, you may have dreamt of a child, whom you describe as "young, sweet, helpless, crying". Does this say anything about how you are feeling at the moment? Do you long to return to your childhood? Or do you feel vulnerable in your waking life?
Feelings: How did you feel during your dream? How did you feel after it? Have you felt a lot like this recently? For example, have you been angry, frustrated or stressed? Emotions expressed in dreams can give you clues about your emotional state when you are awake.

Exploring Symbols

The best way to try to unravel a dream is to explore and interpret the symbols within it. You will be bombarded by images, so try to select symbolic ones that seem important and leave a lasting impression. Symbols can appear in many forms and guises - not just as objects but as people, colours, numbers, even words. Some of the following techniques may be useful in trying to decipher what your symbols mean to you.

Look up the definition of a word in a dictionary. This will sometimes trigger associations that you have not previously considered. There are also plenty of dream dictionaries to choose from and they will give you some idea of what your symbols mean, or could lead to other ideas. Don't take their meanings as definitive, as symbols can mean different things to different people. Drawing the images that have been prominent in a dream can give you fresh insights, or you could try explaining your dream to someone else: putting a dream into words can bring out different aspects, and the person you are recounting it to may contribute ideas of their own.

Look at myths, folklore or fairy tales. Some symbols, such as snake, witch and dragon, are dominant in stories. Perhaps a symbol you have dreamt of has played a role in a story or myth, which may give you a new insight.

Free association was the method favoured by Sigmund Freud for dream interpretation. Think of the symbol and then allow your mind to wander through any words that come into your head and see where the train of thought takes you. Carl Jung used direct association. He believed that thoughts and associations should always refer directly back to the symbol. Think of a symbol then, holding it in your mind, write down all the associated ideas and images that come to you. You will find that certain themes recur and certain symbols become familiar. In time, you will learn to understand your own dream language. Even better it will help waken any latent physic abilities or help those who already practice psychic readings, including clairvoyance and clairaudience to improve their connection with the collective unconscious.

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