Ihave always been fascinated with dreams and their potential meanings. I grew up in a culture where dreams were paid attention to and their wisdom was taken very seriously. We believed they were messages that spoke to every area of our lives.
Dreams have been an indicator of what is happening at a deeper, more hidden level within me. At pivotal moments, I have been visited by dreams which continue to impact and inform me, providing powerful perspectives and guidance.
In this article, I want to share with you 7 simple steps to begin interpreting the wisdom contained in your dreams. But, before we dive into it, there’s two main premises that we want to approach our dreams with:
A) All dreams come in the service of healing
B) The dreamer is always dreaming about the dreamer
What do I mean by this? Well, dreams have been studied for literally as long as humans have been having them. In our own Western tradition, we see the influence of dreams in our major religions and more recently in almost every psychology tradition, starting with Freud. The common theme with all the various schools of thoughts is that dreams always come to help us heal, mature, integrate, and become more whole. Even nightmares come in service of us; they are filled with healing potential if we are willing to face the message they are trying to communicate.
Which brings us to point B; that the dream is always about the person dreaming. Even if you dream about other people, especially people that you know, the dream is using them as a symbol of an internal quality of your own. The dream may also speak to you about how you are relating to that person, but the emphasis will still be on your internal experience. This is especially helpful to remember when you have one of those awkward sex dreams….
So, with that out of the way, are you ready to get into our 7 steps!?
1. Record Your Dreams
Pretty standard, right?! I mean if you want to interpret your dreams, you have to have them recorded somewhere.
But how many times have you woken from a dream and thought to yourself, “What a cool dream! I’ll write that down later…” only to fall back to sleep and completely forget your dream. Or, who of us upon waking reach straight for their phone? This pesky little habit will severely limit your ability to remember you dreams.
If you want to begin mining the wisdom of your dreams, you will have to create a habit of writing them down as soon as you wake up. Dreams are fairly fleeting visitors and will disappear from memory as soon as you start moving or thinking through your day.
However, if you can scribble a few very basic notes, even half asleep, you will increase your dream recall exponentially. The more you do it, the more your brain will work to remember your dreams. This can even happen spontaneously throughout your day (i.e. I was opening the fridge at work the other day when it all of a sudden reminded me that I had a dream about an empty fridge the night before), but you need to show your brain that these nighttime experiences are valuable and should be remembered.
2. Give your dream a title
In this step you are capturing the essence of the dream. Think newspaper headlines, movie titles or even click-bate. What in this dream grabs your attention? How could you sum up the basic plot or sense of the dream in a few words?
Say the title you’ve given the dream out loud and think what that title might suggest to in general.
This step is the first in getting a clue what your subconscious is trying to communicate to you.
Some examples of dreams I have worked with have been the Lions and the Dogs, Lead out by the Wind, and a personal recent fave, Dick pics at the Wedding. The dreams help us focus on the essence and most captivating part of the dream as we see it.
3. Repeat your dream out loud
The next step requires you to slowly read the dream out loud and to pay attention to any subtle emotions that come up as you do.
You know how sometimes we are totally fine until we start saying something out loud? That’s what this step is all about. It’s the act of speaking aloud that is helping us to get into contact with the emotion. Often, it is in hearing our thoughts and feelings out loud that the real connection is made.
Notice any links, memories, or thoughts about your waking life that come up and just jot the down. They may or may not be relevant, but what is important is to allow the association process in your brain to start happening.
4. Consider what is currently going on in your life right now
Now is the time to pause and to start reflecting on what is foremost in your mind and life at this moment. This is a powerful step in and of itself, as it is not often in our busy, results driven culture that we stop and simply be present to “what is” in our lives.
What has been going on lately? What has been preoccupying your thoughts and concerns as of late? If you were honest, what issues have you been trying to ignore or forget? How might the dream speak to any of those concerns?
You might like to look over any notes you’ve taken about associations and links that danced across your mind, even if they didn’t initially make sense at first. How could they inform the meaning you drive from the dream? What wisdom could the dream offer to that situation.
It’s important here to not overthink. Go with your instincts.
5. Explain each element of your dream as if talking to an alien
This is the really fun bit. Look at your dream and circle all the key elements.
You now want to go through and explain each elements or symbols in your dream as if explaining them to an alien; someone who has never ever heard of or seen what you’re talking. You want to include literal and metaphoric descriptions. Again, it can be very helpful to do this process with someone so you can pay attention to that “ring of truth” when you’ve gotten “the correct” meaning.
The aha of recognition of the dreamer himself or herself is the only reliable touchstone of dream work. Taylor, Jeremy
For example you dream you’re driving a car. How would you explain a car? Vehicle, has four wheels, helps you get from point a to point b, helps you go on journeys, something you sit in, something you have to direct, can be a status symbol (so what type of car were you driving) etc
Or maybe you dream of a lion. How do you explain a lion to someone who has never seen one? Big, golden, giant cat, king of the jungle, royalty, powerful, wild, dangerous, ferocious etc
Try and come up with as many as possible, but paying attention to what rings true in your body. Remember, dream work is an art, not a science, so there is no “right” answer just like there is not one right answer for a piece of art. However, the image will resonate with something as you explore.
6. Summarize the message from your subconscious
As you sit back and consider all the work you’ve done so far, how would you summarize the overall message that the dream is trying to give you? It will often be short and too the point, so keep the summary simple, grounded, and relevant to your normal waking life.
Summarizing a message from the unconscious can be awkward at first, but be patient with yourself. Any seeming lack of clarity stems from the fact that these messages are given to you in a new language — the language of symbols, of the right brain, of the unconscious.
Doris E Cohen
Don’t be too literal in your interpretations. Remember, the dream is about you and not about other people. What is it saying about you? What is it saying about how you relate to others?
When you consider the overall message, think of it like art. What is the dream evoking in you? What perspective is it trying to help you consider? What is it showing you that you haven’t already seen?
Do you best to distill the message into one or two short paragraphs that are meaningful to you.
7. Consider the guidance the dream might have for you
Again, slowly read out loud the summary you have written in step 6.
Here you simply ask ourselves, “How do I make this advice practical?” or, if the dream doesn’t seem to give any concrete solutions, “What practical steps could I take to address the issues communicated in the dream?”.
Not every dream will offer life altering solutions to our problems, but as you learn to trust the advice given and take wise, baby steps in actioning it, you will be amazed at your growth and transformation over time.
The biggest gift this process gives us is a deeper relationship to our Creative Self, trusting that we really do know what is best for us.
I would love to know what dreams you’re having! Write them in the comments below.