There is a guiding principle to dream interpretation, and Edgar Cayce said it best when he called for us to interpret the dreamer and not just the dream.
Dream interpretation is one of my favorite topics. It is a great opportunity to really focus on the intersection of spirituality and mental health. The field of psychology has a long history and interest in studying dreams. Carl Jung, a famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, is renowned for his theory of the collective unconscious, as well as his interest in dream analysis and symbolic interpretation.
According to the Society of Analytical Psychology: Jung saw dreams as the psyche’s attempt to communicate important things to the individual, and he valued them highly, perhaps above all else, as a way of knowing what was really going on. Dreams are also an important part of the development of the personality – a process that he called individuation.
So, Jung understood that in the dream state, the subconscious part of the mind was intentionally working to communicate with the conscious mind information that was uniquely important to the dreamer. In other words, during dreaming, one part of the self is attempting to communicate with another part of the self that may not be available or easy to reach outside of the dream state. To go even deeper, the information attempting to be transmitted is of significant value to the part of the self that is receiving the information and is expressed in a language that on some level, the receiver holds the key to unlocking.
Dreams are a tool, like the proverbial finger pointing to the moon. Don't focus on the finger or you will miss out on all the celestial magic. Dreams are the finger and they are pointing to the dreamer. Interpreting your dreams is an exercise in self-discovery and self-growth. They are almost always referring back to you and every character, image and emotion is usually referring to various parts of your psyche.
The primary purpose of dreams is to attempt to balance the psyche. Keeping this in mind will help you understand the meaning of your dreams and prevent you from getting way off track in your interpretation.
Trying to understand one dream in isolation is like trying to understand a person by spending one day with them. By recording all of your dreams in a dream journal you will, over time, find it easier to understand individual dreams you have in the future. By collecting them, you begin to identify patterns, symbols, and themes that help you understand the language of your subconscious mind.
Dreams are like plays or movies that we create every night, and they have a similar structure. It can be helpful to look for this structure when trying to understand your dreams:
· Location: Where does the dream take place? How do you feel about that place? What emotions arise within you as you think about it? Does it have any relationship with a real place you know?
· Characters: Who are the characters? How are you presented? Who is the antagonist? How do you feel about each of those people (including the presentation of yourself), and how do they relate to parts of your own personality or to people you know?
· Plot: How does the plot unfold? There is usually a beginning (where the story is established and begins to build), a middle (where a crisis peaks), and an end (where the crisis gets resolved though sometimes dreams don't provide the solution and end in the middle of the story because it is up to you to provide the resolution).
Sometimes dreams can be very literal and they are easy to understand. This is most common in prophetic dreamers: those who have the gift of sight, those who have developed a spiritual practice and openness, and those who see the dream state as a way of connecting with that which exists beyond the physical world. For some, a dream can be taken at face value, but that is not the case for everyone.
Most often, dreams are shrouded in symbolism that points beyond the literal image. They can be trying to communicate a very specific message that applies to your waking life, they may be merely trying to balance your emotional life, or they may just be hinting at some thoughts or emotions in progress without any final resolution yet in mind.
Dreams are often messages from our subconscious mind that are resisted by our conscious mind. For this reason, the subconscious often cloaks the message in symbols, so the dream isn't immediately rejected or simply avoided by the conscious mind.
Unraveling these symbols can be very difficult, but also a lot of fun. It's the ultimate mystery and the most elaborate puzzle, but the answer is always within you.
Sometimes the answers are as simple as consulting a dream dictionary for the meaning of common symbols and archetypes. However, each person is different and has their individual dream dictionary. To make things even more interesting, your personal dream dictionary can change over time.
Interpreting your dreams can provide you with a lifelong quest that goes way beyond the puzzle-solving of the Da Vinci Code, but can also be much more rewarding.
So, if you’re up for it, try recording a few of your dreams in a dream journal without putting any pressure on yourself to jump right into interpreting them. Think of your recording them as the research necessary to develop a key that will later support you in becoming fluent in the language of your subconscious. Be open to recognizing patterns, themes, and connections to your waking life to make the best out of your experience.
Remember to be curious, but most of all be kind to yourself as you prioritize getting to know yourself better!