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Practical Techniques for Understanding Your Dreams

The methods described below will throw light on most dreams, even if you do not take time to write out fuller associations. When the insights gained in this way become useful, you may wish to increase your skill still further. Therefore, below, and throughout the site, additional information is given on how to draw out the wisdom in dreams. A working attitude toward them is also outlined.

Click on the links to quickly find a feature:

A quick way to gain insight - Being the Person or Thing - Key Words - Stand in the Role of Character or Object - Talking as a Dream Character - The Bare Bones - Walk On Part - What do You bring to Your Dreams? - What is your Role or Theme in the dream? - Writing it all down – don’t be fooled, it can work

Although the process of dreams might not be a direct attempt to present MEANING, a dream may nevertheless have a great deal of INFORMATION in it. This becomes clearer if we remember that not many years ago it would have appeared highly superstitious or suspect to claim to be able to tell a person details of their health and parentage from a sample of their urine or blood. Today it is common practice. We accept that a growing amount of information can be gained from these unlikely sources. Blood doesn’t contain meaning, but we can gain information from it. In a similar way a sample of our dreams can also tell us an enormous amount. Sometimes this data is obvious, sometimes it needs processing to uncover, as with urine and blood.

But dream exploration needs to be learned and practised. Many people say they cannot get any results from using the techniques. It is like any skill like riding a bike or driving a car – at first you will fail until with practise it becomes second nature.  You need to learn new skills and habits.  When they are learned they are life enhancing like learning to drive a car.

For instance, speaking as an object or dream person, one needs to take time with it. Learn h ow to actually describe what you are as that dream object or person. If I dream of a dog, don’t simply describe what you think a dog feels like, but actually take time to tune into the dream image and describe the dog dreamt about. Is it an old or young dog? What is it doing in the dream? Listen to your feelings and describe what it/you feel. Remember that each image is a creation of your own mind and unconscious, so you are really describing yourself. Say whatever comes and consider its value afterwards. Below is a quote from Tiziana Stupia’s book Meeting Shiva 

MeetingShivaA

Tony taught me a process in which a dream could be interpreted and understood by assuming that everything, people and objects alike, in a dream represented aspects of the Self. Sitting cross-legged on the squishy, old-fashioned sofa in the living room of my sadhu’s cave opposite Tony, I’d close my eyes and mentally return to a dream I had the previous night. He would ask me questions about the dream, which I’d answer in the first person. So if I dreamt about a tree, I would ‘become’ the tree, assume its personality and respond from its viewpoint. He’d ask ‘So what kind of tree are you? Are you big or small, old or young? What do you look like? Where are you growing? Why are you in Tiziana’s dream?’  This sounded like a silly exercise at first, but I was soon enough convinced of its validity. It was fascinating to discover a wealth of insight and emotion emerging from my responses, and understand how they related to my current situation. They also pinpointed exactly where I was in my growth process. Sometimes, the dreams would uncover unconscious fears and intuitions. Often, they also held important clues and offered solutions to my problems. It was like doing detective’s work – arduous at times, but rewarding beyond belief.

So below are listed several ways to gain insight and information from your dreams. Take your time with each approach until you get the feel for it, and then experiment with other approaches.

The Bare Bones

There is nothing in any dream that can hurt you, unless you run away from something. Running away is leaving yourself open to being a victim of whatever frightens you. So always confront and conquer the danger in your dreams. If a bear is attacking you in the woods, go toward the bear rather than running from it. If a person strikes you in the dream, fight back. In other words, combat and conquer your monsters rather than fleeing from them.

If a bear or critter is chasing you, it is only dream image and so what are you running from? If you drop the image if the bear/critter what you have is a feeling or emotion such as fear. And why are you running like crazy from an emotion? Of course it is different if it is waking life – but in dreams you are dealing with your emotions that cannot hurt you. We must make a division between what we take into us from outer life and what is real in outer life.

Remember that fundamentally you are a survivor – you were the survivor of millions of sperms. You have survived so far and have in you the power to meet whatever life brings. See Life’s Little Secrets

Dreams are like computer games in which you get very involved and face monsters and kill or be killed and nothing has actually happened – you are still alive and unhurt. But in this wonderfully alive virtual reality of your dreams we are all playing the game of life – the game we play in which we face or run away from the things that scare us; in which we explore the depths of our existence or learn how to love – or simply meet a reflection of our own weakness, terror and of course the wonder of your inner genius. For that is all it is – a magic mirror in which we see ourselves naked of pretense.

So use your dreams and play them instead of running away. Face change as the great opportunity and use it as a skill. See Secrets of Power Dreaming – Dream Yoga

And do not think, “That monster is bigger and stronger than I am, and it is frightening!!” It is our thoughts and fears that create the monsters inside us. So of course you are stronger unless you cower in fear.

Getting at your Dreams Meaning

People often look at the main word in their dream, look it up, and leave it at that. But usually a dream has a main theme and several other images, people, animals or things are mentioned.

I will give an example to show how to arrive at a dream’s meaning from use of the Dream Dictionary entries. It is important to first write the dream down as fully as possible. Don’t stint on the use of words. Be descriptive. Then take the very opening scene of the dream and look it up in the appropriate entry.

Example: I was standing in the back garden of a house – one of a row of terraced houses. Each garden was fenced and ran down to a large drainage ditch. It seemed to be raining and water was filling the drainage ditch. The water was backing up into the gardens because something was blocking the ditch. It started rising up my legs. It was quite hot. I realised this was because hot water was running out of the baths and sinks in the houses. I felt I must get out of the gardens. Not only because of the water, but because of how people might feel if they saw me in their garden. I managed to find a way into a farm yard where I felt relaxed.’ Ted F.

The first scene here is Garden. On a piece of paper separate to the dream, write Garden, with space for notes to be put beside it. The entry on Garden in the Dictionary says – ‘Your garden dream often reveals what you are doing with your latent possibilities. It is pointing out whether you have cultivated your abilities, or buried them. A garden is sometimes a place of love in a dream. In which case it can denote what is growing or dying in your relationship. Another garden theme is connected with activities we do in the garden, like pets we keep, or work done.’

The words Houses – Raining – Hot water – Fences – Farmyard need to be looked up and relevant comments written down next to each word. It is important to realise that the dream and its images are a story, not in words but in images with which we have personal associations with. So wrtite down by each word the basic meaning that appeals to you – i.e. makes sense to you.

Houses – Other people. Raining – emotions, release of feelings. Hot Water – Strong emotions or facing difficult situations, such as social criticism. fence or wall also suggests social barriers, the attitudes and feelings people express to keep others at a distance, to keep a separation between those of different social, religious or economic class. Framyard – This usually has to do with your relationship with your natural urges, the basic drives, such as sex, survival, social hierarchy, parenthood, the down to earth side of yourself.

If we put them together into a story form, we have: I was in an environment with other people and was in hot water facing a difficult situation such as social criticism. I was also in other people’s space and felt that their fences, their attitudes and social difference were there to keep me out. But in returning to my natural feelings I felt at ease again

Making a story of it is an important step, and through you will probably even see what the message of your dream is. But in doing this with his dream, Ted took it further by adding his own associations and ended up with the following. But it is important for you to see what your feelings are and whether any of what is said applies to you. It doesn’t matter if the entry on garden doesn’t contain what is said in your dream. Instead you can say, ‘None of those things apply, but the entry has made me remember my dream garden is a place of pain where a terrible incident happened to me.’ See Working with associations

Ted arrive at and wrote:

Garden – The growth and changes occurring in my life at present.

Row of Houses – Other people.

Raining – Depressed feelings or difficulties; emotions which take away enthusiasm and act as a barrier to action; tears and emotional release – an outpouring; other peoples emotions ‘raining’ on me.

Hot Water – Emotions. In the Idioms is ‘hot water’ suggesting I have got myself in trouble.

Fences – Social boundaries.

Farmyard – Where my natural drives such as sexuality, parenthood, love or fellowship, are cared for or expressed.

When Ted added his own associations to this the dream became fully understandable to him and read like this:

I am going through a lot of changes at the moment – the garden. These are to do with allowing myself to have a warm but non sexual relationship with women. I have always been too dragged along by my sexuality in the past. Just a few days before the dream I was in a ‘growth’ group. I had made friends with a woman there, Susan, who I was warm feelings with, but not sexually. The group work required some close physical contact, and I and another man worked with Susan.

It seemed to me to go without complications. But a while afterwards a woman in the group came to me and with evident emotion, said I had made love publicly to my lover, meaning Susan. I had certainly been physically close to her and had felt at ease, but the viewpoint and feelings of the woman’s accusations, coupled with her threat to expose me to the authority figure in the group, bowled me over.

This is the hot water in the dream. The fences are the boundaries people erect between their personal life and what is socially acceptable. For some days, up until understanding the dream, I felt really blocked up emotionally – the blocked drainage ditch. I cut off any friendship toward Susan. When I realised that in the Farmyard – the acceptance of natural feelings without neat little boundaries – I could feel at peace, I was able to allow my natural warmth again. I also realised the the woman who attempted to damage my reputation had probably never had love that was not directly sexual.

After writing the comments next to each dream image or setting, add any personal memories, feelings or associations, as Ted has. Put down anything which amplifies what has been dreamt. For instance, a car is said to be one’s drive and motivation in the entry on car. But it is helpful to add what personal feelings one has about one’s car. Try imagining what the absence in one’s life of the car, or house, or symbol etc., would mean.

A friend recently told me the absence of her car would mean loss of independence. So this was her personal association.

If you use this method on your dream it can lead to instant insight.

Key Words

Another way to gain quick insight into your dream is to take the keywords and fill in the gaps.

To illustrate this we can use the following dream:

Example: I meet an acquaintance who tells me she is sick. I suggest ways that might help her. As I speak I become aware that others are listening and coming nearer. I apologise and say that I appear to be preaching, but they say, ‘Please go on we want to listen.’ As I continue I find that a rostrum has formed and lifted me two steps higher.

To use the technique of ‘keywords’ on this dream you would need to write down the most important words in the dream. Doing this you might arrive at the words – I meet an acquaintance – sick – I might help – as I speak – others are listening – I apologise – I appear to be preaching – I find a rostrum.

For the next step you ask yourself what you have recently met with in yourself or in life that might link with each of those words. It is something you are acquainted with, and that has to do with not feeling well, whole or satisfied with your life. So you would ask yourself what you are acquainted with to do with not feeling at your best?

The word ‘help’ suggests you have information that will be useful. What is it?

You apologise for yourself, suggesting degrading what you know. How are you doing that in your life?

Preaching comes next. Have you been giving advice? If so, what is it, and is it relevant to you too?

And lastly, can you listen to your own advice given from a rostrum – higher level of viewpoint?

Having arrived at some associations with the major words in the dream, you next put them together in a way that explains some of the insights or ideas you arrived at. Filling in the gaps between the words you might therefore arrive at something like this:

I have lately become aware of the feeling that I am ill at ease with myself. This connects with my lack of confidence about how I feel when talking with other people. The strange thing is that I know how to help myself with this. I was talking with a friend the other day, and the advice I gave them about something similar really applies to me. What I need to do is to stop apologising for myself and positively use what I know will help. I can see from the dream that I have a lot to share with other people, so I don’t need to feel I am preaching.

What you arrive at using this keyword method will give you an excellent overview of your dream. It will take some practice, but persist and you will get very useful results.

A quick way to gain insight

The most important aspects of your everyday life may have influenced the dream or feature in it. Briefly consider any aspects of your life that connect with what appears in the dream.

Example: “I have a plane to catch. I get to the plane but the suitcase is never big enough for my clothing which I have left behind. I am always anxious about stuff left behind. I wake still with the feeling of anxiety.” Jane. LBC.

When asked, Jane said plane flights had been a big feature in her life. She had moved home often, travelling to different parts of the world, leaving friends and loved one’s behind. This background therefore suggests Jane still feels anxious about all she has left behind in her moving.

If you find obvious connections such as that in your dream consider what that means in terms of the events and situations shown in your dream. For instance Jane’s dream shows her feeling anxious about what has been left behind. So she needs to acknowledge that and seek ways of understanding why she feels that way, and what is it in her present situation that she still feels has been lost or left.

Here is another example:

I saw myself chopping up my dog, and felt awful because or what I was doing; I chopped my dog into pieces.

This is an extraordinary dream, but it wouldn’t have meant much to me if we hadn’t talk about it and the background of the feelings were explained. The dreamer said that he wanted to escape from his job. That was because, as you explained, you are in a job of work that you constantly wish and desire to be out of. So  you have to kill the urges you constantly have to get away from work.

Writing it all down – don’t be fooled, it can work

The work of Dr. Caron Kent, is summarised in his book The Puzzled Body. He began to explore himself because of his own need to deal with his depression by giving himself regular time at a typewriter and writing spontaneously whatever came to mind. In this way he found he began to contact areas of experience and feeling previously unavailable. He developed this in his practice as a psychotherapist into working with the body and feelings directly.

The idea in this approach is to sit down with a pencil and plenty of paper or at your computer. Have a clock or watch before you so it is easily seen. You must now, non stop, write whatever comes into your head, for ten minutes. You do not try to think, you simply write whatever word comes into your head and there is no need for it to make sense, whatever word appears with the thought what does my dream mean. This cuts out the rational thinking mind and leads to you tapping the unconscious.

So you must actually not stop writing for ten whole minutes. If, for a moment, your thoughts block, write continuously the last word until further ideas arrive. There may be rather strange results at first. However, practice will bring the flow and harmony that you are seeking. The benefits of this will only be seen through practice. Try to do this exercise as many times as possible during the next week. Write anything that comes. You simply hold in mind about the dream without thinking about it. Actually, once you have asked about the dream you can drop it.

A quick way to gain insight

A dream image is a mask or cover of what we are feeling, and that is the core of the dream. So if you imagine removing the image of the dream you are left with the feeling that gave rise to the drama and images.

A way of doing this is to realise that the images in our dreams are just emotions, thoughts and feeling taking on, or presenting themselves, as images and drama, and if you take away the images of a baby, a tree, or an animal and see what you feel you have the real meaning. This is so simple that many people fail to try it, instead they ‘think out or about their dream’. This may be because many people do not like to meet or deal with their real feelings and emotions. So please take time with it.

So after you take the image away and feel the feeling underneath it, ask yourself, “When have I felt this before – even years ago? What is the feeling about and what

Talking as a Dream Character

This is a technique I have used myself and with groups of people. People arrive at understanding very quickly. But for some people this takes a little practice because instead of – if we dream of a dog – saying, “The dog is only a puppy and is adorable” you need to talk as if you are the dog, person or place. So say “I am a little puppy and the person thinks I am adorable”. So do not say “This little dog” for that does not connect with your feelings, but distances you from the dream image. See Dream Exploration

The idea is to really describe in detail what it is you are dealing with, and also what you are feeling as the dream object. The more you use this the richer the experience gets and you allow yourself to really be the dream object or person – and do not make the mistake if it is a person you know by describing them as an outside person. Stick with them exactly as they are in the dream. But do not think it out but allow your feelings to show you9 what to say, and of course your imaginations. Thoughts are usually ready made explanations, so start by relaxing and allowing your feelings to dictate to you.

Here is an example: I dreamt I arrived at a railway station, but instead of a platform it was at the top of an old castle keep. I had to walk down through the castle and then out to a street.

So I said: “I am a Castle. In the past I defended myself so strongly against all manner of attacks and people. This caused all manner of conflicts in my life. But now I am a station. People come and go in my life. I do not stop the train of events. I have been redecorated, altered inside, not beautiful, but hard wearing and enduring. I am stairs, giving passage for people going down or up.” As soon as I said that I could see what it meant. I had suffered a lot of shyness and was defended not allowing people near me. I had built impregnable emotional walls to keep people away. Now I was finding it easier to let people come and go.

Here is another example: I dreamt I entered my living room and things had been thrown everywhere. It was a mess. I realised that it was my wife who had done it. Also it was not our living space but a dream one.

This is a tricky one because the wife was not in the dream, so if one sticks with the dream and not his actual wife here is what was said. “I am an invisible presence in my husband life, a presence he feels tears his living space to bits. Yet I am invisible and so could not have done this. But I am a feeling in his life that assures him that I am an awful intrusion. You see, I am just a feeling he has, and that makes him irritated with me.” The dreamer admitted that it wasn’t his wife that was messing up his ‘living space’ but his own feelings about her.

Here is another example: I dreamt I entered my living room and things had been thrown everywhere. It was a mess. I realised that it was my wife who had done it. Also it was not our living space but a dream one.

This is a tricky one because the wife was not in the dream, so if one sticks with the dream and not his actual wife here is what was said. “I am an invisible presence in my husband life, a presence he feels tears his living space to bits. Yet I am invisible and so could not have done this. But I am a feeling in his life that assures him that I am an awful intrusion. You see, I am just a feeling he has, and that makes him irritated with me.” The dreamer admitted that it wasn’t his wife that was messing up his ‘living space’ but his own feelings about her.

So try it and see what you find. But take time with yourself and ask the person, castle wall, dog, or object questions to clear things up. If you say whatever comes to mind you will be amazed how well it works. And remember – in choosing an image to work with, such as a person, a tree, cat, place, or an environment like the street in the example dream above, it must again be treated as it appears in the dream, not as it may appear in real life. One can take any image from the dream to work with. So describe yourself as the image in the dream. Remember what was said – So say “I am a little puppy and the person thinks I am adorable”. So do not say “This little dog” for that does not connect with your feelings, but distances you from the dream image.

Here is an example of a woman exploring her dream. She had already worked with a group and chose this method.

Example: I was wearing a wedding dress, there was a helper in the background, the dress was white lace as I looked down at myself in the dress I noticed red roses on the neckline, I was surprised at this, then looking down my laced arm there was a tarantula spider. I was not frightened but wanted it off my hand, it was really weighing my hand down, I took control not fearfully but knowing I had to deal with it, I went to put it under a running hot water.

I offered this dream to work on in the group. Collette used word association asking what the bride represented, Libby offered some figures of a bride to use to connect with the symbol,
I was asked what came to mind when thinking about the bride what it might represent young innocent romantic, but what I felt in my body was resistance to the symbol  which was a clue to what was trying to get through (the resistance),the spider I thought might be about the homework as that was what came to mind as I began, again it was from the mind. I felt grateful but did not get  ah ah that I get when it fits and when the knowing sense is felt.

So I went to visit Tony Crisp with whom I have worked for many years on working with dreams, using active imagination, LifeStream, a willingness to be moved from within, a surrendering of self, and Gestalt therapy a method where you step into each symbol and speak from that symbol.

I am a spider as a spider…… the important part of using these tools is to take time in letting the client sink into the symbol, not to rush with questions as it is a slow process moving from the known self to the symbol, the not so known self, (the symbol coming from the unconscious).

As I identified with being a spider I noticed I was covered in fine hairs with red eyes that were on little stems. My hairs were like little sensors feeling vibrations listening and feeling intensely fully focused. I realised that it was a part of my defences, having kept me safe as a child in a family with secrets, hidden sexual abuse to my sister but unknown to me. Due to that abuse I was verbally and emotionally abused by my elder sister not knowing why. I did not find out that this abuse was happening when I was a child. (In fact it was through working on a dream with Tony Crisp when I was 24yrs old. Following that information I discovered what had happened).

So the spider dream brought to my awareness that I felt that I always needed to be aware of everyone else’s needs and to respond to them to keep me safe. I really understood the relevance of the spider being in my dream how it had kept me safe, but it took up so much of my energy that as an adult I could respond to my needs in a different way.

This sound very logical but this information has come from my unconscious, I can see and have spoken in my journal about noticing how I respond to others needs before my own. While still working with my symbols I thanked the spider and invited the spider to go live somewhere else. This was also stopping me from being free in my movement of my right hand, which does not know what it wants to do, but now feels freedom to explore my wants and needs. BB

Walk On Part

This is the simplest of the methods. It requires you to play with your imagination a little and go along with a fantasy, the sort of talent we all develop as children. If you have a sympathetic audience it helps, but only if you feel okay in front of others. It is fine alone as well. Stand with your eyes closed in the middle of enough space to move around. About two or three square metres is usually plenty.

Imagine you are standing on the edge of your dream, like a film set, and you are going to walk into it. Before you actually step into your dream be aware of what you are feeling in your body and emotions. Your body and feelings are a screen upon which subtle changes and shifts will occur. It is this screen of body and emotions that will act as your monitor showing what responses your dream produces.

Now step into your dream. Literally step forward. Walk about in the ‘film set’ of your dream, watching what you feel, what memories come and what your fantasies are. Talk with the characters, even step into their body and register what feelings and intuitions they produce on your screen of body and feelings. This also includes objects such a car, tree, or animals. Literally get into their shape. This is important because all the images we use in dreams are like the icons on computer screens. The front object is only a small indication of what lies hidden underneath.

Speak what you feel and find to your helpers or to a tape recorder. You can enter into anything in this way, whether it is an animal, a tree, the sea or a house. As you explore your dream in this way you can ask questions and your intuition will play its responses on the monitor of your body and emotions. The possibilities are that you enter the dream and explore its different places and people, or you relive the dream by acting it out.

Being the Person or Thing

One of the most important things about actually understanding your dream rather that interpreting it is to become the dream person or object – to actually completely identify with it. This needs to be practiced as most people feel the dream person or object is something other than themselves and are often hesitant to become it. For instance the Devil in a dream is simply your own emotions and fears given an exterior image. And also Christ in a dream is the same thing. In doing this you can step beyond the imagery of the dream into direct experience of yourself in all its variety and wonder. The Christ for instance becomes an actual experience of the highest in you or any anti feelings in regard to Christianity.

So to do do this the dreamer next chooses one of the characters or images in the dream to explore. The character can be themselves as they appear in the dream, or any of the other people or things. It is important to realise that it does not matter if the character is someone known or not, or whether they are young or old. The character needs to be treated as an aspect of their dream, and not as if they were the living person exterior to the dream. So do not attempt to describe them an outside person, but the dream character.

In choosing an image to work with, such as a person, a tree, cat, place, or an environment like the street in the example dream below, it must again be treated as it appears in the dream, not as it may appear in real life. One can take any image from the dream to work with. So describe yourself as the image in the dream. Remember what was said – So say “I am a little puppy and the person thinks I am adorable”. So do not say “This little dog” for that does not connect with your feelings, but distances you from the dream image.

The dreamer then stands in the role of the character or image they are using. So if they chose to be the car in the example dream below, they would close their eyes, enter into the feeling sense and imagery of the dream, and describe him or herself as the car. Literally you can imagine yourself as that physical shape, as if your awareness has merged with the thing or person. Then let your immediate feelings and associations arise and be described.

It is important to step into the image by getting into their body if it is a person, or take on the shape if  it is an object. As I explained to a friend recently you do not even have to have a clear image of the thing or person, simply think of it as seen in your dream and then watch any thoughts or feeling that might arise – as if listening for a quiet voice or fantasy arising – but give it a minute or so.

Example – I am a car. Joel has recently purchased me, and he is driving me, largely because he feels I will help him gain respect from other people. I am quite a large car, and have a lot of power. But even with all this energy I do not make my own decisions. I am directed by Joel’s desires and wishes, and enable him to fulfil them more readily.

As can be see, it is important to speak as if you are the chosen thing as Joel did. If it was a person Joel worked on, He should not say, “I am a woman”, or “I am the woman who turned away” but, “I am Mary. I like Joel , but I can see he isn’t really interested in me – except as a trophy in his new car.”

From this short description it can already be seen there is a suggestion the car represents Joel’s emotional and physical energy, directed by his desires and decisions.

Stand in the Role of Character or Object

The dreamer stands in the role of the character or image they are using. So if they chose to be a person they would close their eyes, imagine themselves as stepping into the body of the dream character and describe him or herself as the person they now are.

To do this it usually changes the way your body or feelings feel. As this is done notice any changes in how you feel as that person – or object – speak as them in the first person. Do not say, “I feel as if this person is …” but say, “I feel I am and am doing ..” As this happens watch any realisations or insights that arise and explore the person. Ask question of this dream character until you feel you have realised what is is of you that is being revealed.

I know it is difficult for some people to say ‘I’ instead of talking as if the dream character is someone else. But if you start claiming the dream image as your own in this way by saying such things as, “I am a tree” you will quickly realise you are talking about yourself.

Here is an example. The dream was of a railway station that was an old castle keep/tower. In using the magic word I, this is what he described himself as. “I am an old castle keep. I used to be for defense and repelling people, but now I can let people in and out easily.” The dreamer realised this was a really excellent insight into his character and the change taking place in him.

What is the main action in the dream?

There is often an overall activity such as walking, looking, worrying, building something, or trying to escape. Define what the action or theme is and give it a name, such as those listed or something like ‘waiting’ – ’searching’ – ‘following’.

To understand what your definition means, activities such as walking or building a house represent just what they show – going somewhere and building something new, or repairing something in your life. Walking can simply represent taking a direction in life or going somewhere, and building can be seen as creating something new or developing what already exists in your life. When you have defined the action, look for further information in the entries in the on-site Dream Dictionary, such as swimming, sitting, climbing, or working. Having considered the general meaning of whatever your dream action is, consider if it is expressive of something you are doing in waking life, and what the dream plot and characters comment on this.

A simple example of this is as follows:

Dreamt I was involved in having a prostitute work for me. Terry.

On looking at my dream and wondering why the prostitute was working for me it was obviously to do with love and sex. What it showed me was that I always try to use love and sex for personal gain. It always has to be on my terms instead of loving a person for their own sake.

What is your Role or Theme in the dream?

Are you a friend, lover, soldier, dictator, watcher or participant in the dream? Consider this in relationship with your everyday life, especially in connection with how the dream presents it.

The different roles or themes you play in your dreams, such as actor, lawyer, soldier or cook, usually represent the different abilities, weaknesses or interests you have. We all have different roles in everyday life. So a woman can be cook, lover, mother, counsellor, businesswoman, accountant, etc. A man can be a worker, father, a gardener, a handyman or builder, a chauffeur, artist, and so on. What is important is to see if you can get at is why the dream is showing you in that role and how it is relevant to your life at the moment. Therefore define what skills the role has, and see what the dream is commenting on them in regard to yourself. Where possible, look for the entry on the role in.

Other characters in your dream will also suggest other roles that are worth defining in relationship with yourself. Using the approach suggested in Be a different character can help define these roles. Below is an example:

Example: Feeling tired – exhausted – just lying drained of energy. I am conscious of people talking, saying I was ill. I thought I was just tired. Then asked what the matter was. I was told it was my heart, ‘dry and hard like a boiled egg’ they said. Found I couldn’t talk. Tried to write, wanted A. to know that I loved him, but the pen kept drying up. Finger and feet began to get cold. An icy coldness slowly spread all over my body. A liquid warmth was then all around me. I thought I was hemorrhaging. A needle was stuck in my left arm and my chest was being cut open – it didn’t hurt. There was a lot of activity. They said I had gone. I was trying desperately to let them know I was still there. Then I was in a bag and sliding off a table. The bag was tied above my head. Then from the confined darkness I was free. There was a brilliant light all around. I could still see the sack with a body still in it far behind me. I was incredibly happy and full of energy. Trish L.

Well, what do you make of the dream? What is suggested by Trish’s hard-boiled heart? What does it imply that Trish is ‘gone’ but still there?

There are several themes here that are worth noting. The first is the theme of tiredness. Then there is the theme surrounding her heart and the inability to express her feelings. Perhaps we can contain those two by saying it is about ‘emotional dryness’ or coldness. Then there is the theme of death/life, neatly packaged together. And something that we might miss is that overall an enormous change is going on. Trish changes from feeling exhausted and dying, to being ‘incredibly happy and full of energy’.

This gentle relationship with your dream is so important, let’s look at another dream just for practice. It is a dream told to me while I was the dream therapist with London Broadcasting Company.

I grew up in Barbados and lived with my mother in a shack. While I was there I started having a dream that I have had occasionally ever since. In the dream I was getting married and was at home dressing for the marriage, looking in a brown, peeling old mirror. The dream always ends here. Pam.

This dream is not quite as obvious as the previous one. I use it because it will help you see how dreams use certain means to depict a theme or attitude. Don’t get confused by details. Ask yourself what Pam is doing, what are the overall actions or situations?

Well, Pam is thinking/feeling things about marriage. So that is one of the themes. When Pam told me the dream I asked her if she had ever got married. She said no. So that is a further clue.

Sometimes it is helpful to consider how the word ‘I’ is used. For instance Pam says ‘I was getting married’. The ‘I’ word is used to denote something we connect with strongly. If I take some examples from other dreams, we have, ‘I could hardly breathe’ – ‘I was in a room with my brother’ – ‘I was really terrified’.

What Pam says apart from the marriage is, ‘I was …… looking in a brown peeling old mirror.’

What might be missed here can be grasped if you think of the dream as a piece of drama, like a television film. What Pam is enacting is looking at herself with thoughts of marriage. What sort of image does she have of herself? It is of a country girl who can only afford a peeling brown old mirror. So the theme here is self-image. It is about how Pam may be seeing or judging herself.

Looking at them in this way, take some time with your own dreams. Even this simple step can be very revealing, especially when used with a series of your dreams. Often great insights arise from this alone.

What do You bring to Your Dreams?

Something that is obvious as you watch not only your own dreams, but other people’s, is that that we take into their sleep and dreams all the fears, terrors, sexual questions and longings, as well as all their speculations and beliefs. The huge bear, tiger or frightening person they are terrified of is actually fears either inherited or are frightening experiences from the past. They are purely mental things that you haven’t faced, and therefore are the victims of – victims of your own fears.  Obviously that only applies to those dreams that are frightening, to the people whose sleep is disturbed by thoughts and fears and so can never sleep well. The number is of these is enormous.

But see if you can list what you take into the dream you are considering. Is it fear, inspiration, sexual feelings, something new, worry – whatever it is write it down. Then ask yourself what that means.

Here is an example of how a dreamer carries a mass of false information, beliefs and speculations into her dream.

In my dream I was in the hospital giving birth I could feel the strong pain medicine working and I assume I had been given an epidural. I held my same sex partner’s hand and she comforted me. Soon after I was handed a beautiful baby girl whom I decided to name Veridian my mom tried to convince me to name her something else but I refused. The child slept in my arms and my partner held my hand still. Then I woke up. It was strange because I was brought to tears upon waking up and finding the beautiful baby girl not in my arms. I have never had any desire to have children and I know it would be impossible to be impregnated naturally by my partner but yet I was so drawn to this child it was an instant bond and upon realizing it was all a dream I have been very emotional when reminded of the child. I am also in my teens so I have absolutely no need or ability to be impregnated because I would never cheat on my love.

The dreamer carried into her dream a fear that birth would be painful and she would need drugs to mitigate the pain. Then she carried in the feeling of disagreement with her mother. She also believes that the only way to have a dream baby is through sex with a male. Also she says that she doesn’t want a child, but her feelings in the dream and her emotions show otherwise.

An even bigger problem is shown in the girls dream. She has the body of a healthy woman, a body which is built and has inbuilt urges to create a child, yet she is totally unaware of this. Such a separation between her basic life urges and her conscious personality leads to tension and neurosis. Of course she could decide never to have children, but to block the natural urge entirely can cause troubles. Such splits in our nature put us at odds with ourselves. See Peer Dream Group and Processing Your Dream for further insights in exploring your dreams.

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Comments

-Pamela 2016-12-21 14:57:09

I always dream of the same house

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-Natalie 2017-01-10 22:17:42

I had a dream I was standing on top of a hill looking over at the the sea which was lit up a golden colour because the sun was setting. There seemed to be a few people lay in the shallow part of the sea when all of a sudden about 5 horses came running down a hill and into the sea acting playfully around the people that were in the sea. The horses ran back out of the sea and repeated this about 3 or 4 times. I just remember it being so beautiful to watch. In some part of this the man I use to date was in the dream as well. After spending some time at the beach I headed to my work place where all my friends and family appeared to be, as I served them all coffees and drinks I asked my manager could I be excused to use the toilet. As I went into the cubical I looked at my fone and there was a voice note message of my deceased nana. It didn’t shock me at first because in the dream I forgot she had died. The voice message said to me that she is doing fine and she can see I was doing fine and that she has sent me a few pictures over a whatsapp message that I may want to look at. Her voice was clear as day but all of a sudden I was interrupted by a close friend who said your nana is dead how can she send you a voice message. In the dream I was totally freaked out from the realisation and turned the voice message off. I then went and told my family as we got back at the house but everyone was freaked out, so instead of listening to the voice mail I looked at the pictures she had sent me and it was pictures of her doing my aunties hair in braides and a few other family photos but everyone looked so young in the photos. None of the pictures showed my nana properly. But the every last photo was a picture of my nana stroking a Shetland pony or maybe it was a mule. It didn’t show most of her mainly her legs and arm as she was stroking the pony. What does this dream mean ?

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    -Tony Crisp 2017-01-11 9:12:18

    Hi – I must take time to upgrade the dream dictionary, so must halt from answering your posts – I started revising the dictionary in 2006, and haven’t neared the end yet. I believe someone else may start giving interpretations.

    So, for a while I urge you to read http://dreamhawk.com/approaches-to-being/i-am-no-longer-interpreting-dreams/ – It describes ways that can help you. And often it would help too if you looked at http://dreamhawk.com/approaches-to-being/questions-2/#Summing

    Tony

    The hill represents a wider view, an extended awareness. Remember that your physical senses only are aware of 1% of visible light and 1% of audible sound, so you are basically blind and death. But in dreams our senses reach far beyond that.

    So from this extended awareness you become aware of the beauty of the ocean of consciousness – the sea – and animals we all have within us See http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/brain-levels-and-dreams/#mammalbrain

    This wider awareness allows a direct communication with your nana. But of course dreams have to use images we gather from ever day life to give you some understanding of the message – whatsapp- cellphone etc. Obviously you were raised in a family that ‘freaked out’ at the idea that you can have direct communication with the so called dead.

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