Using The Dictionary
The long entries in the dream dictionary are often in two or more parts. The first part is a short summary of the entry’s meaning, and then there is a larger explanation under the heading Longer Explanation.
The Dictionary contains explanations on almost any type of dream subject. The entries are placed in alphabetical order for easy reference, but some, like ‘dog’ or ‘running’ may be placed in certain categories such as animals and posture, movement, body language.
The major collective entries are – animals; archetypes; birds; body; car; clothes; colours; esp in dreams; family and relationships; fish and sea creatures; food; furniture and furnishings; games and gambling; house and buildings; individuation; insects; jewels; man; numbers; peer dream work; positions; postures movement and body language; processing dreams; reptiles – lizards and snakes; roles (such as actor/actress, captain, dentist, etc.); shapes and symbols; size; time – of day; trees; unconscious; weapons; woman. See: List of Features.
So if you dreamt of a flying saucer landing in a field, and aliens getting out and taking sheep and a dog back into the saucer, you could look up each of these subjects in the text. Turn to the ‘F’ entries for flying saucer; the animals and then the entry for dog and sheep, and so on.
Each entry gives the general meaning of the dream subject, just as an encyclopaedia or dictionary does for a word. Several possible meanings are given, as in the example below.
perfume, scent or smell Good smell: Good feelings; non verbalised intimations or love; a sense of personal beauty. Idioms: On the right scent; throw someone off the scent. See: nose under body.
Example: ‘I went back in time in circles, almost as if going unconscious. I went back and back and then there came this awful smell such as I’ve never experienced. I always felt it was the smell of death. I would wake terrified. One night my husband, a practical and down to earth man, said he would read me to sleep to see if it helped me not have the dream. It made no difference I still had the nightmare. Imagine my surprise though. He said ‘I knew you’d had the dream again for there was an awful smell in the room for a minute.’’ Mrs E. C.
The above entry on perfume is typical of most entries. The example it contains is indented and illustrates the entry, or an aspect of it. In general, the description of what the dream image means is set out as the part which reads – ‘Frequently in dreams a bad smell expresses an intuition of something rotten in ones life. Rotten might mean ‘bad’ emotions felt in a relationship; a hunch or feelings about something, as in the example; memories.’ The insertion of the semi-colon ; means that a separate suggestion for the meaning of the dream image is being given. We could therefore read it as saying, ‘Perfume or smell might mean ‘bad’ emotions felt in a relationship. It might depict a hunch or feelings about something. It might mean memories of something – depending on the smell.’
To pack as much information into the available space, sometimes the semi colons have been used to shorten statements. Therefore, in using the entries to find meanings of dream images, consider each suggestion given.
Many entries, as with the above, also give variations, as with Good smell. The headings for these are underlined to make them easier to find. Because many dream images depict our unconscious thought processes, as used in language, the section Idioms, also underlined, is frequently given. Standing in a pink room might well be our dream’s way of saying we feel ‘in the pink’. Coming down from a tall building to street level might be quickly understood by the idiom ‘coming down to earth’.
‘See:’ suggests the reading of other entries which might be useful. Sometimes a suggestion is made to ‘See:’ an example. This is because the example has in it mention of the symbol dealt with.
Throughout the dictionary, an effort has been made to list entries under the word you are likely to search for. For instance an entry on the use of computers to file dreams, would not be under a heading such as dreams and computers – but computers and dreams. Similarly, an entry would not be dream beliefs in the Bible, but Bible – dreams and symbols. Therefore when searching for information on a topic, go to the word central to your search.
A dream has in it many sources of information. Not only should you consider the basic dream images, but what is happening, how people are dressed and their posture, and what the dream environment is. A dream is often like a film. The background gives a lot of information making the foreground action meaningful. There is a great difference between a scene taking place in a farmyard than in a bedroom. So even things such as what hand was used, left or right, should be referred to. Entries in the Dictionary – such as settings and posture - help to understand this aspect of dreams.
Where sex or sexuality is mentioned, I am not simply referring to the sex act. I mean sexuality in its overall aspect, which includes the urge toward parenthood, and the love and caring connected with it. Also I am not attempting to present the ideas in this book as scientific or proved. My aim has been to take what information I have gathered from dreams and present what it suggests. To save space I have not argued the points.
Using the dictionary to find a dream meaning
When we sleep and dream we enter a completely different realm of experience than when we are awake. It would be foolish to try to breathe under water in the physical world, but in dreams this is not only possible but lots of dreamers do it. In dreams we can fly. We can make love to men or women as we please, without fear of social or physical consequences. While dreaming we can die over and over. The dead can be reborn, and the world around us can be changed simply by changing our attitude. A monster pursuing us one moment can in an instant become a warm friend because we changed our fear to love.
In the world of dreams our most intimate fears and longings are given an exterior life of their own in the form of the people, objects and places of our dream. Therefore our sexual drive may be shown as a person and how we relate to them; or given shape and colour as an object; or given mood as a scene, something that haunts our feelings or memory shown as a ghost or demon. Our feeling of ambition might thus be portrayed as a business person in our dream – our changing emotions as the sea or a river; while the present relationship we have with our ambition or emotions is expressed in the events or plot of the dream.
A dream portrays each part of us, such as our ambition, as being exterior to us, because in that way it is something we witness, and it at first appears objective and separate from us, not something we are. By showing our urges or fears as people or places exterior to us, our dreams are able to portray the strange fact that while, for instance, the love we have for another person is intimately our own, we may find such a feeling difficult to bear, as when one is married and falls in love with someone else. While we dream, the subtleties of such dilemmas are given dramatic form. To observe our dilemma as if we were watching it as a play, has very real advantages. The different factors of our situation, such as our feelings for our marriage partner, our love of the new person, and social pressures such as our family’s reactions, might all be shown as different people in the dream. The drama of the dream shows how these different parts interact. See Characters in your Dream
We can therefore not only experience these as separate from our central self, but we define in the dream’s action how we relate to them. Most important, we can EXPLORE SAFELY the possible ways of living within, or changing the factors involved.
This exteriorisation of internal feelings is clear in many of our dreams, such as when we run from a wild bear, we exteriorising our fear. Dreams might do this because they frequently portray intimate parts of ourselves which have never been made fully conscious or verbalised. Put in another way, because some parts of our feelings and nature may never have been consciously felt or recognised, they cannot be grasped by us as a thinking or perceiving being. We cannot see them with our eyes, touch them with fingers, or smell them, let alone think about them. After all, they are unknown and formless. But a dream can portray what has not yet been put into words or organised into conscious thought by portraying it in images and drama. The woman who dreams of trying to contact her dead husband may not have fully acknowledged her question of ‘Why he left me?’ Being able to ‘think’ in story form, about subtle areas of our experience, is a great additional faculty when added to our other modes of gaining information and insight. In this way dreams are able to bring to our notice, areas of our being which might otherwise never be known. The dream is thus another SENSE ORGAN, looking into areas we might not have any other way of examining.
Monitor of the Unconscious
A way to understand this is to consider the now commonly used monitors one sees at the bedside of critically ill people. Such monitors depict in the form of an image – a flashing moving graph – the heartbeat of the patient. They can also portray temperature, breathing, brain pulses and blood pressure in the form of externally visible images. These internal events would otherwise be unknown or unconscious. In a similar way, dreams are a monitor, giving apparently external images to depict the subtle and otherwise unconscious processes of body and mind.
That the external person or object in the dream is actually the dreamer’s own internal feelings and mental structure is difficult for many people to believe or even grasp. The following unusual dream helps us to develop a conception of this. I say it is unusual because very seldom can a dreamer admit to themselves while asleep, that the world which in their dream appears as exterior, is actually their own internal thoughts feelings and psychobiological functions. The dreamer, A. B. is a man in his fifties, and dreams he has found a huge thistle in his garden which is as big as a tree.
I look at the trunk of the thistle examining it. At this point it seems like a giant hardwood tree. I snap a twig and it smells very nice – a perfumed wood. Other branches are going rotten. Walking around to the back of the tree to see if the bark is rotten I notice a hole where bees or wasps have a colony. I put my left hand up to touch the bark and as I do so notice there is also a hole in the back of my hand, in and out of which wasps are flying. With great shock I look in the hole and see wasps eating my flesh away, so my hand is almost hollow. I awake with the feeling of being old and decrepit.
What is of particular importance in this dream is the point of transition where the dreamer moves from seeing the hole in the tree, to seeing the hole in himself. But this transition continues, for the dreamer then moves to the feeling of being old and decrepit. These points of transition mark the stages of realisation that what seems exterior is not. It also shows a transition that few dreamers ever make.
Some of the key statements in the dream are EXAMINING – I NOTICE – A HOLE – I LOOK IN – and SEE – THE FEELINGS OF BEING OLD and DECREPIT. If we put this into a flowing sentence we have, ‘In examining myself I noticed ‘a hole’ or emptiness in myself. When I look into this I find a sense of being old and decrepit.’
In looking at his hand and realising there was a hole in his life, A. B. took note of what he felt. Just prior to the dream he had experienced a lot of anxiety about whether his marriage was breaking up. The dream made him realise that niggling thoughts and emotions were eating away at his self confidence leading him to feelings of being near to the scrap heap, having outlived his usefulness. The dream had depicted these emotions and thoughts as wasps. This enabled him to see that if he entertained such feelings, they would certainly eat away his grasp of life. He could see that as a person he only ENTERTAINED thoughts and emotions. They were simply what he thought and felt about reality, not reality itself. It was up to him as to what he wanted reality to be. Did he want to entertain the reality of the tired ageing man who could no longer satisfy his wife’s need for love and companionship, having nothing worthwhile to contribute to others? That could certainly become reality if he allowed such feelings to dominate him. He had thought that his life was like a giant thistle, but on closer inspection he saw it was a giant hardwood. It did have branches which needed pruning, but the rest of the tree was good and perfumed – giving off good feelings to others. So he decided to put love and care into his life and marriage instead of self doubt and a sense of defeat.
Some observers have attempted to determine the pattern of interaction between physiological variables and dreaming that might occur during a given night. An account was published by a French physician in 1821 involving a twenty-six-year-old female subject who had lost a large portion of her skull and brain covering. He reported that when the woman was in a dreamless sleep, her brain was motionless and lay within the cranium. However, when she was agitated by dreams, her brain moved and protruded outward from the cranium. The physician commented that, “in vivid dreams, reported as such by herself, the protrusion was considerable.’
J. Esquirol, a French psychiatrist noted for his humanitarian attitude toward patients, spent considerable time in the 1830’s sitting beside sleeping mental patients, observing their facial expressions and movements and noting their pulse and respiration. He claimed that he often knew when patients were dreaming and could predict the general nature of their dream content from this combination of behavioural and physiological indices.
When we realise each aspect of the dream, each emotion, each landscape and environment are materialisation’s of our own feeling states and body condition, we begin to see how we live in the midst of a world – the world of our thoughts, feelings, values, judgements, fears and physiology – largely of our own making. Whatever we think or feel, even in the depths of our being, becomes a material fact of experience in our dream. It is almost certainly this inner universe that religion speaks of as heaven or hell. Finding some degree of direction, mastery or harmony within this world of our own being, is the great work of human life.
But our overall direction of dreams is an attempt toward growth and wholeness, not easily achieved because of the fears we inject into out dreams.