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Language And Dreams

People who are not acquainted with looking at their dreams often feel they are beyond understanding. This seems strange because foreign languages are equally beyond understanding, yet we can accept they can be understood or translated if we know what to associate with the presently meaningless sounds or symbols.

The language of dreams is couched in imagery, allegory, drama, suggestion, word play and innuendo. This doesn’t mean it is beyond understanding. After all we understand mime and drama; we understand the wordless play and movements of animals. If we take time to put into words the dramatic scenes and themes dreams present us with, we can arrive at a translation that not only satisfies our intellect, but also, if we acknowledge the feeling side of dreams, our emotions. But particularly dreams are about what we unconsciously associate with the images and drama we dream.

Associations are the real way to understand the language of dreams. Everything we see during the day we form associations with – even the association of disinterest. When I was working on the new site design, the designer said to me, “What’s the point of dreams – they don’t mean anything do they”. I noticed he had a T-shirt on that looked as if had been used quite a lot. So I said to him, “What about that T-shirt? If you dreamt of it what would you think it meant?”

He said it wouldn’t mean anything. So then I asked he where he had got it and what memories were attached to it. He said he had got it in America, but when pressed to explain his memories he refused to answer, looking embarrassed.

That is one way of finding the associations, but you can also use Talking As or Being the Person or Thing

Another aspect of language and dreams is that if we take a word such as ‘allegory’ it is meaningless until we take time to learn its commonly accepted definition. In this case the Oxford dictionary defines the word as – ‘A story, play, poem, picture, etc., in which the meaning or message is represented symbolically. The use of such symbols. A symbol.’

By considering the imagery and drama in a dream, we can give them definitions. For instance if a person dreamt of digging in the ground with a spade, and uncovering something old, a definition of the drama could be ‘digging up the past’. The spade might be defined as the tools, mental or emotional, we use to remember the past. If the dream is of the person digging up treasure however, the definitions must shift slightly because the ‘spade’ is now in context with ‘treasure’.

Therefore, not only can we define the symbols and drama in dreams just as we can the words of language, but context of dream imagery is as import as context of words. The word blue for instance changes its meaning enormously – I feel blue. The sky is blue. The blue film. The air was blue with swear words. See Context/Theme

In considering our dreams, the definition and context must be considered just as we consider language, as in the sentences using blue.

However, there is an easier way to understand your dreams. Usually we look at the dream and wonder what it means, but if we turn this around we can immediately see how we create our dreams and begin to gain insight.

To do this write a short list of common things you use or deal with each day. If I write such a list it might look like this:

  • Car
  • House
  • Margaret
  • Cell phone/mobile phone
  • Jacket

Having written the list take a little time with each thing or person on it. For instance I was recently asked by a man who had given no thought to dreams how on earth you could extract any meaning from them. He was wearing a fairly old T-shirt, so I said, “OK, lets imagine you dreamt of your T-shirt, what would you make of that?”

After a while he said, “I don’t know that I would make anything of it.”

My response was to say, “Right, but now tell me where you bought the T-shirt, and what memories it has for you.” Whereupon he told me very full memories of being abroad, and that the shirt was part of those memories.

The important point is that everything we see and deal with, every person, every imagined scene, has such a background of feelings and perhaps memories. It is exactly this background of feelings and information that the dream weaves its story from. To understand it you need to become aware of the usually unconscious feeling responses you have in connection with every thing, place, person and animal you fill your dreams with.

So, write down what you feel about or how you see the thing or the person in your dream. Take time with this and you will gradually have keys to your own dream language. This feeling or response you uncover might only be indifference. But that is a response and a definite one.

Instead of words to make sentences, dreams take these usually unconscious feeling responses to the things around us and put them together to express something we intuitively feel or know deep inside us, but have never made conscious before. So if I worked with my list of words given above, it will look like this:

  • Car – I have two main feelings about my car. The first is that although having done an enormous number of miles it is still sound and functioning. So I see it as something with great survival. Also I feel it is old and keep thinking about another car.
  • House – I am delighted by the house I live in, although it is slightly too small for me.
  • Margaret – I see Margaret as an intelligent and capable woman, but someone who misses her father’s love and sometimes puts me in that role.
  • Cell phone – It is not something I use as I see many others doing, as a constant means of calling others. I hardly ever make outgoing calls on it. But it is a vital link with people I love who live far distant. So I see it as a connection with them and a means of being in contact, mostly through texts.
  • Jacket – This is something I bought especially to wear when I visited someone I love abroad. Therefore it has associations with her. But recently I caught the sleeve on a protruding piece of furniture and there is a slight tear in the sleeve. Although this is barely noticeable it has left me with a feeling that the jacket is no longer pristine. I might be aware of this when trying to look smart.

We could go on like this with everything and everybody we are involved in, and what we realise in this way is the building material of dreams. So If I had a dream of wearing the jacket, it would suggest I am feeling slightly lacking in confidence, and something that was so positive has now been marred in some way.

After writing down your list see if you can connect what you have defined to issues or situations in your life. This takes a little practice, but with some work the results are often of enormous importance.

Obviously, some dreams use people and objects that do not appear in our waking life. Nevertheless we can still put down our basic feelings about a jacket – I use it to keep me warm or to appear smart – and about the particular dream jacket. The following dream describes a very particular jacket for instance.

I found a coat/jacket washed up on the beach. It looked very bedraggled. Then I looked inside and it was in better condition. With astonishment and pleasure I saw that the inside pocket was full of personal, interesting things. First to see was a pair of gloves.

In this dream the jacket – a means of keeping warm and giving social signals – is rough on the outside, but with great interest once you look inside. That suggests the dreamer is considering how he appears to other people. It recognises his lack of formality but inner richness.

Try looking at your dreams in this way.  See: Processing Dreamsinterpretation of dreams – influence ofTechniques for Exploring your Dreams.


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