Gaining Insight Into Your Dreams
Below are described simple techniques that make it possible to quickly gain information from your dreams. They have been put as a series of questions. If you take time to consider and answer the question you will find your way into a new experience of dream understanding. At the end is an example of a man exploring his dream is this way – Example.
What is the background to the dream?
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 connects 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 that 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 of her life. She had moved home often, travelling to different parts of the world, leaving friends and loved ones behind.
There is often an overall activity such as walking, looking, worrying, building something, or trying to escape. Define what it is and give it a name, such as those listed or something like ‘waiting’ – ‘searching’ – ‘following’. Activities such as walking or building a house, need to be seen as generalisations. 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 under the headings in this book, such as SWIMMING or SITTING. Having considered the general meaning of whatever your dream action is, consider if it is expressive of something you are doing in waking life. See: key words.
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. Where possible, look for the entry on the role in this book. See: the dreamer. Are you active or passive in the dream? By passive is meant not taking the leading role, being only an observer, being directed by other people and events. If you are passive, consider if you live a similar attitude in your life. See: active/passive.
What do you feel in the dream? Define what is felt emotionally and physically. In the physical sense are you tired, cold, relaxed or hungry? In the emotional sense did you feel sad, angry, lost, tender or frightened anywhere in the dream? This helps clarify what feeling area the dream is dealing with. It is important also to define whether the feelings in the dream were satisfyingly expressed or whether held back. If held back they need fuller expression. See: emotions and mood; Letting things Happen
Drama may include comedy or tragedy, and usually in the modern sense is a story played by actors – or in the case of dreams, characters within the dream. The dream often is a story or plot but it may not be obvious because it depends on the dreamer’s associations to ‘bring it together’. But sometimes a very clear plot is obvious. Is the plot about relationship – escaping – finding your way – seeking something – digging up things? Ask yourself where you can see you living the plot. Whatever it is look it up in the dictionary or explore it yourself using Techniques for Exploring your Dreams See Characters and People in Dreams; Working with associations
In many dreams something happens, fails to happen, or appears, because! For instance, trapped in a room you find a door to escape through. All is dark beyond and you do not go through the door ‘because’ you are frightened of the dark. In this case the because factor is fear. The dream also suggests you are trapped in an unsatisfying life situation through fear of opportunity or the unknown. So what is your ‘because’ factor?
I had the same experience yesterday where something had triggered unresolved issues from a relationship with my ex-husband. While dealing with my current partner, in my mind I distorted every part of our communication and merely related to him with feelings of the past.
This led me to jump to conclusions about his feelings that had not been part of his experience at all; it was a story running in my mind only. When I checked with him later it turned out that every “because” – like I thought he did not want to communicate with me “because” he did not love me anymore the way he used to – was wrong. Anna
Am I meeting the things I fear in my dream?
Because a dream is an entirely inward thing, we create it completely out of our own internal feelings, images, creativity, habits and insights. So even the monsters of our dream are a part of ourselves. If we run from them it is only aspects of ourselves we are avoiding. We can never escape ourselves, so we might as well find a way of internal ease.
Through defining what feelings occur in the dream you may be able to clarify what it is you are avoiding. It is also helpful to replay the dream several times while awake and relaxed, and imagine facing or meeting the things one fears or is running away from.
It is of enormous help also to rephrase, or rescript the underlying messages attached to ones fears. For instance one may have had very reasonable fears as a baby/child that ones mother would abandon one – perhaps because you went into hospital and felt abandoned. So the original message might have been, ‘The person I love and utterly depend upon can leave me and I am powerless to make her love me in a way to bind her to me.’ The new message might be, ‘I am not a baby any longer, and can actually survive alone, though I love having a partner to share love with. So I don’t need to feel complete panic when there is any sign of them withdrawing or getting emotionally distant.’ This needs to be done over and over again to develop a new habit of relaxed relationship or response to a life situation. Sometimes it is a shift of attitude we need. The following dream illustrates this.
Example: I ran away from home because I was found out for skipping school. I ended up in a chip shop with some friends. I saw my brothers and a friend out of the window. They told me my older sister had died of a heart attack. Then with my sister’s boyfriend, who told me she was already buried, and only my mum had been at the funeral. Cathy – Teletext
Cathy makes the move of being independent, but does so to avoid problems rather than face them. Being independent – running away from home – means making your own decisions and being strong enough to live them. If Cathy did leave her family behind like this she would worry if any mishap occurred. It’s a big step to sink or swim by yourself, and let others do the same. So Cathy could try being independent using another attitude than ‘running away’. See: Secrets of Power Dreaming; dialogue between characters; nightmares; carrying the dream forward under peer dream work; spiritual life in dreams; Summing Up
By passive is meant not taking the leading role, being only an observer, being directed by other people and events. It can also mean you are abused, bullied, or constantly end in unsatisfactory or unfulfilled situations in your dreams.
If you recognise these situations in your dreams consider if you live similar attitudes in your life. In other words are you passively accepting what happens to you and how people relate to you? Do you need to wait for other people to direct or give you motivation?
For the sake of research, a group of young women in a creative writing class was divided into two groups – those who were spontaneously creative in their written work and those who were not. They were then asked to record their dreams over a period of time. The non-creative girls had a large percentage of dreams in which they were sexually passive, accepted secondary roles and felt vulnerable. The creative girls had a high percentage of dreams in which they were actively satisfying themselves, creating non-conventional settings and experiencing open sexual encounters. The results show that habitual attitudes and responses to everyday life are reflected in what we dream.
Enormous change can be made in your life if you recognise an overall tendency in your dreams such as being passive. The change can come about by using the technique described below, of carrying the dream forward – in the section Am I meeting what I fear or dislike in my dream?
Most dreams depict relationship in one form or another. Some dreams however, specifically show us in a particular relationship. Such dreams are usually highly significant in that they reveal aspects of what we are doing in the relationship that we may not admit or realise consciously. It can therefore be transformative to gain insight into any dreams that show us in relationship with present partners or lovers.
Animal relationships often show either that we are scared or that we feel real connection with the animal. If we realise that you cannot be hurt in your dreams. You cannot drown, you can’t die in a dream, no tiger or other animal can harm you. Of course you can feel feelings of dying, or being hurt, or drowning, but they are all images you create because you feel afraid and you haven’t faced up to your fears. See Avoid Being Victims; Dreams are Like a Computer Game
So the animals you feel in your dream will harm you are actually your own instincts and feelings that frighten you and are actually harmless. This is because every dream image, animal or person is a subtle or powerful aspect of your own inner working.
Below is an example of a relationship with a woman. It is only showing a particular relationship, so you ned to see what is shown in your own dream.
Example: I was with Lorna, a woman I was having a relationship with but not committed to. She told me she was pregnant. I said to her this was impossible and it couldn’t be my child. She looked at me and shrugged saying ‘Okay, I’m not pregnant’. N. C.
On exploring the dream N. realised the enormous feelings involved. He had not realised consciously that Lorna had completely offered herself to him in their relationship. The dream shows him rejecting this complete offering of her sexuality and womanhood, and her turning away when he rejected her. This had actually happened, but Neal had not been conscious of what was occurring between them. The dream enabled him to realise how he pulled away from a woman’s full flow of self expression, and began to change this.
If you have written the dream down, look to see where you have used the word ‘I’. For instance a man dreaming about running toward tunnels said “I had to decide which tunnel to enter.” If this is simplified we can see that the person is saying they were making a decision.
So take note of whatever is said after the word ‘I’ – whether I want; I was willing; I didn’t like; I left it behind, etc. – and consider what connection such things have to everyday life. What decisions in waking life was the man making who dreamt of tunnels for example?
None of us exist in a vacuum. Like fish immersed in water, we live, sometimes unconsciously, in a social environment; in a paradigm that colours the way we see the world; in an economic situation; in a gender that relates us to other people and opportunities in particular ways; and sometimes within the boundaries set by religious beliefs, family attitudes or personal habits. These factors may not be shouting at you from the foreground, but it can enormously enlarge the information your dream portrays if you can see what background they give to the foreground of the dream.
What does the dream mean?
We alone create the dream while asleep. Therefore, by looking at each symbol or aspect of the dream, we can discover from what feelings, thoughts or experience, what drive or what insight we have created the drama of the dream.
In a playful relaxed way, express whatever you think, feel, remember or fantasy when you hold each symbol in mind. Say or write it all, even the seemingly trivial or ‘dangerous’ bits. It helps to act the part of each thing if you can. For instance as a house you might describe yourself as ‘a bit old, but with open doors for family and friends to come in and out. I feel solid and dependable, but I sense there is something hidden in my cellar.’
Such statements portray oneself graphically. Consider whatever information you gather as descriptive of your waking life. Try to summarise it, as this will aid the gaining of insight. When doing this remember that dreams are multidimensional in a certain sense, just like words in a sentence.
Morton Hunt, in his book The Universe Within illustrates how words have an unusual dimension. For instance, what do you make of the following sentence? ‘Mary heard the ice-cream truck coming down the street. She remembered her birthday money and ran into the house.’ You have probably already got an image of Mary, her age, skin colour, an approximation of what she is dressed in, and what she is doing. You believe she is going to buy an ice cream and she is young. But where does it say this in the sentence? And if you change any of the words – say truck for bus or money for gun, an entirely new image of Mary arises.
The factors relating to how we extract meaning out of words and images is crucial when considering our dreams. In our dreams any one factor – such as Mary, alters enormously in its meaning because of its context with the other dream factors, such as objects, people, setting and plot or theme. Get a sense of this overall connection when looking at the various parts of your dream. Maybe use Techniques for Exploring your Dreams
You will need the help of one or two friends to use this method. The basis is to take the role of each part of the dream, as described above. This may seem strange at first, but persist. Supposing your name is Julia and you dreamt you were carrying an umbrella, but failed to use it even though it was raining, you would talk in the first person present – ‘I am an umbrella. Julia is carrying me but for some reason doesn’t use me.’
Having finished saying what you could about yourself, your friends then ask you questions about yourself as the dream figure or object, or of course you could ask such questions yourself. These questions need to be simple and directly about the dream symbol. So they could ask – Are you an old umbrella? Does Julia know she is carrying you? What is your function as an umbrella? Are you big enough to shelter Julia and someone else? – and so on.
The aim of the questions is to draw out information about the symbol being explored. If it is a known person or object you are in the role of – your father for instance – the replies to the questions need to be answered from the point of view of what happened in the dream, rather than as in real life. Listen to what you are saying about yourself as the dream symbol, and when your questioners has finished, review your statements to see if you can see how they refer to your life and yourself.
If you are asking the questions, even if you have ideas regarding the dream, do not attempt to interpret. Put your ideas into simple questions the dreamer can respond to. Maintain a sense of curiosity and attempt to understand – to make the dream plain in an everyday language sense. Lead the dreamer toward seeing what the dream means through the questions. When you have exhausted your questions ask the dreamer or yourself to summarise what they have gathered from the replies. See: postures movements and body language for an example of how to work with body movement to explore a dream meaning. See: peer dream work.
To summarise effectively gather the essence of what you have said about each symbol and the dream as a whole and express it in everyday language. Imagine you are explaining to someone who knows nothing about yourself or the dream. Bring the dream out of its symbols into everyday comments about yourself. A man dreamt about a grey, dull office. When he looked at what he said about the office, he realised he was talking about the grey, unimaginative world he grew up in after the Second World War, and how it shaped him. See: amplification; associations of ideas; compensation theory; biological dream theory; plot of dream; the adventure of the dream world; the dreamer; peer dream work; postures movement and body language; settings; symbols and dreaming; word analysis of dreams; wordplay and puns.