Hi Diana - I have included a fairly long quote from my book The New Dream Dictionary. I think it give a basis of understanding of dreams,
THE WORLD OF DREAMS
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 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 a thought or an emotion is something we experience, 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.
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 the dream of the unanswered telephone, and in that of the sinking BOOTS trailer. 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 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.
Some of the key statements in the dream are EXAMINING - I NOTICE - A HOLE
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.