Processing Dreams

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.

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 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.

What is your role 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. 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

What is the drama in the dream?

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

Is there a ‘because’ factor in the dream?

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

Active or Passive

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?

What is the Relationship with any Human or Animal Figures?

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 VictimsDreams 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.

Look at I

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?

What economic, political, social or sexual situation does the dream show you in?

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

Can you amplify the dream?

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.


-Emily 2015-09-30 0:53:25

Hey, my name’s Emily. Last night I had a dream that I was walking home at night time and it was raining. I was wearing a long black coat. As I turned the corner I ran into this guy who’s face was never shown. He offered to share his umbrella with me. I felt kind of afraid, but happy at the same time. I smiled and let him share his umbrella. What does this mean?

-Ashley Conaway 2015-09-05 3:20:55

! You see 11 years ago around this time I lost my grandma. Sept 12 she would have been 78! I fell asleep early last night just to wake up around 2 am in tears! I had a dream about her. My mom and I went to visit her at the nursing home. There was a really bad storm coming so we had to evacuate. We got into a bus and she was actually able to get out of the wheelchair and WALK to sit next to me. I remember she put her arms around me and said “as long as your happy angel” somehow we ended up on a boat and started to go under the suspensions bridge and she started freaking out but at the time I didn’t understand why..we then ended up in the basement of my old house to take cover from the storm. Next thing u know the lights went out and she gone. I don’t remember what happened but it seemed like I lost conscience was and when it came back it was pitch dark and a strange man was there telling us we had to get back to our realm. And not long after I woke up! I came down and woke my mom up to tell her what happened and as I am sobbing the part about the bridges and saying I don’t understand why she was freaking out it was so weird, my moms mouth dropped. She said you know your grandma hated bridges right especially the suspension. I said no I never knew. She also asked if I knew she used to call me her angel when I was a baby! I said no and just started crying even harder. I really do believe my grandma came to visit me in my sleep last night. When I woke up I could still feel her arms around me and the smell of her hair.

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2015-09-12 12:57:59

    Dear Ashley – It is clear that your grandmother still has a loving place in your heart and in your mind, and that you are still moved by her inner presence.
    I believe that the really “bad” storm is about the need to release (some) pent up feelings, which you did in the dream and after waking up.
    Could it be that you sometimes tend to avoid allowing and releasing your emotions?
    Dreams have many layers and many functions – – and one dream can express several functions simultaneously.
    In your dream you also become aware of information about the life of your grandmother, which you were not consciously aware of (anymore) or could not have known consciously before.
    Please also read the example in
    Many people do not realise that they have an inner grandmother equally as powerful as an external grandmother. This also means that you cannot really lose your grandmother for she is a part of your inner world.
    You have taken in millions of bit of memory, lessons learnt, life experiences along with all the feelings or problems met by loving and living with or knowing your grandmother, and they are what makes you the person you are.
    The memories and experience we gather unconsciously change us and are not lost. It is part of you and is symbolised in dreams as a person or event. Such an inner grandmother can appear in dreams because you are still deeply influenced by what you hold within you. The inner grandmother can also signify what has been received via genes passed on or ancestral influences.
    At the end of the dream you become aware where all the information about your grandmother comes from; from the basement. The basement in a house – and so in your mind – is a symbol of unknown feelings, memories or past experiences, your biological past, and the place where your conscious mind contacts hidden powers, universal wisdom, and even other minds; like the mind of your grandmother.
    When you are sleeping your conscious self is largely or totally unconscious and you are able to become aware of other realms – other levels of awareness – which is what you did.
    For most of us being awake is when we most fully feel ourselves. Compared with this sleeping is a period during which we lose any focused awareness of being an individual, and we sink into what is generally called unconsciousness — the lack of personal awareness.
    See also
    Let me know if you have any questions about how I see your dream.
    Anna 🙂

-Lynne Johnson 2015-08-11 13:58:36

In my dreams i am in a large very plush Victorian dinning room, with red chairs, carpets & drapes. I feel the house is mine & i feel very calm & proud that this is my home. I have very wealthy gg Grandparents, could this have been there house?

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2015-08-17 11:33:26

    Dear Lynne – I believe your dream could be a symbol of the atmosphere you have created in your inner world and the beliefs or feelings you have ‘furnished’ your mind with and that your ancestors are still influencing your inner world in subtle ways.
    The colour red could be a symbol of the inner wealth and comfort that you have created inside your mind as you also express by the way you feel about this house; “I feel very calm & proud that this is my home.”
    See also
    Anna 🙂

-Patty Lambkin 2015-04-18 13:36:04

Always seeing a grizzly bear walking parallel to me. I’m watching from a distance

    -Anna 2015-04-20 5:52:35

    Patty – I reckon that with “ALWAYS” seeing a grizzly bear” you mean it is a recurring dream.
    In general dreams recur because there are ways the dreamer habitually responds to their internal or external world. Because their attitude or response is unchanging, the dream that reflects it remains the same. It is noticeable in those who explore their dreams using such techniques as described under processing dreams, that recurring themes disappear or change because the attitudes or habitual anxieties that gave rise to them have been met or transformed.
    Your IP number shows that you live in Prince George and I learned that people have been attacked (and killed) by grizzly bears in that area.
    So I wonder if that is what you associate with a grizzly bear; the fear of being attacked.
    In looking at many dreams in which attack takes place, it is obvious that there are many degrees and forms of attack. So attack or being attacked can represent many things such as feeling attacked or threatened by one’s own impulses such as anger or sexuality; feeling surreptitiously attacked by other people and their attitude to you or their remarks.
    It is important to define or be aware of ones response to threat or attack in a dream. Experiments in connection with dreams in which the person runs away from attack, or is very passive, show that if the dreamer visualises changing the situation and faces attackers, their dreams and even waking behaviour changes radically. Passivity in dream situations may depict the innate feeling that we are helpless in dealing with the feelings involved. This usually dates from past experience, perhaps in childhood, where in fact one did not have the strength or maturity to meet what was happening.
    Anna 🙂

-Rita 2014-12-10 4:39:51

I had two dreams, the first, I was coming from somewhere with my mum and we walked into a swarm of insects. They looked dangerous and scary but and we tried had to run away but as we run, we came across a house of people we seemed to know but they released two snakes (cobras) that chased me but not my mum. I was swallowed by one of the snakes and the Other snake swallowed the one that swallowed me… But suddenly, the two guys who released the snakes cut them open and the rescued me alive…..
Please interpret this dream for me

-kimberly 2013-12-29 22:56:52

Also another foggy dream
dont recall background..
me looking down at my exposed way bigger breasts as i squished my nipples and they surprisengly lactated alot at first squeeze then dripped. In my dream it was fascinated and excited but surprised and more surprised at my arousel..
its a funny dream
but im curious what it means

-kimberly 2013-12-29 22:41:08

My memory of my dreams are foggy
but i am in the backstreets of a neighborhood i did not recogniz with occasional people i did recognize i.e, friends of friends. Anywho i think i hada camera or camera phone and i end up running between the backstreets of houses following the sky chasing huge planet that looked like a surpringly pretty , big earth trying to take a picture of the planet that i somehow in my dream KNEW it was venus but it was like getting away ..

-Fredy 2013-11-15 12:54:08

Hi! I just woke up from this shocking dream (or nightmare). I usually dont remember my dreams or the details in it, but this dream was so real that I’d like an interpretation.

I’ve searched the interpretation through the web but it seems there is no case like this.

In my dream, I’m living with my aunt and her family and the best friends of a cousin; we’re all living in the same house and share a bathroom.

It seems we’te used to this way of living. It is a beautiful saturday and we plan to go and visit the downtown of the city as a group.

During our visit, there’s a very dangerous monster and many people try to defeat him. They fail and somehow I find “the way” (which is a box attached to the street in case of monsters) to defeat him. That box is an atomic bomb and I use that atomic bomb against the monster and somehow it gives me some minutes to carry a little cousin and protect ourselves partially from the explotion.

I close his little eyes and sing something to distract him, so he doesn’t see the heat waves of the nuclear bomb.

Once the bomb finishes, we’re out and we explore the city trying to find our house. I leave my cousin with a relative and keep looking for the house, but never find it.

During my search through the city, I realized i’m gonna die and I accept that fact, wishing to have done more things.

As an interesting fact, the city wasn’t destroyed. The bomb was only a heatwave. Food and water were poisoned, though.

-Akeefah 2013-06-16 7:49:30

So usually in my dreams everyone communicates Telepathically , however when a certain person is present it disrupts this pattern and I can no longer communicate without physically speaking, my thoughts and what I say and control in the dream suddenly become easier for me to separate and control. Any ideas why is this?

-Riley 2013-02-21 8:27:07

Not to mention these are the most realistic terrifying dreams/ recurring dreams ive ever had and when i wake up i feel so weird like i can’t even get out of bed and talk to other people kinda weird and im only 16

-Riley 2013-02-21 8:20:23

I keep having recurring dreams and it always has to do with bears mostly black bears sometimes its other kinds of bears but its mainly a black bear i do not know why, in my dreams sometimes the bear will not see me or chase me sometimes it does chase me and when it does each dream the bear gets closer and more aggressive , i have these dreams atleast 2 times a week , please help me understand what these dreams are trying to tell me.

-surender singh chauhan 2012-11-24 7:49:35

in my dream, i went into dark room and iam trying to take something which laidown on floor and suddenly when i saw upward a hand come behind the curtain and caught my neck and iam trying to escaip from that and after some seconds i wake up and realise that my hart beat are very fast please explain this dreams meaning

    -Tony Crisp 2012-11-25 10:28:36

    Surender – Something coming from behind a curtain is often used in dreams when the dead are trying to make themselves known to you. It is best not to be frightened when that happens because no harm can come to you. But of course if you feel fear about such things that could make your heart pound.


-Christal 2012-11-17 5:15:55

Hi, My name is Christal and I am 20 this year.
I had a dream about a guy (who is a complete stranger to me in real life) wooing me.
I always avoided his advances.
He is always teasing me and playing around.
He bought me gifts but I always rejected them.
He even specially bought a new handphone so that he could contact me.

Slowly, I begin to fall for him.
But he then received a phone call and told me that his parents had found him and he had to go.

Before he left, he gave me a note which is cutely decorated with stickers.
He left his phone number and his name.
And he wrote that he really likes me and hope that we could keep in touch . And he gave me other encouragements.

I saw him left in his parents car from my house. It was raining.
I did not want him to leave but I made no move.

Then I cried in my dream. My mum told me that it’s destiny that we met and asked me to not to give up on him and to believe that he would come back for me. And that he will be a good boyfriend, good husband.

After that I woke up in tears. And I felt a strange feeling.. I felt it was so real and.. I actually missed him.

I had dreamt of that stranger before in my other dreams. Even though it’s a different scenario each time but I have this nagging feeling that it’s the same guy.
Only this time, I remembered his name.

And now even thinking back to the dream, I felt this strange feeling deep in my heart.. it’s like I am waiting for him to come back…

    -Tony Crisp 2012-11-18 11:06:31

    Christal – I see so many of these dreams, and being a young woman you tend to feel you are dreaming about an actual person. But in the world of dreams our most intimate fears and longings are given an exterior life of their own in the form people, objects and places of our dream. They are not actual people in your dreams but a very real virtual reality. See

    The dream person is most likely your dreamed of inner male that we dream of all our life. And you need to not draw back from full relationship with him. But do not think of him as an actual outward person. I know most young women feel it must be an outward person, but it is not. Although if you manage a full relationship and get married to the dream man, then you may actually choose someone who is much like them.


-Kylie 2012-08-26 15:03:48

Hi my name is Kylie, I had a dream about this guy I have been seeing and he is a bit older than me and he had to line up with other guys younger, or more attractive and I had to pick between them of who I choose to be with and I walked up to the guy I been seeing and said I choose u and put his arms around me. I don’t understand this why would I do that ? I haven’t been seeing him long in real life, but feel real connected to him in some way. I have never been with anyone like him before he is a real gentleman.

-blue 2012-07-25 13:59:58

In my dream I let (maybe even organized) for my boyfriend to have sex with another woman. I was acting like it was a special surprise I was giving him. We have a very active and experimental sex life but we both know it would be over if we crossed that line. Because we can’t cross that line, the other night I brought out a toy and we played that there was another woman involved which was fun for both of us. There was also a part in the dream where a woman was talking about how she was going to be involved in a 3some and then told my boyfriend (in front of me) that maybe next time he could be involved. Why would I dream I would LET him be with another woman and not be mad?

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