Dreams Communicate in Images Because of How the Brain Works
A dream speaks in pictures because your brain is hardwired to remember visually. As psychologists have confirmed, the brain stores much of its information (i.e., thoughts, memories, and experiences) as images that are linked up to your thoughts and feelings—becoming a mental picture in the mind’s eye. This is why visual pictures are the language of the brain. That is also why, in books on how to boost your memory, you are asked to link the words or names that you want to remember with a set of images, in order to remember them. When it comes to memory and your brain, pictures rule!
All Dreams Are Meaningful.
All dreams carry a message, and even a single dream image has meaning. Some dream messages are about your emotions while others relate more to your thoughts, attitudes, or actions. For example, in one such single-image dream, a man saw a large wooden wheel. At first, the image seemed meaningless, but later he remembered that when he was growing up, there had been a wagon wheel on his family’s farm. After his mother died, he often sat beside that wagon wheel as he mourned. The dream image of the wheel made him realize that he still felt bad about the recent loss of a good friend. The dream suggested he needed to take the time to grieve for his friend, just as he had grieved by the wheel for his mother.
Everyone Does Dream.
Those who say they do not remember any dreams often wonder if they dream at all. Research confirms that everyone experiences dreams. In fact, you dream about four to six times a night, whether or not you remember any of your dreams. Dreaming and recalling your dreams are two separate issues.
There Are Several Sources of Dream Messages
SOURCE 1 OF DREAM MESSAGES: YOUR MIND. Most dreams are communications from your psyche, the inner part of you that is aware of all your experiences, goals, and memories. Like a best friend, the psyche (your inner self) acts like a bridge between your waking and sleeping self and uses dreams to guide you to be the best you can be.
SOURCE 2 OF DREAM MESSAGES: THE SOUL AND BEYOND. Some dream insights come from the soul. You may be the captain of your ship but the soul is the ship’s owner, and on occasion, the soul has something to say about your path in life. Speaking of the great beyond, many believe that guardian angels can whisper in your ear through a dream, and that, on occasion, the divine itself bestows experiences of amazing grace, healing, or inspiration in dreams. Many dreamers have confirmed such extraordinary dream events.
SOURCE 3 OF DREAM MESSAGES: THE DEARLY DEPARTED. Some individuals believe that life continues after death and that dreams reconnect you with a loved one who has passed on. Anecdotal dream experiences suggest that the dearly departed visit on occasion to let you know they still love you (see Chapter 11, “Not All Dreams Are Dreams”).
Dream Analysis Is Easy.
There is a general misconception that learning to understand the message in a dream is difficult; however, if you can learn to drive a car, you can learn to analyze your dreams. Dream analysis is about understanding the language of symbols and metaphors and orienting yourself to a few rules of the road, such as the hints listed below. Once you master these concepts, you will be on your way.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 1: LEARN THE BASICS. Become familiar with the basics of dream interpretation such as those described in the Five-Step Dream Technique, which is introduced in later chapters. Once you crack open the nut of meaning of a dozen dreams, you will be on your way to a lifetime of amazing dream messages.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 2: LOOK FOR THE “AHA” EFFECT. When the meaning of a dream comes together, you get an “Aha!” rush of energy as a notable shift in perception. Understanding a dream message brings satisfaction, like watching a final puzzle piece fit into the big picture.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 3: BEWARE OF PERSONAL BIAS. Everyone has topics that trigger emotional reactions and sweep them away. Because of this, approaching a dream without preconceptions or reactions is important. If the topic of a dream is too intense, take a step back to avoid slanting your potential interpretation toward wishful thinking. Since initial reactions can steer you off course, a cool head is key to a correct interpretation. To correctly analyze a dream, put aside tinted eyeglasses and be willing to accept the truth, the whole truth, about the dream’s meaning.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 4: PUT AN INITIAL GUESS ON HOLD. As you wake up with a dream, the excitement of the story makes it easy to decide that you already know what it means. Hold that confidence in check and decide that you do not know what the dream means, at least not yet. As you apply the dream analysis techniques of your choice, your perspectives may shift and may bring a different result than your first thoughts about the dream.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 5: NOTE YOUR WORD CHOICES. Notice which words you select as you record your dream. The words that come to mind often alter your thoughts about the dream itself and create a shift in perception. This word-choice phenomenon is another way that the creative, unconscious mind reveals glimpses into the meaning of a dream.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 6: SYMBOLS ARE NOT THE WHOLE DEAL. A common misstep is to focus only on the meaning of a symbol and attempt to find dream message from the symbols, or to focus on the symbols first. Though dream symbols add depth to the message, focusing mainly on symbols tends to be a misstep. There are dreams where a symbol holds the entire message, but in general, the overall story tends to be the key to understanding the dream.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 7: YOU CAN DO IT. Despite these caveats, proceed without fear. Dream analysis is as easy as learning to drive a car. Once you know how to start the engine and observe a few rules of the road, you are on your way to dream analysis.
EASY ANALYSIS HINT 8: DREAMS AS A LUXURY VEHICLE TO GET THROUGH LIFE. Having paid attention to dream messages all my life, to me it appears as if those who do not analyze their dreams are trying to get through life using a bicycle. They miss out on a fantastic built-in Rolls-Royce of the mind—dream insights—that can get them where they want to go faster, more securely, and at their own speed.
Frightening Dreams Are Constructive Messages.
Even though a scary dream shakes you up, most nightmares carry a helpful message. The most common type of nightmare invites you to repair a character trait in yourself. Here’s how that works. In general, since people do not care to face something unpleasant about themselves, they push away a dream that makes them feel as if they are being scolded. As the dreamer pushes such a dream away—which, in psychological terms, is an attempt to suppress the dream—the dreamer’s clouded awareness “masks” the dream’s content. As a result, like seeing something in the distant, murky shadows, a friendly image now appears scary. Watching a dream about a personal flaw can feel like meeting an enemy in a deep, dark, empty forest. It is an “oops” that frightens the fragile ego, which reacts with “Who, me?” Though a rare nightmare can be a literal ESP dream warning, most scary dreams are distorted, but helpful, messages about your own flaws.
Dreams Help You Solve Problems.
As one of the main functions of dreaming, dreams can help you make decisions, clarify questions, and resolve daily challenges. In fact, experience dictates that the default stance of the sleeping mind is to assist you with any knot that you are trying to untie. Like a night-time Google session, your mind investigates the topic of your concern, compares the issue to your storehouse of past and current experience, and then cranks out an insight or a solution. Taking the time to plug into this “default nightly brainstorming” session can be highly productive on a wide range of matters, from advice to the lovelorn, daily questions, or even to achieve a scientific breakthrough.
Dream Messages Are Metaphors.
Dreams often exaggerate to make a point and most dream scenes are rarely literal. They are metaphors, and it helps to keep that in mind. For example, a scene about an avalanche that is going to engulf your home may scare you, but unless you live on a susceptible mountainside, the image is a metaphor about something that threatens your security, is off track, or is out of control. Positive scenes are also metaphors. A dream of winning the lottery suggests that you are a big winner, but what you are winning is not likely money. The win can signal career advancement, a great new relationship, or a talent that is being acknowledged—as your own kind of winning ticket.
Dream Dictionaries Cannot Tell You What a Dream Means
At best, a good dream dictionary can give you a general idea about what a symbol may mean, but it cannot tell you what that symbol actually means in the context of your specific dream. Dream dictionaries are a cookie-cutter approach to images. In contrast, the best part of a dream symbol is that it is a one-of-a kind communication uniquely tailored to you and in most cases, does not apply to anyone else. Check out the chapter on Symbols to get the exact and true meaning of dream images.
You Are the Best Interpreter of Your Dreams.
Once you learn the basics and stack up a dollop of experience, you become the best interpreter of your dreams. The reason is that dreams are about you and your life. Since you are the most familiar with the life areas about which your dreams speak, you are the best interpreter of your dreams.
What to do with a Cryptic Dream.
For every effort that you make to understand a puzzling dream which leads to a successful insight, it becomes easier to interpret the next dream. However, when you do come across a puzzling dream, there are a few options.
1. Wait awhile and try again a few hours later or a few days later.
2. Talk it over with a friend; sometimes the comments of a sympathetic listener can add new perspectives.
3. Browse through the example dreams at InterpretADream.com, check out books on dreams, or poll the Internet on specific dream topics.