If you have ever wondered why dreams often appear so difficult to make sense of, it is because the information they contain is presented in a different language; the language of symbols: of people alive or dead, known and unknown, animals both domestic and wild, landscapes and buildings familiar and strange, or any number of symbolic objects such as shapes, colors, signs, numbers, jewelry, food, clothing and so on.
These images are your own thoughts, feelings and ideas turned into a series of pictures like ordinary scenes in your daily life. For example, if you feel overwhelmed you may have a dream you are swimming but finding it hard to keep your head above water. If you feel confused you may have a dream when you are wondering about lost in a dark forest. The number of symbols and images that your mind can translate into dream pictures is practically endless.
Words just can’t convey the countless powerful feelings that symbols do. These symbols are often chosen from something that has caught our attention in waking life, triggering a memory, conflict or concern that resonates both in the present and in the past.
One tried-and-tested way to uncover the meaning of your dream images is by direct association. You simply go with the first thing that pops into your head when a trigger image from your dream is given. If you don’t immediately get an associative thought, try working through all your feelings about that image. For example, if you saw a caterpillar in a dream. Do you like caterpillars or do you find them a bit creepy? Try to discover what the image means to you right now, for the meanings of your symbols will change over time.
The more you work with your dreams, the more familiar you will become with your personal images. You’ll probably find that you dream the most about the things that you are familiar with every day: your family, your colleagues, your friends and your pet. Each time you dream about these familiar things they will have personal significance to you alone.
The great majority of dreams are not to be taken literally and you need to do a bit of detective work to get to the real message. Just because you dream that a friend is dying does not mean that he or she will die, but rather that they are going through a period of enormous change. In fact, interpreting dreams literally can be harmful. As pointed out earlier, you have your own set of unique dream images and symbols. If you love dogs, what a dog means to you and what a dog means to someone who can’t stand dogs will be very different. Always bear in mind that your dream symbols and images are unique to you.
Although the images and symbols in your dreams do need to be interpreted, their purpose isn’t to mystify you. They are simply trying to get their message across in the best way that they can. If you do find yourself getting tense, confused or frustrated when trying to interpret a dream, let it go. Dream interpretation is best approached with an open mind and in a relaxed state.
You don’t need to interpret every single dream you have. In the same way that some movies are more compelling and thoughtprovoking than others, some dreams, like those when you do fantastic things like flying into space or surfing in Hawaii, are simply to be enjoyed. You don’t always have to dig deep for meaning. It’s good to be aware that a dream might contain a message of importance, but don’t get obsessed with finding meanings for every single detail —just interpret what you can. Dreams, like life, are full of big and little stuff. Don’t sweat the ‘small stuff’.