Dreams are quite a large part of our lives. They are a window to our subconscious. But what are your dreams telling you? How can you understand their meaning? David Bedrick offers you three keys to help unlock their wisdom and counsel.
Dreams Are Drafted in Symbols
To understand dreams is understanding symbols. When you dream of your mother, your spouse, or your best friend, these dream figures should not be confused with the actual people. Even if you dream of Jesus, Buddha, or your spiritual teacher, don’t only think of these teachers; instead, think of them as qualities or ways of being that are unconscious aspects of yourself.
For example, say you dream that your partner is being unfaithful. This may indicate that part of you is not interested in your normal way of living or interacting. Some part of you is ‘flirting’ with a new approach to life. Or, say you dream of a monster chasing you. This could mean that you are scared of some part of yourself and are trying to get away from it. For example, some people fear their own vulnerability because they have been hurt in the past; these people might dream of their vulnerability as something scary (a monster) that they are trying to escape. Or, say that you dream of a person who is sick and throwing up. This might mean that you need to ‘throw up’ and stop holding things in, speaking unpopular truths, or swallowing things.
However, some dreams are psychic or prophetic. Certain dreams do tell you that a friend really is sick, to take heed of your circumstances, etc. I am highlighting the symbolic quality of dreams because our tendency to literalise the symbols in dreams cuts us off from the psychological wisdom our dreams offer.
You Are Not You
Most people perceive and feel their dreams as if the symbol that looks like them is really them. For example, I say “In my dream ‘I’ was driving down a one way street the wrong way; everyone else was going the right way.” While ‘I’ am worrying about going the wrong way in life, this dream often occurs for people who are inclined to follow a path that is more acceptable to other people instead of going their own way or marching to their own drum. I tell the dream from ‘my’ perspective – as a person who feels he is going the wrong way as opposed to a person who is independent and courageous enough to go against the grain. Or if I have a nightmare where a dark cloud is descending upon me, ‘I’ think that this is happening to me. In my waking life, I may feel sad, down, or depressed. But that dark cloud is also me, descending on another part of myself. In this case, while ‘I’ feel victim to the dark cloud, the dark cloud may be suggesting that this is a time when I need to be sheltered from the day-to-day world, and instead turn away from the light, to the realms of emotion and dreaming – the symbolic meaning of going into the dark cloud. Or let’s say ‘I’ am being criticised by someone in a dream. I am not only the one criticised or hurt, I am also the one who is being critical. This dream may be suggesting that I become more consciously critical of ideas and people I accept.
Dreams Resolve Problems in Unusual Ways
Dreams often help us solve problems in a non-linear manner. For example, let’s say you have a relationship problem that you try to address by listening better. Your dreams may suggest that you stop listening and instead start talking, asserting, even shouting. Or, you may find yourself struggling with fatigue and a lack of energy. In response, you may be trying to eat differently, exercise more, or change your sleeping habits in order to feel more energy during the day. However, your dreams may suggest that you let go, drop down, and stop trying so hard do accomplish things in the day that are not truly important to you. Or perhaps you have low self-esteem and have been told to self-affirm more often; meanwhile, your dreams might be telling you to begin playing a musical instrument, complete a degree, or spend more time in nature.
Occasionally, our dreams do answer our questions directly, but more often, they offer a new perspective on our problems – a perspective that opens the door to answers you may never have considered. Einstein said that we can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created. Dreams follow this wisdom by not only commenting not only on our problems but also on the way we look at them. This is particularly useful for issues that stubbornly resist our best intentions and efforts to change. Our problems are often a manifestation of who we are. It is not the problems that need to change; we need to change.
David Bedrick is a speaker, counselor, and attorney. He is the author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology. He’s on the faculty of the International School of Processwork in Poland and writes for Psychology Today and Huffington Post. Follow him @lovebasedpsych or check out his website: http://davidbedrick.com