WHAT IS DREAM INTERPRETATION?
“A DREAM not interpreted is like a letter not read.”- THE TALMUD
Dreams are a universal human experience that can be described as a state of consciousness characterized by sensory, cognitive, and emotional occurrences during sleep. The dreamer has reduced control over the content, visual images, and activation of the memory. Dreams can be entertaining, disturbing, or downright bizarre. We all dream, even if we don’t remember it the next day. Dreams are basically stories and images that our mind creates while we sleep. They can be vivid. They can make you feel happy, sad, or scared. And they may seem confusing or perfectly rational. Dreams can happen at any time during sleep. But you have your most vivid dreams during a phase called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep when your brain is most active. Some experts say we dream at least four to six times a night.
What Does Dream Interpretation Mean?
PATRICIA ELTINGE in her book THE DREAM CLASS says,
“A dream reading is a tool for looking into or unconscious in an organized manner in order to help us become aware of any imbalances that we are encountering in every aspect of our waking life.”
Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. While many theories exist to explain why we dream, no one yet fully understands their purpose, let alone how to interpret the meaning of dreams. Dreams can be mysterious, but understanding the meaning of our dreams can be downright baffling. Our dreams’ contents can shift suddenly, feature bizarre elements, or frighten us with terrifying imagery. The fact that dreams can be so rich and compelling is what causes many to believe that there must be some meaning to our dreams. People appear to believe dreams are particularly meaningful: they assign more meaning to dreams than to similar waking thoughts. However, people do not attribute equal importance to all dreams. People appear to use motivated reasoning when interpreting their dreams. They are more likely to view dreams confirming their waking beliefs and desires to be more meaningful than dreams that contradict their waking beliefs and desires.
It’s not always obvious what you’re dreams are telling you, but the art (and science) of dream interpretation can set you on the right path.
Enter dream interpretation, ancient art, and—recently, thanks to a parade of well-degreed researchers entering the field—actual science that aims to create a collective understanding of what we’re all seeing on a nightly basis. But what are your dreams telling you? What does it mean when you dream about someone specific? From endless falling to alien abductions to that naked-in-a-crowd nightmare, some of the more common dreams out there mean things. And no, it’s not always crystal clear, at first, what they’re trying to say. But if you know how to analyze them, you’ll discover some fascinating insights into yourself—and the world around you.
Psychologists and their views on dream interpretation:
Freud’s perspective on dream interpretation, which he laid out in his seminal book The Interpretation of Dreams, continues to be popular today. Freud believed dreaming was a form of wish fulfillment that reflected a dreamer’s unconscious desires. He also claimed that the manifest content of a dream, or the literal story or events of the dream, masks the latent content of the dream, or the symbolic or hidden meaning of the dream. For example, if individual dreams they are flying, it may mean that the individual is yearning for freedom from a situation they see as oppressive.
Like Freud, Jung believed dreams contained latent meaning disguised by manifest content. However, Jung also believed dreams symbolized a person’s desire for balance in their personality, not wish fulfillment. Jung put more weight on a dream’s manifest content than Freud, as he felt that important symbols could be found there. Also, Jung posited that dreams were expressions of the collective unconscious and could help one anticipate future issues in their life. As an example of his approach to dream interpretation, Jung related a young man’s dream. In the dream, the young man’s father was driving away erratically. He eventually hit a wall and wrecked his car because he was drunk. The young man was surprised by the dream as his relationship with his father was positive and his father would never drive drunk in real life. Jung interpreted the dream to mean that the young man felt he was living in his father’s shadow. Thus, the purpose of the dream was to knock the father down while elevating the young man.
Jung often used archetypes and universal myths to interpret dreams. As a result, Jungian therapy approaches dream analysis in three stages. First, the personal context of the dreamer is considered. Second, the dreamer’s cultural context is considered, including their age and environment. Finally, any archetypal content is evaluated to discover links between the dream and humanity as a whole.
Calvin S. Hall
Unlike Freud and Jung, Hall didn’t believe that dreams included latent content. Instead, he proposed a cognitive theory that claimed that dreams are simply thoughts that appear in the mind during sleep.
Most of us pay little attention to our dreams. The impression in western society is that dreams are the province of psychoanalysis seeking to unlock mysteries of neuroses and psychoses. But dreams can be very useful tools for self-discovery and problem-solving. It takes just a bit of practice to learn dream interpretation.
Many books on dream interpretation contain a dream dictionary. Some common themes and their meanings are:
Falling: insecurity, loss of control, feeling threatened
Being chased: running away from your fears
Teeth falling out: anxiety, losing face, concerns about self-image, inability to get a grip on something
Being naked in public: feeling vulnerable, anxious about something that did or will happen, desire to be noticed
Ocean: the unconscious, emotional energy
Train: power, freedom
Island: isolation, loneliness, tranquility, longing for independence
Flying: the desire for freedom, release of creative energy, transcending limitations
Finding a new room in a house: discovering an aspect of yourself you weren’t aware of
Since the 1970s, dream interpretation has grown increasingly popular. Ann Faraday’s 1974 book “The Dream Game” outlined techniques and ideas that anyone can use to interpret their dreams. Today, consumers can purchase a wide variety of books that offer dream dictionaries, symbol guides, and tips for interpreting and understanding dreams. Dream research will undoubtedly continue to grow. However, dream expert G. William Domhoff recommends that “…unless you find your dreams fun, intellectually interesting, or artistically inspiring, then feel free to forget your dreams.” Others, such as Cartwright and Kaszniak, propose that dream interpretation may reveal more about the interpreter than it does about the meaning of the dream itself.
How Can You Interpret Dreams?
Have a dream – Whether we remember our dreams or not we all do dream. If you have challenges remembering your dreams before you go to bed, set an intention by writing on a piece of paper “I will remember my dreams” and date it with the next day’s date. By doing so we are commanding our subconscious mind to relate the dreams to us. It’s in the Subconscious Mind where we reside during the dream state.
1. Write down the dream – As soon as you can, right after you wake up, write it down. Have a dream journal or any notebook and a pen handy by your bedside.
2. Know that every dream is about the dreamer, you – With exception of visitation dreams, experiencing the presence of those who passed on, all dreams reflect our state of consciousness and our state of being 24 to 48 hours before having the dream.
3. Identify the main symbols and translate them – Each symbol is a picture that has a universal meaning. Animals with a couple of exceptions represent habits, water-conscious life experience, baby a new idea, clothes outer expression, and so forth. All people represent the inner and outer aspects of you.
4. Recognize the key message of the dream – Some dreams might be quite lengthy and very descriptive. Identify the main theme—the core message that the dream is conveying and specify how that message relates to your life. With wonder, ask: “What is my inner self trying to tell me?”
5. Determine the plan of action – The purpose of dream interpretation is to bring the learning full circle by taking an action as a response to the dream. For example, if we were chased by a wild scary animal in our dream we can look through our life to identify a habit that produces fear and uncertainty. Once identified we can decide to understand that habit and transcend it. Similarly, if we were flying in our dream we can review thoughts and actions of a previous day to understand what within us brings about a sense of freedom.
6. Have another dream – Once we become awake to our dreams and start taking action on the guidance they convey we then receive feedback in our subsequent dreams. We receive more invaluable direction on how to proceed with our choices and how to respond to the reality that surrounds us in our waking life.
Learning how to decipher messages conveyed through our dreams is a process, it is the proverbial journey, not a destination. As our understanding of ourselves evolves so does our understanding of our dreams and, vice versa, once we turn our attention to our nightly dreams we’re provided with truthful and personal guidance from our inner Self.
Is Dream Interpretation Scientific?
“Dream reading is not fortune telling or a parlor trick. We are not trying to predict the future through our dreams, such as who will win the Kentucky Derby. However, our dreams point to where in the future (near or far) we need to direct our energies for well-being in our lives.”
-by PATRICIA ELTINGE, THE DREAM CLASS
There is no scientifically supported system of dream interpretation. Dreams are written by you and for you, about your life,” says Teresa DeCicco, the head of the Sleep and Dream Lab at Trent University in Canada. Much of what you’ve probably heard about how dream analysis works — like cracking open a book to look up the meaning of the things you see in dreams — isn’t based on science. These “dream dictionaries” are inaccurate, DeCicco says, in part because they don’t account for the unique meaning each figment, character, or action has to every person in their waking lives. For example, flying like a bird is a common dream event around the world, but what that means to a pilot or someone who has never flown a plane could be entirely different, DeCicco says. The idea that what we experience is reflected in dreams, and is therefore unique to each of us, dates back to some of the earliest days of psychoanalysis. In short, what the dream interpretation websites offer up for dream interpretation systems is mere metaphor mongering. The dreams most often given interpretations even by some dream scientists are the so-called universal dreams—the dreams all of us have experienced. There might be various developments in this field but there is still a long way to go.
Dreams and dream interpretation is a fascinating area to explore and definitely holds some significance to an individual’s life. Hopefully, this article gave some insight into dream interpretation.