Learning the Language
Here are some of the techniques I've learned for dealing with dreams: your own, and those of others. At intervals you'll find links to BOOKS AND WEB PAGES I've found influential; you may wish to read them yourself to experience more of what those authors can teach.
Interpreting a dream literally means considering whether you are dreaming the future (this will happen, be prepared!), or dreaming telepathically (this really is how your mother feels!), or being visited by dead relatives or other spirits. Maybe the dream is warning you of health problems -- a friend's, or your own. Through dreams, we scan ahead and around, inside and out, so that we are better prepared for the day into which we wake.
Interpreting a dream metaphorically means playing with all the Freudian, Jungian, and Gestaltish possibilties: what part of me does that broken doorknob represent? Is my "kitchen" (the place of nourishment, the place where things are cooked up) on fire? Which of my planes (symbolizing my plans for the future) are crash-landing? Play with free association. Let your mind wander.
Honoring the dream means bringing it into reality somehow. Given a literal interpretation, make phone calls or doctor's appointments or otherwise check out the information the dream is giving you. In light of a metaphorical interpretation, address the issues in reality which the dream was addressing in your head. Quit that addiction, call up the friend you'd cut ties with, follow the dream's advice!
One more way to honor the dream is to literally introduce it to reality. Sketch the characters that affected you most. Model out of clay the objects that played large parts in the dream. Create a "motto" based on the dream message, and remember it all day. Base your actions on it. Write a letter to your dream guides. Go to a park or zoo and study your totem animals.
This literal dream-honoring is what makes a dreamer a shaman -- one who returns from the dream world with gifts of healing for the physical world.
WHEN YOU WAKE FROM A DREAM, it's not over yet. Here are some constructive ways of continuing the dream experience:
"Dream reentry" simply means going back into the dream, whether by conscious imagination, a guided trance, or by actually going back to sleep and dreaming again. This second time around, you should attempt to find out more about the dream's message. Observe your surroundings in more detail, and ask questions of all the characters, animate and non: "What are you trying to tell me? What do you represent? Why are you doing this, that, or the other?"
Facing one's nightmares is just a more specialized form of dream reentry. Stay with the nightmare. Challenge the characters that are challenging you. Ask them why, or simply tell them, "You are part of me. I accept you. I love you," as appropriate.
It is also recommended to demand gifts of your important dream characters, friends or foe. This way, you gain a physical symbol of, and thus more insight into, your dream's message. When you wake, again, try to recreate that gift in physical reality. It's important to note that important dream characters include not only nightmare enemies or strong allies, but sexual partners as well. I'll come back to this.
"It was just a dream." Dreams are real! The dream world is the real world! I can't say this enough. Only if you respect your dreams just as you respect physical reality can be of any help to you. What's the alternative -- resigning yourself to wasting a third of your life asleep? Better to be one hundred per cent awake!
"Dreams are hiding things from you; that's why they're so muddled." Much as I quake to disagree with Freud Himself, it's been my experience that dreams want to tell us what we need to know; they don't hide stuff under layers of garbage. Why else would important issues return night after night, increasing in intensity, until we finally address them? But dreams speak the language of the unconscious, an entirely different realm than that inhabited by verbal language. They speak in symbol. They speak in emotion. They speak color and music. We are at our most powerful when we can bring our conscious mind into the world where the unconscious speaks, and unite both sides of ourselves.
"Dreams harmlessly fulfill our urge to do unacceptable, evil things." Harmlessly? Sure. Unacceptable, evil? Not necessarily. (I told you I'd be getting back to the sex thing.)
Dreams certainly can point out those wishes you're ashamed of wishing. But not everything in a dream is evil, just because society condemns it. And not all dream actions should be taken literally. Whether the dreamed action is horrible or doable depends on how it feels -- dreams speak the language of emotion!
You dream of violently killing your boss with a double-headed axe. Is this a clue that you've been lashing out inappropriately at your boss, cutting him/her down behind his/her back maybe? Or are you "killing" his/her power over your life? And what about your choice of weapon? The labrys has long been a symbol for feminisim and lesbianism. Is your boss a terrible sexist?
Maybe you dream about sex with your boss instead. Does it feel demeaning, coerced, a clue that you're kissing a bit too much butt in waking life? Or are you uniting with that quality of organizational power you most admire in this person?
Think of it like this: What harm can you do in your dream? Who will know besides you? In dreams, we are completely free to experiment and follow our feelings without external repercussons. Still, it's wise to experiment with respect: dreams are real. You just don't have to tell anyone about them.
ms. found in a modem © Nicole J. LeBoeuf