Don’t Be Superstitious About Your Dreams
If you dream of an accident or misfortune befalling someone you know – the death of a spouse, a child’s drowning, a friend being attacked – DO NOT make the mistake of assuming your dream is telling the future. Dreams frequently use unsettling metaphors to express our fears and concerns. For example, death in dreams is a consistent metaphor for change and separation, and does not mean the person you dreamed of will die soon. Instead, think about why you feel distant from that person, or how the relationship is changing. If you die, think about why a period in your life is coming to an end (graduation, divorce, retirement). Similarly, common dreams of a baby drowning or falling typically reflect a new mother’s concerns about the safety of her baby, and should not be interpreted literally.
Don’t Miss the Big Picture
Don’t let the minor details of a dream distract you from its bigger picture and message. For example, if you dream that your lover is attacking you with a knife, the message of this dream is that you are not feeling secure in your love life. Whether he is wearing a white or blue shirt is not as significant as the more immediate message of danger. Instead of focusing on small details, ask why you’re feeling attacked and insecure, and make a conscious decision about how you will respond. Will you confront him, share your dream, or should you stop seeing him? These are hard questions, but the dream is warning you that you don’t feel safe. If you fail to see “the big picture,” and if you don’t take action, you’ve missed the message of your dream.
Waking Life Background
Dreams represent feelings and concerns that were weighing on your mind at the time you had the dream. Accordingly, it is always important to note when a dream occurred, so that you understand the waking life context of your dream. For instance, if you dreamed you were back in high school and you flunked a math test, you might be tempted to think that your dream relates to your days as a student. But if you recall that you had the dream the same night that you were up late paying bills, you’ll realize the dream really is about your finances. You’re worried that the numbers (dollars and cents) won’t add up correctly (not enough money)! For recurring dreams, you need to ask what was happening in your life when the dreams first started. For example, a recurring dream of fire in your family home, that started when you were six years old, was caused by feelings of “crisis and emergency” (separation, divorce, health issues, etc.) in your family home when you were six. If you continue to have the dream as an adult, ask what events in your current life (family issues, trouble in your own marriage, a health crisis) are reminding you of how you felt as a child.
Feelings in dreams are not disguised. Accordingly, how you feel in a dream is how you are feeling somewhere in your waking life. Dream interpretation is the process of making the connection between feelings and events in your dream and the concrete issues you’re navigating in real life. If a dream confuses you, forget about the images and concentrate on how you felt in the dream. Ask where you feel the same way in your waking life. Think about what was happening in your life just before you had the dream. With practice, you will learn to “listen to your heart” when searching for a dream’s meaning. Remember to focus on how you felt in the dream. For example, a dream of being swept up and carried along by a fast-moving river full of white water and rapids may feel exhilarating and liberating in the dream, even though you’d be very frightened if it happened in reality. The meaning of the dream, however, is that you are feeling excited and happy about quick-moving events in your emotional (water) life. You don’t really want to go white-water rafting. Instead, ask why you’re feeling so happy and positive lately, and resolve to keep up the good work!
Respect Your Dreams
People often say they want to have good dreams. “That’s easy,” I tell them. “Make decisions that make you feel good about yourself.” You can improve your dreams, your feelings within them, and your waking life -- by making choices that honor your dream’s insights. Dreams are honest and accurate self-portraits of the issues, concerns and emotions you are experiencing in your life. When dreams reflect sadness, frustration, or unhappiness, make a special effort to listen carefully to these dreams and honestly identify their origin. The only way to make a “bad” dream go away is to understand its cause and then take concrete steps to address, improve, and remedy the situation in your waking life. While dreams often are confusing, they will never purposefully mislead you, nor will they ever lie to you. On the contrary, dreams are you talking to you. They are faithful and valuable allies in your quest to lead an ever more rewarding, harmonious, and unified personal life. They will always let you know if you are on or off course on the road to happiness and fulfillment. It’s your responsibility to get, and keep yourself, on your best course.