Tag Archives: dream interpretation

Working dreams

One of the important things to bear in mind if you’re doing dream interpretation, is the relationship between your dreams and your actual life. Recently I had a dream in which I was trying to fold a complicated table and needed to work out what to say about it on social media. It was not an exciting dream. It was simply a bringing together of some of the things in my recent working life as my brain tried to figure out what goes where. How I do social media work or support for various outlets has become a question in recent weeks. The one thing that doesn’t need a social media plan is the furniture, but that’s dreaming brains for you!

Sometimes our sleeping minds are indeed doing the work. I’ve noticed repeatedly that when life gives me a lot to process, I crave more sleep. Some things are difficult to do consciously and need the free run of an unconscious mind to reconfigure in. Big life changes, radical rethinks about who I am, dramatic changes to important relationships and other major life events take some getting to grips with.

I spent the summer dreaming mournfully about one of the entitled men in my life. My feelings of guilt and responsibility kept surfacing, along with my desire for things to be entirely other than they have been. However, a few final revelations towards the end of the summer helped clarify things for me and my dreaming mind started telling me completely different emotional stories from that point. I’ll be surprised if I get any more mournful longing, because I appear to have worked that through.

What the dreaming work has allowed me to do is make a space for emotions I can’t usefully express anywhere else. I’m trying out ideas about how things are and could be, and pushing my waking mind to look at things it hasn’t been keen to square up to. That which we’re trying to avoid or protect ourselves from can show up in dreams, demanding attention. In my experience, this is where a lot of nightmares come from. But at the same time, a nightmare can be a useful part of the process, allowing me to process something I just can’t tackle when awake. Sometimes I have to go through a lot of these to get to a place where I can think consciously about the problem.

Dreams like these don’t benefit from interpretation. They aren’t some kind of finished product waiting to be made sense of. They’re a work in progress, and it’s often better to just let that run as a process – paying attention to it but not trying to tidy it into neat meanings. Sometimes when you let dreams happen in this way, they will take your waking mind somewhere totally unexpected, and that can prove very helpful indeed.

For more of this kind of approach to dreaming, check out my book Pagan Dreaming – http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-dreaming

What dreams may come

Dream interpretation has always fascinated me. As a very young person, I got my hands on a dream interpretation book, but I rapidly found that the ‘answers’ were a bit too tidy, and most of my dreams did not include things that could be readily picked out as symbols and interpreted that way. I’ve always tended more towards narrative threads, and my symbolism is pretty personal. My impression is this is generally the case. We all have symbolic languages in which our unconscious minds try and talk to our waking ones. Life experience, belief, preference and so forth contribute to make this personal symbolism work. Unravelling it is a journey into the self. The first question to ask is not ‘what does the book say?’ but, ‘what does that mean to me?’

I studied Freud a bit at uni, which confirmed my feeling that trying to impose meaning from the outside, is reductive and pointless.
That said, there are trends that stand some consideration. Firstly, if you are learning something, your brain will consolidate that during periods of rest and sleep. We aren’t conscious of much of the process inside our own minds. This is distinct from your Freudian unconscious, which has its own drives and agendas. It’s more like the way in which you can’t see what your computer is doing to make these words visible to you. That much self awareness would drive us crazy. So, we have a functional, not-conscious element to the mind that handles the sorting, storing, and comprehension without our conscious thought processes getting involved. One of the signs that you truly know a thing is being able to do it without consciously thinking about it. Dreaming can be part of the consolidation process, so what you dream may reflect what you’re learning.

Now, that Freudian style unconscious, that place of repressed emotions does seem to exist. If we are deep in denial about something, it bubbles up eventually. Dreams can express to us the things we are consciously trying not to be aware of – fear, desire, need, insecurity, all that kind of thing. There’s scope for self knowledge here, because if we can acknowledge the dreams that manifest what we’re refusing to deal with, we get closer to dealing with it.

The person who does not get enough sleep, also doesn’t get enough dream sleep, so having and remembering dreams is a good sign of sufficient good quality sleep. It’s worth considering your dreaming in this very pragmatic way, because it can give you some useful information about the state of your sleeping.

I also think that dreaming is a good indicator of your state of mind generally. Drab, dull, repetitive dreams – such as dreaming in extra days at work, do not speak of a happy and fulfilled mind. Anxiety dreams can be very telling. Having the same set of dreams can be suggestive that something in your waking life needs tackling, and that you are trying very hard to flag this up to yourself. The person who dreams strangely and widely, drawing on all kinds of experience, is probably in better shape than not, between the ears.

Rich dreaming can be emotionally rewarding, as well as going alongside good sleep. It is worth paying attention to dreams. You don’t have to believe in much, or see any magical component, to be able to notice that they are a function of the mind, and that something is going on there. Stay away from Freud though, unless you’re reading him for giggles. Don’t assume there is one right answer to your dreaming and that someone else can tell you what it is. The only right answers are the ones that make sense to you, and sometimes dreaming has no discernible meaning at all. Some of it is white noise. Some of it is prompted by external things. (The boat rocks and I dream of an earthquake, for example). We can get so bogged down in the question of what things mean that we forget that sometimes things just are, and that no extra layers need to be added.

Dream Interpretation

The science of dreaming fascinates me, the limits of it more so. There are dreams that I can readily identify as being my brain just sorting out what has come in during the day. When I learned to crotchet recently, I was crocheting the fabric of my dreams for some nights. I can also spot the dreams that are born from suppressed emotion – usually anxiety. Not least because they tend to take the same forms all the time.

But there are other dreams, rare and strange ones that I can’t rationally explain. Dreams that have such deep resonance it feels like they are telling me something. I remember waking from just such a dream in which my father was trying to contact me, and knowing that he would phone that morning. He did. My Nan had gone into hospital and she died a short time later. Not all of the resonant dreams are that clear and coherent though. Sometimes I wake with the sense that a profound thing has happened during my sleep, and no real idea what it was.

In my teens I studied my own dreams enthusiastically, and was managing a little lucid dreaming. In my twenties my dreams reduced down to a small number of scenarios, obsessively revisited and laden with anxiety. The return to good dreaming has been very much a part of my return to more creative and happy mental states. The quest for re-enchantment has me looking hard at my dreams again.

After all, we spend a fair chunk of our lives dreaming, they are part of our experience, and that gives them a reality of sorts. They may well be windows into the unconscious, they certainly have the capacity to bring fresh inspiration and to help with problem solving. There are dreams that incline me to feel I have really been somewhere else, and that something real has happened to me. Dreams where the emotional content is so affecting, that by influence, the dream itself becomes real in important ways.

We used, collectively, to be far more open to the idea of dreams as messages from god, or the gods, and of the potential of dreams to be prophetic. The rise of rationalism has done away with this as superstition. But I don’t think that’s entirely fair. We take in and process far more information than we are conscious of. The capacity of the human mind to make connections and find patterns in apparently random things is phenomenal. Magical, even. It underpins so much of what we are able to do ‘rationally’. Dreams are all about the mad juxtapositions, the great intuitive leaps, maybe they are the bits we reject as other parts of our mind go through the available information to see what might be useful. Dreams are testimony to the sheer wonder of both our consciousness and our unconsciousness, to the imaginative potential within us all, and the dashes of chaos and irrationality that go into making us human.

Rational, logical thought only takes us so far. Intuition and inspiration are not logical (I pause once again to nod to Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance). Invention, problem solving, and creativity all depend on that more irrational thinking. Dreams are part of that process, a nightly eruption of the kind of thought that shows no respect to boxes, laws, or consensus reality.

Last night I dreamed about going to court, and finding there was no real hearing, just lots of people gathered together to sing, organised by a portly woman of advanced years. Explaining this to Tom he said ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings?’

She sang. Perhaps it’s a good omen!

Dreams of flying

The idea that dreams can be interpreted was presented to me in childhood. I’ve looked into the psychology and science of dreaming a bit, which fascinates me, and I think however you come at it, there is something to indicate that dreams tell us about ourselves. Even if they are just white noise our brain makes when shutting down, it’s our white noise. I think dreams are indeed a window to the unconscious, and sometimes more than that. They are the means by which we tell ourselves the things it is just too difficult to mentally articulate when we are conscious.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed about flying. Mostly, I am not very good at it, and need a prop to make it possible. Often I can barely get off the ground. For years, I had reoccurring persecution nightmares where I would run through buildings, up stairs, along ever smaller corridors, until at last the only scope for escape called for jumping out of a window. I’d perch on the edge, hope it was a dream, and let go. Sometimes I’d fall, sometimes I’d get away. Often, I’d wake up. With hindsight, the symbolism of needing to run away and take a leap into the unknown, does not take much unpicking.

There is, in me at least, a definite correlation between what I dream about around flying, and my emotional state. It’s to do with how soulful I feel, how creative, how alive to myself. If I’m depressed, or otherwise in a bad way, I do not dream I can fly. As such, it’s always been something of a barometer for me, a way of keeping an eye on myself. It might have been more use as such, of course, if I’d taken it even slightly seriously. By gradual degrees I stopped dreaming about flying, and the nearest I got was the occasional plummet from a dream window. Intuition isn’t a whole lot of use if you persistently ignore it, and one of the consequences of being disenchanted, was that I couldn’t take seriously irrational things like dreams. Even though I had almost continual nightmares, taking the same small handful of forms.

Over the last months I’ve noticed my dreams becoming far more varied. I still get a lot of nightmares, but they come in far less familiar shapes and are a lot more interesting. I get weird, surreal dreams – in last night’s my son mistook Neil Gaiman for Brian May, the hair being the source of his confusion. Nothing meaningful there, nothing to interpret that I can see, but it was a dream with my son, husband and Neil Gaiman in it, so that was cool.

My dreaming used to be a big part of my sense of enchantment, and had a significant role in my creativity. It was like having this deep river of awen flowing through my psyche every night, and things would always wash in on the currents. That went away, and for a long time I was suffering from lack of inspiration. Having the same small subset of anxiety dreams wasn’t helping, but that was a symptom, not a cause.

One of the things I am doing, as part of my active quest for re-enchantment, is paying a lot more attention to my dreams. I try to remember them in the mornings, and if there was anything I can figure out how to articulate, I share it. At the moment I can’t see any trends or threads that need attention paying, but I’m looking, and I’m not going to ignore what I dream any more. It’s part of a process of taking myself, and my emotions, seriously again.

I used to dream about houses – often interpreted as symbols of the self. Over the years my dream houses became weirder and more run down. They were frequently uninhabited, or unliveable in, and there were unpleasant things there. They were also the frequent location of the running and jumping out of windows sequences. Of late, the dreams of houses have people trying to colonise them, attempts to drive out the vampires, and other things I think bode well.

 I still can’t fly unaided, but I can fly, and that’s definitely a good sign.