I’ve been having a very vivid series of dreams recently, and feel motivated to write a post on the art of dream interpretation. You can find dozens of dream dictionaries and interpretation guides in any bookstore of library. With respect, I’m going to suggest that they won’t do you a lot of good.
It is true that at times, our dreams can tap into common archetypes – even at the level of the collective unconscious. You may well occasionally dream in Jungian archetypes – particularly if you are familiar with them, or are undergoing Jungian analysis.
But most of the meanings in our dreams will be entirely individual meanings. A particular person or place or object in my dream will not have the same meaning or associations as it will in your dreams. And unfortunately you can’t simply buy a book that contains all your own personal dream meanings. You have to do the work of unravelling them yourself. Fortunately, this isn’t a difficult thing to do, and is quite rewarding.
The key to doing effective dreamwork begins with dream journaling. I’m mentioned this in a previous article on lucid dreaming. The power of a dream journal is that as you keep it, your dreams will become easier to remember, and easier to understand. Keep the journal and a pencil at your bedside. A small flashlight or book-light is also handy – or you can buy a pen with a built-in light. When you awaken in the morning, or if you awaken during the night, lie very still. Sudden movement or thought can drive dreams completely out of your head. Before you move or allow youself to think about anything else, lie still and try to remember your dreams. If you have a particularly loud alarm clock, you may want to change to something more gradual and less jarring.
At first, you may be able to remember very little. Write down whatever you remember, even if it’s only a general atmosphere or feeling. If you remember nothing, then make up a dream you think you MIGHT have had. Sometimes just starting to write down these generalities can start to draw more specifics out of your memory.
Once you get into the habit, you will beging to remember more and more detail, and more and more dreams per night. When you write in your dream journal, only write on one side of the page and leave the other side blank. This blank side will be for analysis. Once you get enough detail coming through, start to use the blank side of your journal. Next to each dream, write down the general theme, the general mood, and any important people, places, objects or events.
Once you have done this for a few weeks, you will start to see patterns emerge. Certain themes and subjects will recur. Write these down in a separate notebook or separate page. This will become your personal “dream dictionary”. Then spend some time analyzing these subjects. What does this particular object mean to YOU. What does it mean in your personal history? What feelings do you associate with it? What mood or atmosphere is it associated with in your dreams? Now go back and try to understand what your dreams are saying in terms of these personal symbols.
By using this procedure, you will find that you will begin to get very clear messages from your dreams, and by acting on those messages, you will find yourself acting with more confidence, and more integrity to your whole psyche.