Dreams are a powerful tool for self awareness. They can give direction in healing and often provide clear messages when going through difficult times. I am not necessarily suggesting writing down all of your dreams or over analyzing their often cryptic messages but to merely pay attention to them. Dreams can provide a window into the unconscious behaviors that drive us. While writing down dreams is indeed one method for becoming more aware of dreams and their symbols it is certainly not the only thing. Relating your dream to someone can be useful as well. Creating artwork that captures the emotion in the dream is effective as well. Getting the dream out in front of you is the goal.
Viewing a dream purely symbolically is actually more challenging than it sounds. I usually have to remind myself and others that everything in the dream is a symbol. Dreams are so emotionally driven it can be an effort to extract a logical conclusion about its meaning. Here are some good rules of thumb when paying attention to a dream.
Every person, place and thing in your dream is an aspect and expression of you. Keeping this in mind is quite useful for avoiding the fear roused when being chased by a hooded villain or the premonition of the fanciful marriage to a celebrity and it keeps you from taking any of it literally. Dreams come from inside of you and are delivered in the language of the soul- which is symbolism. There are many books written about decoding dreams and deciphering the meaning of the symbols. While I have found these books somewhat useful don’t get to attached to the prescribed meanings, they are generalizations at best and only offer a possibility. Because each one of us is a unique person with a unique set of experiences our personal symbolic language will also be unique. There are some basic generalities that I have found to be fairly consistent and possibly useful here.
The House-I always first consider the house to be a symbol of you. The basement a symbol of the dark unknown in your psyche, the kitchen and main areas your current life and the upstairs and attic symbols of your higher or spiritual self. If the house is your childhood home there is likely a connection to a childhood experience or issue that needs healing or attention. If the house has a special or unique meaning then it may be a different symbol.
Water-My first inclination when dealing with water in dreams is to consider the emotional realm. If you are drowning in a dream could you be feeling emotionally overwhelmed? Waterfalls, rivers and oceans seem to be really common in dreams and can by symbols of the need to have a good cry about something, to confronting an emotion that you tend to repress or otherwise getting in touch with your emotional self. Consider how emotions intersect with the other symbols in the dream.
Death-Death in a dream can be absolutely terrifying and feel like a premonition or prophetic foretelling of a death. I find this to be highly unusual. Death in a dream is more commonly a symbol of the complete end of something or the need to end something, like a relationship you may be holding onto, a childhood issue, a crippling belief, idea or behavior. Death is a symbol of endings.
Birth-Births are another common symbol. Pregnancies and deliveries could be symbols of projects, ideas and new relationships that are forming and needing your attention. New beginnings and unformed visions are good starting points for understanding this symbol.
These are just a couple examples of the way symbols might be used to communicate deep and meaningful messages to you from your soul.
I consider emotions the most important aspect to a dream. Emotions always tell the truth and so they become the anchors for unraveling and decoding the dream. How did you feel about the events in the dream? How did you respond emotionally to an experience? There is often an illogical emotional reaction in dreams that if taken literally can be upsetting but taken symbolically and identifying the emotion it becomes a catalyst for understanding. For example, I had a dream once where I was killing people with an axe and it didn’t bother me at all. My emotion was one of resolve and dedication instead of the logical reaction of anger, rage or possibly shame and disgust. This helped me understand that the killing had to do with my resolve to detach myself from certain folks that I had developed an unhealthy need for approval. Use emotions as the foundation for understanding the meanings of dreams. They are more important than even the symbols themselves.
The Three Stages
Some dreams can be viewed in this three stage process that helps identify and understand their meanings. Stage one represents the particular problem or issue, stage two represents how you are currently dealing with said problem or issue and stage three represents a possible solution. This is not a template to be applied to all dreams but a tool that can be used for certain dreams. Give it a try if it works and helps to clarify the message great if not. . .no worries. I usually apply the three stages process after I have identified the symbols and the emotions.
Remember: A dream that is accurately decoded will make perfect sense to you. Don’t try to force a meaning on a symbol that doesn’t feel right. You are the interpreter of your own dreams and only you can give that final stamp of approval that indicates a successful decoding. Which only makes sense, its your dream after all. Some books to read that enriched my own dream interpretation.
Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung
The Dream Book by Betty Bethards
Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell