Dream Therapy

I come into a room of people, mostly ones I look up to in real life. I’m chewing gum. Someone asks me a question and I try to answer, but my mouth is full of gum. I try to spit it out but it sticks in my back teeth. I reach into my mouth to try and get it unstuck but there just seems to be a never ending amount of it. 

I run into a friend of mine who asks how I’m doing. I talk about how busy I am. They then turn into someone from my high school and we are standing in the hallway. I realize that I am late for class. I walk in and discover that I have missed almost a whole semester of classes. There is little chance that I am going to catch up in time to avoid failing the class. I wonder how many other classes I’ve missed. A thought occurs to me, “didn’t I already do this? Aren’t I done with high school? In fact, I’m pretty sure I also did more schooling after high school and am done with that too.” I wake up. 

Like most humans, I’ve been having dreams for much of my life. There are the usual ones, discovering that I forgot to get dressed before heading off to work or school. Being late, being chased, flying, etc. Throughout my life, dreams have held different meanings for me. As a child they were either weird, fun or scary. As a teen and young adult, my religious community looked at dreams as messages from God. Sometimes directed at the individual having them and sometimes as a message that person was supposed to give to others. When I lived in the North, I heard about dreams having other spiritual meanings and people spoke about dream walking – entering other peoples’ dreams. Later I came to understand dreaming as a part of my own mind and a way of examining my thoughts and fears through a more right brained, visual, sensory lens. Sleep is a time when my mental defences are down, things that I’ve avoided or not given time to process during the day come up.

Lately, I’ve been studying dream interpretation based on Freud, Jung and Gestalt and based on current models of psychotherapy.

As I’ve been reviewing my own dreams, I’ve found insight into issues I’ve been struggling with. Some  have helped give me understand my own feelings about decisions I’ve had to make. In some dreams I’ve felt comforted by being able to see other aspects of myself and understand emotions that I’ve paid less attention to during the day.

Essentially I’ve felt like I’ve been able tp give attention and respect to the non-linear, non language based aspects of my brain and as a result felt like I’m starting to find more balance in my waking life. I’ve been more conscious of the symbolic. In religious terms I feel like I am feeding my soul by paying attention to my dreams and trying to understand them.

Here’s some ways I’ve learned to better understand my dreams: 

  • I assume that my dreams are about me and that people, objects and images within the dream likely represent a part of myself, and are not necessarily to be taken literally.

  • I’ve learned that there are many types of dreams:
    • Some are kind of just a rehash of the day’s events, highlighting things that I may not have spent much time thinking about during the day, but which affected me in some way.
    • Some dreams highlight my anxieties or fears.
    • Some dreams highlight unresolved internal issues or relational conflicts.
    • Some are giving a right brained, image based, symbolic view of a current situation. 
    • Some express parts of myself and my own self perception or personality.

  • I’ve learned that while there are universal themes within dreams, at times, for example, archetypes; common fears or experiences, such as showing up somewhere without clothes on; falling or flying dreams, not all dreams are universal.

  • I’ve learned that I have my own symbols. Certain people who consistently represent certain things in my life and who reoccur in my dreams or certain events in my dreams that represent certain times in my own life.

  • I’ve also learned not to rely on other people’s interpretations, whether in person or through dream dictionaries, or guides, but to check if any of those things ring true to my own understanding and situation without assuming they are true. For example, I’ve found one dictionary that’s been helpful so far in that it essentially gives examples of how a theme or specific object or situation might be viewed historically, in mythology or, in the case of animals, what their natural characteristics are. In this way I get clues as to what might have inspired these images as I, like every other human being on this planet have been influenced by stories, mythology and natural characteristics that might be somewhere in my memory but that a dictionary might remind me of.

  • I’ve learned that the best way to interpret dreams is to keep a dream journal, note reoccurring situations and images and how you feel about them and start to understand your own personal symbols before looking into more universal symbols for better understanding. 

I see therapy as a way to examine aspects of oneself with an objective outsider, who might help to identify patterns and who is accepting, hopeful and nonjudgemental. Dreams are not necessarily objective but the defences that we have that keep us from seeing other aspects of ourself are not necessarily there. Also, they also us a bit of distance, like an observer and through their symbolic natures, can often bypass our own self judgement which also clouds our own understanding.

I encourage you to add dream reading to the way you learn about yourself. Happy dreaming!

 

NOTE: If you find yourself having repetitive nightmares, or ones specifically about past traumas, don’t hesitate to talk to a counsellor.

Check out When You Can’t Sleep

One thought on “Dream Therapy

  1. Pingback: Nightmares as Signposts | It's Not Just You

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