In my last blog, I provided tips and techniques on Keeping a Dream Journal. Now that you have begun dream journaling and have recorded at least one dream, let’s take a look at the symbols in your dream and how you can determine what they mean to you.
This is the most important thing to remember in dream interpretation – the only person that knows what the symbols in your dreams mean is YOU! Let me restate that: The only person that knows the meaning of your dream symbols – and your dreams – is YOU!
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get “reflections” or thoughts on what your dream might mean from others. Doing so can provide valuable insight, provided you understand that you are always free to agree or disagree with what they offer. The problem with seeking the meaning of your dreams or dream symbols from others is when they emphatically tell you what it means.
You must understand that whatever anyone else says is a projection of their own thoughts and beliefs based on their life experiences. Your life experiences are different from theirs and so the meaning or association you have to your symbols may or may not be different.
With that being said, you might be wondering how to interpret what your dreams and dream symbols mean to you. There are many ways to work with dreams, but let’s start by breaking the dream down into the symbols that occur in the dream.
Once you have recorded the dream (either manually or using the free DreamsCloud app), play Word Association.
Step 1: Take a blank sheet of paper and create a table with three columns. In the first (left-hand) column make a list of all of your dream symbols.
Step 2: When you are ready, read or say one of your symbols and then say and write down the first thing that comes to mind next to it in the middle column. This is the 1st association to your symbol. Repeat for all of the symbols on your list.
You should now have three columns that look like this:
If you have a trusted friend, you can have them read the symbols to you in a random order and have them write down your associations for you.
Step 3: Rewrite your dream report replacing each of your symbols with your associated words. It may not be grammatically correct, but may provide some insight. If you have a friend, let them read the “new dream” to you, as hearing it can be very different than reading it yourself. As you are reading or listening to the “new dream” look for any “aha!” moments or other intuitive feelings, like butterflies in your stomach or tingling sensation. These feelings or intuitions will be telling you that you have touched upon something important.
Step 4: Wait a few minutes and when you are ready, read or say one of the associated words in the middle column and then say and write down the first thing that comes to mind in the far right column. This is the 2ndassociation to your symbol. Repeat for all of the associated words on your list.
You should now have three columns of words that look like this:
Step 5: Rewrite your dream report replacing each of your symbols with your 2nd association of words. Again, it may not be grammatically correct, but may provide some valuable insight. If you have a friend, let them read the “new dream” to you, as hearing it can be very different than reading it yourself. As you are reading or listening to the “new dream” look for any “aha!” moments or other intuitive feelings, like butterflies in your stomach or tingling effect. These feelings or intuitions will be telling you that you have touched upon something important.
Step 6: Take any insight and apply it to a current waking life situation; or to something from your past.
Following the steps above can provide you with an idea of what your dream symbols mean to you and can also provide you with an idea of what your dream may mean to you.
Keep in mind that dreams and dream symbols can have more than one meaning to you, which is why I suggest doing two different associations. Any meaning or interpretation you get from the “associated” dreams may be correct – even though they may be different. Only you can determine if either or both are right.
Trust yourself. Trust your intuition. Trust those “aha” moments and butterfly or tingling sensations!
Another technique to try is Freewriting.
Step 1: Choose one of your symbols and on a blank sheet of paper just start writing whatever comes to mind when you think of that symbol. Don’t worry about grammar or tense and don’t worry whether or not it makes sense. Don’t even worry about writing complete sentences. Don’t think about anything. Just write and let the words flow freely. One thought will lead to another which will lead to another, etc. Write as long as you feel is needed, but write for at least five minutes without stopping. If nothing is coming just write anything – “I am writing about my symbol because I want to understand it” – or anything else that comes to mind.
Step 2: When you are finished writing, read over what you have written and look for an “aha!” moment or a feeling of butterflies, or some other way you might have of knowing that’s it. That is what this symbol means to me.
NOTE: One symbol can have more than one meaning, depending on the context within the dream.
Step 3: Repeat this for several (or all) of your symbols.
Step 4: Look over what you have written for all of your symbols. Are there any connections or correspondences? Any new “aha!” moments? Does your association to a symbol change when connected to another symbol?
Using this technique can provide you with insight into what your individual dream symbols can mean. You may also gain some insight into the meaning of the dream and how it relates to waking life.
There are many, many other techniques you can use to work with dreams. No matter what technique(s) you use, the next step is to take any insight and apply it to a current waking life situation; or to something from your past.
Now that you know that your dream means “this” and it relates to “that” – what can you learn from it? How can you use this new insight to make a change in waking life?
In my next blog, we will look at Dream Characters. You can also find many tips and techniques for working with your dreams in my book, Notes from a Dreamer … on Dreaming: A Personal Journey in Dream Interpretation.