There is an ancient Native American wisdom that says, “To dream is to know.” Dreams have been studied and recorded for thousands of years. Many ancient cultures placed great importance on the content of dreams. In fact, many decisions which impacted the future of a culture were based on the dreams of the elders. Some dreams have literally changed the world.
We all dream three to five dreams every night, depending on how long we sleep. Our dreams come at approximately 90 minute intervals. This roughly translates to between 1100 and 1800 dreams in a year. Even though we do not usually recall all of our dreams, they do occur. Most people will recall only those dreams that are scary or startling, what we call nightmares.
Each of our dreams is a communication from our unconscious mind, where every bit of information that pertains to us is stored. There are things stored that we do not consciously recall. There is information that we don’t even realize we know. Some of the things stored are events or feelings that we have suppressed, and really don’t want to remember, but it is all there. There is nothing that has ever happened to us, no thought that we have ever had, that is not present in our unconscious mind.
So, every night our unconscious mind sends us messages. These messages are usually related to current events in our lives – a decision with which we are struggling or an emotional situation that is causing us stress. Whatever the reason for the message, our unconscious mind is trying to give us answers that will help us be happy.
It is important to understand that dreams come from within. They are about us. Even though other characters may appear in our dreams (some we recognize, some we don’t), it is all about us. We are the writer, director, producer and star of our dreams. Every character in our dream is an aspect of ourselves, even if that character looks like Aunt Betty, some movie star, or your ex-husband.
One of the biggest problems we face in Dream Work is in understanding the message. The language of dreams is symbolic and the symbols in dreams vary from person to person. It is not recommended that people purchase and use dream dictionaries to try to decode their dreams, because the definitions in those dictionaries belong to the person who wrote them, not to you or me. Some dream symbols are universal in nature, but all must be interpreted in light of the individual dreamer. The only interpretation that matters is the one that rings true to the dreamer.
On the surface, dreams seem to make little or no sense. They are sometimes fantasies, and are often filled with nonsensical activities and actions that seem impossible. What we have to remember is that the unconscious mind is not bound by time and space constraints. It does not live in a physical environment that is governed by laws of logic and physics. Dreams are the revelation of our imagination in its purest form. So we must look past the impossibilities, and search for the meaning.
Dreams can be pleasant and funny, or they can be sinister and scary. When they are the latter (a nightmare), it is generally because our unconscious mind is really trying to make an important point. You are more likely to remember and try to understand a scary dream. Recurring dreams are another tool often used to get our attention. We must always remember that it is never the intent of our unconscious mind to hurt us, after all it is us. Every message must be accepted as truth – dreams cannot lie.
Although recall may be a difficult task, it is essential. There are many techniques that can help us achieve better recall. The most important aspect of recall is intent. We must believe that recalling our dreams is important. Like any exercise, the more consistent we are, the better we perform. It is important to be persistent, but patient.
With all this wisdom stored in our unconscious mind, it is a wonder that more people do not participate in Dream Work. Our dreams are the richest source we have for understanding ourselves and our purpose. You can read hundreds of self-help books and never come close to the level of understanding you can get from your own dreams – and these come free every night. A dream is a gift. Dream Work is what we do with that gift.
In my next post, I will try to fill in some of the blanks. Stay tuned for Dream Work 2.