Gaining Insight From Your Dreams
I’m in paradise. It looks like Costa Rica? I can feel the humid air on my skin. There are birds chirping, and maybe even a monkey! I’m at some sort of yoga retreat or training. It’s hard to tell, but there are other yoga students around me. I unroll my yoga mat on the beautiful wooden floor. I am so excited to practice! I hop onto my mat, inhale arms over head, and then my feet are stuck! It’s as if they’re glued to my mat. I start to panic. Why can’t I move? I’m blowing away the opportunity to practice here. Everyone else is in some sort of advanced posture, and I’m just standing here. Frozen. No one else seems to notice. What is going on?
I open my eyes, and I’m in my bed. My black lab is cuddled up behind me, sharing my pillow. It was only a dream…
Weird dream, right? Probably means nothing? Or perhaps it means a lot!
I have always been conscious of my dreams—even before I went to graduate school for psychology. I remember being a little girl, and sharing my dreams with my parents over breakfast. In college, I would listen to my friends tell me about their dreams. Dreams fascinate me. They can seem so bizarre and strange, but upon closer inspection dreams are a means to gain more insight into our beliefs, thoughts, fears, and feelings.
Don’t just dismiss dreams as nonsense. If you spend some time learning from your dreams, you may learn some interesting things about yourself.
Here are some tips for interpreting your dreams:
- Write it down! Or make time in the morning to think about your dreams. Before you jump out of bed, go over everything that you can remember. If you get up, rush to get washed up, dressed, and fed, and then wait until your morning commute to relive your dream it will probably be too late. You’ll have that feeling where you know you had a dream, but just can’t remember what happened. Annoying!
- Don’t worry about the little details and symbols. If there was a hat in your dream, don’t worry about trying to understand what this symbol means. A lot of dream books focus on interpreting the symbols. This is missing the big picture. In my dream above, a yoga mat was just that—a yoga mat. A hat is just a hat. Look for the bigger picture. You wouldn’t know anything about a book by only reading one page, right?
- Focus on the feelings. How did you feel in your dream? Were you anxious? Afraid? Happy? Understanding how you felt in a dream can give you a deeper understanding of how you feel during waking hours. It can help you understand how you really feel about something going on in your life. In my dream that I described above I felt frustrated and worried. Maybe I am frustrated and worried about some of the decisions I need to make in real life.
- Look for overall themes and patterns. Are you grasping for control? Are you experiencing a total loss of control (as I did in my dream)? Are you experiencing rejection? Abandonment? Maybe you are experiencing complete bliss? How does this relate to what is happening in your life?
- Don’t take anything too seriously. Don’t make a drastic decision based upon a dream. Even though I am showing you that our dreams have meaning, they are still, only a dream.
- Don’t judge yourself. This is super important. We’re working on learning about ourselves so we can grow emotionally. Beating yourself up over a dream is not going to help you at all. Be nice to yourself, always! And if you do something terrible in a dream, it does not mean you are a terrible person. Don’t get too caught up in anything. This might mean you feel stuck in your life, or you’re bored, or you want to take more chances, and so on. It might even mean that you’re anxious about doing something bad! It doesn’t mean that you’re a criminal deep down! If you have an affair in a dream, it doesn’t mean you really want to have an affair or that you’re somehow bad. Maybe you’re experiencing guilt, and this is how you’re processing it. Or maybe you do not trust yourself. Perhaps you feel like you’re afraid of losing your significant other. There are so many different ways to interpret the same event. Only you know everything that is happening in your life. So please, please, please do not judge yourself based upon your dreams (or ever!)!
- Don’t put too much emphasis on one dream. Look at your dream patterns. This is when writing your dreams down is really helpful. Is there a common theme across your dreams? Do you always dream that you’re being left behind? Perhaps you have a fear of abandonment. Do you always dream about being unnoticed or that people can’t hear you? Maybe you feel like others don’t see you as worthy. Perhaps your self-worth is based upon how others perceive you.
- Have a therapist? Tell your therapist about your dreams. Bring them up! Or talk to a friend your trust. If it feels right, talk about your dreams together.
Have fun! Learning more about yourself should be a positive experience! Even if you are experiencing negative feelings, you are gaining insight which is essential for emotional growth.