Exploring our dreams gives us insights into the meaning of our lives and our direction.
We all dream.
Whether we remember our dreams or not, science tells us that without dreams we will suffer from psychosis and other serious problems in our waking life.
Scientific studies tell us that dreams occur most when we reach a sleep state known commonly as REM – Rapid Eye Movement – but there are another four stages to go through before reaching REM sleep.
- Non-REM Stage 1 is a light sleep from which you are easily woken. Your brainwave frequencies descend from Alpha through Theta (4-7 Hz).
- Non-REM Stage 2 is marked by a loss of nearly all muscle tone so your physical body can't act out your forthcoming dreams. You spend around half of all your sleep in Stage 2; a light dreamless sleep.
- Non-REM Stage 3 and 4 is known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), consisting of unconscious delta activity. Another dreamless stage of sleep, it is actually the most likely time for sleepwalking to occur.
- REM Sleep marks the onset of dreaming. Deprivation of this stage of sleep impairs our ability to learn complex tasks and form long term memories.
However, using a purely scientific approach to understanding the dream state is leaving a lot of the good stuff out. If we look at dreams as a language all on their own, then we have another useful tool in developing our personality and accelerating our personal and spiritual growth.
Sigmund Freud told us that dreams were the result of repressed wishes, fears and memories, while Carl Jung believed there was a spiritual connection between the dream and the unconscious mind. He believed that the dream has a helpful function, if only we could learn to decode its language.
My own investigations tend to agree that dreams are indeed the language of the unconscious – both personal and collective – and as such are a rich source of information, insight and help which is largely untapped.
As scientists use ever more technological methods to dissect the dream state, they cannot measure the subtlety and numinosity of the dream itself and they certainly are unable to derive meanings from dreams. Neither are your standard dream dictionaries of much practical use. This is because dreams are mainly subjective to the dreamer. While we can make certain inferences from symbols and situations that occur in dreams, there are other factors that can make the same dream take on a completely different meaning depending on the dreamer, their stage of life and their attitude.
There are several types of dreams that you may encounter during your life. Some of these are:
- Nonsense dreams – these dreams occur randomly, can be short or long and make absolutely no sense whatsoever on waking.
- 'Normal' dreams – these dreams seem like everyday life and are even a bit boring. You may not remember these dreams unless you are awakened prematurely and can still catch the remnants of the dream.
- Threatening dreams – these dreams are characterized by threatening external figures or situations that are frightening and seem very real.
- Detailed dreams – these dreams can be exhausting! It’s like going on an extended adventure with one scene morphing into another until you wake up eventually more tired than when you went to sleep, possibly even tangled in the bed sheets. You may perceive the dream lasted hours or days even, however it is common for these dreams to be experienced in a matter of minutes!
- Numinous dreams – these are my favourite. They have a very special and even magical feeling to them and while most other dreams fade on waking these stay strong in your memory for years.
- False awakening dreams – these are dreams that you awaken from into your seemingly normal life only to wake again and realize you had still been asleep and dreaming.
- Prophetic dreams – these dreams can only ever be understood in hindsight and are quite rare.
- Lucid dreams – these are dreams where you are consciously dreaming and directing the dream yourself, instead of it unfolding randomly. You can meet other dreamers in this state or connect with non-physical beings. According to Carlos Castenada in ‘The Art of Dreaming” Don Juan advised that to train yourself to enter lucid dreaming, each night as you go to sleep tell yourself “Tonight in my dream I will look at my hands”. Once you are dreaming and are able to consciously look at your hands in the dream state you will be aware that you are dreaming…….
In my experience the best way to derive meaning from your dreams is:
- Write the dream down as soon as you can. Keep a pencil and paper beside your bed. It is advised to keep dream journals and date each dream. That way you can go over your dreams (even years later) and you will have several ‘Ah-ha!’ moments when you correlate events that were going on in your life or shortly after with the dreams at that time.
- Study symbols and mythologies. This is advised not only for dreams but for your spiritual journey since the language of the Universe is most often delivered by way of symbol and metaphor. Become aware of the meanings of numbers, animals, insects, plants, shapes, objects, people and so on. Once you build your symbolic muscles, so to speak, you can then let those symbols percolate in your head and, combined with your intuition, will provide useful insights at opportune moments. Be willing to detach from your idea of a symbols meaning as they span a possible infinite variety.
- Notice the feeling tone of the dream, especially the way that the dream ends and your attitude towards it.
- Don’t jump to the conclusion that people appearing in your dream is a prophetic dream about them – likely there is more going on here…
- Understand that there are personal unconscious symbols as well as collective unconscious symbols that can arise in your dreams.
“The personal unconscious consists of those things that have been repressed, rejected from consciousness; it is therefore something that has built up during the individual's lifetime. The collective unconscious, on the other hand, is older than the individual and indeed older than consciousness: it consists of 'the whole spiritual heritage of mankind's evolution born anew in the brain-structure of every individual'.” Eric Ackroyd
Collective unconscious symbols in dreams are identified as mythological elements which may even be unknown to the dreamer. For example, her dream may contain a snake-motif where she has never seen a snake, not even a picture of one (I know! Hard to believe these days!) Having a broad knowledge of comparative mythology, both Oriental and Occidental, will go a long way to decoding these dream elements.
The collective unconscious symbols often occur in numinous dreams.
Finally, relax! If you worry too much about getting it right your dreams may dry up altogether. Think of dreams as self-correcting. If you miss the message on one you will undoubtedly be given other dreams to nudge you along.
For more information, why not check out our Dream Reading Sessions?