Whenever I mention I’m writing a book on dreams, people always tell me about a dream they’ve had. Then they almost invariably add, ‘But I don’t know what it means.’
The only way we value dreams in mainstream Western culture is as a psychological resource – if we can’t analyse them, we don’t know what to do with them. But interpreting dreams in this psychological way is problematic.
I’m not saying we can’t interpret dreams at all. Sometimes we will wake up thinking, ‘I know what that dream was about,’ and when that happens, we will almost certainly be right. But if the meaning doesn’t jump out at you, any interpretation can be misguided.
The interpretative approach also inhibits us from talking about dreams. We worry our dream might be saying something about us we can’t see, but someone else will spot straight away.
But the biggest problem with the psychological approach is that it keeps us centred in the dayworld, rather than allowing us to fully enter the house of dreams.
Creative dreaming is about letting go of all links between dreaming and waking life, and treating them as different kinds of experience for the self. Tessa, in last week’s comments, told us she dreamt about nine black cats brooding huge beautiful black-cat eggs. What an amazing experience! We don’t have to ask what it means, any more than we would ask what it meant if she had told us she had pancakes for breakfast.
We can hear each other’s dream experiences exactly as we would hear the stories of waking life, and value them in the same way, for their interest and colour, their emotion and energy. For the imaginative experience they spark in us, vicariously.
If you want to remember more of your dreams, start talking about them. Make them part of your normal life, not in a piecemeal, conditional way, only keeping the ones you think you can understand and dismissing the rest as ‘meaningless.’
I’ve put some pointers about creative dream-sharing on the ‘Tips’ page today. You could start by sharing a dream with us here. Notice how different it feels to be telling and listening to dreams when no-one is trying to understand what they mean.
Next week, we’ll be on safari in your dreamworld, and guest blogger Scotti Cohn will be telling us about ‘the wolf dream.’
6 thoughts on “I don’t know what it means…”
I agree totally about not having to analyse dreams. Yes, they do often represent in some way unfinished business the mind is sorting through, but not often in a way we can identify. I use my half awake/half asleep musings and the dreams I can remember as nuggets of fantastic creativity to fuel something I’m writing. I completed my MA novel by using this dynamic resource and it works! And that dream someone had of the black cats – what a fantastic idea for a picture book – take the nugget and write on, I say!
‘Not often in a way we can identify’ – absolutely. Looking back over my earlier dream diaries, when I was working with dreams in that interpretative way, I can see how often I was way off the beam. Eleanor, if you have a ‘dream that sparked the book’ story – or part of the book, for that matter – I’ll be featuring guest posts here on that topic of up to about 300 words. The first one will be up next week – it’s a cracker! Please do email me your story if you’d like to share it email@example.com
I love this idea of working creatively with your dreams and not trying to interpret them psychologically – I’m getting a little tired of that! I once had a dream that I was riding a bike down some streets in what looked like Brighton. Despite encountering several hazards en route I managed to steer round them. I felt on top of the world and wonderfully free and unhindered by any obstacles. It was a brilliant dream that left me feeling really positive and optimistic. I later wrote a poem about the dream which still cheers me when I come across it
I would love to see that poem. Just mentioning the feeling your dream gave you reminded me of a dream I’ve had like that, when I woke up feeling totally exhilarated. I was running through a formal garden which went down to the sea, and when I reached the end I leapt off the bank into the crystal clear water. To my surprise, it suddenly whooshed me out from the shore, and I screamed with delight. Still joyful twenty years or so later! Thank you for reminding me 🙂
I found it very empowering to lay aside all that interpretation stuff after coming to the House of Dreams workshops. Now, on one hand I look for plots for stories by taking out the situations and conflicts or actions in my dreams. On the other, I look for symbols and imagery that I feel feed my psyche, if that’s the right word.
I like that word. In a completely surface world, without access to the symbols and images, I think the inner life can become weak and thin.