In my early 20’s I had a vivid dream that shook me to the core. I knew it had weight and that it revealed something more than my consciousness could compute. I remember bringing the dream to my then psychologist. I was, at the time, focused on everyone else but myself. Analyzing others was my survival strategy. My own inner workings were of lesser interest. A self-avoidant coping mechanism of sorts.
Until, said dream.
It involved a yoga class, a professor I had revered, and a mass shooting. I had a great deal of repressed anger, wedded to my then undeveloped sexual yearnings. I hadn’t yet noticed my inner rage (or more accurately, I hadn’t wanted to), but it was there all along — I just wasn’t willing to see it.
The psychologist nailed the dream.
I was stunned. How could she know?
“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to the unconscious,” Sigmund Freud famously wrote. In our waking life, we’re prone to overanalysis, dilemma, and overthinking. Dreams speak to our deeper impressions and inner knowing. They reveal what we’re often unwilling to see or admit. They’re like telegraphs from our soul.
Some people have a clinical view of dreams, perceiving dreams as a form of processing, a jumbled amalgam of the day’s or week’s events. But to anyone with a more mystical, multidimensional perspective of human consciousness, dreams are a well of information.
But what kind of information? What can we really learn from our dreams? What can we glean?
The truth is, understanding our own dreams requires a certain level of self-awareness. Or at least a desire for self-investigation. We can Google what a house represents (our identity) or a body of water (our emotions), but the true revelation is in what it means to us, how we felt during the dream, and what our experience was upon waking from it.
The therapist I mentioned earlier did not interpret my dream so astutely because of her symbolic understanding, though I am sure that played into it. She understood it because she understood me. She had been paying attention in a way I had not. She had been listening.
From that moment on, my relationship to myself shifted. I started to take inventory of my thoughts, actions, and reactions.
As humans, we often seek finite truths. We want facts. This means this and that means that. But the beauty of dream interpretation is that it’s very much dependent upon the dreamer. It’s a form of communication between different aspects of the psyche.
We have a tendency to compartmentalize, to repress what we feel doesn’t serve. But in doing so, we risk losing our intuition — our inner compass. If we are to become whole and integrated, we must accept our humanness, our light, and our dark.
The more aware we are of our shadows and complexities, the more willing we are to explore our unconscious and its symbolic messaging. We become less fearful of a nightmare and more inquisitive. Why was the lion chasing me? Who does the lion represent? Is it an aspect of myself? How did I respond when the lion approached? What does this reveal to me about my fears?
Dreams can also be wonderfully affirmative. They can increase our feelings of abundance, trust, and grace. They can confirm our intentions and attest to our growth.
It’s the willingness to engage that matters, the willingness to invest in our own growth and wholeness, and the willingness to listen.
A Guide to Dream Interpretation:
- Keep a journal next to your bed. Jot down your dreams so the details are remembered later.
- If you’re struggling or in a dilemma, practice dream incubation: ask your dreams to reveal the answers in a way that can be easily interpreted and understood.
- If you’re unsure of where to start, try giving symbols or aspects of your dream a voice. If, for example, you dreamt of a baby elephant, allow that baby elephant to speak. What would it say?
- Try not to force interpretation. Allow for openness and lean into what resonates. If you look up a meaning and it doesn’t quite feel right, maybe explore what that thing means to you personally, or what memories may be associated with it.
- Be patient with yourself. If you don’t remember your dreams, it’s okay. Set an intention to remember them before bed. See if that begins to shift things.
- Journal. Journal. Journal. We have all the wisdom we need deep within us. Take a pen and start writing. See what surfaces.
Dreams are a gateway. The more open we are to receiving their messages, the richer our inner lives will be. The desire for proof and fact can so easily overwhelm the truth — which is that we know, deep down, we know.
Danielle Beinstein is a Psychological Astrologer based in Los Angeles.