The dream state takes us beyond ego and into the unknown depths of our multidimensionality’s spiritual and mystical worlds. Early civilizations believed dreams held certain prophetic powers and considered dreaming a medium between our earthly world and that of the gods believing the dream world to be an invisible world that influences our daily lives.
Native Americans believe dreams are an extension of reality; they provide an opportunity to travel to other realms and communicate with our ancestors and our spirit guides. From a very young age, they encourage their children to remember their dreams, and they teach them how to interpret them for spiritual guidance and healing purposes.
Science And Philosophy
‘For often, when a man is asleep, something in his soul tells him that what appears to him in a dream.’Aristotle
The question of why we dream and interpretations of what we dream about have held scientists and philosophers’ fascination for thousands of years. It is reported that Albert Einstein’s extraordinary scientific achievement – discovering the principle of relativity – came about as a result of a very vivid dream where he dreamt he was sledging down a steep mountainside. In his dream, Einstein was travelling so fast that he eventually approached the speed of light.
Plato makes interesting use of the dream metaphors in his dialogues. The Socrates of Plato’s Republic noted that even those of us who are well thought of and considered decent human beings might harbour a brood of questionable desires revealed only in our sleep. Socrates counsels his fellow man, ‘how one conducts oneself during one’s waking hours, especially as one is about to go to sleep, can usually affect what happens to these desires when one is asleep.’
Dream Interpretation And Free Association
‘Dreaming is non-essential when it comes to survival as a body but is essential with regard to our development and evolution as metaphysical beings.’Jeffrey Sumber, Jung Institute, Zurich
While there has always been a great fascination in interpreting dreams, it wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that Sigmund Freud and later Carl Jung carried out some of the most widely-used research into dream interpretation and developed their dream theories. These theories continue to influence the modern-day interpretations of dreams.
Freud’s theory is based on the idea that dreaming allows us to sort through unresolved, repressed wishes and that ‘the interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind’. Freud devised a dream interpretation method he referred to as ‘free association’, where he encouraged his patients to follow their train of thought. To support them in this, Freud asked his patients to break down each element of their dream and invited them to say whatever came to mind in relation to each component. Freud suggested they relax their critical faculties and refrain from holding back their thoughts, regardless of how ridiculous, trivial, dark or unpleasant they may be. As a result, Freud’s interpretation of dreams is that they represent unconscious desires, thoughts, wishes, fulfilments, and motivations.
’… in dreams, we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare from all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises …’.Carl Jung (CW 10)
Carl Jung also believed that dreams had psychological importance but proposed various theories about their meaning. Jung considered dreams to be the psyche’s attempt to communicate important things to the individual. He valued them highly, perhaps above all else, as a way of knowing what was going on in the unconscious mind. He also considered dreams to be an essential part of the development of the personality – a process he called individuation – where an individual recognised his innermost uniqueness and identifies with his true self separate from the ego-centred self. He considered the true self to be a part of the self that could embrace both the conscious and the unconscious.
Making The Unconscious Conscious
‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.’Carl Jung
Making the unconscious conscious comes down to self-awareness and the willingness to acknowledge and integrate our shadow side. This is the fear-based, negative side of us that we hide away either too ashamed to own or too scared to handle. But what most of us don’t realise is that once we heal the shadow we reveal our true potential.
While we may have a conscious intent to do something ‘pure’ or ‘good’, we may also have an unconscious intent that contradicts this. The result is we end up doing something we consider ‘bad’ or ‘not so good’. Realising this helps us understand why we sometimes end up in a mess. But once we understand that we have subconsciously contributed to our own state of affairs, we are then best placed to do something about it. It’s important to realise that this is not about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘blame’ but is instead simply acknowledging that we have contributed somehow to the situation we find ourselves in. Doing so opens the way for us to honestly and accurately assess our situation, possibly for the first time. Only then can we work towards resolving the issue at hand.
Dreaming allows our conscious mind and our unconscious mind communicate freely without the interference of our ego. Dream state enables us to move between what we think we know and what we do know, helping us create wholeness and a deeper, more meaningful understanding of life.
Soothing Our Emotions
‘For the first time, researchers have got evidence that dreams help soothe the impact of emotional events in our lives, acting like overnight therapy.’NewScientist.com
Research carried out by Mark Blagrove and the research team at Swansea University found that dreams act as a sort of overnight therapy. While we sleep, our dreams help soothe the emotional impact of our waking experiences. The findings show that those of us who have more intense theta activity during REM can better consolidate emotional memories. Blagrove explains that we may be able to hack our dreams by artificially increasing theta waves. This increase could lead to us dreaming more of recent waking-life experiences; that could also have therapeutic uses, including helping us come to terms with traumatic experiences. Techniques that boost theta waves during sleep could also open the door to improving our ability to store memories. Read more here.
The Medical Dictionary defines ‘dream’ as a state of diminished consciousness in which the surroundings are perceived as if in a dream. We are still in this state of diminished consciousness immediately upon awakening and also just as we’re about to drift off to sleep. Because of this, it is possible to ‘re-enter’ a dream experience on a conscious level and allow new information to unfold. This is known as lucid dreaming, where we are aware that we are dreaming, and we may have some amount of control over our dream, the characters, the narrative and the environment in which our dream takes place. This form of dreaming has become very popular as a form of sleep therapy. With practise, we can train ourselves to have a dream-induced lucid dream (DILD). This is where something within the dream triggers a knowing within us that we are dreaming. Wake-induced lucid dreams (WILD) happen when we move from waking to dreaming with no awareness loss.
Interpreting our dreams through ‘active imagination’ allows us to consider that we can actively communicate with our dream figures. Our dream figures can step out of our dreams and talk to us; they can tell us why they appeared in our dreams and what message they want to convey to us? It’s helpful to do this immediately upon waking while still in that dreamy state beyond ego or meditating to quieten our mind. All we have to do is recall our dream and imagine we are back in there, and focus on a particular character from our dream. Ask the character why have they appeared in the dream? What do they represent? What message, if any, are they trying to convey? Ask them to show us what it is we need to heal or release, and ask them to show us how to do this.
When I re-enter my dreams, I do so with a set intention to witness the dream unfold for my greatest good and the greatest outcome for all concerned. I then like to become the watcher and witness the dream unfold to reveal the best outcome for all concerned. This helps bring my unconscious issues into my conscious awareness. I learn a lot about myself working this way.
Analyzing Our Dreams
We are only aware of 5 percent of our cognitive activity. The other 95 percent is subconscious. Dreaming helps us bring our deeply repressed desires and wounds to the surface and into our awareness. Sometimes, all it takes to kick-start the healing process is to acknowledge we have repressed our deepest desires and deepest wounds. Once we bring them to the surface, they can now be healed. This is where dream analysis is a handy tool as it helps us gain a deeper understanding of what’s lurking in the depths of our subconscious.
- Keep a dream journal.
- Consider all the elements of the dream, the characters, the narrative, the environment, the emotions that were playing out and the interplay between characters. Consider the who, what, when, where, why and how.
- What character did you play in the dream? Can you relate to this character? How did it feel to play this character in the dream? Would you be portrayed like this in everyday life? If not, who does this character remind you of? How does that character make you feel? Note how you reacted or responded to others in the dream.
- Identify repeat dreams, recurring events, thoughts, people, etc.
- What message was conveyed to you in the dream? How would you like this dream to unfold?
- If you revisited your dream, were you able to have a dialogue with the characters? If so, what did this reveal to you?
- Were you able to ‘direct’ your dream to the outcome of your choice? How did this impact you emotionally?