How to interpret dreams in your own way


How to interpret dreams? Think of them stories told in a language from your own experience. You might not understand them at first. That’s why it’s so good to keep a dream diary and learn about your own personal dream meanings…

There are loads of books which give supposed symbolic interpretations of dreams. These can be interesting but don’t get stuck on them.

The thing is, your dreams won’t really follow someone else’s logic: they will be stories expressed in a language from your own experience. You might not be able to understand them readily but if you dwell on them a little and apply a little bit of sideways thinking then, after a while, realisation might start to dawn…

What types of dream are there?

Clear-down dreams

Dreams that result from your processing the problems that are currently occupying or troubling your mind. These are usually of limited value and are often just garbled, perhaps even neurotic, versions of what you are going through. Don’t ignore them completely, though, they may contain clues.

Deep sleep dreams

If you are suddenly awoken from really deep sleep – or you might find yourself in the frightening state called ‘sleep paralysis’ – you might come out with REM-(Rapid Eye Movement)sleep dreams. When we sleep, we enter into regular ultra-deep troughs where our brainwaves are going crazy and our closed eyes are flickering about behind our lids. Dreams from this level are often nightmarish, maybe with images of evil, clowns, witches etc. Again, these might be of limited value – not because they are trivial and neurotic – but because they are quite the opposite. Some metaphysical systems might argue that some part of us goes off at these times to another place and our experiences of this place (if we manage to remember them in a dream) are not really relevant to our waking lives. Others might argue otherwise, though…

Dreams just before you wake up

… Especially those dreams where you wake up fairly naturally in the middle of the night. Now, these sorts of dream are often very useful.

Keeping a Dream Diary helps you interpret your dreams

So, how do we start working with dreams? The first thing you need to do is to keep a dream diary and a pen right next to your bed and when you wake up after a dream, before you do anything else, you write it down. Don’t get up and open the curtains because sunlight will destroy the dream. Sunlight acts upon dreams like it acts upon dew droplets: they sit in little globules on plant leaves but, as soon as the sunlight touches them, they pool and run off. Dreams have the same sort of delicate surface tension.

How to keep a Dream Diary

Use a bedside lamp if you wish but write your dream diary in bed. And, this is the difficult thing: you have to do this especially with those dreams where you wake up in the middle of the night. Do not rely on remembering it all when you finally wake up properly. You won’t remember when you wake up. Trust me.

What you are looking for most of all are puzzling dreams, often strange fragments. Spend a little time on these. Write the bare facts down but then just drift over the facts and try to remember other little details like colours or what the dream place looked like or what you were feeling. Try to flesh them out and, if you’re still quite dozy, these other things will come easier.

You will begin to note that dreams will tend to come at particular times and usually in time with the moon. Just coming up to a Full Moon and just coming up to a New Moon are both very fertile times.

If you want a dream, ask for one. If you have a question, formulate it in your head just before you go to sleep and ask for a dream to answer it. You will be surprised just how often you will get exactly that.

Understanding that your dreams will mostly come in a form that you can interpret, here are a few obvious guidelines:

How to interpret dreams with your own personal symbolism

All persons in your dream, of any gender, are you or parts of you. Houses or flats or buildings are you in another way.

As Kahlil Gibran says “Your house is your larger self, It grows in the daytime and it dreams at night.” If there are spooky rooms, they are in your psyche and they are places you need to visit and resolve. If, like me, you dream about hotels and libraries, it means you see yourself as more of an institution than as a person. A cellar may be the dark (buried?) parts of your unconscious. An attic may be your higher self.

A lot of our dreams are about anxieties, so nakedness is obviously about feeling exposed or vulnerable. Being chased obviously means feeling threatened.

Bones, hair and, especially, teeth are about fundamental power and control and sex; and losing them or breaking them is about loss of core power, often sexual.

Fire is red and about our passions and drives. Water is blue/green and is about our loves and emotions and dreams. Air is aspirational, as is flying, and is about our hopes or thoughts.

I suppose none of those typical examples of dream symbolism surprised you. But dream codes are often fairly obvious, once you have developed a little experience. Just like cryptic crosswords, the tricksy clues and the puzzling codes repeat. And, just as you can look at a cryptic crossword clue again and again and then, suddenly, the solution is obvious, understanding your dreams often happens the same way.

One good way to interpret your dream is to close your eyes and try to re-experience it. By closing your eyes or slightly defocusing, you change your brainwaves from the waking beta (logical/linear) waves to alpha (understanding) to theta (inspiration) and it is in the latter states that your sideways thinking can come into its own and realisation dawns.

What does my nightmare mean?

And that brings us to a final practical note: how to deal with repeating nightmares. There are two ways.

One, you programme yourself not to allow the dream to happen in the nightmarish, uncontrolled way again. You tell yourself that if the nightmare happens again, you will face down the threat and take control. If you spend a bit of time convincing yourself of this, it will work.

Two, the day after a nightmare, you sit down and go into a deep meditative state where your brain waves are close to sleep waves. Then you go through the nightmare step by step again but, this time, you change the ending into one where you take control and the thing ends positively. This will effectively over-write the memory and probably end the nightmare for good.

But if you have repeating nightmares, try to understand them as well.