What are our Dreams Telling Us?

Updated: Apr 20

The ancients knew that dreams were important because they provide a rich source of information about our inner world. By dismissing them as “just dreams,” we’re in danger of losing touch with a more creative, less conscious part of us that is vital and potentially life enhancing.

In a sense we all live in a dream world; we construct our perception of reality according to how we want it to be. Freud believed that in our dreams we get what we wish for. As the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas wrote in his book “The Shadow of an Object”, “we need the inspirational drive of the wish to fuse a multitude of thoughts into the living theatre of the dream”. Sometimes fears, hopes and wishes come alive via dreams in ways that are hard to read; we need a companion to decipher them. Through patiently associating to them, sifting through the seemingly unimportant elements, messages reveal themselves. The freedom and space to associate freely to images and what they remind you of can surprise and delight.

Bollas also compared the language of dreams to the grammar of spoken language. They have a pattern or structure, revealing how an individual experiences relationships. They can show how we relate to desire or aggression. Just as grammar functions to structure a language, dreams and the way they work can show how someone exists in the world in relation to their unconscious imaginative life. Dreams provide a bridge from the inner to the outer. What happens in recurring dreams are often themes that permeate waking life too. Perhaps you are always being chased or having things stolen from you. However in dreams, events don’t come out in the ways that they are experienced when awake which allows for a fresh look at our internal conflicts. Dreams seem to get the facts wrong but the themes right. If you are afraid of secrets, you’ll have secrets in dreams. If you are afraid of loss, you’ll experience loss in a dream. And if you are afraid of hurting the people you love, you will hurt them, in all the ways possible, in your dreams.

People often report finding it difficult to remember dreams. This improves with practice. Knowing you have someone to tell them to also improves recall. They often feel and become more significant when you begin to notice repeated themes and symbols. Books on symbolism can be a useful starting point to think about a dream but it is often more useful to think about your own personal and idiosyncratic associations to a symbol. Be careful about pinning down meaning. Sometimes the only thing to do is ‘live the dream’, give it the respect it deserves and let it be.





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