How Can We Interpret Dreams?

Credit: challengefuture.org

By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness

Often in the morning just before waking up, I’ll have vivid dreams that seem to utilize an array of settings and address seemingly random topics.

I travel into a city in some of them, and in others, I talk with people I don’t recognize in waking life. One common theme unites all of them: I wake up wanting to feel closer with a higher consciousness.

The days I write more about spirituality are usually the days I had a vivid dream the night before, and its intensity makes me want to remember where I came from and reconnect with that essential part of myself.

It boosts my quest to decode the secrets of the universe, and it’s mainly because I think dreams bridge the earthly and the spiritual.

Like others, I think we dream when we travel into our subconscious, within which is revealed lower and higher states of being that, as in the case of lucid dreaming, we can explore if we become conscious of them during the experience.

I also believe Carl Jung’s theory on dreams, which we’ll explore later. He theorized that everyone and everything in our dreams is a teacher and a representation of ourselves in some way, and if we’re conscious of this during the dream (which isn’t always easy), we can get the most out of the lessons at hand.

While I have a theory of what dreams are and where they take place, the more vivid my dreams are, the more I want to know about other states of consciousness.

Credit: janetamid.com

Because of this, I’d like to share some information about dreams in relation to spirituality and symbolism in hopes that it makes the picture clearer for all of us.

In the end, nobody can claim to know the truth despite the theories that are out there, and this gives us more incentive to keep theorizing and testing our theories until we discover at least a small bit of truth.

David Jenkins tells us that dream analysis leads to deeper questions about life.

“Whatever your belief system, my experience is that, when you examine your dreams for any length of time, you raise deeper questions.

“Although I emphasize the fun of doing dreams my way, and the inevitable personal value to you of having a happier dream life, dreams almost always gravitate to these more meaningful questions: Who am I?, What am I doing here?, What ought I to be doing with my life?, What are my responsibilities to other people? What are my higher values beyond my simple self interest? … these are questions that are practically inevitable when you study your dream life.” (1)

Dreams, he tells us, are here to help.

Jeremy Taylor, the wonderful dream analyst, says – and I wholeheartedly agree – ‘All dreams come in the service of health and wholeness’. There is a kind of uplifting of the spirit when you ponder the questions that your dream life raises.

“Your spirituality may take the form of a practicing religion or a deeply held conviction about humanity. It may be some kind of ‘alternative’ practice or you may even find that spirituality exists in your being without you ever having cultivated it.

“It is hard, if not impossible, to be a human being and not have a force within you that speaks warmly about your relationships with your fellow humans and your environment. That force will become clear in your dreamwork.” (2)

He also shares his unique approach to being attacked in a dream.

“When someone finds themselves under physical attack in a dream, I almost always concentrate on how best they can protect themselves. I might even ask if they can counter attack their aggressor. That seems to be the exact opposite of a spiritual approach.

“But what happens in the course of a few dreams is that the physical attacks go away and people find themselves confronted by moral questions.

“In a way, the attack remains but has been changed from life-confronting to belief-confronting. ‘Why are you truly here’ then occurs as a question of meaning rather than an act of survival and your dreams will help you find answers.” (3)

Sigmund Freud. Credit: garlicescapes.com

Nilofar Ahmed at Dawn.com explains the difference between Freud and Jung’s interpretation of dreams and the subconscious.

“Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theory of dreams in his book, The Interpretation of Dreams, was based on the premise that repressed aggressive and sexual instincts find an outlet into the conscious mind through symbols, and hence find fulfilment.

“He also established a link between dreams and insanity. His theory popularised dream interpretation. Carl G. Jung, broke away from Freud and the Psychoanalytic Society, started a more humanistic approach to psychology, saw dreams as part of a natural process of healing and explored the meaning of dreams through mythology, symbols etc., that connect to our imagination and soul.” (4)

Dreams are significant in the Muslim faith, and it’s believed that the soul leaves the body at the time of sleep.

“However, when one looks at the Quran and hadith, one finds that dreams are a serious part of Muslim belief. During sleep the soul is supposed to leave the body temporarily and roam around in different spheres. Its experiences are seen and felt by the body in the shape of dreams, which sometimes convey information from the unknown. The more elevated the soul, the higher its sphere of spiritual experience.” (5)

Nilofar shares some examples of dreams being mentioned in the Quran.

“Prophet Yusuf saw a dream as a child: 11 stars and the sun and the moon prostrating before him (12:4). The meaning of the dream was made evident after decades when his stepbrothers and parents joined him in Egypt.

“The king of Egypt also related his dream in which seven lean cows devoured seven fat cows (12:43-44). The king was impressed by Prophet Yusuf’s gift of dream interpretation and made him the minister in charge of the treasury. His planning, based on his interpretation of the king’s dream and his own wisdom, saved Egypt from famine.” (6)

It’s also a common Muslim belief that the physical world is the dream, and real life comes when we leave the body at death.

“Contrary to the common concept that one goes to sleep at the time of death, Prophet Muhammad said that human beings are asleep in this world and at the time of death they will wake up (Ibn Al-Arabi). The life of this world might well be a dream. The life to come might be the reality that is hidden from us and will become apparent on awakening in the hereafter.” (7)

I can relate to this belief, because I’ve always felt that this reality is a dream and when we leave it, we awaken to the true reality; the place we came from and the place we’ll inevitably return to, which we have no memories of while we’re on earth.

This is why so many spiritual seekers are interested in dreams, which are believed to momentarily bridge the gap between us and spirit. They also help by sharing encoded lessons and symbolism we can interpret in waking life, and this leads back to Jung’s theory that the subconscious exists to help us grow and progress.

Carl Jung. Credit: jungnc.org

DreamInterpretation-Dictionary.com also notes the difference between Freud and Jung’s theories on dreams.

“A one time colleague of Freud, the pair shared the opinion that an unseen unconscious existed. However, they parted company due to a difference in belief about the purpose of the subconscious.

“Basically, Freud, in Jung’s opinion, was too steadfast in his theory that the subconscious was essentially a negative force where all ‘immoral’ impulses were repressed. Jung believed more in the notion that the subconscious was a gift designed to impart wisdom; that dreams were a direct means with which to communicate with the unconscious and specific to the dreamer. (8)

I get most of my theories on dreams from what I’ve learned from Jung, and this passage mentions his theory that everything we dream is a representation of ourselves.

“Jung postulated that every image visualised by the dreamer was a reflection of something within that person. As such, Jung, as opposed to Freud, believed that any individual had the capacity to decode their dreams as much as a trained professional.

“Jung considered the individual, with guidance, had the best understanding of the meaning of their dream because the symbolism presented was unique to them. (9)

Central to Jung’s interpretation of dreams was the concept of a ‘collective unconscious’.

“One of the main theories in Jung dream interpretation was that of the ‘collective unconscious.’ Jung believed this to be a collection of symbols that were shared by every human being but retained at the unconscious level.

“The symbols of the collective unconscious are provided to humans via the process of dreaming across generations and cultures.” (10)

Jung also theorized that myths originate in the collective unconscious, and thus, are significant to dreaming.

“Jung believed the value of myths was highly significant within the dream state in that these tales arose from the collective unconscious.” (11)

As he said himself, despite his theories he can’t claim to know what dreams are or where they originate. Dream Interpretation-Dictionary shares a quote from him.

“I have no theory about dreams, I do not know how dreams arise. And I am not at all sure that my way of handling dreams even deserves the name of a ‘method.’  I share all your prejudices against dream-interpretation as the quintessence of uncertainty and arbitrariness.

“On the other hand, I know that if we meditate on a dream sufficiently long and thoroughly, if we carry it around with us and turn it over and over, something almost always comes of it. This something is not of course a scientific result to be boasted about or rationalized; but it is an important practical hint which shows the patient what the unconscious is aiming at.

“Indeed, it ought not to matter to me whether the result of my musings on the dream is scientifically verifiable or tenable, otherwise I am pursuing an ulterior-and therefore autoerotic-aim. I must content myself wholly with the fact that the result means something to the patient and sets his life in motion again.” (12)

Nobody can claim to know where dreams come from, and some of the allure of dreams comes from their mystery. I’d love to know what they are and what effect they’re intended to have on people, because I’ve learned a lot from my dreams that I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t analyze them.

Credit: staticnoise.deviantart.com

Exploring these subjects is the only way to learn anything significant, and paying attention to what our dreams show us, who we encounter when we dream, etc. can give us access to important lessons that help us later on.

I’ll always think dreams connect us with the other side, but we have to be relatively tuned in before we can get the most out of them.

It helps to keep the mind open and be creative often, because creativity is a great way to express what we feel within, thereby strengthening our inner connection. There are plenty of other things we can do to strengthen it, and I recommend paying attention to our dreams and learning what we can.

If Jung and others are right, then dreams are much more than random mentally-generated images or representations of subconscious darkness; they’re the attempts of the other side to reconnect with us and remind us of what we’ve forgotten.

Footnotes:

(1)    “Dreams and Spirituality” by David Jenkins, Ph.D., Dream RePlay – http://www.dreamreplay.com/dreams_and_spirituality.htm

(2)    Loc. Cit.

(3)    Loc. Cit.

(4)    “Dreams and Spirituality” by Nilofar Ahmed, Dawn.com, March 15, 2012 – http://www.dawn.com/news/702893/dreams-and-spirituality

(5)    Loc. Cit.

(6)    Loc. Cit.

(7)    Loc. Cit.

(8)    “Jung Dream Interpretation” DreamInterpretation-Dictionary.com – http://www.dreaminterpretation-dictionary.com/jung-dream-interpretation.html

(9)    Loc. Cit.

(10) Loc. Cit.

(11) Loc. Cit.

(12) Loc. Cit.

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2 thoughts on “How Can We Interpret Dreams?

  1. Pingback: How Can We Interpret Dreams? | ronaldwederfoort

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