- Mental Health
Tips to Help You Analyze Your Dreams
I’m going to start by saying I am not any sort of psychologist, nor do I have any qualifications regarding dream analysis. However, over the course of my life I’ve always been fascinated with the meaning of dreams and tried to find new ways to interpret them.
What follows is mostly things I’ve learned from other people and observed in myself. It is not comprehensive, nor is it foolproof. And if it bears any resemblance to dream books on the market it is either coincidence or because what I learned from someone else, came from a book originally. These are just methods and ideas that work for me, and can maybe work for you.
Dreams always pertain to you and you alone
First and foremost you need to remember that dreams pertain to the dreamer. So unless you have psychic abilities, nothing in your dream will tell you anything about anyone or anything other than yourself. This can confuse a lot of people because if I see a friend or relative in my dream, I’m programmed to think of them as my friend or relative, not some part of me. You always have to keep in mind which specific person you are seeing in your dream. Maybe it is someone you see every day, and maybe it’s someone you haven’t seen in years. Think of how you react to that person; how they make you feel. Maybe the person makes you angry, or happy. Maybe that person brings out your self confidence or makes you feel small. Understanding how that person influences you will help you along the road to figuring out what the dream means. For example, let’s say I had a friend in high school who treated me like dirt (who didn’t?). But I haven’t seen that friend in ages. Now suddenly I have a dream where that friend is back. It seems random and yet there is a reason my subconscious pulled out the image of that friend; it’s mirroring something that is happening in my life right now that is similar. So the task then becomes figuring out what is happening right now that is making you feel like you felt when you were with that friend. Maybe your boss at work is making you feel small, or maybe your family isn’t treating you the way you’d like to be treated. Figure out what feelings are similar now, to the ones you felt when you were with that friend, and identify where they are coming from. This is a good starting point.
Dreams are not literal
When taken literally, dreams can be really disturbing and potentially damaging to your waking life. For example, if you dream of yourself murdering lots of people, it doesn’t mean there is a serial killer waiting inside of you for the right time to come out. Similarly, if you dream of being with someone else, other than your significant other, it doesn’t mean you harbor thoughts of cheating, or that you’re falling out of love. Like with the section above, you have to look at who the person is first and figure out how that person influenced you. If the person in your dream is faceless, then try looking at their characteristics, surely there was something that defined them or someone they reminded you of. But you also need to look at the act. For example, if you dream of cheating on your spouse, it could mean that you feel like you have betrayed her (or him) in some way. Maybe it’s because you forgot to pick them up from the store or you snapped at them when you were angry. Cheating is an easily identifiable betrayal, and so it can often be seen in dreams as a way to represent your feelings that you have betrayed someone. With a dream about murder, it depends on how you committed the murder. A senselessly violent murder might mean you think you’re losing your sense of morals. Or a slow, intimate murder might mean you are letting an aspect of yourself die away, like an old ideal or way of life. Maybe you’re growing up and you’re losing interest in video games. So the dream depicts you slowly killing Mario or some other video game character. It doesn’t mean you’re violent, it just means you’re changing, and part of you is going away.
When I say that these dreams pertain to you, I don’t just mean people and objects representing parts of you. I also mean that only you can figure out the meaning of something (unless someone knows you well enough to help out). A lot of dream books give specific descriptions to scenarios. Like a lion represents such-and-such. While dream books can be helpful, you have to remember that each person has different interpretations of the same objects so those objects would represent different things in your dreams. For example, maybe someone has a phobia about lions, so the lion represents fear and hopelessness. But then the next person thinks lions are majestic and proud and then the lion becomes a symbol of strength and endurance. So you really need to ask yourself what the things in the dream mean to YOU, not other people trying to interpret it. I mentioned above that cheating on a spouse can be interpreted as a betrayal, but that’s only if you think of cheating as a betrayal. If you’re the kind of person who loves cheating, then it might represent freedom. It all matters how you view the act.
Dreams usually point to the things you aren’t thinking about in your waking life
A lot of us look to dreams for answers. We want some divine solution to our problems to come to us during our sleep. But the chances of that happening are slim, if it’s even possible at all. In fact, when you dream, the chances are good that you aren’t going to dream about anything that you are worrying about in your everyday life. For example, I worry constantly about money, yet I rarely have dreams about struggling with money. I might have dreams about how my concern over money affects other people, but for the most part, the things I think about during the day are not going to be in my dream. Dreams tend to focus on the stuff you aren’t thinking about normally. It pulls from your subconscious and acts out a sort of simile version of something you aren’t paying attention to; something that you might not even be aware of. So if you have a dream about that job you hate, there is a good chance that it doesn’t have anything to do with the job at all. If you assume the dream is about a surface level issue, one you already know about, then you might be missing the point of the dream, and could have it again or one with a similar message.
Dreams are not easy to analyze and no one method is foolproof
While there are a lot of ways you can analyze a dream, no method is foolproof. Someone could read this article and probably argue against everything I’ve laid out. Like I said in the beginning, I’m not a psychologist, but these are the methods that work most often for me. Having said that, dream analysis using any or all of these methods is not easy. It takes a lot of deep thought, even for English majors who spend so much time in college reading between the lines of dense literature. For non-English students the process can seem even more confusing, and for both of us it can be really time consuming. I’ll admit when I have a particularly complex dream I’ll just say ‘forget it’ to any analysis. And while I think it is a good practice to write down your dreams (because it makes analysis easier) it can be hard to drag yourself out of bed in the early morning hours to write down a several page document.