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Here are a few simple tips for anyone embarking on the great adventure of interpreting dreams.



Get into the habit of writing down your dreams straight away. That

means having pen and paper at your bedside and the determination to

wake up and sit up after a dream and immediately write it down. It is a

good idea to put the day and date at the top of the page before going

to sleep. This is an outward expression of your serious intention to take

note of your dreams; and it also means that, on waking, you can get

straight down to writing out your dream. Anything that might come

between the dream and the writing could obliterate or severely reduce

your recollection.


Instead of writing, you could make a voice recording – unless you

have a sleeping partner whom you would rather not waken. Whichever

method you use, be sure to use the present tense: ‘I am walking along

a road; a car overtakes me . . .’ not ‘I was walking along the road, when

a car overtook me . . .’. Using the present tense helps you to relive the

dream more vividly and therefore remember more of its detail.

Keeping an electronic record can be useful for your dream

interpreting, enabling you to sort through the records of your dreams

from time to time to see if there are any recurring themes. For further

information, see Calvin Hall’s book, The Meaning of Dreams.

Record your dreams in as much detail as possible. Anything in a dream

may be important when it comes to interpretation. What in the dream

itself seems to be quite trivial or merely incidental to the main action

may, in fact, turn out to be the key that unlocks the meaning of the

whole dream. For example, always note the colour and shape of anything.

If there is any movement, in what direction is it – right or left, clockwise

or anticlockwise, towards or away from you? Is a person male or female,

young or old, fair or dark, attractive or unattractive, smiling or frowning?

What is he or she wearing; and what does the person say (exact words,

if possible)? Is the sundial or birdbath in the centre of the garden or

off-centre? Are the plants in bloom or not, and if they are, what colour

are they? What season of the year is it? How many people (or steps,

or animals) are there? Is the house or other building old or new, and on

which floor of the building does the action take place?

Don’t worry too much if such details do not appear in your dreams.

I am only saying that, if details are given in a dream, you should not

omit them from your report. And having been told this, you will

probably find that from now on your dreams do contain lots of detail

that was either not present or not noticed in previous dreams.



Don’t think you have to work out the meaning of every dream straight

away. Of course, there is no harm in jotting down what strikes you

there and then as its obvious meaning. However, before finally making

up your mind about the meaning of any single dream, it is best to make

a record of several dreams and look at them together, to see if there

is a common pattern. There may be a recurring image, or different

images saying the same thing.


It may also be enlightening and helpful to look back every now and

then over the dreams of the last year, or two or three years, or even

longer. That way you may see how much or how little you have changed

over that period. You will see how much you have learned from your

dreams, or how much – or little – notice you have taken of them in

ordering or re-ordering your daily life.


If you make a mistake in interpreting a dream, you may find that

your next dream corrects your mistake. Dreams come from the

unconscious, and the unconscious works intelligently and with a

purpose. If you respect your unconscious and show your respect

by paying attention to what it is saying to you in your dreams, your

unconscious will cooperate with you and assist you towards a true

understanding of its messages.



A dream not only appears within the context of an ever-continuing

series of dreams; it also occurs within the context of your life as a

whole – your family life, your work, your love- (and hate-) life. Your

dreams reflect your deepest emotional responses to your waking-life

experiences. It follows, therefore, that a correct interpretation of your

dreams will only be possible if they are viewed in the context of your

outward life.


This obviously includes what is happening to you now, the situation

you are in now, your present problems, ambitions, fears and so on.

It may also include, however, the whole or any part of your past life.

Your most deeply seated attitudes, hatreds, prejudices, habits, fears,

guilt-feelings and pains of all kinds may stem from experiences in your

early life. Wordsworth’s ‘The child is father of the man’ is full of truth:

the adult personality is largely conditioned by childhood experiences

or, more precisely, by the emotional impact of those experiences

on the child. And what doesn’t come from childhood comes from

traumatic experiences in our later life: the present state of our psyche

is the result of our emotional self’s reactions to the experiences and

situations that life has thrown at us.


What this means is that a correct and useful interpretation of your

dreams requires a full awareness and understanding of what is happening

to you now and what has happened to you in the past. Don’t be daunted:

remember that the unconscious is ready to cooperate with you and,

indeed, lead you. Your unconscious is a storehouse containing all the

emotionally charged experiences of your life, and it may be just these

decisive emotional reactions – fear, hatred, resentment, guilt and the like –

that are expressing themselves in your dreams. All you need to know about

yourself, past and present, is being supplied to you in your dreams. In other

words, your dreams will give you all you require for understanding them

and applying this understanding appropriately and creatively in your life.

It may be true that the present condition of your psyche, and

consequently the present circumstances of your life, have been shaped

more by emotional reactions to events than by intelligent and objective

decision-making on your part. What is equally true, however, is that

you can, at any tim, take control of your life and begin to determine

your own future. Your dreams will help here. They can tell you what

has been going on inside you so far, and they can also tell you what you

need to do or stop doing in order to achieve greater happiness in the

future. Through your dreams, your unconscious will tell you what you

need. The rest is up to you, your conscious self.



Often the part of a dream that is remembered first and therefore

recorded first is the last part of the dream. In fact, the tendency is

to remember and write down all the sections of a dream in reverse

order. This should be borne in mind when getting down to the

business of interpreting your dreams: sometimes, for instance, the

last part of a dream gives a solution to a problem posed in the first

part of the dream.




What has been said above about the deep meaning of dreams needs

to be balanced against other considerations. Not all dreams have

profound psychological significance. Some are mere repetitions

of the day’s events. Nearly all the dreams that young children tell

us about are of this kind: after a trip to the seaside, a three-yearold

will often relive the day’s delights and excitements in dreams;

similarly, a bedtime story may retell itself in a young child’s dream.

Some dreams may have straightforward physical explanations.

A full bladder may cause you to have a frighteningly embarrassing

dream about wetting your pants, for example.


So do not assume that every dream has a deep meaning. Not

every dream will contain a life-transforming revelation – but any

dream might! Even the apparently most trifling dream story may

be trying to tell you something important about your life. If, for

example, you told me you had dreamed of an earthquake, I would

generally suppose that it was an indication either that your personal

world was in danger of falling apart or at least that you were deeply

– perhaps unconsciously– fearful that it might fall apart. I would

therefore want to ask you about your marriage or other domestic

relationships and about your work situation. However, I would also

ask if you had recently been reading or watching something that

might have prompted that sort of dream. If you had just read a

vivid account of an actual earthquake, your dream might have been

simply going over the story – a chewing-the-cud sort of dream.

On the other hand, it is likely that even dreams which take their

symbols from very recent experience are using those symbols to

represent something that is going on inside you.


On the whole, the truth would seem to be that if you are only

trifling with your dreams, their content will tend to be trivial; if you

take your dreams seriously, their content will tend to be serious

and significant. If what you want from your dreams is a fuller

understanding of yourself and, eventually, fuller control over your

life and the attainment of your proper ‘destiny’, your dreams will

not let you down. They will give you all you need.


This extract was taken from Eric Ackroyd’s Dream Dictionary