RECORD YOUR 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.
LOOK AT SEVERAL DREAMS TOGETHER
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.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF DREAMS
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 time, 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.
SEQUENCE IN DREAMS
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-year old 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.