Exploring the Sleeping Mind

The 1 Question to Ask to Understand Your Dreams

There are many methods used to understand our strange, seemingly illogical, sometimes scary dreams. As I research dreams I find many explanations of the symbols we encounter in dreams—divine communication, mystic symbolism, random firings of the brain, integrative processing of our waking thoughts, etc. While all these explanations can give interesting insight, they often cause more confusion than clarity. Dream dictionaries and the like may seem the most straightforward, but the one-size-fits-all approach is not practical when you think of the unique nature of each person’s subconscious.

My advice if you are just starting out with dream analysis is to focus on one question: what does each symbol in a dream mean to you? Rather than stopping your own creative process of dream analysis short by relying on an externally defined significance of each image in a dream, what feeling does that image evoke for you personally?

For example, per a dream dictionary, seeing a fence in a dream would represent restriction. That may be true for some, but what if your neighbor has a vicious, noisy dog, and the fence is the only thing keeping you safe? In that case, seeing a fence in a dream may represent protection rather than restriction. I have a friend who builds fences for a living and loves his job; for him, a fence represents something completely different—opportunity, hard work, and familiarity. I grew up in a small town in a new housing development where most of us didn’t have fences, so when I did see a neighbor with a fence, it evoked feelings of withdrawal and privacy, and even some mystery. If you dreamed of walking by a rickety fence just barely containing an angry dog, and relied on the dream dictionary’s interpretation, you might have read restriction and stopped there, instead of continuing on to realize that your subconscious is feeling a need (the near-hole in the fence) for safety and protection (the fence) from an outside threat (the dog).

Next time you have a dream that doesn’t seem to make sense, walk through each image, action, and entity in that dream one by one, and pay attention to your gut reaction. This will give you a much more accurate and insightful reference of the true meaning of a dream than a dream dictionary ever could.



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