FUNDAMENTALS OF DREAM INTERPRETATION

 

 

My Theory Of Dreams

 

Principles Of Dream Interpretation:

Dreams And Symbols

The Personal Nature Of Dream Symbols

The Role Of The Dreamer In Interpreting His Dream

Remembering Dreams

Recording Dreams

Interpreting One's Own Dreams

Free Association

Honesty, Open-Mindedness, And Imagination

Fallow Time

Clarification Dreams

Applying Dream Knowledge

Daydream Interpretation

 

 

My Theory Of Dreams

My personal "theory" about dreams is flexible and multidimensional. It is influenced by Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis, ancient practices of divination, and my own intuition and experience. It can be utilized to work on dreams from either a conventional/metaphorical perspective, or an esoteric/occult perspective, depending on what seems to best fit the circumstances.

As I see it, dreams serve many purposes in our lives. I do not believe there is only one type of dream, or only one reason for dreaming.

Some dreams, I believe, are pure expressions of wish-fulfillment, fantasies which allow us to at least partially satisfy some desire we cannot, or dare not, realize in the "real world."

Some dreams are self-revelatory dreams, which are trying to tell us our real feelings and needs, to help us get back in touch with who we really are, where we should really be, what we should really be doing, or not doing. They may show us what makes us tick and what is holding us back.

Some dreams come framed more strongly, as advice meant to bear directly upon a current life situation. That advice could come from several possible sources.

Some dreams reflect our fears, the things that terrify us, or may have traumatized us in the past.

Some dreams seem to foretell the future. While some of these may really be projections of our expectations, fears, or hopes into the future, others seem to actually be clairvoyant, and to be able to let us see things that have yet to happen.

Some dreams seem to connect us with other people, to let us see and feel what is going on in their lives, their hearts, and their minds, even to interact with them. These dreams seem to act as bridges between us, no matter how far apart we may be in "real life."

Some dreams may act as doorways into our past, restoring forgotten memories to our consciousness, memories from earlier in this life, memories from past lives we have lived, even memories of other people we have channeled from the "collective unconscious", "Akashic Records", or some other source of universal knowing.

Some dreams act as gateways to higher levels of knowledge and creation, and bring us insights that help us to solve complex problems, or to create beautiful works of art.

Dreams may come to us with clarity and directness; or come to us disguised with symbols, outwardly bizarre and meaningless, yet full of significant content once the secret code of the dream symbols has been correctly deciphered.

During dreaming, we may be spoken to by our own subconscious mind: the part of ourselves that knows us best, and is able to best tell us who we are and what we need; the part of us that most easily forgets its limits, and thereby extends our capability. Or, it may be as the esoteric traditions have long maintained, that we are sometimes contacted by spirits, guides, angels, and divine forces as we sleep: that our dreams are a kind of doorway between the world that we know, and a world which we have yet to fully comprehend.  Back To Top

Principles of Dream Interpretation

Dreams and Symbols

In order to understand a dream that is not obvious and up-front about its meaning, it is usually necessary to enter the bizarre and ever so perplexing world of dream symbols.

A symbol is an image, person, or event, which actually disguises/represents another. In order to understand a dream, it is fundamental to penetrate these dream symbols, where they occur, and to discover their true meaning.

Some examples of dream symbols which have occurred in the dreams of people I know:

A person is riding up an elevator. When he gets to the top floor, he finds it is empty, there are no offices or people, it is just a big vacant space, dirty, and dimly lit.

In this dream, the elevator is a symbol representing a manís "rise towards the top", as he advances in his career, and sees his prestige and social status grow. The vacant room he finally encounters at the top is a symbol of the "emptiness" of his success, so costly in time and effort, which, nonetheless, leaves him feeling alone and unfulfilled.

In another dream, a man dreams that he has awakened in his house, to find it filled with rising water. A nearby river has been swelled by a night of rain, and the town he lives in is in danger of being completely swept away by a powerful flood.

In this dream, the flood is a symbol representing the manís sense of being overwhelmed by the events in his life: more demands at work, more demands at home, relationship problems, economic problems, itís like the overpowering force of the flood that he feels he canít control, that threatens to "wash away" everything he has.

In another dream, a woman is trapped high up in a burning apartment. She opens the window and considers trying to jump across a wide, chasm-like alley onto the roof of a neighboring apartment building. But the jump is too much for her, she is afraid she wonít be able to make it, and if she misses, she will fall ten stories down into the cold-hearted alley below. Paralyzed, desperate, pinned by the window, she suddenly sees a large yellow butterfly flutter past her, and slowly fly out of sight, across the roof of the neighboring apartment building. She begins to feel the smoke stinging her eyes and nostrils, choking her, and wakes up rolling around in her bed, agitated and highly upset.

In this dream, the fire is a symbol of the current life she is living, the pressures of a relationship she feels is destroying her, which she wants to get out of, but feels trapped in, unable to escape from, due to economic dependence and the fear of being alone. The butterfly flying past her window is a symbol of freedom and escape - with its wings, it is not bound as she is to the burning building; the deep alley which inhibits her jump to safety is no obstacle to it. More importantly, the butterfly is a symbol of transformation. We all know how the butterfly represents the magnificent transformation of the caterpillar. From a tiny, slow creature that can only crawl, it blossoms from itself, anew, as a graceful, flying wonder, a living kite, an airborne flower. The symbol of the butterfly is, therefore, showing the dreamer that she CAN escape from the relationship that is annihilating her if she will only struggle to make the internal changes necessary to overcome the fear that holds her back from her freedom. If she does not, or cannot, the relationship is likely to consume her, just as in the dream, she is about to be consumed by the flames of the burning building.

It is important to note that in the dreams above, the exact meanings of the symbols were determined only after speaking with the dreamers and finding out what was going on in their lives. (The reason for this is about to be explained.) It is also important to note that correctly interpreting and clarifying a dream does not automatically mean the dreamerís problems will end, or that the dreamerís life will be changed. Further thought, planning, and willpower on the part of the dreamer is usually needed to make an insight bear fruit in real life. Support from friends or family, where possible, is also very helpful. In cases, guidance from psychologists, counselors, or clergy may also be useful.  Back To Top

The Personal Nature of Dream Symbols

The reason why it is important for the dream interpreter to interact with the dreamer and bring him into the process of dream interpretation, is the fact that dream symbols are highly personal in meaning. Unlike the impression given by many of the less sophisticated dictionaries of dream symbols now available, there is no universal language of dream symbols which is accurate for every dreamer.

Take the symbol of rain. To one person it is a symbol of adversity, an obstacle, which "spoils the picnic", makes driving slow and difficult, forces him to stay indoors, drenches him, makes him wet and miserable. But to another person, it is a symbol of life, it is what comes down from the sky to make the earth fertile, to keep his crops from dying out, to fill the reservoirs, to give him powerÖ

The same with the ocean. To one person it represents all the power of the Universe, spirit, the ebb and flow of life, eternity; to another it represents a fun place where one goes to spend oneís holidays and swim, it stands for freedom, good times, friendship; while to yet another person, it is a place of danger and fear, a place where you could drown, a place of storms, and huge waves that could pull you under or knock you down.

One example from my own dreaming mind is the symbol of the okapi - a strange-looking animal from the forests of Africa with striped legs, sort of like a zebra, mule, and giraffe with a stunted neck, all in one. If I were to tell you I had seen an okapi in my dream, what would you make of it?

The only way to really get to the bottom of its meaning would be to question me about how I know of this creature, when I had seen or heard of it, what associations, emotions, and thoughts I had when thinking of it. Could it be I saw one in the zoo once, suggesting that the okapi was meant to bring me back to my childhood, perhaps to a happy family outing symbolizing the togetherness and joy I felt on that distant day, and longed for in my life again? Or perhaps it stood for something awkward, weird, a kind of chimera or composite creature representing my attempt to do or be too many things at once - or perhaps for the very opposite: how something in my life could be made greater by incorporating and using different elements ("zebra", "giraffe", and "mule").

In reality, talking to me, however, you would find out that the okapi represents something altogether different and unique to me. For me this animal remains fixed in my mind as an amazing example of a real animal which was once dismissed by Western science as a baseless native legend, a mere fantasy and product of the imagination of "ignorant, uncivilized people". For me, the okapi has thus come to symbolize the reality of many things that are currently rejected by science, the existence of many things which we sense and feel, but cannot yet prove. It is a secret doorway into my ability to believe in mystical things, whose time of acceptance has not yet come.

As this example should make clear, the interpretation of dream symbolism, while following certain general principles, does not follow any sweeping universal laws; and is, therefore, not an art which can take place in a vacuum. It needs to be connected to the very personal world of the dreamer, grounded in the dreamerís private life and experience, and developed through communication.

Yet even so, there are still more complexities to be faced in interpreting a dream. For the meaning of a given symbol, to a given dreamer, may change from dream to dream! That is to say, there is no guarantee that a particular symbolís meaning to an individual will remain constant throughout all of that individualís dreams. Take the case of the following two dreams:

A man receives a call that his old college dormitory is on fire. He jumps into a fire truck, to go to put out the fire, but the truck wonít start.

In this case, the fire truck is a symbol of the manís desire to rescue the youthful dreams, hope, and promise of his life, symbolized by his college days, when all the world seemed to be an open door. But circumstances in his present life - external circumstances, or ones rooted in his own heart - are impeding the rescue effort.

This same man has another dream, on a different night, in another month, in which he sees a fire truck race by him, with his father riding in it. The incident takes place in New Yorkís Greenwich Village.

In this case, the fire truck turns out to be a symbol of the fatherís effort to "put out the sonís fire", to extinguish some aspect of the sonís soul which he disapproves of, or sees as a threat to his authority, or dominance, or to his sonís well-being (from his own parental perspective). As Greenwich Village represents, for many people, the "unconventional", "strange", or "free" part of town, the father may be hoping to pressure his son into returning to the "mainstream."

The same symbol, appearing to the same dreamer, but with very different meanings in each case: meanings unraveled only by considering the context in which the symbol occurred, both within and outside of the dream.  Back To Top

The Role of the Dreamer in Interpreting the Dream

Obviously, the key to making a successful dream interpretation is the cooperation and participation of the dreamer in the interpretive process. There may, of course, be some dreams whose meaning is relatively obvious; while some dream symbolism is considered to be archetypal, understood and recognized by all human beings, across cultures, as part of a common "biological" heritage, which has been encoded into our collective psyche. (But I am wary of assuming universality for any dream symbol.) In the case of more difficult, cryptic, or complicated dreams, however, the keys to interpreting the dream most definitely lie within the dreamerís own mind. The question, then, is how to discover and deploy these keys.

The dream-interpreter, who should have a deep capacity to understand human beings and the sometimes shocking richness of their inner lives, and who should have an almost artistic sense for the possibilities of metaphors and symbols, as well, needs to also recognize his limits. He needs to recognize where his capacity to interpret a dream ends, and where the dreamerís resources for interpreting a dream begin. Dream interpretation is, at its best, a process of communication and cooperation between dreamer and interpreter.  Back To Top

Remembering Dreams

Certainly, the first phase of the interpretive challenge is for the dreamer to remember his dream! And to remember it in as much detail as possible.

It is helpful for an individual who wants to learn more about himself, through his dreams, and who is not remembering large numbers of dreams naturally, to, first of all, make the conscious decision to try to remember his dreams. It need not be a harsh demand that he makes upon the mind, merely a focused wish, and a decision to try.

Sometimes, it is useful to make a "suggestion" to oneself before one goes to bed, or while one is in bed, waiting to fall asleep, or even half-asleep (at such times, in the relaxed, so-called "hypnagogic" state, oneís subconscious mind may be more receptive to such suggestions). Something like, "I will remember my dreams", or "Please let me remember my dreams." (Speaking to his subconscious mind, which really can hear.)

Besides this commonly recommended technique, others are available. Hypnosis or self-hypnosis, for example, may be used to pursue this objective.

One technique which does not involve self-hypnosis, but which is sometimes capable of producing a similar result, is the use of the repetitive writing of a "suggestion" - (a command or request that you make of yourself) - to remember your dreams. You could, during the day, or in the evening, shortly before going to bed, write over and over again, on a piece of paper: "I will remember my dreams", "I can remember my dreams", "Please let me remember my dreams", whatever suggestion you feel most comfortable with. As you keep on writing and writing this, the mind may enter a state of receptivity which will allow this idea to become firmly planted, and active, in your subconscious mind.

Creative visualization is another technique that might be used. Visualization techniques, which use imagery and fantasy, are currently used to assist the body in healing and to enhance performance in sports. They may also be used to frame suggestions which will interact with the subconscious mind in a positive way to help elicit dream memories. One such visualization scenario might be to imagine, as you go to bed, that you have turned on a machine that will record your dreams at night, in some recognizable form (just like a telephone answering machine or a video camera is able to record things that happen while you are away). And that when you wake up, the information, the memory, of any important dream will be there waiting for you, in your mind. Alternately, you could imagine that you have inside the huge inner universe of yourself, an animate dream-memory-helper, someone like a fairy, elf, or inner friend, who will leave the memory of what you have dreamt at night in your mind, to be discovered soon after you awake. Sound unusual? Not any more unusual than dreams themselves, and made of the same stuff! Why not let one level of imagination communicate with another?

Then, whatever methods for dream-memory-enhancement you resort to, just be patient. Trying too hard, pushing too much, trying to force things, is rarely a means for achieving success in any endeavor. Give it time. Let nature take its course.  Back To Top

Recording Dreams

Next, of course - once a dream memory is brought to the surface - there is the matter of recording it. Many times, a dream can be remembered in detail for a short period after its memory has just emerged. At this time, it is crucial to record as much of the dream as possible. If it is not possible to record the whole dream, then at least some important keywords should be recorded, which will later serve as bases for re-remembering the rest. For example, supposing you had just dreamt the entire story of Aladdin. You might write down: "Young man, magic lamp, genie, treasure, evil magician, dark pit, escapeÖ" Later, after you had fully awakened, and everyone who would scream at you for turning on the lights at 5 AM was up, you could flesh the story out in its full detail.

In order to make your initial recordings of dream content, depending on circumstances, you could: (1) Get up and write everything down in a notebook in your bedroom, or in another room if people were still asleep there. (2) Jot down some keywords in a notepad, or on a piece of paper fastened to a clipboard, kept beside your bed. (If needed, you could use a flashlight to see, or even try writing in the dark - a skill that can be developed, especially if you are just writing keywords, but one which can also go horribly wrong!) (3) Note down your memories orally, with a tape recorder.

Later, when possible - the sooner the better - you should record the full dream memory in a DREAM JOURNAL, a notebook/diary whose primary purpose is to record your dreams. It is very important for anyone interested in incorporating dream recall and interpretation into his life to keep a dream journal, which may also contain efforts to interpret those dreams, and references to things going on in oneís "inner" and "outer" life at that time. It is also very important, in the process of recording dreams, to record as many details as possible: strange, seemingly trivial or irrelevant events, images, words, etc., sometimes prove to be critical clues in interpreting a dream.

Please note: seek to develop a process/routine for remembering and recording dreams that does not interfere with getting a good nightís rest, and which does not create undue stress in your relations with others!  Back To Top

Interpreting Your Own Dreams

After a dream is fully recorded, you may attempt to interpret it yourself, or seek to have it interpreted for you.

If you are seeking to interpret it yourself, you may utilize one (preferably several) dream symbol dictionary(ies), keeping in mind the limitations of such dictionaries. (I say several because that will provide you with a wider, more nuanced selection of possible meanings to work with). You may also apply some of the principles demonstrated in this website.

You should study the symbols and events in your dream, and see if you can find some connection between your dream and your "real world" life, or the things going on around you. Your dream may be trying to tell you something, show you something, or explain something to you.

As you study your dream, certain key dream images or happenings are sure to stand out - things that you will sense contain important hidden meanings. How do you get to those meanings? Sit and think for a whileÖ  Back To Top

Free Association

If you are able to, "free associate." This means, just let your mind run free, and try to find all the connections that a word, image, or concept from your dream generates.

Letís say you have just dreamt of a clown. Try to relax, and just write everything that comes to mind when you think of that clown: "Foolish, dumb, idiot, jerk." Could this be the way you feel about yourself, or somebody else? (Remember, the clown could be a disguised form of somebody you know - or even yourself!)

On the other hand, you may come up with other associations for clowns, such as: "Circus, popcorn, family, fun, cotton candy", tending to suggest that for you, in this dream, the clown is more like a symbol of family, maybe childhood, happiness, togetherness, and perhaps freedom (day off from school or work).

If the list contains a mix of words conveying many different moods, such as: "Circus, red nose, big feet, little car, painted smile, pie in the face, sinister", you will have to go over the list, and see what words, what associations, seem to have the most emotional resonance with you, in the case of this dream; which ones draw you towards them, which ones feel right in the context of your dream and life. "Painted smile" could turn the clown into a symbol of hypocrisy, or, on the other hand, of self-sacrifice and concealed sorrow. "Pie in the face" could turn the clown into a symbol of being humiliated and disrespected. "Sinister" (the fall-out of a Stephen King movie?), could turn the clown into a symbol of danger and betrayal (clowns are supposed to be fun, a source of joy; when they become dangerous and threatening, they then come to symbolize violated trust, and the "undependability" of the world.)  Back To Top

Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Imagination

More than all of this, however, it is honesty, open-mindedness, and imagination which enable a person to successfully interpret his dreams.

Honesty requires courage - the courage to see things as they are, not as we want them to be. We do not solve a life problem by giving an inaccurate interpretation of a dream just to make it more pleasing to ourselves. We are far more likely to solve a life problem by discovering the true meaning of an important dream - whatever it is - and then using the understanding we gain to address the problem. In other words, we do not improve our situation in the world by changing our dreams (through false interpretations), but by changing our lives, aided by the insight attained from accurately interpreted dreams.

The key ingredient to developing this needed honesty is to realize that the fantasy/dream world of human beings is very different from the world we live in and act in, when we are awake. In the waking world, there are laws, customs, expectations, and rules to follow, some of which we obey because we have to, and many others because we want to. And yet, in the inner world of dreams, we find that many of these rules of the waking world are broken or suspended; it is a more primitive and uncontrolled world, the world of our dreams: a place where incest, murder, sex, and violent revenge frequently surface amidst fairy-tale-like events, and surreal imagery that could almost be the product of an LSD trip, as well as recognizable reflections of the real world, behaving according to its physics, and its values. All of which goes to show that, like it or not, we human beings are a complex and mysterious mixture of impulses and ideals, desires and rules, reckless urges and moral principles, secret cravings and learned restraints. The dream world, by sometimes showing us primal elements that run beneath the surface of the person we think we are, or have been trained or disciplined ourselves to be, can often unsettle us into screening out its messages by means of inaccurate interpretations, whose primary goal is the preservation of our self-image, and not the penetration of a hidden truth. To overcome this danger, and to achieve true honesty in the interpretation of a dream, it is necessary to accept the fact that human nature does contain threads of dark wishes and dark responses; does contain violence and lust; does contain a part that wants to crash through the fence of taboos, to live in forbidden fields; and to understand that fantasy is not the same as reality; and that to commit a "crime" in a fantasy is not a sin, but merely a sign of being human. Indeed, it is an act of greater morality to attain self-knowledge than to suppress it, for out of self-knowledge grows moral strength, while ignorance is the breeding ground of moral mistakes.

Although many dreams will not force the dreamer to confront an unwanted part of himself, some may, so that honesty is an important ingredient in dream interpretation. Take the following example:

A girl, A.R., dreams that another girl, a female thug, attacks her on the train, trying to rip the earrings out of her ears. The female thug, whose face A.R. cannot clearly see, is wearing a necklace that belongs to "Lana", a good friend of A.R. A.R. suddenly finds she is holding a knife, so she uses it to stab the female thug.

In this dream, A.R. initially interpreted the thug to be a total stranger, just representing her fear of being robbed or attacked on the subway after school. When asked why she thought this stranger was wearing her friend Lanaís necklace, A.R. theorized that maybe the thug had robbed Lana before her. This interpretation was, of course, convenient for A.R., because it meant that her aggression against the thug was not only an act of self-defense, but also, indirectly, an act of solidarity with Lana. Later analysis, however, revealed a truer and more emotionally complicated interpretation of this dream. It turns out that A.R.ís earrings, in real life, were an important part of her effort to make herself attractive and to be noticed by boys. The female thug who A.R. stabbed in her dream, identified by the necklace, actually represented Lana. Upon examining her feelings more honestly, A.R. recognized that Lana did have a tendency to "move in" when she was talking to boys, and to then upstage her. A.R. recognized that, on account of this, she did have some resentment of her good friend, whose desire to be the center of attention at every possible moment was really asphyxiating A.R.ís love life, shooting it down before it got off the ground. A.R.ís dream attack against Lana was an expression of this growing anger, and her desire to defend herself against Lanaís encroachment on her personal life.

The first dream interpretation, much less troubling, was also much less useful. It allowed A.R. to avoid an issue that was very painful to face, but in the process, it sacrificed a truth that was the key to remedying an important problem in A.R.ís life. The second dream interpretation, by bringing that truth to the surface, allowed A.R. to understand her true feelings towards Lana (which were a combination of love and resentment), and gave her a foundation for beginning to try to improve that relationship by communicating with Lana, and seeking to emerge from Lanaís shadow.

Open-mindedness, another key ingredient to successful dream interpretation, simply means the ability to consider a possibility, without shutting the door on it. Many people, of course, will shut the door on interpretive possibilities, because they do not want to risk the discomfort of having to find out new things about themselves. They fear to grow new dimensions; and in so doing, remain limited in their ability to respond to lifeís dilemmas.

And then, of course, there is imagination. Although the gift of imagination is, to some extent, innate, it is usually underestimated, for people are naturally much more imaginative than they are given credit for. With practice, the quiescent imagination can often be re-ignited, and over a period of time, raised to a very high level, indeed. And this is especially true for imagination as it applies to dream interpretation.

An example of how the imagination works in dream interpretation:

A man whose father is an American from New York City, and whose mother is a Colombian from Cali, is considering, in real life, starting up a small business and becoming his own boss. But he has a lot of doubts about the project. He dreams he is walking in a jungle with the man who might become his business partner. It is hard to make their way through the thick jungle vegetation. Just before the dream ends, a beautiful toucan comes into sight, landing in a nearby tree.

The manís first attempt to interpret the dream correctly connects his journey into the jungle with his prospective business partner as symbolizing their struggle to make their new business work. The initial going is tough, as expected. But it doesnít get any easier before the dreamís end. That makes the man a little nervous. Will the business venture be an endless struggle, going nowhere? Still, the man has a very good, almost euphoric, feeling about seeing the toucan; but he does not know what it means. He tries to free-associate, and comes up with "Fruit Loops, big beak, pretty, bird." He then free-associates on these words, to arrive at a second level of associations. For example, free-associating from "fruit loops" he gets "milk, cereal, breakfast, TV commercial." It is not a cereal which he ever ate, however, and he finds no strong emotional connection to build an interpretation on.

Of course, the toucan is a bird, and its gift of flight allows it to bypass the difficulty of passing through the jungle on the ground. Could it, therefore, represent a symbol of the manís ability to overcome the initial problems of making his business work, by learning how to "fly" (function smoothly in the business environment) instead of "walk" (struggle in an alien environment)? This is a very likely interpretation, especially given the sense of euphoria that accompanied the sighting of the toucan in the dream. However, the man can take the interpretation even a step further.

Using his imagination to see the dream from yet another angle, he comes up with what proves to be an even more encouraging interpretation. "Toucan", phonetically, as he pronounces it, consists of the sounds of the Spanish word "tu", meaning "you", and the English word "can". "You can", in other words. The toucan seems to be a very direct dream message telling him that he can succeed, if he tries, and that he should, therefore, go ahead with his plans to start the business. Whether this information comes from a higher source (see Esoteric Dreams), as the man comes to believe, or from his own subconscious mind, which feels that he is ready for the challenge, it creates the inner sense of confidence and enthusiasm needed to proceed.  Back To Top

Fallow Time

Another important key in the interpretation of dreams is patience. If a dream is very complex, and difficult to crack, at first, give it "fallow time", let it rest. Ask your subconscious mind to work on it, while you go about the business of your life; then, after a day or two, or a week, get back to it, reread your journal entry and go over the dream details again, see if the dream is any clearer, now, if anything that was unintelligible, before, begins to make sense. If not, give it more time, still, and try again. I have sometimes come back to dreams recorded in my dream diary as long ago as a year before, and finally come to understand them at that time.  Back To Top

Clarification Dreams

Another trick for cracking difficult dreams is to ask the subconscious mind to provide you with a "clarifying dream", a second dream which will relate to the first, and help to make the meaning of the first one clearer. (You could ask for a clarifying dream in the same way that you may have asked to remember your dreams in the first place - by making a specific "suggestion" to that effect. See the section on Remembering Dreams.) I successfully used this technique in the case of an esoteric dream or vision I once had, in which I heard a loud voice inform me that somebody I knew had, or would have, a serious illness. The question was - who? I asked for a clarifying dream, and had one some time later, which shed some light on the issue, but still left too much in the dark. So I asked for yet another clarifying dream, and finally - maybe 1-1 Ĺ months after the original dream - received the complete information I wanted to know - who would be sick, and where, in the body, the sickness would strike.

The clarifying dream can be very useful in standard dream interpretation by generating a "parallel dream", which delivers a similar message in a different way. What is discernible in one dream may shed light on what is mysterious in the other dream, and vice versa, and they may, thus, help to unravel each otherís meaning. Clarifying dreams may also reuse a baffling symbol, encountered in an earlier dream, in a new context that makes its significance clearer.  Back To Top

Applying Dream Knowledge

In and of itself, interpreting dreams is a fascinating endeavor, like solving a mystery, or putting together a puzzle. But much more than that, it is a means by which the dreamer is able to be connected to the wisdom and insight of his subconscious mind; a means by which the dreamer is able to listen in on the mutterings of his inner depths, learning more about himself; and a means by which important but unintelligible information and messages are able to be translated into a language that can be comprehended, and applied.

How, exactly, can dream knowledge be applied, and made useful to, our waking lives?

A.R.ís subway-attack dream, and the unnamed Colombian-Americanís toucan dream, which were just cited (see Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Imagination), both provide working examples of how dream knowledge may be applied to improving the quality of our waking lives.

To provide a few general guidelines, it may be said that the process of constructively applying dream knowledge depends on:

Successful Interpretation. This can be done by the dreamer, himself, or by the dreamer working in conjunction with a "dream interpreter", who may know how to elicit important details from the dreamer about his dream and the life surrounding it, and who may have the objectivity and the experience to help the dreamer put it all together.

Reassurance and Support. The dreamer must come to realize that human beings are far more complex than the shallow images of "good person"/"bad person" that our civilization has created in order to encourage its citizens to behave in certain ways. Our hearts and minds contain all kinds of longings and impulses, often conflicting with each other. In the realm of fantasy, we are capable of practically anything and everything, we seek the fulfillment and expression of all our instincts and impulses; while in the realm of waking, we seek to act only upon those instincts and impulses which conform to our moral values, and which do not engender serious social repercussions. It is important that the dreamer be reassured that the instincts and impulses which are exposed in the fantasy world of his dreams, no matter how "off-base" they may seem to his waking mind, are probably normal and natural, and that he need not feel guilt or shame about having had them. On the contrary, by exploring and using the possibilities of dream interpretation in a positive way, the dreamer can, actually, help to make himself a more moral and self-disciplined individual. - Whenever the dreamer, by himself, lacks the tools to reassure himself in this way, he may seek the perspective of a psychologist, or a skilled and experienced dream interpreter, who, having contact with the dream and fantasy world of many other "normal" individuals, will be able to assure him that this really is so.

Realistically Integrating What Is Learned Into Life Views, Decisions, and Behavior. Finally, the interpretation of the dream ought to be integrated, in a useful way, into the personís life. - In cases, a dreamís main contribution may merely be the contact with an alternative reality, liberating and refreshing, in and of itself - something that can vitalize us and expand our horizons. - In some cases, the dream may provide us with clear advice, to be acted upon. If so, of course, the action ought not to be launched purely from the platform of a dream. The dream advice ought to make sense when examined and contemplated in the waking state, as well, and it ought to be set into motion according to realistic considerations of timing, oneís own capabilities, oneís relationships, and total life circumstances. In this way, dreams can suggest that we change jobs, change relationships, and do or not do certain things. - Many times, without providing us with a clear indication of exactly what to do, dreams, by giving us a clearer picture of our true feelings, can serve as the starting point for subsequent actions. For example, if we truly realize how lonely we are, maybe we will begin to try to meet people. If we truly realize how much we hate our job, maybe we will try to look for a new one. If we realize how dysfunctional a relationship is, maybe we will begin efforts to improve it - or to end it. - Besides inspiring us to action, or laying the foundations for action, dreams may also alter our perspective of people and situations, by giving us a different take, a different view. This, in and of itself, may lead to a great improvement in how we feel about and relate to aspects of our real-world lives. - In some situations involving complex emotions and problems, some form of counseling or therapy might be helpful. Many professional psychologists are experienced in analyzing dreams, and in using dream material to help people develop self-understanding, and construct healthier and happier lives.

Since this is an important topic - after all, this is the ultimate goal of dream interpretation - here are some examples which illustrate, concretely, how dream insights may often be linked to real-world issues in a constructive and useful way:

A college student dreams he fails an important exam.

This dream most likely expresses a fear (hopefully it is not a clairvoyant dream!) This fear could stem from a general life attitude of always expecting the worse, or it could be a signal which the dreamerís subconscious mind is sending him, indicating that, somewhere deep inside, he feels unprepared for the coming exam. The most obvious application would be to take steps to improve his readiness for the test (studying more, seeking tutoring or assistance from a teacher or friend, reconsidering what might be on the test, making sure he gets a good nightís rest, etc.)

In real life, a guy sees a girl who is physically attractive to him, and he wants to date her. She seems to be a serious and sensitive young lady, but his interest is mainly physical. At the very least, he does not want to be tied down in any long-term relationship. He has a dream that he has sex with the girl. He sees her later, in the same dream, coming out of the shower, with a terrible rash on her skin. She tells him that she has AIDS.

The dream is obviously flashing some kind of warning light about the young manís intentions on the girl. It could be his fear that she has AIDS (but he does not think so, given this girlís seeming inexperience, though looks can, sometimes, be deceiving). The girl, as she appears in the dream, could actually be a disguised form of another girl he has been with, or even symbolize "any girl", and really, therefore, represent a possible consequence of his lifestyle/attitude towards sex. (Too many sexual partners, increasing the risk of someday getting tagged by AIDS.) If the feeling, in the dream, is that he may have given AIDS to the girl, then the dream could transmit his fear that he might already have AIDS; or, alternately, AIDS could become merely a symbol of hurting, and causing harm, through sex, and therefore represent the emotional damage he might cause to the girl, if she expected a more lasting relationship, and he betrayed her trust, by only "using" her for a night or two. The application of this dream would obviously be for the young man to back off of this relationship (if his aims were different from the girlís, and really only exploitative); for him to question his lifestyle and values, and think deeply about them, considering making changes which might reduce the physical and emotional risk to himself and others; even, possibly, for him to get an AIDS test.

Another man, who is straight, has a dream that he is a girl, and that he is having sex with a guy that he knows.

Most likely, this is a dream revealing an element of sexual interest which the dreamer has towards the man he dreamt of. By taking the form of a girl in the dream, the dreamer has, to some extent, distanced himself from the homosexual desire by turning it into a socially acceptable heterosexual incident, although the dream will no doubt strike him as bizarre and perhaps unsettle him, anyway. This dream, of course, increases the dreamerís knowledge of himself. It does not mean he is gay, but it does support a commonly-held psychological point of view, which is that the human being is naturally bisexual, and that without strict social and cultural codes of learned behavior, would most likely experiment with same-sex relations at some point in time, even while adhering to a predominantly heterosexual orientation. How could this dream be applied to the dreamerís life? Since this particular dreamer was not a "closet gay" longing to "come out", the dream could serve the greatest good by serving as the launching pad for an explanation about the widespread nature of bisexual feelings. "Straight people" often feel a great deal of guilt and self-hate for having these feelings, because in our culture homosexuals are often despised; so it only to be expected that straight people with bisexual feelings would absorb this learned contempt and disgust, and turn it inwards, against themselves. Many times, a personís awareness of his latent bisexuality does not reach the surface of his conscious mind. It is rejected and driven away before it can be recognized. Or it is "disproved" by subconscious tactics the "straight person" adopts to "put himself beyond suspicion", by acting in an exaggerated male way if he is a man, or an exaggerated female way, if she is a woman; and especially by manifesting hatred against gays in the outside world. This is a way the mind, unable to stand the thought of having some bisexual interests, plays tricks on itself, to convince itself that it has none.

Unfortunately for such a person, however, this psychological mechanism can never be entirely successful. For deep inside the subconscious, there will always be a level of awareness that knows the truth, generating self-hatred or contempt, which may, alternately, sabotage and harm the person from within, produce dangerous or self-limiting overcompensations and overreactions, or if projected outwards, against people who openly manifest the feelings which the individual despises within himself, lead to intolerance, prejudice, and even violence. ("Projection" is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person, hating or fearing a part of himself, finds people outside of himself to "coat" with his own self-loathing. They, in effect, become externalized symbols of himself, freeing him of the pain of openly hating himself, but at the expense of secretly continuing to hate himself through his hatred of other people, in the outside world. Projection of this kind is, of course, a terrible psychological mechanism for avoiding self-development, and for polluting the world with our own lack of evolution.)

To make a long story short, once the dreamer of this dream is reassured that such feelings are normal, and not a violation of the cultural norms which he aspires to, any more than any other act of fantasy, he may be able to let go of a lot of inner hostility against himself. This could be very important, because guilt and self-hatred take a lot away from the enjoyment of life; and they also tend to work against a personís efforts in the world, as energy is lost trying to hide and escape self-knowledge, as balance is lost in the act of "overcompensating", and as people sometimes subconsciously sabotage themselves, feeling they do not deserve success.

A mother dreams that her small children are attacked by a large German Shepherd: the loyal, but certainly formidable, guard dog/pet who she, herself, grew up with when she was a child.

This dream could be transmitting maternal fear about her childrenís safety; it could be representing how some aspect(s) of the womanís childhood caused her terrible damage (her children, in this case, would be representing her); or it could represent her own aggressive impulses towards her children. In that case, the loyal dog, which always protected the woman as a child ,would continue in the role of the "protector", attacking the womanís own children in order to save her!

It turns out, the last possibility is the one that best connects with the womanís life. She once had aspirations of getting a college education and having a fulfilling career, but now finds her dreams have been put on hold, indefinitely, due to the burden of her domestic responsibilities: two wild little kids, who never seem to tire, running around and around. Of course, the mother loves her children. But now, thanks to this dream, she recognizes that she has other feelings towards her children, as well: feelings of resentment and hostility, expressed by the dogís attack, a disguised form for her own aggression. Made aware of this, and once again, reassured that some feelings of resentment against oneís children for limiting oneís liberty are completely normal, the woman may then be guided to make appropriate adjustments in her life. She may make a greater effort to find some time, some peace, some space for herself and for her other interests, which will make her a happier and more vital human being, and probably a better mother, also, since she will have less resentment against her children. Aware of her feelings, she will also be less likely to express hostility against her children, since we are more likely to be prisoners of those feelings which we least understand, and of which we are least aware, especially if we really do mean to be good.

A man dreams that he is in a prison camp in Siberia, during the old days of the Soviet Union. The boss at his current job is one of the prison guards. One night, the man dreams, he escapes by crawling under barbed wire, and sneaking through a hole at the base of a wall. As he flees into the wilderness, he feels a rush of exhilaration. His escape has not been detected, and he knows he will be far away by the time the sun rises.

This dream doesnít seem too hard to interpret. It represents the manís "escape wish", his desire to leave a job which he dislikes. Of course, itís application is not necessarily that the man should quit his job right away! After we wake up from our dreams, we canít escape the fact that we are living in the real world, and that there are bills to pay, "track records" to protect, etc. Still, the dream does reinforce what the man already knows, that he is unhappy with his job and really wishes he could get by without it. It should serve as an inspiration for the man to take real-world steps to actually begin looking for a new job or career, and considering alternative ways of making a living. Either that, or finding some way of "escaping" by increasing his sense of freedom on the job (perspective-change, or a new position), or by adjusting aspects of his after-hours life, which would increase his overall sense of actually living his life, and not somebody elseís.

Another man has a dream in which he kills his boss.

Again, a pretty obvious fantasy of hostility, or "revenge and retribution." The dreamer, in real life, might begin searching for a new job, or searching for ways to lessen the frustration that is producing this anger.

On the other hand, add this new twist: what if the boss the dreamer kills is actually, in real life, a nice boss, one who treats him and the other workers well? In this case, the dream could be very useful in helping the dreamer to embark on a deeper exploration of his psyche, and his true feelings. Why this fantasy act of aggression against someone who seems to be kind and fair? Is this an act of identification? Does the dreamer, for some reason, identify with the boss; and has he projected some unknown element of self-hatred onto the boss? Is attacking his boss actually a way of attacking himself, of hurting himself, an essentially self-destructive impulse? Or maybe, in spite of his kindness, the boss is resented as an "authority figure." Maybe the dreamer hates being in a subordinate position to anybody, either due to envy, or due to the fact that others, in the past, used their position of power to hurt him in some way. Maybe the bossí kindness cannot overcome the fact that there is a structure to this business, a hierarchy, in which the dreamer, although treated well, is not the most important, the most powerful, or the most loved. Or maybe there really is something hypocritical and domineering underneath the bossí outward appearance of kindness. Maybe he is really not as wonderful as he seems to be, at first glance. Whatever the case, this dream provides the dreamer with an opportunity to find out more about his attitudes and feelings, which may lead him to discover undetected problems at work, or to discover deep wounds and sorrows in his soul that he has not yet paid enough attention to - deep wounds that need healing. Very likely, such feelings will lead him back to issues of his childhood, centering on his treatment and his position in his family, and to important issues of self-esteem; and lead him to the need to construct a new and stronger sense of his own worth. (Although his new insights might only end up convincing him that what he really needed was to become his own boss!)

A young man of high school age dreams that the CIA has a special device which allows it to tap into, and utilize, the brains and sense organs of his parents, in order to spy on him. CIA operatives, assigned to build an incriminating file on the young man, can literally see him through his parentsí eyes, and hear what he says through his parentsí ears.

If the boy really believed such a thing in his waking life, he, of course, would be considered paranoid and in need of psychological assistance. In the case of this dream, however, the following conclusions could be drawn: the boy probably does have some distrust and fear about the power of government, and the possible violations of citizensí rights which might take place in the future, as technology and/or political conditions change. More importantly, he probably feels overly scrutinized and judged by his parents, feeling that they "are not on his side", that they are hostile towards his true nature and towards his real dreams, and that they are "cramping his space", invading his privacy, and, essentially, repressing or preparing to repress him. He is distrustful of their motives and intentions. Maybe he feels that they, themselves, have been "brainwashed" by society, and now, in turn, are seeking to "brainwash" him, and force him to follow its conventions. The dream helps to clarify the young manís feelings towards his parents, and could help to motivate him to deal with the problem, either through communication and dialogue with his parents, with the intention of increasing understanding and negotiating for some "breathing room", or else by "just hanging on" until he is able to establish his own independence and finally move into a space of his own.

On a political note, if the dream metaphors are found to actually contain some real fears the young man has for the future of the nation, he could educate himself on such matters, and become involved in citizensí efforts to promote and support the maintenance of our constitutional guarantees, rule of law, and democratic system.

In this final example, a man dreams that he is in a classroom, and that "Linus Pauling" is drawing diagrams of atoms and molecules on the blackboard. Dr. Pauling says that atom "a" can combine with atom "b" and atom "c" to form a useful and important molecule. In the scheme Dr. Pauling is using, the symbol "ó" represents a chemical bond, or link, that can connect two atoms, while the symbol "|" represents parts of a molecule that cannot combine with the "b" and "c" atoms. He then draws a diagram of the "Iran" molecule: ||||| a ||||| bóc. In this diagram, "bóc" actually represents a separate molecule, since there is no point of contact with the "a" atom, which is "buried" inside the Iran molecule, and is therefore unable to interact with or attract any other atom. Dr. Pauling then goes on to show that if the position of the "a" atom within the Iran molecule changes, and relocates to the edge, as in ||||||||||a, the molecule will then be able to combine with the "bóc" molecule, as in ||||||||||aóbóc.

The dreamer, initially, can make no sense at all out of this dream. He is most certainly not a chemist, and was, in fact, very fortunate not to seriously injure himself or others during high school chemistry class! Instead, he is a rather imaginative and passive man who spends a lot of time daydreaming, about all kinds of things. He admits that the real world cannot compare with the exciting fantasy world he has created in his mind, where he is successful, heroic, and loved.

As is usually a good idea when dealing with dreams in which unknown or only slightly known figures or words appear, an effort is made to find out more about "Linus Pauling." Often, the dreamer will know more about such a person or word than he, at first, consciously remembers - facts which he came across in the past, and seemed to forget, but which actually have remained hidden in his subconscious ever since, and which may reemerge during a dream, encoding an important message. The research is done, and at last, the dream begins to fall into place.

Linus Pauling, among other things, was a brilliant scientist who nearly cracked the secret of the double-helix and the genetic code, which is the secret to human heredity. It turned out to be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time, which earned its discoverers the Nobel Prize, but Dr. Pauling was narrowly beaten out in his quest to be the one to solve this historic riddle by Drs. Watson and Crick, who received all of the credit and the glory.

The dreamer begins to recall more, now, remembering how much this fact impressed him long ago. On a symbolic level, it seems to represent some form of disappointment or defeat, of inner brilliance that did not connect successfully (in that case) with the outer world. And the whole complex chemical analogy begins to make sense. The dreamerís great intelligence and imagination is evident in his daydreams, but it is locked up in his own mind, channeled into his private fantasy world, while his situation in the real world is stagnant and unsatisfying. Like the "a" atom in the Iran molecule, his great mind, even genius, is unable to connect with the outer world, to combine with the real-world elements of the "b" and "c" atoms to form a molecule of importance for the real world (and himself, since the real world now threatens to crush him, due to his disengagement and lack of attention to it). But this dream, very hopefully, shows the dreamer that the key to improving his difficult life is to use something which he already has - the "a" atom - which merely needs to be repositioned (moved from the middle to the outside edge of the Iran molecule, where it will be able to connect with the "bóc" atoms). In other words, the dreamer must begin to utilize the intelligence and imagination which fuel his complex inner world of daydreams, and find points of contact, ways in which these attributes can connect with the outside world. This may lead him to begin to give a transmissible form to his daydreams: to write stories, or paint or draw, to study and develop the writing/artistic skills he needs to communicate and share what is now his private hermitís domain; to network, make friends, meet people who can recognize him and help himÖ

A phonetic analysis of the "Iran molecule" - the molecule in which the "a" atom is buried and inert - leads to the obvious breakdown of "I ran", which is more meaningful to the dreamer, in this case, than any other associations related to the culture or history of Iran. "I ran": implying "flight", and "running away, rather than facing a challenge." It turns out that the dreamerís acute sensitivity and fear of being rejected by others has led him to retreat into his daydream world, where he cannot be judged or hurt, but at the price of cutting him off from the real world. So the dreamerís work must begin here, with efforts to restore his confidence, and his self-esteem; with efforts to make himself capable of enduring some criticism and some rejection, which are the obligatory gauntlets anyone must pass through on the way to success.  Back To Top

Daydream Analysis

Surprising though it is to many, just as dreams can be analyzed and interpreted, so, too, can daydreams! The daydream is, of course, usually very different from the nighttime dream, much more consciously produced, and therefore, less deep; yet even so, it may still contain many revealing and enlightening elements from the unconscious, which tend to surface in a more straightforward way than in nighttime dreams, less hidden and disguised by cryptic symbols.

One good way to use daydreams as a tool for self-analysis is to ask oneself what need does the daydream seem to be fulfilling in my life? For example, someone who constantly daydreams that he is a football hero, winning important games, even the Superbowl, in front of cheering and adoring crowds, is most likely trying to experience that level of joy, love, admiration, success, and glory that most of us secretly long for, but few of us ever manage to attain in real life. It is a search for status, skill, self-esteem, that precious feeling of being important, of mattering to others. In the case of a daydream like this, it doesnít necessarily indicate that we need to make any major changes in our lives; but it does put us into contact with that part of ourselves that aspires to be successful and loved. Though not many of us can ever hope to be a great football player, it is good to know that we have this emotional aspiration inside of us - that is, the aspiration to be successful and loved (football is just one vehicle for realizing this aspiration). Maybe we can experience at least a little of this success and love in the context of our own real-world lives, by doing the best we can in whatever it is we do.

Of course, the main value of a daydream such as this probably does not lie in anything it teaches us about ourselves, or induces us to do, but in its ability to give us a respite, for a time, from this very cruel world in which we, all too often, do NOT seem to matter, do NOT seem to be important, and do NOT seem to be admired. It is a kind of revitalizing escape, that can recharge our emotional batteries, let us soak in a little self-esteem through our fantasy role, and work off stress. In just the same way as a vacation away from work, to some beautiful tropical island paradise, can refresh us and help us to unwind, so these little mental vacations of daydreams may help to keep us from burning out in the face of frequently grinding and demeaning life conditions. Of course, once balance is lost, and daydreaming becomes overextended, the revitalizing temporary escape could be transformed into an endemic, long-term disengagement from life, a kind of drug addiction aimed at killing the pain, instead of changing the external circumstances responsible for causing the pain. In that event, the fantasy would become counterproductive. I would call this phenomenon of excessive daydreaming, to the detriment of functioning effectively and remaining motivated in the real world, fantasyholism. Less destructive than alcoholism or heroin addiction, to be sure, but still a threat. However, I also feel that very few people actually overuse daydreams to this extent, and, for the most part, consider daydreams to be a healthy, and in our society, probably necessary form of emotional relief. (If it is considered legitimate behavior to watch the daydreams other people have made for us, on TV and at the movies, why not watch the daydreams that we, ourselves, are capable of making in our minds?!)

Of course, sexual daydreams are also very common. Even more common, in fact. Whereas some puritanical groups might consider this behavior to be sinful and depraved, from the biological and psychological point of view sex is one of the greatest natural pleasures in life, and truly one of the great emotional centers of our existence. It is a kind of sacred site in our psyche, a place that we all long for, a place that seems to be in our bodies, but really is in our souls: a drive, a vision, that we cannot run from without losing the blood of our life. Daydreaming about it can surely help to fill us with vitality and hope. Of course, it might be better to really experience it! But, then again, outside of fantasy, sex DOES become more complicated, so that there is certainly a role for sexual daydreams, especially when the "real thing" is not attainable, without risking danger, or committing injustices.

Dealing with the "sports hero" and "sexual" daydreams on an individual level, I have said that there is often not much room for action/response indicated by analysis. While many young boys are inspired by daydreams of this nature to play ball and struggle to make it to the pros, most encounter limits along the way that convince them that they will never be able to reach this dream in reality; and so the dream then becomes a kind of emotional enrichment and relief fantasy, as they go on to other things, and live other kinds of lives, hopefully doing the best they can in whatever it is they end up doing. In terms of the sexual fantasy, much the same can be said. These fantasies may help to prepare and motivate an individual for real sexual experiences, but after a while, it is likely that they will become a kind of "secret addition" to an existing sexual relationship, allowing an individual to experience some of the enjoyment of having an affair, or multiple affairs, without having to run the risk of actually destabilizing a real marriage or partnership, and harming others, or being harmed. While some purists may regard such fantasies as "unfaithful" or even "adulterous" acts, once again, the evidence seems to be that we human beings have a much wider and more intense range of sexual interests than those permitted, without resistance, by social convention; in which case sexual daydreaming really ought to be seen as a bulwark of existing social convention, since the fantasy release it allows may partly defuse the drive to seek gratification in the real world: a drive which, if it retained its full force, might go on to express itself and even destabilize the system.

But, once again, these comments apply to the usefulness of these daydreams to individuals, in terms of what individuals can actually do with them. Taken to another level, to the social and cultural level, these very common, almost universal, daydreams, assume startling importance. For they show us, deep inside, the strength of our inner needs and longings. If so many of us are really frustrated heroes, what effect could this have on the course and behavior of our civilization? And if sex and the desire to have sex is really SO important to us, what of its effect on our society, and the way we act in the world? Is it possible, as some believe, that frustrated heroes who will never make it to the Superbowl, might one day turn a nation into a team, a world into a stadium, and turn politics into a kind of Superbowl, for the chance to live out this fantasy in the real world? And how much of the conflict, and desire to acquire wealth and power that takes place in the world today, contains elements of the sexual drive within it, elements of the mating ritual, in which the strong ram, smashing horns with the others, wins the female of his species; in which the peacock with the treasure of the most colors in his tail, wins the prize of love? Members of the opposite sex, seduced by triumph, to either be possessed physically, or maintained, subconsciously, as a "harem" of admirers, and potential lovers? Clearly, in this sense, by teaching us more about ourselves, daydreams such as this, which really do not frame any clear "response" for the individual, DO indicate the need to study our civilization in greater detail, so that it may more give more room to the longings revealed by fantasy, and satisfy them to the extent possible, in constructive ways. (This theme is dealt with, in depth, in my two books, The Journey of Rainsnow and The Message of Rainsnow.)

But the point of this section is not to discuss the structure of our civilization, and its level of emotional resonance with human nature. It is to discuss the usefulness of daydream analysis to individuals.

Returning to this theme, we may consider a daydream in which a worker imagines battering his boss - not just beating him up, but torturing him, and brutalizing him.

I have already dealt with similar material in the previous section on dreams. This fantasy obviously implies a great deal of resentment against the boss (duh!!!!). It is probably a healthy venting experience, as long as the worker has got a firm grip on reality and on the consequences of acting out in the real world; as long as he knows that this stuff should never leave the realm of fantasy, and as long as it is meant to stay in fantasy, and is not some kind of psychological preparation for acting out. In the case of this daydream, there does seem to be an application, which would be that the dreamer should try to find ways of defusing the situation at work which is causing him such fury, or else begin to seek ways of leaving that job and finding another. Sometimes, philosophy or religion can help a person to defuse such a situation merely by changing his attitude or perspective towards it. (For instance, some people scream and become hysterical when they see a mouse, while others just walk by and laugh. Same mouse, different perspective. Or take the man whose car breaks down. Heís furious and frustrated. But if his car went off a bridge and into a freezing river, and he managed to open the door, get out, and swim to the shore, he might not spend too much time dwelling on the loss of his car. He might, instead, rejoice in the miracle of his amazing escape. In both cases a car would have been lost; but totally different perspectives would surround these incidents.) Philosophy and religion may sometimes help us to achieve healing changes of perspective, that can transform a situation internally, so that it does not feel the same, and therefore, cannot hurt us the same. At other times, however, it seems, the situation really DOES need to be changed, either by struggling to change the dynamics in the workplace, or physically removing oneself from the abuse, as in getting another job.

Here is one more daydream, and a useful one in terms of illustrating the possibility of using daydreams as an analytical tool:

A man frequently daydreams that he is a hero soldier. He accomplishes a daring and important mission that helps to save his country, but at his moment of triumph, is blown up and killed, dying tragically.

The hero-soldier part is pretty easy to understand, it is just another expression of the daydreamerís longing to be a great, heroic, admirable, and admired figure. The war imagery and context could reflect a slightly more aggressive tone than that encountered in the sports hero daydream, although sports also embodies a high degree of aggression; or the war context could simply be a means of increasing the daydreamerís fantasy risk, elevating it to a higher level (for he is risking death, not just defeat in the Superbowl. This could, in turn, make his fantasy triumph far more meaningful.)

The key question that might be asked with regard to this daydream is, why the bloody, tragic end? Why not simply victory, a homecoming parade, a medal? Of course, there is no formula answer for this question. Instead, a process of communication between the daydreamer and the interpreter, or an honest inner dialogue conducted by the daydreamer himself, would be necessary to draw conclusions. Could it be that the tragedy became a part of the fantasy, because a tragic death would increase the level of adoration and reverence for the fallen hero, carrying it to its ultimate pinnacle? (Who can ever compete with a martyr for sympathy and love?) Or could the whole fantasy be a form of revenge against a society which never recognized him? The heroís way of saying, "Look how great I am, I saved you in spite of yourself! And now Iíve died, so you will never have a chance to thank me and make it up to me, to erase what you did to me, but will forever be burdened with the weight of your neglect!" A very fierce form of punishment, indeed! Or maybe the tragic death is an escape from the pressure of being a hero. After all, once you have reached the top, and won the love of an entire country, where do you go from there? Peopleís expectations will be raised, and your every move will, perhaps, be scrutinized and judged by the standards of your greatest effort, which you fear, you will never be able to repeat. You can only go down from here, disappoint them, and fail. So in order to protect the success you have won, the ending to the story must be tragic, you must be cut down, to be immortalized in your prime. Or, the tragic death could reflect a residue of guilt and self-destructiveness. The daydreamer may feel that he does not deserve success, or fear that his success may harm another (someone who may get in the way, or else wither from envy, and feel diminished in the shadow of his greatness, injured by seeing someone else accomplish what he could not); but still, the daydreamer longs for success so much that he drives himself to attain it, in spite of the consequences; then, at his moment of triumph, sensing what he has done, he has no choice but to punish himself for it.

Obviously, by exploring this daydream in depth, the daydreamer may come to reach a greater understanding of himself, his feelings, needs, fears, attitudes, and relationships with others. The insights which might be gained, using this daydream as a launching pad for internal exploration, could lead him to find ways of increasing his happiness and effectiveness in the world.  Back To Top

 

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