Understanding Your Dreams

Dreams are a natural, normal part of the human sleep cycle. They aren’t prophecy, nor are they an unknowable phenomenon of a mystical world.

What they are, are rich, dynamic sources of information and creativity because unlike the daytime mind, the sleeping mind is wildly free from the limits of what is imaginable, plausible and – here’s the big one – acceptable. Paying attention to your dreams can provide rich insights into the issues that are playing on your mind. 

 Dreams are the brain’s way of working on important issues, problems or emotions that are leftover from when we’re awake. Because the sleeping mind isn’t constrained by rational thought processes (because this part of the brain is shut down when we sleep), dreams are rich in their potential to offer creative solutions or another slant on something we are dealing with.

The content of dreams is the information that we already have, just organized and sorted through a different, novel, creative way. This often gives rise to different, novel, creative solutions.

If there’s a particular issue you want to apply your sleeping, though very powerful, mind to, see here for a how-to on how to manipulate the content of your dreams (scientifically proven of course!).

Understanding The Dream

Given that you’re the writer, director, sometimes the star, and always the audience of your own dreams, the aspects of dreams are generally an aspect of some part of you or the your life.

Because dreams are fed by the dreamer’s circumstances, outlook, emotions, struggles, joys, the particular meaning of a dream will differ from dreamer to dreamer.

Let’s say, for example, that the dream is one of a birth. This doesn’t mean you’re about to have a baby (though if you’re nine months pregnant it’s not out of the question). Rather, it’s a non-literal, creative representation of something that your brain is working on, something associated with your real life. Is your brain trying to process emotion around an beginning? Of a job? A relationship? Perhaps even a letting go? A moving on? A fresh start?

Perhaps your dream is that you’re dying. That might be referring to a part of yourself or your life that you’re struggling to hold on to. Is there a part of yourself that’s been shut down lately? Is there something you’re worried about losing? Perhaps you’re moving on and there’s been a letting go or an ending of something. Do you need to let go? Do you need to pay more attention so something doesn’t slip away? 

What about the classic – that you’re naked in public. Provided that you’re undies are on when you walk out the door then again, the meaning isn’t a literal one. Think about it … Are you feeling exposed? Are you worried about making a fool of yourself? Are you anxious about something? Are you worried about a secret coming out? Are you carrying a secret that might come out?

Everybody dreams, but not everybody remembers their dreams. In trying to understand the significance of a dream, it doesn’t matter if the entire dream isn’t remembered. Pieces or fragments will do. Any remembered dream or part of a dream is still alive and is likely to contain information relevant to something ongoing. Think about it and you’ll figure it out.

Nightmares

Nightmares stem from an issue that is highly charged or is demanding attention. It’s like having somebody first whisper sweetly, ‘Excuse me, but if you’re able and if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind listening to me when you have a moment?’ and you don’t listen, so they throw something at you that is, of course, soft and unlikely to cause concussion – let’s say, beach balls – and say, ‘Seriously, we’ve gotta talk sometime,’ and you still don’t listen so that throw themselves at your feet and scream at you in capital letters, ‘PAY ATTENTION DAMMIT!’ and with more exclamation marks than is reasonable for one person in one day. You get the idea.

For practical info on dealing with nightmares, have a look here.

Recurring Dreams

The meaning or significance of a dream won’t always be obvious straight away. If the issue the dream relates to is an important and ongoing one, the dream will recur until the issue is resolved. 

Through dreams, emotionally charged experiences can be replayed and processed. Each the time the dream is repeated, the detail contained in the dream may change, reflecting the parts of the issue that have been dealt with or worked through.

And Finally …

The symbolism in dreams is just the creative way the brain has organized the information.

If you are able to move through the emotion of a dream and look behind the symbolism, there will so often be rich insights waiting. Similarly, if you can harness the messages in your dream (that have come from your sleeping self) before they fall back into your unconscious mind, you’ll be surprised with what you’ll discover. 

5 Comments

Nicole

I’ve heard before that everyone dreams we just don’t remember all of them. However I haven’t had or don’t remember any dreams since I was a teenager. I’m 36 now and been researching this new awakened,conscious spiritual path that has seemed to take front stage in the world and it continues to mention dreams to mold your life. If I’m not dreaming or if I never remember any of my dreams how am I supposed to use it to my advantage? Is there some type of way for me to actually remember my dreams and if I’m not dreaming why?

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savannah

I’ve had a recurring dream after a few months of dating my boyfriend. In the dreams he cheats on me with this girl he dated a while back or he flirts with other girls in front of me and treats me terribly but hes the exact opposite of everything that happens in my dreams. I used to have a recurring nightmare of being murdered until this dream started amd now its the only dream ive had for the past 5 months. Could this dream be caused by my anxiety?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s important to remember that dreams aren’t predictions. They are the brains way of sorting through emotional ‘stuff’. If there are anxious feelings in you, or any sort of negative, confusing feelings, it makes sense that those feelings will come out in your dreams while you are sleeping. If you believe you do have anxiety, it’s worth trying to calm this down as a way to bring a more peaceful sleep. There are plenty of articles on this link that talk about ways to deal with anxiety https://www.heysigmund.com/category/being-human/anxiety/. Mindfulness and exercise are the big ones. Even if you don’t have anxiety, mindfulness and exercise are both great for mental health. Give them a go. I hope they are able to help you find calmer nights soon.

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Marie

I had a reoccurring dream as a child for years. I would be walking down my street and get to this one part of the path and it used to start to cave in. I would be running to get away from and out of the hole. I would then wake up from the dream in a sweat. It never really stopped just got less. A few people new about the dream. Some years later after leaving home my then fiancé (policeman) rang me and said, “that dream you used to have about the ground swallowing you up, well I am standing across the road where the ground has fallen away into a big hole. Apparently a water main had been leaking for many years and finally made a hole. How mad is that!!!

Reply
heysigmund

Wow! I have no words. That literally sent a shiver through me. Dreams are no end of amazing. I love this. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it. (I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about it now!)

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Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’
I love being a parent. I love it with every part of my being and more than I ever thought I could love anything. Honestly though, nothing has brought out my insecurities or vulnerabilities as much. This is so normal. Confusing, and normal. 

However many children we have, and whatever age they are, each child and each new stage will bring something new for us to learn. It will always be this way. Our children will each do life differently, and along the way we will need to adapt and bend ourselves around their path to light their way as best we can. But we won't do this perfectly, because we can't always know what mountains they'll need to climb, or what dragons they'll need to slay. We won't always know what they’ll need, and we won't always be able to give it. We don't need to. But we'll want to. Sometimes we’ll ache because of this and we’ll blame ourselves for not being ‘enough’. Sometimes we won't. This is the vulnerability that comes with parenting. 

We love them so much, and that never changes, but the way we feel about parenting might change a thousand times before breakfast. Parenting is tough. It's worth every second - every second - but it's tough. Great parents can feel everything, and sometimes it can turn from moment to moment - loving, furious, resentful, compassionate, gentle, tough, joyful, selfish, confused and wise - all of it. Great parents can feel all of it.

Because parenting is pure joy, but not always. We are strong, nurturing, selfless, loving, but not always. Parents aren't perfect. Love isn't perfect. And it was meant to be. We’re raising humans - real ones, with feelings, who don't need to be perfect, and wont  need others to be perfect. Humans who can be kind to others, and to themselves first. But they will learn this from us. Parenting is the role which needs us to be our most human, beautifully imperfect, flawed, vulnerable selves. Let's not judge ourselves for our shortcomings and the imperfections, and the necessary human-ness of us.❤️
The behaviour that comes with separation anxiety is the symptom not the problem. To strengthen children against separation anxiety, we have to respond at the source – the felt sense of separation from you.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person, there will be always be anxiety unless there is at least one of 2 things: attachment with another trusted, adult; or a felt sense of you holding on to them, even when you aren’t beside them. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it needs more than an adult being present. Just because there is another adult in the room, doesn’t mean your child will experience a deep sense of safety with that adult. This doesn’t mean the adult isn’t safe - it’s about what the brain perceives, and that brain is looking for a deep, felt sense of safety. This will come from the presence of an adult who, through their strong, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for them, and their joy in doing so. The joy in caretaking is important. It lets the child rest from seeking the adult’s care because there will be a sense that the adult wants it enough for both.

This can be helped along by showing your young one that you trust the adult to love and care for your child and keep him or her safe in your absence: ‘I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.’ This doesn’t mean children will instantly feel the attachment, but the path towards that will be more illuminated.

To help them feel you holding on even when you aren’t with them, let them know you’ll be thinking of them and can’t wait to be with them again. I used to tell my daughter that every 15 seconds, my mind makes sure it knows where she is. Think of this as ‘taking over’ their worry. ‘You don’t have to worry about you or me because I’m taking care of both of us – every 15 seconds.’ This might also look like giving them something of yours to hold on to while you’re gone – a scarf, a note. You will always be their favourite way to safety, but you can’t be everywhere. Another loving adult or the felt presence of you will help them rest.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or whether to say anything at all. It doesn’t matter if the ‘right’ words aren’t there, because often there no right words. There are also no wrong ones. Often it’s not even about the words. Your presence, your attention, the sound of your voice - they all help to soften the hard edges of the world. Humans have been talking for as long as we’ve had heartbeats and there’s a reason for this. Talking heals. 

It helps to connect the emotional right brain with the logical left. This gives context and shape to feelings and helps them feel contained, which lets those feelings soften. 

You don’t need to fix anything and you don’t need to have all the answers. Even if the words land differently to the way you expected, you can clean it up once it’s out there. What’s important is opening the space for conversation, which opens the way to you. Try, ‘I’m wondering how you’re doing with everything. Would you like to talk?’ 

And let them take the lead. Some days they’ll want to talk about ‘it’ and some days they’ll want to talk about anything but. Whether it’s to distract from the mess of it all or to go deeper into it so they can carve their way through the feeling to the calm on the other side, healing will come. So ask, ‘Do you want to talk about ‘it’ or do you want to talk about something else? Because I’m here for both.’ ♥️
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