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!!!

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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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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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