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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Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

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