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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Reflections on Dream Interpretation, Pt. I

Although we do know some things about the physical science of dreaming itself, dream interpretation largely remains a mystery to modern science. As such, there are no "hard & fast rules," nothing that's particularly "right" or "wrong" in or about the process. This being the case, the ideas expressed here reflect my own thoughts & experiences with the process & may ultimately hold no merit, scientifically. As such, feel free to consider or disregard this entire piece. (End disclaimer.)
I've found that many people (perhaps lacking faith or trust in their own abilities,) seek out the input of others for dream interpretation. Alternately they may rely on one of the many dream dictionaries available on the market today. The problem with this is that dream interpretation is a subjective activity, depending on the personality & experience of the interpreter. Considering this, I think it's safe to say that no one can interpret your dreams like you can. After all, no one knows you like you do.
That's not to say that outside input (be it a person, a book or a website,) has no place in dream interpretation, however. Sometimes we're too personally involved with something (what I sometimes refer to as "inside the box,") to see things clearly. Sometimes someone "outside the box" may have a wider, clearer view of the subject, or they may just have ideas that you haven't thought of. The discerning factor here is whether or not outside input "rings true" for you. If it doesn't, don't give it undue merit. Make a note of it, perhaps, but move on. Don't waste a lot of energy trying to make external input "fit." Trust & be honest with yourself.
There are many theories on dream interpretation, of course. Freud largely considered them wish-fulfillment messages. Although this may be the case with some dreams, I find this happens very rarely at best. Freud (who was not the "Father of Psychology," as commonly believed,) ultimately seems to have been off the mark on a wide variety of things, so I always take him with a serious grain of salt.
Another theory suggests that everything in a dream represents the dreamer in one way or another, even other people. Although I didn't give this theory much merit years ago, I've since come around to it. After all, since dreams arise from our own neural firings, they're inherently full of imagery & themes straight from our own brains, which got there through our own experiences, ideas & thoughts. As a result, my mother (who was very critical of me,) may represent the critical aspects of my Self. I still don't give this theory 100% merit, however. I merely use it as another tool, another way of looking at things. Mom sometimes does represent mom, after all.
Personally I think Carl Jung opened new doors on dream interpretation with his theories on archetypes of the collective unconscious. There are themes in peoples' lives & brains that do seem to span all humanity, as evidenced by the fact that virtually all early cultures have catastrophic flood myths. Archetypes help me identify themes spanning a series of dreams. For example, I may dream of a teacher one night, a Punjabi man the next & a priest the next, but ultimately they are all potentially represented by the archetype of the wise, old man. In this way archetypes often help me clear out the clutter & get to the heart of the matter.
This brings me to a related matter; that dream interpretation is usually more easily accomplished when I'm looking over a series of dreams, rather than just one. Symbolism in a single dream may be a fluke (of sorts,) but when similar things come up in 6 dreams out of 10 (for example,) there's a clear thread to follow & further investigate (for example, my recent dreams involving weddings vs. one about peoples' refrigerators.) Although I may not have many recurring dreams, I do often have recurring themes. In a sense, my subconscious is presenting the same material in different forms, I'm looking at the same thing from different angles. I would never notice these trends if I looked at one dream at a time.
Some dreams are very clearly influenced by the day's events. These are typically easy to spot. For example, if I watch "King Kong" & then dream of a giant gorilla, it's safe to say the movie has bled into my dream. I don't spend much time on these unless they relate to other dreams around the same time in some way, or if they relate to more intriguing symbolisms in the dreams in which they appear. Mundania is often just mundania, even in dreams.
Some dreams truly seem to be precognitions of real life events, in which case interpretation isn't really required. The problem with that is that the precognitive nature of such dreams isn't realized until later (in my case typically within 3 days or so.) I may write more about precognitive dreams in the future (pardon the pun,) but that's enough so far as they relate to this topic.

Part II coming soon...


Larry said...

My mother once dreamed that she heard my sister call out for help.-My mom was so startled by the dream that she immediately wrote on a piece of paper-3:15 am-Michelle cried out for help.

My sister who was living in another state that time called my mother that day to say that she and a friend had been in a car accident at the same time that my mother had the dream.

Brave Astronaut said...

Where to begin. My grandmother, who was thought to be a witch in our family, claimed to have dreamt about her father coming to see her in the night when he had died. Probably urban legend. My cousin had a vision of my grandfather, who appeared to him above a church altar after he died. It was the first time Victor (which was also my grandfather's name) had set foot in a church in some time.

I remember Omni magazine (and I may have even posted about this before), which used to have a dream issue now and again.

It used to say that you could influence your dreams by thinking about things right before going to sleep. Well, duh. Also, it used to say you could fly in your dreams, I used to try to fall asleep in a "Superman" pose. Stop laughing.

I also remember reading somewhere that often the events of two days ago will affect your dreams of tonight. I just returned from seeing "I Am Legend" I wonder what my dreams will hold from that. [shiver].

eric1313 said...

I like what you said about a person not trusting their own abilities. Since there is no right or wrong, it is purely up to interpretation. Therefore, positive and negative views of self and the world will play the biggest role in what we think they mean, which in and of itself represent patterns of thought that we could change--the glass half full from a half empty glass, to fall back on cliche. In that way, dream interpretation can lead to a real change in outlook, and positive one at that.

I also liked the mention of the universal flood myth, although some cultures, the Greeks to be specific about one, claim the world began in chaos--smae difference, as the melting of the ice age certainly caused a lot of chaos, as entire coastal civilizations were swallowed up, destroying the earliest economies and setting us back to late neolithic levels for the duration of upheaval. A good book on this is "Fingerprints of the Gods" by Graham Hancock.

Thanks for the visits, I linked you up to my sidebar. Take care!

Wren said...

Thanks for the very clear explanation. I don't pay much attention to my dreams and seldom remember them, but I'll give it some more thought the next time.

Maybe I should pursue my long-postponed resolution to read up on Jung and archetypes.

Travis said...

This is fascinating.

I don't remember most of my dreams, so it's very difficult for me to interpret anything based on patterns. Essentially, if I fall into a pattern when I'm remembering dreams for a length of time, then I start to pay more attention. But deciphering any kind of meaning still eludes me.

Charles Gramlich said...

You make some very good points here and I tend to agree with almost everything. I too find that I dream of something I've read or seen, not that same night, but 2 or 3 nights in the future.

Lana Gramlich said...

Larry; Welcome to my blog & thanks for your comment. It was odd to read, as a friend of mine told me virtually the same thing a few years back!

BA; My ex's deceased father allegedly appeared to him at the foot of his hospital bed after a horrific car accident with the message, "It's not your time yet." Many people have such stories. I even remember seeing one of our dogs running around our yard after she'd died. In my case, at least, I think my mind was playing tricks on me.
I can't say that about my precognitive dreams, however. I don't know what the future holds, so my mind can't be playing tricks on me. One such dream I had (combined with other, physical symptoms I experienced at the time,) ended up published in a journal by the American Society for Psychic Research.
I've never actually "flown" in a dream. I seem to have falling down pat, though. <:\ Sometimes I'm very high up in a scene, looking down on a city or a field, but I'm not going anywhere, so I don't count that as "flying." I've never adopted the Superman pose, myself, but I will stop laughing now. ;)

Eric1313; The world would be a much better place if people trusted more in themselves & their own abilities, y'know? This is how so many people get scammed--by giving up their own power to the hands of someone else. It seems to me that insecurity is the true root of all evil (money's just one of it's symptoms.)
I've read "Fingerprints of the Gods" & enjoyed it thoroughly. One of these days I'm going to have to break open his "Underworld," which has been sitting on my shelf for a few years now.
I'll return the favor & add you to my blogroll, as well. Thank you for that!

Wren & Travis; I used to be like y'all. If I rememebered 6 dreams in a year it was a good year. All it takes, really (both the recall & interpretation,) is some practice. We all have this wonderful window on our subconscious--why not use it? I'll be posting Part II in the next couple of days...Stay tuned. :)

Lana Gramlich said...

Charles; My precognitive dreams work in the other direction. I have the dream, then a few days later the event occurs. But that's a topic for another day.

Erik Donald France said...

Fascinating, indeed. Love it! It all makes a lot of good sense here.

Lana Gramlich said...

Erik; Thanks. :)

Marvin said...

The self-analysis/reflection that's inherent in dream interpretation is probably a good thing for most people -- another reason not to rely too heavily on outside "experts".

susanchap21 said...

Remembering and Interpreting Dreams on YouTube by Dr. Judith Orloff is very interesting.

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