In this section I wanted to share some general guidelines you can apply toward interpreting your own dreams (see disclaimer in Part I);
1. Break it down. Rather than considering the dream as a whole, split it up into separate parts. Here are some examples of how to do this. All of them are effective in their own way & can also be combined with the other techniques;
~ An easy way to begin is to read through a dream from start to finish, taking note of each individual symbol, action, etc. as you go.
~ Look at the dream in a linear fashion; what happens at the beginning, middle & end?
~ Separate dream elements into different parts of speech; nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. These parts of speech lend themselves easily to further division (i.e.; Nouns--Settings, people, animals, etc.)
2. Consider both the literal & figurative aspects of dream symbols. Try some free association. Really push yourself to think outside the box on this one. "Going to the gym" may indicate a workout, but it can also imply visiting your friend, Jim. A friend once relayed a dream to me in which a dog wouldn't leave her alone, regardless of her efforts. To me it seemed clear that something was "hounding" her. In one of my dreams there were horses in my old neighborhood. These two disparate symbols were connected, though; one sound horses make is a "neigh." The connection was further confirmed when I realized that the horses also happened to be on "Canter"bury Road. In a similar vein, look at words broken down into their component parts. "Popeye" is not just a sailor man or a great place to get fried chicken. It's also "pop" and "eye" (or "I.") Consider, too, that rhyming words may also be connected. In one of my dreams, a ball and a wall both turned out to be obstacles to my goal.
3. Consider dream symbols from different eras of your life, not just where you are now. I sometimes dream of fairs or markets, both of which were prominent during my teen years, so I look at those dreams from that angle; where was I (psychologically or developmentally,) as a person then? What's this dream trying to tell me about that time of my life & how it affected me?
4. As mentioned previously, one theory of dream interpretation suggests that everything in your dream represents a part of your Self. Look at each symbol through that lens--what part of me could this building (etc.,) symbolize? What condition is it in? What does the dream tell me about it?
5. Unusual size may represent importance or prominence in your life, a "big deal" or not. Something that's unnaturally large may be something you need to pay more attention to than something that's unnaturally small. An unusually small thing could also point toward your needing more of it in your life than you currently have.
6. Generalize to see the bigger picture. Don't get caught up in minutiae. You can spend a lot of time & energy (for example,) trying to determine specifically what the wall in your dream symbolizes (how high was it, what color was it, what was it made of, etc., etc.,) or you can consider that a wall is ultimately an obstacle or barrier. That's not to say the wall can't be further examined, but it may help to look at the bigger picture for starters.
7. Look for related or repeated themes, not just through series of dreams, but in individual dreams, themselves. I find that I often dream of "two" or "a couple" of something, or that I'll have to do something twice. Give such things further consideration. There's probably a reason why your subconscious keeps bringing them up.
8. Handwrite to more fully engage the brain. Here's an exercise you can try (with a single dream);
A. Write down the dream's symbols in capital letters (so they'll stand out,) on a piece of paper. Be free with your writing--put the words all over the place, tilted in all different directions--don't write in list form.
B. Draw a circle around each word. Leave room for more writing inside of the circle.
C. Consider each symbol separately (using the previous examples) & write down or draw associated words/ideas inside the applicable circles.
D. Look for similarities between symbols, words & ideas & draw lines between the related circles.
Not only does the act of writing &/or sketching engage the brain like no keyboard ever will, but this method is often helpful in discovering less than obvious connections between dream symbols. You can take this exercise further by coloring all circles containing verbs one color, all circles with peoples' names another, etc. You can also use different colored lines between circles to indicate different correlations. Be as creative as you’d like. Remember; there's no right or wrong here.
9. Start your OWN dream dictionary, maintain it & use it. As previously mentioned, no one knows you like you do. Feel free to add new information to old entries over time, but try to avoid erasing previously recorded information. Those old words may trigger new ideas, after all.
10. Stick with it & don’t get discouraged. Remember that not every dream is going to contain some mind-blowing element of self discovery. Dream interpretation is largely about thinking "outside the box." As such, it's an exercise in stretching one's mind, in creating new neural pathways. These things don’t just happen overnight. As with many other things in life, perseverance pays off & practice makes perfect.