We may have kept a dream journal for years and still not understand much of what they’re about. Ideally its best to interpret our own dreams, but to get started we can consult a dream dictionary. It can be frustrating, objects we sometimes encounter in our dreams may not exist in any dictionary, or even in nature, and different dictionaries can have different interpretations. There are exceptions though, some things have the same meaning for all people. These are called archetypes, and if the dictionaries are good, these interpretations will be consistent.
One thing to remember is that in most dreams the people and objects are not actual people and things we know, but parts of us, symbols, representations of our inner life. Most dreams are like this, and could be categorised as personal dreams. Occasionally we may have a dream which is about the outer world, and it may even be prophetic. And less often there are the dreams which are about humanity as a whole. Just as there are archetypal symbols, these universal dreams have themes common to all people in all times.
Many dreams are not only a rich source of imagery, they also contain a subplot of feelings, which can be a vital clue to the message the dream is conveying to us about our waking life. It’s not always easy to interpret this message, for the same reason that it’s difficult to draw our own face without a mirror, we’re too close to the subject. That’s where techniques can be helpful, they break the process down into steps and create a structure to work within, a clear path for the mind to follow. One such technique can be found in the book ‘Inner Work’ by Robert A. Johnson. Sharing our dreams and our interpretations with a person we trust can also help. Other people will have a different perspective and may give us insights we would never consider.
Even if we have difficulty interpreting our dreams at first, it’s still worthwhile to record them, because patterns will emerge. Over a period of time we will recognize common themes, a sign that our subconscious mind is busily processing what our conscious mind cannot. However much we understand about what goes on in our dreams, they are a fascinating part of us.