Understanding Dreams

Carl Jung, one of the greatest pioneers in the field of psychology, said that the only real adventure is the exploration of one’s own unconscious. His advice on how best to address the restlessness and discontent that affects nearly every human being at some point in his or her life was to look within. Our subconscious mind can communicate our deepest desires and fears to us through our dreams. Many people notice that their dreams become more emotionally charged and memorable at times in their life when they feel discontent. It has even been theorized that recurring dreams have an important lesson for the dreamer; once that message is realized, the dream will usually cease recurring.

Interpreting your dreams is not always easy or clear-cut. Sometimes it helps to use a dream dictionary but not everyone’s dream symbols conform to one interpretation. The best way to begin is starting a dream journal and keeping track of whatever you can recall, even if it’s only a fragment. Chances are, the dreams that mystify you the most or evoke an emotion are the ones that beg for your attention. When it comes time to interpret a dream, give attention to each character, situation, and setting. Ask yourself how each one may represent a part of yourself or the situation you are facing.

The following dream is a good example of how pertinent dream symbols can be:

A woman dreamed that she was leading a group through the woods for the purpose of exploration. She had a young adult man with her who was acting as an assistant. They came across a giant tortoise who told the woman she was hiding from a fierce bear that was roaming through the woods. The woman led the group to safety into an empty colorless building. The woman grew weary of waiting idly and helplessly inside this building; she then disregarded the danger of the bear and walked out through another exit. What she walked into was a vivid, Technicolor scene of a pond abound with aquatic animals and birds.

After analysis of the dream it seemed that the tortoise represented the feminine aspect of the dreamer. The tortoise was paralyzed by a fear of being controlled or harmed by a bear. In this case the bear represents the shadow, or dark side, of the dreamer’s unconscious. The dreamer’s male companion actually represented her own male side, as every person has a male and female aspect to his or her psyche. In order to overcome the controlling bear, the dreamer had to incorporate and express both her feminine and masculine traits. In the dream, this gave her the courage to walk out of the lifeless building into paradise. The lifeless building represented her life as it currently was: restricted and overly-safe. What she walked into was life as it could be if she mustered-up some initiative and took a risk.

This single dream, which probably lasted less than two minutes, proved to be a life-enhancing experience for the woman. So grab a journal, put it by your night stand, and start recording your dreams. You may be surprised at what you can learn about yourself.