If you have spent some time browsing this blog, you will see we have spent a lot of time exploring common dream themes and symbols that can have universal as well as personal meanings. Sometimes though, you may have a dream that just completely stumps you – the meaning may be so convoluted and obtuse that you don’t know where to begin to understand what your subconscious is on about.
When this happens, there are a variety of approaches you can take to try to understand what your dream means. Different methods will work better at different times, and no one way may be the “perfect” solution. As with any self development work, the best thing is to actually get on with it and try different things. We learn as we experiment, so try exploring some of these alternatives and see what works best for you.
It is often fascinating the way one thought can lead to another. Allow this chain of thoughts to unfold and see where it leads
1. Meditation/Reflection: This approach to understanding a complex dream is perhaps the most “passive.” It simply involves taking some quiet time, undisturbed, to sit with closed eyes and try to clear the mind. Just relax, let the mind float away and see what images or feelings come up. Pay attention to these, but don’t stop reflecting, let your mind keep wandering until you have had enough. It is often fascinating the way one thought can lead to another. Allow this chain of thoughts to unfold and see where it leads – the end of this process, or various points along the way may have relevant insights into what your dream is trying to tell you.
2. Automatic writing: Start by focusing on the dream or the particular image that is puzzling you. Then just start to write. Don’t stop to think, edit or revise, no matter how random, foolish or unrelated the words may seem. Just write and see what comes. When you are finished, take a break. Come back and read what you have written later, and see what the words reveal to you.
3. Word association: Similar to automatic writing, bit a little more directed, start with the main image or symbol of the dream you want to understand, and write this in the middle of a page. Then draw lines coming out of that word with other words this symbol makes you think of. For example “tree” may lead to “growth”, “green”, “forest” etc. The do the same for these words – “growth” may lead to “new beginnings”, “child” and so on. Continue on in this way and then reflect upon what your word chart reveals to you. How does this relate to your life, thoughts and feelings right now?
4. Get creative: If options 2 and 3 are too literal for you, another approach can be to turn the problem over to your creative side and see what it comes up with. Try to express your dream or a symbol within it through a creative process such as drawing or painting, music, sculpture etc. The process itself may open up your mind to subtle messages the subconscious is trying to reveal, and the end result may be profoundly revealing. But even if you have no break-throughs from this specific approach, do not feel discouraged. Work like this helps strengthen the connections between our left and right hemispheres, and by consciously engaging with our subconscious we can “activate” it. The result may not be an immediate clear interpretation of the dream, but possibly, further dreams that expand upon or explain the original dream, or even a mysterious deep understanding – something you “just know”, even if you can’t put it into words.
These are four approaches, but there are many more. I am currently in the process of developing some tools to help when you are truly “stuck” in understanding a certain dream or symbol. If you have any suggestions or comments, I gladly welcome them! You can contact me at The Dream Well.