Sleeping dreams hover in our psyche like silvery sprites gracing the doors of destiny. When we remember our dreams and interpret them correctly, they reveal hidden dimensions of our being and lead us toward self-fulfillment.
Dreams often come to us in symbolic form—as allegories, riddles, and metaphors. Interpreting them correctly can be a challenge. We can be fooled into false interpretations when dreams serve as psychological defenses.
In a dream, for instance, we might feel judgmental or even disgusted when we see someone who appears weak or who is acting foolishly. We don’t want to acknowledge that we’re seeing our own weakness through that person. A correct interpretation enables us to see ourselves more objectively, which is a great help in becoming wiser and stronger.
People hold widely divergent views of dream interpretation, and many dream interpreters tell us what we want to hear. We’re easily seduced into believing whatever puts a gloss on self-image rather than what’s true. We’re inclined to object to true interpretations because they often point out our psychological weaknesses rather than celebrate our strengths.
Dreams often reveal an inner conflict. A dream in which we fervently desire an object can be covering up our temptation to feel deprived of that object or other benefits of life. This is the conflict: While we want to get and possess nice things, we are at the same time emotionally attached to the feeling that we’re somehow missing out on good fortune.
Dreams in which we’re passive are very common, and they reveal our emotional entanglement in inner passivity which is a lingering emotional association from childhood. Often we dream about being defeated in some manner or being chased by cruel or malicious entities that want to destroy us. These dreams originate out of the inner conflict in our psyche between our aggression and our passivity. Dreams of being lost or travelling in wrong directions also identify inner passivity in the psyche. These dreamers are likely experiencing feelings of being unable to take charge of their life or unable to see how they might resolve important issues.
One of my clients had many dreams involving golf. He had played with passion and intensity on and off throughout his life. He was never consistent with his ball-striking, and his mediocre play was frequently a source of misery. For many years he had a recurring dream in which he was flubbing shots on a golf course or else trying to hit his drives in a tight confined space where a proper swing was impossible. In these dreams, he felt frustrated as well as ashamed of his poor performance. His emotional distress in these dreams was his defense, his attempt to prove he hated feeling helpless and being seen in a negative light. His inner conflict consisted of his keen desire to excel, at the same time that he was expecting failure and unconsciously facilitating it. Because the inner conflict was unresolved, he was compelled to recycle and replay the resulting negative emotions.
His feeling of weakness and incompetence had dogged him over many years in many aspects of his life. He stopped having this recurring dream as his growing insight resolved his emotional entanglements in passivity and the feeling of being seen in a negative light.
People often have recurring dreams of being pursued by malicious entities, being naked in public places, and being able to defy gravity and fly. The feeling of being pursued by monsters or thugs corresponds with the relentless harassment we can be experiencing from our aggressive superego or inner critic. In this type of dream, the act of running away or fearfully fleeing pursuers reflects an entanglement in inner passivity. This weakness in our psyche causes us to be intimidated by our inner critic. As we become emotionally stronger, dreams of being chased or troubled in other ways stop occurring.
Dreams of being naked in public places relate to repressed shame and unresolved emotions associated with being seen in a negative light. If in the dream we have no shame of being naked, we’re producing this defense: “I don’t want to be seen in a negative light or feel ashamed of who I am. Look, even when naked, I’m relaxed and unashamed.” (People can feel liberated at nudist colonies when their nudity serves this defense.) If, instead, we have a dream in which we’re ashamed of being naked, then we’re directly experiencing our entanglement in shame or rejection without an intervening defense.
Again, be thankful when you can see an emotional weakness. That’s how you’re able to overcome it. (Often we resist seeing an emotional weakness because our inner critic will harass us for having the weakness. Yet our inner critic has no business doing this. Our challenge on an inner level is to learn to deflect or neutralize these unwarranted accusations or attacks from our inner critic.)
The dream of being able to fly or levitate is a defense. Usually the dreamer feels pleasure in this ability to fly. This ability, however, is a claim to power. It is the dreamer’s attempt to “prove,” through the enjoyment of such flying, how much he or she wants to feel power. The defense proclaims, “I am not helpless and passive (usually referring to some recurring or particular situation or circumstance in one’s present life.) Look at what I can do. I have this power to fly. This is what I like.”
The flying dream can also be a defense intended to cover up one’s conscious or repressed feelings of being unworthy or not having value. “Look, I can fly,” the defense now proclaims. “I am special, I have great value.” The feeling of not having value is painfully apparent for many people. Our tendency is to repress this feeling and remain unaware of its presence in our psyche as we compulsively pursue external validation and the materialistic trappings of value.
These principles can also apply to recurring nightmares. Such nightmares indicate the individual is stuck emotionally in some acute inner conflict. Often the conflict centers on the inner standoff between our harsh inner critic and our beleaguered unconscious ego (the seat of inner passivity).
Some dreams do serve as indicators of our growing emotional strength. They show us handling challenging situations more adroitly than ever. In other related dreams, we can encounter strangers who are guides to psychological or spiritual awakening. I have had many dreams in which I was guided to follow certain practices or to undertake suggested actions involving, for instance, diet, exercise, breathing techniques, and financial and professional matters.
People often have recurring dreams about houses or cars. These objects symbolize our self. Anyone who dreams about wandering through an abandoned house, or searching in the nooks and crannies of a house, is experiencing a representation of the importance and value of growing awareness and self-discovery. Objects we see or find in such dreams can be clues to growing self-realization.
If you don’t remember your dreams, your psyche may not be active enough on your behalf. You can activate your dreaming life by persistently wanting to remember your dreams. Put a notebook and pen beside your bed, remind yourself of your desire for a dream before you fall asleep, and your dream life is likely to be stimulated. If you wake up at night remembering a dream, jot down at least a few headlines that reflect the essentials of the dream so you can remember it in more detail in the morning and reflect on it throughout the day.
An active dream life is a source of much pleasure. We feel more connected to ourself when we partake of the bountiful life of our psyche.