How To Interpret Dreams?
What do our dreams mean?
I am often asked: “Please, could you interpret my dream?” or “Do you know the meaning of my dream?” The people are asking, because I am interpreting dreams for many years. I build and run a website where I publish my dream interpretations since 2007. For now, it's only in my native Czech language. As I am unable to answer all these dream interpretation requests, I decided to write this article as a simple guide for everybody interested in the question: “How to interpret dreams”.
- Dream meaning is always unique
- Interpret dreams according to your life story
- Collect your dreams
- Where to start with your dream interpretation
- What is the purpose of dreams?
- Dream interpretation dictionary
Dream meaning is always unique
First thing you have to consider when interpreting a dream is a fact, that there is no universal interpretation, symbol or meaning. You can use a dream dictionary as a source for inspiration, but you can not relay to it. But you can't stick to it if you seek deeper understanding. All you wi'll find in a dream dictionary is very simple and especially symbolic explanation, not the real menaing. As an example, it's obvious that if you were living in India, a cow would in the first place stand for a sacred animal, but if you were in US, your first thoughts of a cow might be “steak, farm, western movie, countryside, Chicago Bulls, etc.”
Interpret dreams according to your life story
You have to interpret your dreams always according to your life story, simply because every life is different and unique. Of course almost all people feel love, enjoy holiday, have to work etc., but their attitude towards this events can be very different. For one “love” is the mental relationship or the invisible bond, but for the other “love” means sex and physical contact in the first place. For one “holiday” is an endless time idly spent on the beach, but for the other “holiday” is an exciting and exhausting travel in the mountains. A “success” can be a well payed hard-work for one, but the other can feel “success” when marrying someone rich. So you see, that every life story can differ a lot and therefore it is not possible to have universal dream meanings and interpretations. When someone dreams about love, it means something particular related to his/hers own love perception.
Collect your dreams
» One dream is not enough
When you want to understand your dreams and their menaning, you have to collect them. If I would tell you only about one day in my life, you would not know, if it was my ordinary day or if it was an exceptional one. And the same applies to dreams. Only in dream series you can discover what is common and what is rare. The most important thing in dream series is the transformation. You will discover how does your main topic changes and develops over the time.
For example when I was at the university, I had a very long dream series about flying. During few months of observation and my dream analysis I found out, that important are high voltage wires, which appeared from time to time in my flying dreams. They represented an obstacle – some form of invisible threat (I usually noticed them in last minute). And I found out, they symbolize the social chains and high social demands for me. I studied the faculty of fine arts at that time and as an artist I wanted to “fly away” from my narrow-minded neighborhood. But at the same time I felt the social pressure (family, girlfriend etc) how to “behave well” or “obey traditional values” (money, career, health, be a role model), which was presented as wires in my dreams. The whole situation was very stressful for me in the long term, so these wires were logically high voltage wires and I was very afraid of them. As I grew older these wires slowly disappeared from my dreams. I found inner reconciliation between social demands and my “artistic” and independent view of the world.
» Write down your dreams immediately
If you want to find the correct meaning, crucial is to remember your dreams properly. Human memory is very poor and people often distort and enhance their dreams during the day. They tend to fill all the memory gaps, so if a dream was too much fantastic (or sometimes too less) or something from the dream is missing, people will manufacture artificial memories to glue up the dream in a compact unit. To avoid this you should write down your dreams immediately. It is appropriate to have notebook, pen or voice recorder near your bed. A smart phone can do all of that today also. If you wake up during the night, it's good to capture your dream at that instant. When you wake up in the morning, it's the best time to recollect all your dreams and take notes. The golden rule is: “Collect your dreams as soon as it is possible”.
Where to start with your dream interpretation
The usual dream reflects your daily life and serves as a“mirror” or “counterpart” to your waking state (more on this below). Basically if you perceive the outside world as hostile or unfriendly, your dreams will be probably also full of danger, tension and anxiety. And in such case you will dream only from time to time about beauty, love and peace (as a “reward” from your unconsciousness).
And the dream menaing? Where to begin with your dream interpretation? You should analyze the dream content step by step and watch carefully changes of the most noticeable elements. When thinking about a dream meaning, always ask some essential questions:
» Where is your dream taking place? (meaning of the environment)
- Is your dream taking place in the nature?
(countryside, forest, meadow, waterfall, jungle etc.)
- Is your dream located in the city?
(street, household, office, factory etc.)
Dream example 1: I had once a very special dream about my children. Most of my dreams are taking place in the city (because I live there), but this one was exceptionally placed in a meadow. I saw a child and a woman there. I had strange feeling that the child is missing the father. Suddenly I realized that it is my son and my wife. Interpretation: The dream was a wake up call for me to figure out, how little attention I pay to my family due my demanding work. The nature in the dream was a symbol for spontaneity of the whole situation. It is “natural” to care about family and children, so my dream placed the whole event into the nature.
Dream example 2: A dream from a middle aged man: He is in a large empty hall (maybe some factory) with a girlfriend. They are holding hands together. She wants to show him something from the window. But there is a young boy sitting high on the windowsill. The man has to move him away unwillingly. The boy bursts into tears. Then the man looks from the window and discovers a top of some church. But now he has dirty hands. He can't hold his girlfriend. He is looking for some toilet but in vain. Interpretation: The large empty hall is a symbol for man's inner life emptiness which shows the significant contrast to the nearness of a lovely woman. But something is wrong and he has to look from the window. Window is an important symbol for broadening of horizons. But there is an obstacle, a young boy (meaning: the own childish part of this dreaming adult man). He is not able to deal with the boy properly and he starts to cry. From the window he sees a top of the church (meaning: what else coud be more spiritual and fulfilling space than this empty factory). And what is the result? He has dirty hands and can't touch his girlfriend. The meaning of the dream would therefore sound like: “try to accept and understand your own infantile side better (crying boy), because it will help you to seek new spiritual horizons (top of the church) and maybe enhance relationships with women (dirty hands).”
Conclusion: Usually dreams are located in your native and familiar environment. Your home is something close and safe for you – as a shell for a snail. If you live in the city, your apartment can be your home, base and shelter at the same time. And you will perceive the woods and lakes as unfamiliar space, where your unconsciousness governs. On the contrary, if you come from the countryside, you will probably feel strange in a city, where is too much hustle and bustle. Anyway, the location of your dream is always the starting point for your dream interpretation. Every time you make your dream analysis, you should think about the reason, why your dream was placed exactly in some particular environment and what is your relationship to this place.
» Who is in your dream? (social meaning)
- How other people behave in your dreams?
- Are your dreams “crowded” with people or you feel rather solitude?
- Are you often surrounded with strangers or you meet more friends and beloved ones?
To the dream meaning is essential who you meet in your dreams. Because the individuals you encounter in your dreams often represent either different parts of your own personality or your suppressed feelings towards this real people. If you dream often about your father, your relationship will be maybe problematic or there is some issue with your parental or directional role in the society. If you feel solitude in your dream, it can be sign that your real relationships are not fulfilling. If you meet a lot of strangers, it can alert you on the fact that you don't trust anyone. If you are a man and you meet a woman in your dream, always think if she could represent the female part of your own personality (meaning: your own inner dialog with feminine side). Or if you see a child in your dream, think about the possibility that it could be your own infantile part – even an adult has a child inside. Every time you interpret a dream try to make a connection between your dream and your everyday life.
- Are there animals in your dream?
- Do you dream about lovely pets or about powerful monsters?
- Are the animals in your dreams under control or do they threaten you?
Animals often symbolize your own unconscious desires. It is therefore significant how they behave. If they are under control, you probably manage your unconscious desires in your real life well. But if they threaten you, you should think seriously if you master consciously your own decisions in the waking life.
Dream example: A dream from a middle aged man: I am a black raven, which flies out from home. I see Mordor (the region occupied by evil) in the distance. I sit on a commander, who is standing in front of a great army. I give him advice. Interpretation: The man feels anxious in waking life and the anxiety is materialized into Mordor in his dream. He don't master the situation and therefore he needs a whole army and some commander (in his other dream he is for instance going by bus, but the driver is his father). To be a bird is an excellent dream form, how to fly away from danger in case of necessity. The bird's appearance also symbolizes spiritual nature and only weak bonds to the material ground.
» What is the overall atmosphere, development and the ending of your dream?
- Is your dream scary from the very beginning or it turns out wrong only at the end?
- Do you fight with problems in your dream or you feel resigned?
- Does your dream offer at least some sort of solution at the end or you rather wake up before some disaster comes?
The structure of your dream tells you, how you are able to solve your real problems. It is very inspiring to compare your dream structure with the Greek drama structure. Most important is, if you feel some catharsis at the end of your dream. Catharsis is some form of „purification“ or „cleansing“ that leads to „renewal“ and „restoration“, what is very useful process for your mental health. Therefore it matters in your dream whether the plot ends well or if you have to wake up only few seconds before someone cuts your head off or before you fall into an abyss. But don't despair if you have such terrible dreams. In most cases you are not able to influence the progress of your dreams. Because dreams serve as some mirror to your waking life, you have to search the improvement in your conscious self.
What is the purpose of dreams?
“Why do we dream?” Excellent question at the end! There are many theories but two fundamental ones are those from Freud and Jung. Freud was a biologist and materialist and therefore he claimed, that the dream is a „guardian of the sleep“ and it's purpose is „wish fulfillment“. Jung was oriented culturally and spiritually a therefore he considered the dream as an „counterpart“ (compensation) of our waking and conscious mental activity. According to Jung the dream efforts to expand our conscious attitude, when trying to bring “new horizons” into our consciousness. Compensation is an activity in which unacceptable levels of consciousness (what Jung called the "shadow") are not used in waking life and they try to gain some clear form and expression in dreams. Thus, the dream is a permanent and fruitful dialogue between the conscious and unconscious world within us.
The dream deals with the memories from our waking life and to a certain extent, the dream is an extension of it. I would say it is a „mirror“ of our waking life. Since sleep is a healing activity, it can be assumed that the purpose of the dream is also curative.
In my opinion you can imagine the dream as a river stream, which slowly makes pebbles from the sharp stones. As the water in the river is trying to wash away the dirt and grind sharp and dangerous stones, also our dreams are trying to help us get rid of unpleasant memories and wash away those unnecessary ones.
If you want to look for some inspiration for your dream interpretations, you can look separately into popular dream dictionaries or you can use my personalized search filed below. It will show you results from a dozen of top dream dictionaries to your query.
Good luck and sweet dreams.