Dreams hold fascinating meaning, but how do we interpret them?

As I stated in my previous post, What’s in a dream? (The power of therapy), my experience of a recurring dream I’d had for years suddenly stopping after a few weeks of therapeutic discussion with my analyst about a very specific topic, led me to be even more fascinated by dream work.

I was already enthralled by the work of Sigmund Freud – his masterpiece, The Interpretation of Dreams – which I will use as a base for the following series of posts on dream life, but having my own experience of the power of therapy and interpretation of dreams has led me down a great journey.

This great journey includes the writing of my first fictional novel, The Beckoning Rooms, which is currently with the editor (with already positive feedback from her and my beta-readers!).

This novel takes us into the unconscious mind of Jenna, Jeremiah and Jacob, in a very particular way, akin to what I went through in my therapy process.

I’ve written three dreams for Jenna so far in this blogsite, and in this postI’d like to explain a bit of why I wrote those. I’ll also interject some other dreams for Jacob and Jeremiah in the upcoming posts, to explain a bit more about how the unconscious mind works when we are asleep.

In the history of humanity, since ancient times, people have been trying to make sense of dreams, and this goes on up to this day.

There are many books that go into the specific interpretation of dreams, which I’d like to stay away from here, as I believe that dreams are very individual and very specific to the dreamer.

Dreams are telling of what we’ve gone through in the past, what happened to us in the days or even hours before the dream happened, and sometimes they might be pointing us towards our unfulfilled wishes and desires for our future (near and far) lives.

An example of an interpretation that might be too generic is the one with the dreams of your teeth falling out. It is popularly thought that this means that this relates to loss, anxiety, transitions in life, and so on. Other dreams are interpreted as some wealth coming your way.

This, for me, is too generic an interpretation, and leaves out the unconscious life of the dreamer.

As Freud says in one of his texts, when we are awake, there are at least two censors that prevent unconscious material from arising to consciousness. When we sleep one of those is removed and this is why the unconscious finds its way into our dream life in a much more easier and direct way.

Dreams are a safer way to explore our unconscious, without planning on doing so, it just happens. It’s less threatening than thinking it up in our conscious life, as we can leave the dream off as just that – a dream.

Unconscious material is there for a reason – we don’t want to know about it. It could be a past trauma in childhood or in previous years that we’d rather dissociate from, hence sending the emotions to the repressed part of our minds, leaving only the traumatic memory.

It could also be that we have so much shame about a particular situation that happened to us that we send it to the back of our minds, where it festers until talked about and processed (this is what happened with my dream – I spoke about the topic and the dream disappeared. It lost its power and purpose, leaving less unconscious material to be found).

Hence, a dream about losing our teeth becomes a very personal matter. If I dream about losing my teeth, it might be relating to a real loss that I might have experienced – a friend, a relative, and the dream might have elements of that lost loved one.

The dream might also just relate to the fact that I forgot to brush my teeth and my super-ego has seeped into my dream-life, telling me that it was a bad thing to do, and will be detrimental to my oral hygiene.

There are so many ways to interpret this dream, and I’m hoping that through those two examples, you can see the individualistic way of interpreting dreams is much more realistic and truthful to the dream itself, than giving it a generic, universal meaning.

I’ve had many experiences of interpreting dreams in my own life, but also in the lives of my clients.

All of them have been fascinating, as they add more to the story that is being shared consciously with me in the therapy session.

Dreams are often symbolic of something else.

This symbolism can help us gain access to those unconscious parts that have been left unprocessed, by one reason or another.

One reason might be that when the experience happened, we were too young to understand or to stand up for ourselves, and the unprocessed or un-said content is still wreaking havoc in our waking life.

As I can’t really reveal my clients’ dreams. In the next few paragraphs I’ll be explaining Jenna’s dreams and what they might mean in the context of her personal life (you’ll be able to read more about Jenna when the Novel is published in the next few months!).

Jenna’s first dream had to do with unicorns and fantastical creatures.

Jenna loved to read, and immerse herself in her books. They helped her cope with her life at that point in time.

Now, as an adult, she’s faced with the beckoning rooms, and a big part of her wishes she didn’t have to.

So what happens?

She takes herself back to a place where she felt safe. Where she could exist with mythical creatures that weren’t there to harm her or criticise her, or anything negative.

She took herself to her safe place, in her dreams.

This is what Freud might describe as dreaming up an unfulfilled wish.

Jenna’s second dream, entitled “losing it all”, is something that forms part of her recurring arsenal of dreams.

She has this dream often, and every time she wakes up with a feeling of anxiety all over her body.

In this dream, there is a sense of trust in the world, but this sense of trust is quickly shattered by the fact that her bag with all her belongings has gone missing from the spot she’d left it.

What does it mean to lose her personal belongings? Is it about the things themselves, or is there a deeper meaning here?

As you’ll read in the novel, there are things that are taken away from her, without consultation or care.

This dream is a direct re-living of the trauma she went through, the difference here is that she’s kind of done it to herself.

Does she feel she allowed these terrible things to happen to her in her past? Could she have prevented these things?

These questions might be swirling in her pre-conscious and unconscious mind constantly, and possibly activated by more recent events in her life – like the fact that her freedom has been temporarily taken away as she explores The Beckoning Rooms.

Finally, the third dream, is all about the end of Jenna’s world.

She dreams that she’s all alone in the world. No one else in sight. The familiar noises are gone.

This dream encapsulates a bit of what 2020-2021 has been about for many of us. The familiar is gone to a certain extent.

We’re having to regroup and rethink life as we knew it, as we endeavour to keep ourselves safe (and sane, let’s face it).

Is there a future? This is what Jenna is left with.

This dream might relate to her current predicament of being locked in the house with the Beckoning Rooms, or it might have a deeper meaning for her life.

What to do next might be a burgeoning question as she explores parts of herself she’d thought she’d left behind forever.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. Do let me know what you think in the comments or via the contact form.

Next week I’ll delve even deeper into Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, in a way that makes it accessible to our own dream life and everyday lives.

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