What appears obvious in a dream is usually not.
Dreams of sexual experiences are also common, including being with someone who is not your spouse or partner.
In my years working with dreams, whether my own or my clients’, one thing I can say with certainty is that the meaning of dreams is rarely obvious. Though some dreams may indeed be prophetic, in most cases this is the exception.
Therefore, it’s best not to interpret your — or anybody else’s — dreams by the feelings they provoke in your waking consciousness.
First, be aware that dreams speak to us in their own language. What appears obvious in a dream is usually not. Rather, dreams communicate to us in the language of symbols.
A dream dictionary can provide insight as to the meaning of certain things that appear in your dreams, like animals, vehicles, foods, machines, and natural objects.
However, the most relevant meaning of any symbol will be your own, and this is what makes dream interpretation equally so fascinating and so confusing. The dream language of each person is altogether unique.
Second, it’s important to be aware of the difference between your emotional reaction inside the dream (while asleep) AND outside of it (after you wake up).
Your first-person experience in the middle of dreaming, including all its related sensations and feelings, is called the "dream ego." This is different from your perception of the dream after you wake up, which is that of the personal or conscious: the ego.
Attempting to interpret a dream ONLY from the perspective of personal ego can cause us to be reactive or defensive. This will block us from the exploration of the dream’s deeper meaning.
If you have a dream about cheating, then, identify whether the dream ego or personal ego regarded the episode as such.
Say, in the midst of a dream about cheating, your dream ego is feeling in a state of complete bliss. Consider that the dream might be inviting you to reflect on your inner capacity for intimate connection in your waking life.
Conversely, obsessing over your personal ego’s reaction to this dream is likely to cause self-judgment, even shame.
In the language of dreams, every character is a symbol for some aspect of yourself.
So in the version of the dream presented above, the person your dream ego is cheating with might instead be interpreted as the "sensual" part of you, which is inviting you to confidently bring forth that quality in your waking life.
Instead, if your personal ego feels guilty about having had the dream, you close off any meaningful attempt to interpret it and perhaps create unnecessary anxiety for yourself.
In a dream, what if "you" cheat with someone you actually know in waking life? Foremost, beware not to confuse the characters who appear in dreams with the actual people they represent.
For example, say you have a dream in which the character "you" cheat with is the hot new neighbor. One interpretation of the dream might be that your inner "hottie" is nudging you to be more playful, flirty, or loving with your own partner in waking life.
Another kind of interpretation is to reflect on what cheating symbolizes to you. Has your life’s experience been that cheaters "get ahead", "get caught", "get punished", or "get the better of you"?
For instance, if you regard that cheaters are those who "get ahead", your dream might be using the cheater as an inner catalyst to draw out the assertiveness that you’ve suppressed.
In this sense, the cheater in your dream is not immoral but simply a messenger.
Dreams of behaving wildly are provocative and shocking to get your attention. Otherwise, you likely wouldn’t pay them any attention.
Importantly, such dreams are NOT reliable predictors that you or your partner are about to do something wild or self-destructive.
Because provocative and shocking dreams can be so confusing, even troublesome, it helps to seek someone who can help you process them objectively.
Certain therapists, like Jungian analysts, are specially trained to work with dreams. Alternatively, you might find or start a dream group in your local area, where people come together in a mutually-supportive space to share and reflect on each other’s dreams round-robin style.
When you’re curious about your dreams instead of afraid of them, you can uncover powerful insights about yourself, your desires, your inspirations, and even your purpose.
Don’t cheat yourself out of the opportunity to discern the deeper message of your dreams, but dive in with an open heart and prepare to blossom.
Stephen Dynako is a Courage Builder and author of The Self Aware Lover. He is certified as a dream work facilitator by the Marin Institute for Projective Dream Work (MIPD). Contact Stephen for a free consultation about how he can help you access your personal power and use it courageously in your life.
This article was originally published at Stephen Dynako's Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.