Dreams: Your Internal Compass

Love, Self

Dreams tell us what we need to know; but don't in our waking lives.

What if you had a source of information that offered guidance and a commentary on whether you are on the right track - professionally or personally? Would you be interested?

I challenge you to deny skepticism for a brief moment and consider the possibility that within your dreams is an untapped, hidden source of self-knowledge. Dreams tell us what we need to know but don't in our waking lives. (Robert Johnson)

Unconscious emotions, motivations and beliefs drive the very behaviors that can sabotage what we want. Dreams help us become more aware by providing insight into areas of our lives that need attention and showing where healing or adaptation needs to take place. They give commentary as well as direction on personal and professional aspects of our lives - almost like the reins of a horse that correct us when we go off track.

A few years ago, I had a dream of being imprisoned in a desert surrounded by a brick wall and chain link fence guarded by a somewhat arrogant and surly middle-aged man. On the other side was beautiful lush country and hills. I came to realize this dream was a metaphor of how I was trapping myself and keeping myself from being in the place I desired to be. 

Unfortunately, in our rational western thought, dreams are frequently discounted.  What we do not readily understand, we fear or dismiss. It seems few people choose to explore this world we visit every night.

Dreams have played a role in every major religion and have led to scientific discoveries and inventions:

The Talmud states, "A dream that has not been interpreted is like a letter unopened."

Kekule' was inspired to understand the molecular structure of Benzene by dreaming of a snake biting its tail. He admonished his colleagues, "Learn to dream!"

Einstein recounted that he first came up with the theory of relativity as an adolescent. He dreamed of being in a sled going down a hill faster and faster until it approached the speed of light. He even went as far to say, "That in many ways his scientific career could be seen as an extended meditation on that dream."

Dreams speak to us through metaphor and symbols. They offer ways to reframe and look at problems from different perspectives and broaden our horizons of inquiry. The messages of dreams are individual and we each have our own unique way of understanding them.

In studying over 65,000 dreams, Maria Von Franz, who in her time was considered the foremost authority in psychoanalytic theory concluded that we dream of exactly what we need in each particular life situation. She also believed that dreams have an advantage over other techniques of self-knowledge in that they give us a dynamic, continuous self-diagnosis and can clarify momentary erroneous attitudes or reactions to situations.

Jungian analyst Robert Johnson advocates that we never dream of anything that is not useful or needed. Jung believed, "In sleep we awaken to who we are. We need to be connected to our dream life because dreams show us the maps to our psyches."

In other words, dreams show us all that is psychologically real, but not conscious. Jung maintained that by rejecting our repressed unconscious self, we become destructive by projecting it onto others. This is referred to as our "shadow."

It is not necessary to be an expert on dreams to make good use of them. If we pay attention, dreams will assist us in recognizing, owning and accepting these unattractive aspects of ourselves. This is how we become whole.  We will be less likely to project our "shadow" on to others. Dreams also help us uncover our gifts, talents and abilities. By becoming more aware, we become architects of a richer life. We can discover our interconnections to others, our community and larger society and use these energies toward service. So, how can we use our dream life in useful and practical ways? Here are some tips to help find meaning in your dreams:

Most importantly, be open to them. Paying attention to dreams is like welcoming a friend. Once welcomed, dreams become clearer, more detailed and frequent. Record your dreams in a dream journal that is by your bed. Sudden movements or starting your early morning routine can make them quickly disappear.

Write in the present tense. Date and title each dream and look for themes over time. Imagine being the character or characters in the dream. Why are they doing what they are doing? Ask what is the reason that this dream came to me? What is this dream asking of me? What part or parts of me is this dream showing? What feelings did I get? All can lead to valuable insights. Look at each dream symbol as potentially a part of your self. Your own associations with each person place or thing can give valuable insight into your own dynamics as well as a commentary of situations.

Realize that dreams have multiple meanings. Each dream depicts elements of our personality and interior life. Could something in the dream such as a car or house be an analogy for the body? What creative or spiritual potential of you might the dream be about? Is it showing you some dimensions of yourself that you do not know about?

Join or start a dream circle. I have found that in groups where participants are in a trusting environment and can freely share insights of associations of dream symbols, powerful and often transforming insights can take place.

In these uncertain times, we have a tremendous need for visionary leadership and a recognition of our shared humanity. The use of dreams can alert us to the bigger picture and what really matters. With many of us facing difficult changes and complex decisions in this slippery economy and fragile world, we need to make more use of our whole minds and selves. We all can draw on sources of wisdom that may have been neglected.

We all dream and we all have the ability to use and develop our intuition. There is always a transmitter (our unconscious) sending out signals or information from within. It is worth paying attention to. Our minds have deep reservoirs of information, wealth and guidance just waiting to be tapped. All we need to do is pay attention to the symbols, sensations and images that come into our awareness.

If we are open to all our experiences, awake and asleep, our creative impulses will be stimulated and we can open otherwise closed attitudes, beliefs and opinions. The impact on our lives, decisions and others can be profound.

Published, August 1st, 2011

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.