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2 April 2007
Understanding Your Dreams
by Charmaine Saunders

Dreams are direct messages from our subconscious mind and are therefore an invaluable source of information. However, because they come to us in images rather than verbal language, they can be frustrating and difficult to decipher. Dream recall is symbolic rather than literal, although sometimes, dreams can be remarkably easy to understand. For example, when you have a dream conversation and you can recall the actual words upon waking. With practice, you can learn to absorb your dream messages and remember a lot of your night-time adventures.

Everyone dreams every night but not everyone can remember their dreams. Some of us are natural recallers and some are not, but with sufficient motivation and practice anyone can learn to access dreams and their meanings. It's well worth the effort as dreams can serve a number of important functions such as emotional healing, releasing of fears and anxieties, receiving warnings and repairing childhood hurts. Let's look at a few different types of dream.

  • Digestive Dreams
    These literally digest the day's events, concerns, thoughts, ideas and so on. It's a processing system and although necessary, this type of dream does not usually contain memorable or important images and messages.

  • Creative
    Many famous creative works such as the poem "Kubla Khan" appeared firstly in the form of a dream. Paul McCartney says that he got the words and tune for his classic song "Yesterday" through a dream experience. We may not all be lucky enough to come up with a best-selling song or literary idea through our dreams but I suggest you write down any intuitive messages that come through. Original thoughts and insights, business concepts, ideas for inventions, solutions to problems and so on; dreams are a helpful and practical way in which to elicit useful information. You could even receive your winning lottery numbers in a dream! One of the techniques I recommend to clients dealing with indecision or a difficult decision is to commit the question to the subconscious just prior to sleeping and often, the answer comes through during the night in a dream or upon waking the next morning.

  • Anxiety Dreams
    We release anxieties, insecurities, fears, and doubts in our dreams every night regardless of how much we actually remember. If you have a particular concern or worry in your waking life, it might manifest in a dream as a wild animal chasing you, or perhaps you'll find yourself trying to climb some insurmountable obstacle. Many common dream experiences are caused by subconscious worries such as when you free-fall or run on the spot.

  • Nightmares
    This is a more serious version of anxiety dream involving fearful events, sometimes violence, ghosts, danger - just to name a few. They usually represent an actual cause of fear in your waking life, either physical or emotional.

  • Recurring Dreams
    A recurring dream, often a nightmare, is trying to get a message through to the conscious level without success. The only way to stop it is to take notice of its message and make an actual change in your life. Dream life and waking life are but two sides of the same coin; therefore, as you adjust one, the other alters as well.

  • Warning Dreams
    These might be prophesies about anything from an accident to a birth to a marriage break-up. Be careful of taking them too literally. For example, a dream of a death is rarely what it seems and more likely to be predicting the end of an era in your life than a physical death. Some common dream symbols like snakes, rats and sharks are omens of treachery, so if you dream of these - especially in recurring dreams - look at the people and situations around you with an appraising eye as there could be warning signs you've missed and that's why your subconscious is signaling you. The cause of the warning dream may not be clear straightaway so just stay extra alert for a while. The dream has given you the awareness of the potential danger; trust that you will know when and if the dream has any basis in fact.

How to Work with Dreams
Now that we've considered the benefits that understanding dreams can offer us, it's helpful to know how we can access them more readily. If you already are a recaller, your biggest challenge will be in interpreting your dreams upon waking. If you are not naturally a recaller, you firstly need to practice bringing your dreams up to the surface.

Improving Recall
Start by reading some books on the importance and meaning of dreams so you have a basic understanding of this important psychological tool. Then think of some specific ways in which remembering dreams might benefit you in your everyday life so you can generate motivation. Always relax prior to sleeping and have a pad and pen right beside you on the bedside cabinet. If you wake during the night and have a dream fresh in your mind, turn the light on and jot down a couple of points to remind you in the morning, for example, dog/ garden/ raining. At first, this will seem intrusive on your sleep patterns but with time and practice, you won't need to actually wake up to be able to recall dream sequences. In the morning, you'll have a recollection depending on the importance and intensity of the dream. It's often the emotional tone of a dream that most matters, so hold on to that and try to connect with it. It may have a message for you.

Deciphering Dreams
Experiment with various dream dictionaries, as while some are excellent, some are misleading. When you find one that works for you, check the symbols within your dream to get a general impression of meaning. This is only the beginning as you need to then apply it your own circumstances. For example, if you dream about a shark and the book says that means danger, ask yourself where the potential for danger exists in your life - is it in a physical or emotional area, or is it to do with work or family? This type of deeper interpretation takes effort and commitment but the rewards can be enormous.

Once you get a handle on the personal meaning of your dream, think on it for a few minutes before you jump out of bed and start your day. Keep a dream diary and write down as much of your dream detail as you can remember. Don't analyze things while you're writing, just let it flow. When you start making connections between your dream experiences and your waking ones, you'll get excited and be even more motivated to work with your subconscious in this way. If you did dream of a shark and then during the day, you escape a bad fall, you'll start to take dream messages more seriously. Of course, not all dreams are that specific or prophetic, so never get anxious about a dream, even really scary ones. They're always helpful. Just be aware, be alert and conduct your own research.

Studies into the significance of dreams have unearthed some incredible feats such as dreamers being able to "incubate" their own dreams, make and keep appointments with other dreamers during sleep and face up to nightmare monsters and events by challenging them and ending the dream. The world of dreams is a fascinating place.

Read Charmaine's dream interpretations

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