Most people pay no attention to their dreams because of the prevailing notion that dreams are nothing more than noise in the brain—vestiges of waking experiences that linger in the nervous system. Let me be frank: That assumption is simply false.
Yes, there are different patterns of waves in the brain, some of which relate to dreaming and some of which relate to our waking lives. But just because we do not yet know what dreams mean or their precise source does not mean that they are nothing but noise to be dismissed. This is one of the great failings of modern medicine—the assumption that not knowing the explanation for something means that there is no explanation for it.
The Tradition of Dreams
According to the Bible, dreams are prophetic and come from God. In ancient Egypt, priests traveled through different levels of consciousness to access what they referred to as the “magic library” in order to help petitioners interpret particularly vivid dreams. In ancient Greece, dreams were believed to come from Asclepius, the god of medicine. People suffering from imbalance or illness petitioned priests of Asclepius to interpret their dreams in order to heal them.
In modern times, Sigmund Freud opened the door to consideration of the unconscious by suggesting that dreams emerge from the unconscious as expressions of sexual urges and aggression suppressed in waking life. In fact, he referred to dreams as “the royal road to the unconscious.”
However, to interpret dreams as nothing more than disguises for our aggressive and sexual urges is intensely reductive and limits our humanity to a single dimension. After all, we are so much more than sex, than aggression. As expressions of divine energy, we are dreams, hopes, ideas, spirituality, play, and delight.
The Collective Unconscious?
It was Carl Jung, extending the work of Freud, who spoke of the collective unconscious—a reservoir of experiences common to all humans—as the source of dreams. In other words, unlike Freud, he believed that dreams accessed something beyond the individual.
Jung’s insight did not, however, make it any easier for us to actually learn from our dreams. For, even if we are all connected through a collective unconscious, how can I make sense of messages I am accessing from the collective unconscious of someone in, say, rural China? I need to be concerned about my life, my experiences, so that I can change me.
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If you decide that dreams are only about the collective unconscious, it diminishes your personal relationship with your own unconscious. The truth is that our dreams are all about changing ourselves. Your dream is about you changing you. This is very important to keep in mind.
Events From Your Daily Life: Meaningless Dreams?
Today, many people believe that dreams are not prophecies, or repressions, or expressions of the collective unconscious, but are instead mere vestiges of things they have experienced during the day. Again, there is an element of truth to this. If you watch a movie about cowboys just before going to bed, you may fall asleep and dream that you are a cowboy, riding your horse into the sunset.
When you wake up, you may dismiss your dream as meaningless, saying: “Well, I just watched a Western flick, and that explains why I had that dream.” This may not be the case, however. You may have had a dream set in the context of the movie you watched before bed because embedding a message in that context makes it more likely that you will remember it the next day.
In other words, the unconscious uses events from your daily life as reinforcement. In this case, the message in the dream may be that you are on a journey and feel in charge. The message may have been delivered in a way that reenacts a part of your day, but the symbolic content would have been delivered one way or another, regardless of what you had experienced during the day.
Entering the Unconscious
To enter the unconscious untethered is very scary. If, however, a movie connects to the unconscious and you dream of it, this provides a connection that makes the meaning easier for you to carry back with you into your conscious waking world.
The dreamer is always dreaming about the dreamer. So your dreams are always about you—your story, your life, and your conscious experiences. That is why they are often connected to what you are experiencing in your waking life—your relationships, hopes, expectations, and fears in the conscious world.
Types of Dreams
There are many types of dreams—big, small, thematic, recurring, even nightmares. The following is a list of the most common dreams you may experience.
* Precognitive dreams, in which you dream something that comes to pass in the future.
* Intuitive dreams, which are less specific than precognitive dreams and involve the sense that something may happen.
* Warning dreams, in which you are cautioned about something that is about to happen.
* Health-related dreams, in which you are presented with information about your own or someone else’s health.
* Pat-on-the-back dreams that congratulate you on something you have achieved.
* Pregnancy dreams that may either be predictive of a physical pregnancy, or may indicate symbolically that you are preparing to give birth to new aspects of Self.
* Death dreams, in which you anticipate your own or someone else’s death.
* Past-life dreams, in which you explore past lives through regression.
* Nightmares, in which you experience your deepest fears.
* Recurring dreams, which bring you important messages about potentially troubling patterns in your life.
* Guidance dreams, which can help you make decisions or changes in your life.
* Lucid dreams, in which you are conscious that you are in a dream state.
Precognitive Dreams Are Not Necessarily Predictive
Many people tend to see precognitive dreams as predictive. This is not necessarily so, and is certainly not so in a constraining or limiting sense.
Precognitive dreams may tell you about something that, in fact, happens in the future. But they never constrain your conscious life. They never present events or situations that must occur in the future.
I generally try not to emphasize precognitive dreams because, frankly, dreams that are truly precognitive are rare. Unfortunately, however, many people begin to think all of their frightening dreams are precognitive and become terrified. So it is not a good idea to assume that your dreams foretell the future, because it is at the level of symbolism, not literal interpretation, that your dreams communicate most clearly and urgently.
Here is an example of a precognitive dream that I experienced myself that illustrates this. In 1980, I was in a car accident and hurt my back. As I was recovering, I dreamed that my father, who was healthy and fully functioning at the time, was in a wheelchair. I became very upset and overwhelmed, sure that the dream predicted he would become paralyzed.
Then, in 1982, he had a physical episode similar to a stroke and was unconscious for ten days. When he regained consciousness and began to heal, I asked him why he came back. He responded that he came back so that he could continue to help and support his family and his people. He went on living for another nine years. The last year of his life was very difficult for him. He was confined to a wheelchair—not paralyzed, but very ill.
This was in 1990, so my dream was clearly precognitive in a sense. Yet even in this dream of my father, there was useful symbolic information that went beyond the merely predictive. The wheelchair represented limitation. To me, my father represented complete and unwavering faith.
When I had the dream, I was recovering from an accident and was in a lot of pain. So in my dream, my faith was so injured that it had to be confined to a wheelchair. In other words, I was in great pain and discomfort and filled with the fear that I would never recover—that I would have to live out my life in pain.
Ultimately, however, that pain led me to holistic healing and care, to discovering the relationship of the body to the self, which was an important revelation for me and helped me to become healthier. Without it, I would not have had the motivation to explore holistic healing.
The Dreamer Is Always Dreaming About The Dreamer
No matter what type of dream you experience, the important thing to remember is that the dreamer is always dreaming about the dreamer. So your dreams are always about you. They function as a bridge from the conscious world of your own everyday waking life to the world of your own unconscious—and back again. Their messages, therefore, always deliver information about you—information that you can apply in practical ways when you know how to decipher its meaning.
Copyright 2017 by Doris E. Cohen, Ph.D.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
Dist by Red Wheel Weiser, redwheelweiser.com
Dreaming on Both Sides of the Brain: Discover the Secret Language of the Night
by Doris E. Cohen, Ph.D.
A dream is not just white noise or something that happens to you while you sleep. Dreams are the secret language of your unconscious. Drawing on years of clinical experience and her familiarity with Freud, myth, and sacred writings, Cohen presents a program that results in a life of abundance, texture, and self-awareness.
About the Author
Doris E. Cohen, PhD, has been a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice for more than 30 years, treating thousands of clients. Her approach uses therapy, hypnotherapy, past-life regressions, and dream analysis. A certified healer, metaphysical intuitive, and communicator with Guides and Angels of the Light, Doris has given more than 10,000 medical, spiritual, and relationship readings. She has also conducted numerous workshops and has lectured nationally and internationally.