Why should we investigate dreams? Of what use are they to us in our everyday lives? Can something that isn't "real" actually be of help to us as we go about our daily activities, facing problems, dealing with the many facets of our lives?
The answer is a definite yes. Not only have many cultures over the centuries believed that dreams have significance, but now some scientists in our own culture believe that dreams do indeed affect our lives, and vice versa.
For example, the psychologist Leonard Handler, in an article in the journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice entitled The Amelioration of Nightmares in Children, tells the story of an eleven year-old boy named Johnny who was tortured by frequent nightmares. He had a recurring nightmare in which a terrifying monster would chase him. Sometimes the monster caught Johnny and hurt him. Over a period of eighteen months, two or three times a week, Johnny would wake up screaming and run to his parents' bedroom for comfort. He could not fall asleep without a nightlight.
Finally, Johnny's parents consulted Dr. Handler, who assured Johnny that he could help him, that together they would get rid of the horrible, frightening monster. After a few sessions during which Johnny came to trust him, the doctor sat Johnny on his knee and encircled him with a fatherly arm. He told the boy that he would protect him from the monster and then asked him to close his eyes and imagine the monster there in the room with them. Although he was scared, Johnny agreed to cooperate and, shutting his eyes tight, showed the doctor by a prearranged signal that the monster was there with them.
Holding Johnny close, Handler banged his hand on the desk loudly and shouted over and over, "Get out of here, you lousy monster, leave my friend John alone!" As Johnny quivered in the doctor's arms, Handler continued shouting and banging. "Get away and stay away! Don't you ever come back or I'm going to get you!"
Taking Your Power Back: Influencing Your Dreams
After quite a few minutes of this performance, Johnny joined in the effort to get rid of the monster, pounding his own small hand on the desk with the doctor's and shouting at the top of his voice, "Get away and leave me alone!" Then Dr. Handler turned out the lights, and although Johnny was startled to be in the dark, soon he was again yelling at the monster to go away and leave him alone -- or else!
They continued this procedure throughout the session, and when Johnny left his office Handler told him that if he saw the monster again he was to do exactly the same thing. At the next week's appointment, Handler asked if Johnny had seen the monster again. He had, but the boy had followed instructions and yelled at it. It vanished.
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Once again, Johnny and Handler practiced monster-scaring. After that, during a six-month period, Johnny had only two nightmares -- neither one about the monster, who had departed for good. Although most of us aren't troubled by such severe nightmares, this is a good example of how waking life can influence dreams.
Dreams Influencing Daily Life
Your dreams can be affected by many things: what you ate for supper, or even lunch or breakfast; what images you put into your mind -- from TV or video or conversation, especially arguments -- before bedtime; problems you are facing; your relationships with parents, other relatives, friends, and love interests; your hopes and aspirations; your basic beliefs; communications during the day or recent past; long past events from your childhood; plans for the future, such as going away to college or getting a job; and a host of other things. But how about dreams influencing waking life? How does this mysterious process interact with what we do when we are awake?
Although no one can say for certain what dreams are, where they come from, or even why we have them, there's no doubt that they are important to the quality of our lives. Even people who claim not to dream (they just don't remember their dreams) are in some subtle way affected by their dreams, if only as an unexplainable shift in mood. Anyone who has studied their own dreams closely or has studied dreams professionally, as I have as a psychotherapist, knows that dreams and waking life are intimately interconnected.
Dreams are of many sorts and are many layered. Some are simple, with messages for daily life that are easy to interpret if you try. Some are complex and require more attention. And, yes, some defy interpretation. That does not mean they are unimportant or that they don't affect us deeply. There is a lot in this world that humans don't understand. Much about the human mind, psyche, memory, and potential remains a mystery to us despite our persevering efforts to penetrate the mystery.
Paying Attention To -- And Interpreting -- Your Dreams
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to do your own dream research. Sleep labs at universities and in other institutional settings notwithstanding, the best sleep lab is your own bed, or wherever you happen to sleep or nap.
You are the best interpreter of your dreams. You can get clues and guidance from dream books such as this one (though you can never trust those "cookie cutter" dream dictionaries to say what anything means for sure), but by far the best tool for understanding how your dreams connect up with your every day life is your own attention to them.
One of the most interesting aspects of dreams is their potential to be put to use for specific purposes.
How to Incubate a Specific Dream
Before you request a specific dream, be sure to relax your mind and body completely. You can use the sequential relaxation technique offered here or repeat your own relaxation affirmations.
Step 1: Decide in advance what you want to dream, what you want the dream to resolve, or what question you want answered.
Step 2: Write your desired dream or question on a piece of paper. Be as specific as you can, but don't ask about silly or trivial matters, such as what dress to wear to a party or if so-and-so likes you.
Step 3: Put the paper under your pillow or near your bed.
Step 4: Tell yourself with conviction that you will have the dream you want.
Step 5: Believe that you can trust yourself to dream the dream you ask for.
Step 6: Be prepared to write down the dream when you wake up.
Step 7: Be open to whatever comes to you in your dream, and work with it.
Step 8: Tell yourself you will remember the dream in detail.
Step 9: Be willing to experiment and try again if necessary.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Bindu Books, a division of Inner Traditions Intl.
Teen Dream Power: Unlock the Meaning of Your Dreams
by M.J. Abadie.
A professional astrologer and psychotherapist with a specialty in dream interpretation, M. J. Abadie explores the dream wisdom of earlier societies and what it means for teens today. She shows teens that by inducing dreams for special purposes and maneuvering negative dream images they can solve everyday problems. Teens will learn to increase dream recall, interpret dreams using their own personal dream symbol dictionary, handle nightmares, and explore the fascinating inner changes going on at this time in their lives. With the tools in Teen Dream Power, teens can gain self-understanding, enhance learning skills, and increase their creativity and productivity.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
M. J. ABADIE is a professional astrologer, tarot reader, and psycho-therapist with a specialty in dream interpretation. She did mythological research with Joseph Campbell and is the author of three other books for teens, Teen Astrology, The Goddess in Every Girl, and Tarot for Teens. She has written several books, including Your Psychic Potential; Awaken to Your Spiritual Self ; and most recently Child Astrology: A Guide to Nurturing Your Child's Natural Gifts. (See all books by M.J. Abadie.)