The Basics of Interpretating Your Dreams

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These dreamwork basics include tips on remembering your dreams and a special method for interpreting them. This information has been condensed from our study of the dream worlds over the past twenty years.

Remembering Your Dreams

In order to work with our dream self we must first and foremost remember our dreams. Often we may wake up in the morning believing that we have not had any dreams. But it is more likely that we have not yet remembered the dreams we did indeed have. Think of the many times you have gotten up and dressed and gone off to work or school and then, out of the blue, recalled a dream experience. Such recall comes suddenly and for no apparent reason. This is one way our dreams come back to us.

Don't feel discouraged if you do not remember your dreams on awakening. Dream recall can come at any time during your day, and you can do many things to encourage better dream recall. We've put together a list of our favorite ten.

Key #1: Get Enough Restful Sleep

Most people need at least six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in order to experience the highest level of dream recall. We need to go through the ninety-minute sleep/dream cycle several times before we become rested enough to have a conscious memory of our dreams.

With some exceptions, most people who only get four or five hours of sleep each night short-circuit their natural dream cycle. Only you know exactly how sleep much you need. You might want to experiment several nights in a row to discover the optimum number of hours you need to obtain the clearest dream recall.

Key #2: Sleep with Your Head to the North

Sleeping with your head pointing true north puts your body and its corresponding chakra system in alignment with the polar magnetism of the earth. Yogi masters, mystics, and psychics have long recommended this position for healthful sleep. We have found that sleeping with our head to the north strengthens our connection to the higher, intuitive self; promotes the health of the body and the central nervous system; enhances restful sleep; and stimulates the highest and most vivid level of dream recall.

A simple compass can assist you in determining true north in your bedroom. Sleeping with your head to the other three compass directions will also affect your sleep experiences. For example, sleeping with your head to the south grounds you to the earth. This helps to reduce the occurrence of nightmares and invasive dreams. However, the downside of the south position is that it tends to dampen dream recall.

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Key #3: Set Your Intentions with an Affirmation

We have discovered that what we pay attention to most often grows stronger and bears fruit. And so it is with dreams. Giving conscious attention to dreams will allow you to receive important messages of healing and wisdom that the hidden parts of you (subconscious, emotional, higher, and soul selves) are trying to bring to your attention every night.

It is especially helpful to use a simple, strongly worded affirmation of intention before you fall asleep at night. Try something like, "I will remember my dreams in the morning." Repeat this affirmation, or one similar to it, several times as you fall asleep.

Key #4: Keep Dream Tools Handy

Acknowledge how serious you are about your dream worlds by keeping your dream journal or a tape recorder close to your bedside. Then make an inner commitment to use these tools each night. It also helps to have a small flashlight handy when recording your dreams; oftentimes turning on a bright light will drive your dream memories away. A bright light may also awaken you so much that you will find it difficult to fall back to sleep.

Key #5: Give Yourself Extra Time in the Morning

An obvious but sometimes overlooked aid to remembering your dreams is to simply set aside an extra fifteen minutes in the morning for remembering and recording your dreams. Set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier than usual or train yourself to wake earlier so that you don't have to jump out of bed in a rush to get ready for work or school.

Key #6: Keep Your Eyes Closed

Another key to remembering your dreams is to keep your eyes closed when you first awaken to reduce the amount of external stimuli that normally floods your brain in the morning. It also provides a blank screen upon which your dream symbols, memories, and images can form. Finally, it promotes a state of relaxation that is beneficial when trying to access dream memories.

Keys #7 and 8. Relax and Be Still and
Re-Create Your Dream in Reverse Sequence

Remember to keep your body as still as possible as you wake up. Wiggling, stretching, or sitting up can drive the memory of your dreams away just as quickly as a bright light can. Sometimes you may remember only one image or scene upon awakening. Don't worry! If you relax and lay still, you can often trace this one image backward and reconstruct your dream, frame by frame, from the last scene to the middle scenes and, eventually, to the beginning.

Key #9: Journal Your Feelings, Daydreams, Fantasies

Get into a daily habit of journaling your feelings, daydreams, and fantasies. You might be thinking: I don't have time for this! And it's true, many of us lead extremely busy lives and simply do not have a lot of extra time. But this type of journaling does not require a lot of extra time. Don't feel as if you need to record every event or thought of the day.

Simply jot down a paragraph or two (usually in the evening just before bed), describing any feelings, fantasies, or interesting thoughts you experienced that day. Even just a few words or key phrases will help trigger your memory of an idea or feeling you may want to explore later on. You will be rewarded with deep insights into your patterns and life processes when you connect your journal information to the issues being brought up in your dreams.

Dreams are internal manifestations of our thoughts, hopes, fears, and conflicts. They provide us with a stage upon which to examine our issues from the various viewpoints of our self-segments, and, most important, they often offer us creative solutions to dilemmas -- solutions that have eluded our conscious mind.

Key #10. Create a Dream-Sharing Ritual

Create a morning dream ritual. Make it as simple or as complex as you choose. For example, Linda's mother created a morning dream ritual for her family simply by encouraging everyone to talk about his or her dreams during breakfast. Even if you live alone and have no built-in dream partners, you can still create meaningful rituals. One way is to bring your dreams to work and share them with an interested co-worker. You could also call or email a friend. The feedback we get from interested dream partners can provide valuable insights into our relationships and our inner psyches.

Although all the keys we have discussed are simple, they do require you to change. During your efforts to use these keys, don't become discouraged if you find it difficult to change your old habits to make time for the new activities outlined in the keys. Replacing old habits with new energy patterns is not easy. In order to be successful in changing your habits and installing a new pattern, your desire to work with your dream-self must be strong. The good news is that once you do establish a new pattern, it will become easier and easier for that pattern to take hold. Eventually it will become automatic, and you will gain all the benefit without great effort.

Interpreting Your Dreams

As you interpret your dreams, you may find that they contain direct and literal communications from the angels, your spirit guides, and deceased loved ones. At other times the angels will influence your dream maker to provide you with dreams that contain encoded messages from your self-segments (the parts of your self, your component aspects, broken into parts for analysis and understanding).

Dreams that come from your self-segments can be viewed as plays or movies, complete with a cast of characters, props, settings, emotions, plots, action, and important dialogue. To understand and properly interpret them, you need to examine each of these elements.

We find the following seven-step process an efficient way of getting a remarkably complete dream interpretation.

1. Make an inventory or list of each of the characters that appear in your dream, both human and non-human.

2. Examine your feelings about the dream characters.

3. Examine your role in the dream and your relationships to the dream characters.

4. Review the actions taking place in the dream.

5. Find out what aspect of yourself the dream characters represent by engaging them in imaginary conversation.

6. Analyze the dream setting (location/time of day/environment).

7. Consider your current life situation.

Each of these steps is crucial to proper dream interpretation. Let's examine each in turn.

1. Make an Inventory of Characters

Who are the villains and the saints in your dreams? Why have they appeared in your dreams? What do they represent? Most likely they represent you. Or, more accurately, they represent a part of you, usually a part that is hidden from your conscious awareness, a part that wants to emerge and be recognized by you, the conscious self.

Sometimes your dream characters encapsulate a hurt or traumatized part of you, at other times they can represent a wisdom aspect of you such as your higher self. That's why the first step in interpreting a dream is to make an inventory of the characters that appear in it (both human and non-human).

Why are these different parts of you trying to emerge and gain your attention? While the surface reason may vary, the ultimate reason never does. The ultimate reason is simply this: to promote the healing and wholeness of your psyche.

Most of us have had dreams in which at least some of the following characters appeared: monster, sister, priest, brother, father, man with a knife, lover, mother, daughter, teacher, vampire, baby kitten, spouse, employer, doctor, soldier, actress, saint, witch, judge, angel, dog, friend, co-worker.

From the list above, pick three characters that have inhabited your dreamscapes. If none of these characters have appeared in your dreams, choose three others that have. Write them down in the spaces provided.

1. ____________________________

2. ____________________________


2. Examine Your Feelings

The next step in the dream interpretation process is to determine your feelings toward the characters you uncovered in step one. With each character, ask yourself the following question: What are my feelings toward this character (fear, respect, a desire to nurture, anxiety, jealousy)?

Sometimes you may find it hard to identify exactly what or how you feel about a particular dream character. In such cases you may find it helpful to view the word not as a specific character from your dream but as a character in general. For example, let's say you picked the character "mother." What feelings are evoked when you read or hear that word? To further narrow it down, ask yourself about your feelings about your own mother, and finally, if it applies -- how do you feel about being (or becoming) a mother?

Once you have identified your general feelings about the character, you can then look at the feeling that's evoked by the specific dream character. You can see that there may be myriad feelings to sort out. The better we know ourselves the easier it will be to discover the purpose and meaning of the characters that appear in our dreams.

3. Examine Your Role and Relationships

Next, you'll want to examine how you relate to the characters in your dreams. What was your role in the dream? What was your relationship to each character? For example, using the sample characters from step one above, were you cast in the dream as a student to the teacher character? Or as director to the actress? Or as victim to the man with the knife? What role did you play? The role that we play offers a significant key to interpreting the dream.

Sometimes our consciousness is not focused within any of the dream characters. It may seem as if we are floating above the drama, watching it unfold. That we are "watching life unfold" is in itself an important message to pay attention to. Whatever issue the drama depicts is the one that we are being "passive" about. This type of dream tells us that we need to examine this passive attitude and perhaps take some positive action.

4. Review the Actions

Lights -- camera -- action! Next you'll want to review the actions taken by the characters in your dream. These actions often reflect an issue you are dealing with (or should be examining) in your waking fife. If someone was chasing you, for example, examine your fife for an issue you are not facing. You may be literally "running away" from that issue.

The action in your dream can also reflect a need that is not getting met in your life. If you dream you are nursing a baby or caring for a tiny kitten, this might indicate a deep need to nurture -- perhaps to nurture the innocent, childlike part of yourself. Alternatively, "nursing a baby" could symbolize your attitude toward a new project you've started and are trying to complete. In short, when trying to understand the actions taken by the characters in your dreams, always examine them in the context of your current issues and life situation.

5. Converse with Your Characters

This next step involves creating an imaginary dialogue between yourself and your dream characters. This process extends not only to the people and animals in your dream but also to inanimate objects, such as containers, windows, trees, tables, or utensils. In other words all the characters you've listed in step one. For example, if you listed a brown leather book as a character from your dream you might ask that book the following questions: Why have you appeared in my dream? What is your title? How does it feel to be a book? Why are you made out of brown leather? What can the pages inside you tell me about myself? Next, answer the questions as if you were the book. The idea is to take the point of view of as many of the characters in your dream as possible and have them dialogue with you and each other in order to gain as much information from them as you can.

The questions you ask your characters during this step should naturally lead you to other questions. Use your imagination here and allow yourself to "hear" the characters' responses to your questions. Follow-up questions will be likely based on their earlier responses. You may find this process odd, but it is possibly the most critical step in the dream interpretation process.

6. Analyze the Dream Setting

The sixth step is to define the dream setting and environment. For example, is the dream set outdoors, at your grandmother's house, at school, at work? This information tells you what time period in your life the dream issue is reflecting. For example, if you have a dream that takes place in your grandmother's home, you are likely being directed to examine a childhood issue.

The dream environment (weather, time of day, and so on) also contains important details to help you interpret your dream. For example, darkness signifies that you are not consciously aware of the core issue being brought up by your dream. A cloudy dreamscape denotes inner doubt about the dream situation or unresolved concerns or problems; a clear sky indicates a deep level of clarity and understanding of the elements within your dream.

7. Consider Your Current Life Situation

Our dreams often reflect issues that we struggle with in our daily life, therefore the seventh and final step requires that you consider your current life situation. Your dreams could very easily be offering you a creative solution to one or more problems as well as serving as a safe environment to vent and explore your feelings about some issue. As you interpret your dreams, reflect on any issues or problems you may have experienced over the past few days or weeks.

Upon completing the seven steps, the message of your dream should become more apparent to you. How do you know when you've reached the proper interpretation? As with anything in life that you're sure of, you'll have a strong feeling within you that you have properly received and understood the message. Also, the more time you spend practicing these steps and learning your unique symbology, the more you'll feel confident about your interpretation.

This article is excerpted from the book:

Dreaming with the Archangels by Linda Miller-Russo and Peter Miller-Russo. Dreaming with the Archangels: A Spiritual Guide to Dream Journeying
by Linda Miller-Russo and Peter Miller-Russo.

©2002. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Red Wheel Weiser.

Info/Order this book.

About the Authors

Linda and Peter Miller-Russo co-founded The Circle of Enlightenment, where they present the Archangels' Plan of Healing through books, tapes, Soul Name Songs?, Angel study courses, Angel readings, and past life regressions. Together they wrote Angelic Enlightenment.

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