Understanding Your Dream Symbols

Understanding Your Dream Symbols

When you look at your dream, you are looking at your own programming. A computer is programmed with numbers and letters and commands. Your mind is programmed by picture symbols. So it may be helpful to know a little about those symbols.

Freud believed that dream symbols had consistent meanings from patient to patient. For example, a cigar represents a penis and a bowl stands for a vagina... in every patient. He would listen to his patient's dream then interpret the dream for the patient, as though the patient could not interpret his own dream.

Most modern students of dream analysis disagree with Freud on this issue, and so do I. In most cases, symbols mean different things to different people. You are the only person who really knows what your symbols mean to you.

When you look at your dream, trust your intuition. Only you can decide the meaning of a lion, a gun, a house, a car, or a cigar. If you practice free association you'll develop a dream sense. You'll know what your dreams mean.

There are some subjects that seem to be common in many different patients: flying, falling, roads, cars, guns, spiders, just to name a few. But even though many people share a common symbol, there is little reason to assume they have the same meaning. So trust your instincts. You are the final word on your dreams, and if your therapist tries to interpret your dream for you, tell him what I said.

Why We Don't Remember Dreams

Why are some dreams hard to remember, and others are crystal clear? The most common explanation is that we remember dreams if we wake up in the middle of them, but I think there is more to it than that.

I will often wake up during a dream, decide consciously to write it down, only to find that it has slipped out of my memory. At other times, I'll have a dream that is crystal clear, and easy to recall, and to tell the truth, I'm not so sure I woke up during the dream.

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In my experience, some dreams cannot be recalled no matter how hard you try, and some dreams are so clear that it's as though someone is sending you an intentional message. It's another reason I believe in the Super-Conscious theory. It's almost as though "He" wants us to look at the dream.

When a dream is vague and fuzzy, and hard to recall, I just put it out of my mind and don't even try to use it. The fuzzy dream makes impossible work. I suspect that my "Super Conscious" will tell me which dream to work on by giving me a clear dream.

Repeating Dreams

If you keep notes on your dreams, you may notice that some dreams tend to repeat. I've had 19 different repeating dreams. They are very useful in helping you recognize your own symbols. I had several "cat" dreams before I realized that, for me, cats represent girls.

Whenever you have a repeat dream with a definite feeling, there is probably a blocked scene under the dream. It is repeating because the blocked scene is stuck in the temporary file. The feeling might be too powerful to discharge directly.

To find feeling in a repeating dream, use the core question, "What's the feeling?" You may not find the whole scene until late in therapy, but asking the question will shake the wires and force your brain to give you a spoonful of discharge within a few days.

When ever you have a repeat dream with a definite feeling, use the question, "WHAT'S THE FEELING IN THE DREAM?" or simply "WHAT'S THE FEELING?"

As with nightmares, you can measure your therapy progress with your repeat dreams. I have a repeat dream about guns. In my early therapy, the dream went like this: A robber comes to my house, and I can't find my gun nor my bullets. A few months later, when the same dream came, I would find the gun but not the bullets. Another few months passed, and I would find my gun and bullets, but I couldn't get the gun loaded. Next, I got the gun loaded, but couldn't aim. In the most recent dream, I have a gun, loaded, and I shot the bad guy. The dream is about my growing ability to confront people. I didn't cry about this dream. It was more like a progress report.

Using Dreams To "Shake The Wires"

Whenever you have a clear dream, always run through it during therapy, or at least run through it in your mind, and look for associations. You can do it while you're eating breakfast or driving to work. Even if it does not lead directly to crying, you're making progress by "shaking the wires".

Running through your dream and asking the questions will put pressure on your nervous system and force discharge to the surface, if not immediately, then perhaps a few days later. When you look at a dream, you are looking into your temporary file, and that is exactly where the blocked feelings are. For a neurotic, every single dream will have some connection to blocked pain. Even though you don't find it, believe me, it is there.

One way you can prove it to yourself is to watch for yawning and dopiness. When you free associate from your dream, you may not find any obvious feeling, but you will yawn continually while you are trying to tell it, or you may feel dopey and sleepy. You may think there is nothing in that dream, but your nervous system is being shaken by the questions. The yawn and the dopiness means that the scene you are asking for is too much, and your nervous system will have to give you an indirect discharge later.

This article was excerpted with permission from

dreams"Cure by Crying" by Thomas A. Stone.

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About The Author


This article was excerpted with permission from the book "Cure by Crying", by Thomas A. Stone. A graduate of Drake University with a degree in mathematics, Tom Stone spent 20 years in his own business before uncovering his childhood pain. A frequent guest on talk shows, his discoveries are receiving international attention. Most recently being translated into Chinese and Indian.

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