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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

3 Tips for Interpreting Your Dreams

By Melissa Grace

Carl Jung’s protégé Marie-Louise von Franz said that trying to interpret your own dream is like trying to see your own back. This is because dreams carry messages from the unconscious, and the unconscious, by its very nature, does not want to be seen.

Still, having said this, it is possible to work on your own dream. Here are three things to keep in mind.

1. Focus on the dream’s images. Be open to the idea that every character, person, object, and animal in your dream may symbolize something about yourself. That may be hard to take when it comes to your in-laws or an obnoxious coworker, but it also applies to angels and your favorite cat. The images that draw you in the most may carry the most meaning.

2. Make associations. To figure out what a dream symbol means, figure out your associations to the image. For instance, when you think of your mother-in-law, what are the first words that come into your mind? Is she kind and thoughtful or judgemental and intrusive (or a little of both)? Now translate this to your relationship to yourself. Are there ways you are kind to yourself? Are there ways you deny yourself kindness? Does self-judgment intrude upon your growth?

3. See the dream as a story. Look at the setting, character development, and conflict or drama with the awareness that each of these aspects of a dream has something to teach you. For instance, if the setting is your childhood home, you may be dealing with some issue or behavior pattern that began in childhood. Dream characters can give us similar clues. For example, if you dream of the cat you owned in college, you may want to ask yourself who you were when you owned her and how you’ve changed. If you dream of your college best friend, you may want to ask yourself how you perceived him: How would you have described him? And do any of those qualities apply to yourself or anyone in your life now? 

Apart from setting and characters, it’s also important to look at conflicts in dreams. Perhaps it’s overt conflict, such as between alien invaders and vulnerable humans, or righteous warriors and a hidden oppressor. Or maybe it’s less obvious, such as a dreamer who finds herself trying to ride a bike that simply won’t go anywhere—a conflict between what the dreamer wants to do (get somewhere) and what the bike wants to do (stand still). In the latter case, perhaps the dreamer has distinct goals but something inside herself—maybe fear or bad experiences, or perhaps judgment from that intrusive inner mother-in-law—is holding her back and now she is like that bike that refuses to move.

In the end, remember, often in dreams, you are everything: You are the invader and the invaded; you are the in-laws and the one who is fed up with them; and you are the one who wants to ride the bike and the broken bike itself. Understanding this basic concept is one of the most important keys to successful dream work. ϖ

Find out more about dreams and Melissa Grace at Want a free 20-minute phone consult about your dream? Write Melissa at [email protected]