Contents of this page:
1. Dream Analysis
2. The Importance of
Dreams In Antiquity
3. The Meaning
of the Dream
6. Lucid Dreams
7. Dream Symbols
8. Tips for Dream
It is useful to look a little bit closer at our
dreams and to analyze them. They contain unconscious happenings which compensate
the conscious ego. Dreams give us clarification on non-personal motives,
situations, our shortcomings, and so on, of which we are not, or only vaguely,
aware of in everyday life.
When analyzing one’s dreams, one obtains a
healthy self-criticism, the first step necessary for a purposeful psychological
development. Dreams tell us precisely what is wrong and what needs to be
done to correct it. By acting correspondingly, one becomes more conscious
of oneself. The consciousness grows from its restricted and personal, sensitive
ego-world to a new horizon.
The origin of conscious actions,
with all their shortcomings and advantages, is in the unconscious of man.
One of the ways the world of the unconscious expresses itself is by dreams.
By means of symbols and events it tries to communicate with our consciousness.
All too often one does not attach any importance to dreams and one does
not make any effort to recall them. They contain complete information of
our entire being and by listening to this dream world, man can gain access
to a wonderful world that is as real as what we call our conscious reality.
It is a world in which we are rooted. From this dream world we get the food
for our inner growth, although we do not recognize it. He who closes himself
of to this world is just floating around on the ocean. But he who listens
and understands the language of the birds, the winds and the waves, knows
where he can go unhindered. So it is with dreams. He who knows their language,
knows how to repair mistakes, and thus lead a better life.
Jung wrote in his ‘Ubergang’ that the dream is as "a small hidden door
to the most deep hidden and secret corners of the psyche, an entrance to
the cosmic night, which was the psyche before there was any trace of an
‘ego’-consciousness: and what will remain the psyche, no matter how far
our ‘ego’-consciousness might stretch itself… All consciousness acts to
divide, but in our dreams we take the form of a more universal, true and
eternal man who wanders through the darkness of the primal night. There
he is still the whole man, and this wholeness is in him, not distinguishable
from nature and devoid of any ego-consciousness. From this all unifying
depth the dream arises; no matter how childish, grotesque or immoral the
dream might be."
2.The Importance of Dreams
In the entire history of man, and with all cultures,
dreams have always been important. Dreams were a means for the gods to contact
man. But demons and evil spirits also entered the dreams of man. Shamans
and magicians always paid close attention to dreams as they could contain
the fate of the entire tribe.
In ancient Egypt temples were dedicated
to dream work. Their priests were known as ‘Masters of the Secret Things’.
The explanation of dreams was a kind of commerce. Archeologists have uncovered
a sign with the text: "I explain dreams with the mandate of the gods.
Much luck. The present dream interpreter is from Crete."
temples, dreams were induced with the intent of making a diagnoses or to
treat a disease. Close to the temple of Hathor in Egypt are the ruins of
a sanitarium where the goddess caused amazing healings. In the building
was a four headed statue of her from which water streamed into the gallery.
In the second century BC there were some 320 known dream temples in Greece
and in other Mediterranean countries. These temples were dedicated to Asculepios,
the god of healing. The dream incubation ceremonies in the temple of Aesculapios
were complicated. From the participants it was demanded that they first
abstained from certain foods like wine, flesh and beans, and also from sex.
Then they had to undergo a ritual cleansing with cold water. Then the candidates
had to bring offerings to the god and participate in gatherings dedicated
to the amazing healing that would take place. At night there were ceremonies
by the light of torches, with prayers devoted to Aesculapios. Then the patients
went to sleep in special rooms amidst harmless yellow snakes. The next day
many of the participants talked about Aeasculapios visiting them at night
telling them what medicines to take or what changes in their life they had
to undertake. In some instances some people were healed during the night.
In all mythologies one can find the mention of dreams. Usually a god appears
in the dream of a hero to warn him of impending danger or to take him out
of his troubles.
The Bible also has reports of dreams. In the gospel
of Matthew an angel appears in a dream to Joseph to announce the birth of
Jesus. In the Old Testament, the best known dream is the one of Jacob at
Bethel, better known as the Ladder of Jacob (Gen.28: 10-22).
3. The Meaning of the Dream
The first breakthrough in the meaning of dreams
was given by Freud. He discovered that dreams were reflections of developments
in the unconscious part of the personality. By interpreting his own dreams,
Freud uncovered memories from his childhood. Memories which caused thoughts
and feelings in him which he would not have expected the existence of in
his own mind. Among this was a dark and clearly sexual and infantile desire
for his mother, and an ambivalent attitude towards his father. Freud brought
up the idea that sharp, pointed objects in dreams symbolize the penis, while
round, dome or ball forms represent the female genitalia. He discovered
that neuroses are psychological expressions of a deep repressed, unbearable
memory. The organism wants to balance itself, and thus the unconscious tries
to bring the problems to light in dreams in order to make the dreamer aware
that he has to do something about it.
According to Freud dreams are the
result of five special workings:
Condensation: numerous problems can
be condensed into one dream. One dream can be about many issues.
the dream usually works with symbols and unrecognizable shapes to mask painful
feelings. Many people can not stand their own negative feelings.
abstractions are represented by specific dream images. For example, driving
a car means how one is living his own life. Sometimes abstractions are shown
literally. For example, a dream about being in prison can represent the
feeling about being locked up or being restricted in his freedom.
a symbol can have more than one meaning, depending on the person and his
background. What does it mean to you?
after waking up and remembering the dream some changes happen: parts of
the dream are not remembered because it is being censured by the unconscious;
certain content is being omitted intentionally; certain content is being
Freud and his followers considered the dream as an expression
of mostly secret sexual desires. Carl Gustav Jung, who once was a student
of Freud, did not agree. Jung said that the dream in essence is spiritual
and contains all known and unknown regions of the human mind. By dreaming,
we try to discover the reason for our existence, and the dream is a new
way of exploring all unresolved problems from the past and makes a link
to the future. Because dreams are the product of the individual mind, Jung
believed that we would better understand the spiritual process of man, and
thus become better and more whole individuals.
Jung discovered that one
dream is often the interpretation of another dream, as if the unconscious
is trying to find a way to make itself understandable. Therefore a dream
by itself can not be entirely understood. One needs to study a series of
dreams for repeating content or the lack of certain content.
that very dream is a unique product of an individual person, and thus he
discarded every mechanical interpretation. A mechanical interpretation would
only be useful with universal symbols or archetypes. In contrast to Freud,
not all things are represented by symbols. Some things can be interpreted
by their mere appearance.
Jung believed that the unconscious gets its
material not only from repressed experiences but also from universal archaic
structures in the brain, and also from racial and genetic ‘memories’.
The unconscious tries to balance the personality by the compensating effects
of dreams. Dreams are useful because they represent, among other things,
repressed parts of our personality, but they tell us not what we desire,
but what we need to become a whole human being. For example, a dominant
person will dream about being submissive.
The dream can also be the manifestation
of everything that has been discarded and forgotten by the conscious mind.
Thus the dream tries to bring attention to those parts of the psyche which
have been neglected by everyday consciousness.
Jung also believed that
the individual takes part in a ‘collective unconscious’, that is, an unconscious
that contains all universal experiences of our ancestors in the form of
primal images (=archetypes). By being a part of this collective unconscious,
every man contains within himself every great thought, feeling and impulse
mankind has ever generated, but also every shameful and awful deed. This
is the source of the meaning of existence and the fundamental issues and
experiences typical for mankind: love, birth, life, death, courage, beauty,
evil, religious inspiration and the conflicts inherent to his development
From this collective unconscious arise dreams which are experienced
as being very real and meaningful; dreams which are strikingly clear, beautiful,
or sometimes even fearful. Such dreams can bear meaning or a message for
a group of people, as with religious prophetic dreams or visions, or they
can apply only to the individual, accompanied by radical changes.
as our bodies still bear the signs of our water living animal ancestors
from prehistoric times, our mind contains the primal material of fantasy.
Those primal images are archetypes, visible in religions, religious rites,
myths, fairy-tales, dreams, and nightmares.
When interpreting a dream,
Jung would ask his patient to first give his own associations in regards
to the dream symbols. When, in the process, the patient would hit a dead
end, Jung would ask him to give a description of the symbol, asking him
to explain it as he would to somebody who did not know the symbol.
short we can say that there are the following types of dreams:
for example, when we are not good to a person, in our dream we would be
treat them better.
Conflicts: arise in dreams that have roots in hidden
conflicts in our personality that normally we would never discover.
wishes: things we would like but that we would not admit to ourselves that
we want to have them.
Precognitive dreams: it doesn’t have to be world
disasters, ordinary events in our own personal life might be predicted in
dreams, sometimes in symbolic forms.
Warnings: the psyche can sense danger
in the immediate future, and give a warning in dreams.
4. Precognitive Dreams
During sleep we are able to come into contact with
that what is present in potential but what has not yet manifested. The result
is a precognitive dream. Man has always recognized these dreams and precognitive
dreams have always been highly regarded. In antiquity, many rulers had one
or more dream interpreter in his service who could explain the content of
the royal dreams.
One the most typical examples of precognitive dreams
is the one of the tinker John Chapman, in the 15th century, who lived in
the English village of Swaffham. He dreamt that he had to go to London and
that he would meet a stranger on the London Bridge, who would tell him about
a great treasure. John followed the advice and went to London. At the appointed
bridge he indeed met a man, who told John that he had had a strange dream.
In this dream he had seen how a merchant from Swaffham was digging in his
backyard and found a clay pot filled with gold coins. Chapman went back,
started digging and found a fortune. A part of the money was used to help
with the building of the church of Peter and Paul. His story was memorialized
in the woodwork of the choir-stalls and in the glass windows.
dreams are about murders or accidents. The murder of archduke Frans Ferdinand
at Sarajevo in 1914, leading to WWI, had been seen beforehand in a dream
of the teacher of the archduke, bishop Josef Lanyi.
The disaster of the
Titanic had been predicted by many people because of their dreams.
before the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon dreamt of a number of figures representing
his past victories, and one figure in chains, representing his coming defeat.
President Abraham Lincoln dreamt that he would be murdered.
Hitler was still a corporal in 1917, he was sleeping in a trench and dreamt
that he was under a mass of earth and molten iron, and blood was flowing
from his chest. Upon awakening he was so restless that he jumped up and
ran in between the two trenches of the opposing sides, upon which the trench
he had just left was immediately hit and destroyed. From that day on he
believed that he had been assigned a special task in life and would be a
Precognitive dreams do not always predict important
or world events, more often it is about everyday events.
Nightmares do not respect young or old. Anyone who
has tried to comfort a child that has had a nightmare and is still in the
spell of it, knows that a nightmare can be a cruel experience for the child.
The nightmare does not discriminate in time or culture. She plagues both
primitive and civilized people. She happens to the healthy and the sick,
to both sane and insane people. One might think that a nightmare is an obvious
experience for prehistoric man, living in a world of fear and unknown energies.
But the nightmare equally visits modern man who is self-assured in a predictable
environment of technology. The nightmare will continue to visit our children
in the future. The nightmare is universal experience.
Although it is
said that the nightmare contains fears and frustrations of one’s early life,
it probably also contains anxieties and problems of the entire human race.
Thus it can also arise from the depths of the collective unconscious.
When people still personified human energies and qualities they considered
the nightmare as a being, usually a female spirit, or a monster who would
attack people at night, giving them a choking and gasping sensation. The
nightmare was believed to be a kind of disease caused by demons.
does the word nightmare come from? The English word for evil spirit or incubus
is mare, a word that comes from the Sanskrit mara, meaning ‘crusher’. The
French word for nightmare, cauchemar, also contains the root mare, while
‘caucher’ means to trample. At some time in history people started to confuse
mare or merrie, which meant a female horse, with the other meaning of mare
of an evil spirit. Maybe a further complication happened because of the
existence of a Teutonic goddess Mara who would changed herself in a white
merrie to visit a sleeping man at night.
The nightmare as a horse was
not the only one with sexual intentions. The incubus and his female counterpart,
the succubus, were considered to be demons whose prime occupation was to
have sexual affairs with human partners. Sometimes these uninvited guests
had a blinding beauty, sometimes they were very ugly. Despite their appearance,
they were always irresistible. They were blamed for involuntary erections,
wet dreams, masturbation and sexual dreams and thoughts, especially with
young girls (I guess boys did not have them??) and holy hermits.
spirit or personified bodily energies, despite of the taboos, the experience
had a strong influence on certain people. Priests wrote that some girls
who had come to ask them for spiritual advise had described them in detail
who the incubus had entertained them, and they were not always willing to
depart from their demonic lover. As one priest writes: "I became convinced
that despite her denials, she had encouraged the demon. She even knew beforehand
when he would come, because her genitalia would become stimulated… and instead
of taking refuge to prayer, she would run to her room and throw herself
on the bed."
Today psychologists considers the nightmare as the
struggle to integrate the inner and outer world by which the psyche digs
up past repressed memories and impulses. Thus a nightmare refers to the
existence of a hidden stress situation. If this problem is being resolved
and integrated into the personality, spiritual development will continue
unhindered. If one takes the wrong attitude towards his nightmares, and
the nightmares continue, one runs the risk of becoming neurotic or psychotic.
When nightmares are about monsters, bogeyman, vampires, or dark caves
and underworldly experiences, then the content of the nightmare comes from
the primal epochs of human existence. These symbols refer to dark emotions,
lust, power, cruelty, guilt and punishment. By projecting the emotions onto
‘bloodthirsty’ animals or awful looking figures, the psyche tries to symbolize
its repressed contents.
Psychologists warn parents that exaggeration
in expressing their disapproval of ordinary activities, and imposing a too
strict code of conduct onto a child, will not only create nightmares, but
also neuroses. From early childhood on we have been indoctrinated with a
strong consciousness of good and evil, around which our sense of self worth
has centered. It is no wonder that the nightmare appears in that stage of
life, childhood, when we are most vulnerable.
As the nightmare also appears
with very young children, psychologists now think that not only emotional
disturbances cause these bad dreams, but that there must be some strong
instinctive forces in the unconscious associated with inner conflicts, causing
disturbing dreams. Although it is generally accepted that the nightmare
is present with five year old children, there are examples that three year
old children have them too.
Five year old children have difficulties
telling their nightmares. They tend to confuse reality with fantasy. They
will often be afraid to fall asleep again. In his nightmare usually ferocious
animals will be encountered, like wolves and bears, although these animals
can also appear benevolent in other dreams. Weird and bad people, with strange
appearances also appear. Usually they pursue the little dreamer. Other fearful
experiences can involve water and fire.
Past five and a half years of
age dreams start to change and they are less fearful, probably because the
child is more capable of telling about his dreams. Fearful animals are still
there, but now the child is also talking about the ‘things’ in bed. In such
circumstances it is better that the parent asks the child about it. Who
wants to go to their parents in the middle of the night, in total darkness,
after just having escaped from the jaws of the nightmare?
By six, the
number of nightmares diminish, but still contain fearful animals, fire,
storms, war; but now ghosts and skeletons also appear. For Freudians it
might be meaningful that girls of this age dream of evil men entering their
bedroom. Sometimes the child dreams of the mother leaving or being hurt.
At seven years of age a nightmare might still resonate after awakening but
the child will recognize it as just a dream. In this stage the child dreams
of being pursued and not being able to escape, or of being paralyzed. The
first dreams of flying, swimming, falling and walking in the air appear.
The child will also dream ‘shameful’ acts of everyday life, like wetting
his pants. Now, burglars, supernatural images, and themes from movies begin
Between nine and ten the nightmare can be manifold, with
a grotesque and threatening character. The child can dream of being pursued,
kidnapped, wounded or killed. The victims in his dreams can also be people
he loves or hates. The child can also be afraid of dying during its sleep.
It will also learn to avoid fearful movies or books before going to sleep.
The nightmares of older children resemble those of adults, and are reflections
of anxieties in relation to school, exams, or a possible future.
Senoi is a tribe in the mountainous woods of Malaysia that pays a lot of
attention to dreams. They believe that the fearful content of dreams point
to aggressive characteristics of the dreamer, characteristics that might
be harmful for both the dreamer and for the other members of the tribe.
One of the most important lessons the Senoi children learn is to never run
away from danger in a dream, it doesn’t matter if that danger is in the
form of a veracious animal, an evil figure or an amorphous threat. Only
by facing the danger, one can master it. If the dreamer keeps on running
away, the nightmare will continue to haunt him, ever more fearful. When
a child has a nightmare, it is told that next time, he has to stay and fight
back, while he can also call his dream friends for help. All dream friends
that refuse to help have to be considered enemies and need to be conquered.
If necessary, the enemy has to be killed. By doing this the psychological
energy in the person, represented by the enemy or the danger, is being transformed
and liberated. If possible the conquered enemy must give the dreamer a present:
a poem, a song, a drawing, the solution to a problem and so on, something
that has a practical value in daily life. The value of the present is then
evaluated by the entire tribe.
6. Lucid Dreams
Lucid dreams are dreams in which the dreamer is
fully conscious of the fact that that he is dreaming. Experiences in lucid
dreams are particularly vivid. Colors, sounds, tastes, smells, warmth, cold,
pain, everything looks completely real. The thinking processes of the lucid
dreamer, however, are less realistic than in everyday life, but one can
remember the intentions one had in relation to a lucid dream. The memory
of the dreamer is less accurate in relation to the specific details of his
life that often appear distorted in the lucid dream.
Emotions in a lucid
dream are similar to the ones in daily life, ranging from a neutral observing
of the lucid state to the exalted feelings of freedom and excitement.
In a lucid dream, one needs to be ever vigilant to stay lucid, as one can
easily slip back again in a normal dream state. One has to stay in control
and not get to excited, and wake up, or get distracted and slip into normal
In dreams we sometimes become aware of certain things that
do not follow the laws of nature or are too abnormal to be true, that we
become half conscious of the dreaming state, but then continue dreaming
again. Even when we realize that we are dreaming, this is not a guarantee
for a lucid dream. To get a fully lucid dream, one needs to train oneself.
As Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda: "You have to start with something
very simple. Tonight you have to look at your hands". Later on Don
Juan said: " You do not have to look at your hands. As I have said
before, you can choose whatever you want. But choose one particular thing
and find that in your dreams." When going to sleep it is good to repeat
the intention over and over again.
7. Dream Symbols
Here are some themes with their archetypal content.
Remember that the meaning of the dream ultimately depends on the symbolism
used by that dreamer himself.
Bird: an image of the soul, that part of
man that is free.
Climbing: encouragement to persevere and solve a problem.
Crossing a river: a fundamental change of attitude.
death is a transformation; the wish to be born again; to start over clean.
Old things are dying, new things are being born. An urge to make a change
Exams: fear of failure; fear of being tested.
a need to find psychological balance.
Falling: as an archetype falling
represents primal fear. It can also be an experience from early childhood;
or it can symbolize loosing self-worth; or a moral depression; or falling
back to an earlier situation.
Flying: freedom and the escaping the common
and worldly life.
House: a house is usually the self. The rooms can be
different aspects of the personality. The basement is the unconscious or
the lower energies in the personality; the attic is the higher part of the
Missing a bus, train, ship or airplane connection: the fear of
missing a change; or a sign that the dreamer has to change his attitude
if he wants to make progress.
Sexual dreams: Erotic dreams are not always
expressions of sexual desires. They can point to problems with the partner,
or they liberate certain inhibitions in our contact with other people. Sexual
dreams can mirror the fear of the loss of something, or point to a falling
apart of something. Incest dreams (with young dreamers), for example, can
tell that it is time to leave the house, and to prove that they can be independent.
Snake: from a traditional point the snake can mean evil things, or conflicts
between instincts and conscious choices. The snake as an archetype is about
transformation and a big change in one’s life, especially when a snake has
Spider: the psychic world which is not easily accessible to the
conscious. In the east Maya, the veil of illusion, is called the spinner.
Stairs: as stairs are used to go from one level to another, they symbolize
the passing from one phase of life to another.
Teeth, losing: growing
Water: can be prenatal memories of floating in the amniotic fluid,
the desire to go back to this state of protection, or the desire to be born
again. Water also relates to the unconscious. Clear water is like clear
life energy. Water often symbolizes emotions that one is going through.
8. Tips for Dream Work
When you have changed the pattern in your dreams
you will notice that your behavior in daily life has changed too. When,
having conquered your dream enemies, you are not running away from dangers,
you will also face and solve your problems in life and you will be able
to handle aggressive people.
Give dreams the recognition they deserve.
By taking them seriously they will provide you with a valuable amount of
information about yourself and your development. Dreams give you instructions
on how to balance yourself and create a better life.
demands practice. We all have many dreams each night, you just have to learn
to remember them. The best way is to program yourself when you go asleep.
Keep on repeating that you will remember your dreams in detail on awakening.
Have pen and paper ready to write them down.
Try to integrate dreams
in your daily life, especially on the artistic level. Draw, paint, sculpt,
or dance your dreams.
The most positive situation in a dream is getting
a present from a dream figure. If possible ask the dream figure a beautiful
or useful present.
Always face danger in your dreams, whatever form it
takes, and conquer it. The death of a dream enemy liberates a repressed
energy and turns it into a positive energy.
Try to find pleasure and
enjoyment, and happiness in your dreams, this is equally liberating.
Do not feel ashamed when you have an incestuous or indecent love experience
in your dreams, as this is a part of yourself that is asking to be integrated.
It is not associated with actual incest or indecency, or a desire for it.
When falling or flying, try to steer yourself into interesting places. Often
these dreams become lucid, so it becomes easier to direct yourself. Try
to take something nice from the place you visited. (Oh, do I wish I could
bring all those crystals and tarot decks into the real world!)
get as many dream friends as possible, accept their help and be thankful.
Also ask them for a present, or to be your guide.
When you dream about
food, share it with the other dream figures.
Utilize the power of positive
thinking. A defeat does not have to be negative. It is a lesson to change
the course of action the next time. It all depends on the value you give
If you want to get serious and start with dream work, get the book "Creative
Dreaming", written by Patricia Garfield.