We all dream.
We may not always remember our dreams, but they are there, existing in the dark corners of our subconscious.
Dreams can often be a discarding of information but they can also be a processing of information that we don’t have access to in our waking life. They can help us solve problems. They can give us a fuller experience of our time in this life. They can lead us in new directions and make us ask ourselves hard questions.
So how do we interpret our dreams?
Dreams are personal. The symbolism of dreams are specific to you and your life experiences.
While I will be discussing specific symbols in future blogs, this one is a more generalized exploration at how the relationship to symbols will vary.
But first, you need to work to remember your dreams.
First, you work to remember your dreams.
Remembering your dreams is a practice. The more time you spend, the easier it becomes, just like any other practice.
Before going to sleep, create a way to record your dreams that is quick and accessible to you. For some, this is setting a journal next to your bed with a working pen. For others, this may be a recording device that you can talk into. (I used to do this and found dream messages to myself that I had forgotten when I awoke. Sleeping in a bed with a partner can make this awkward, and so I became self-conscious about recording them over time.) What works for me is having my notes app open on my phone near the bed and then typing in what I remember.
Your dreams may still be elusive. Try jotting down a feeling or any details you remember–it could simply be a color or a single image.
Another helpful process is to sit down and write morning pages in a journal. (Morning pages are an aspect of Artist Way by Julia Cameron, but vitally beneficial to anyone wanting to live a deeper experience with regards to their own life.) The process of Morning Pages is to sit and quickly free-write 3 pages of whatever pops in your head. The goal is simply 3 pages, not to plan anything or create anything, not to solve the world’s problems.
This type of writing often feels a bit like dreaming to me; my brain relaxes and thoughts come that I didn’t expect. (For anyone who can’t find words, you can quite literally write, “I don’t know what to write,” over and over again until you have a thought, and then you write that thought down, it could be, “this is dumb” or “I don’t like this.”)
I often find while doing the dump-style of writing, dreams from the night before pop into my memory and I can then write about those images and feelings and experiences, following that path where it chooses to lead me.
Another practice is sketching any images you remember, or using watercolors to remember the colors. Doodling with a pen (try just drawing spirals) can also bring dreams closer to the surface or your memory.
I remember my dreams, now what?
This is where the symbols and experiences become so personal.
You can write your dreams fully, like a story.
You can simply take notes of the things that stood out.
You can list anything important.
You can sketch.
You can talk about the images with someone else.
No matter how you choose to record your dreams, start to look for the symbols that stand out. If you write your dreams fully, you can highlight them and then make a list.
What do those symbols mean to you, and what are your experiences around those symbols?
What do you mean about symbols being personal?
Imagine you dream of a snake, which is actually a common image in dreams. Ask yourself what your experience with snakes has been.
If you have been raised in a Christian community, the snake can be seen as a Biblical temptation. The snake is a form of the devil and through the manipulation of Eve, humanity was punished and removed from the Garden of Eden. The snake in this dream may be one of temptation; something you want to do but feel guilty about or anxious that there would be dire consequences if you were to proceed.
If you have been raised in a Pagan community, the snake can be a symbol of wisdom. As a matter of fact, most ancient cultures considered the snake as a symbol of wisdom or a God. While it is mostly considered a myth now, many have been raised to believe that St. Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland was a metaphor for him chasing out the Pagans and specifically the Druid elders while bringing Christianity to Ireland. (I’ve included articles below on why this is now considered a myth.)
If you have been raised as a Pagan or in an old religion that reveres the snake, its appearance in your dream could be one of wisdom and honor. There could be a message of learning or something that will lead you in a better direction.
If you’ve been bitten by a snake in real life, dreaming of one may be extremely fearful. There may be something in your life that is bringing you anxiety and you are afraid will hurt you.
If you have raised snakes and consider them your friends, dreaming of them may be about friendship.
Let’s say that you have raised snakes your whole life; you love them and trust them. In your dream, the snake turns and bites you. A dream of this sort may suggest that someone you trust is not as reliable as you expected them to be, and they may be out to hurt you. Perhaps in the same dream, the snake that bit you did so out of protecting itself. In this dream, perhaps it is you that has caused conflict in a friendship and they are now defending themselves.
Just a beginning…
This is just the beginning of talking about dreams. In future weeks I’ll be breaking down my dreams, the dreams of family and friends, and perhaps even your dreams. I want to show the process of dreams and how to explore their meanings on a personal level. I’ll also explore some universal symbols (such as the snake) and how they influence our personal symbols.
Do you have a dream you’d like to work with me on for this blog? You can contact me here or in the comments below.
Instagram – Isobel.Dohn.art – Main image is by Isobel; Fanart for the song Tsumi no Namae by Ryo. Snake Woman image also by Isobel.