Understanding Your Dreams

By Sydney Metrick
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Understanding Your Dreams


Have you ever wondered what your “weird” dreams might mean? Dreams are generated from your unconscious mind which speaks in the language of symbols. Dreams, daydreams, myths, fairytales, art…all come from the unconscious. By getting familiar with symbolic language you can look behind the symbols to discover the layers of meanings in the stories your dreams tell.

The messages of night dreams and daydreams are expressed in personal, cultural and universal symbols. Working with symbols is process work. The value is in the journey rather than the destination. What is a symbol? “Basically, a symbol is something that represents something else.” You may be wearing a wedding ring or a religious symbol, or have a tattoo. These things are symbols that mean something more to you than the item or the image itself. Some symbols have only a personal meaning, others also have universal significance. The ring, a circle, universally symbolizes wholeness and perfection.

There are a number of ways to explore what a symbol might mean to you. The most superficial way is to go with your first impression. You dream of a wolf and you assume it means something dangerous or possibly evil is lurking or chasing you. To delve more deeply into the meaning, you can imagine the wolf speaking to you and telling you who it is and what it wants to give or to get from you.

Another option involves writing. Make up a story about the symbol’s childhood/future; e.g. Once upon a time –or—Long ago and far away. Then for those of you who are more adventurous you can try the two-chair technique. Set up two chairs facing each other. Sit in one chair and imagine the wolf (or whatever symbol you wish to explore) in the other. Initiate a conversation and ask a question such as, “what is your role in my dream?” Move to the other chair and answer as the wolf. Continue the conversation using the role play until you’ve gained helpful insight into the meaning of the symbol.

If you keep a dream journal you may notice themes or motifs as well as recurring symbols. Years ago, I kept having dreams in which I’d accept a stick of gum and as I began to chew, the gum grew larger and adhered to my teeth and gums. I’d have to pull ropes of gum from my mouth and discretely dispose of it. This was especially difficult and embarrassing if I was in public. Finally, I realized it was a relationship I kept allowing into my life that was hard to end. When I finally did create a boundary, the dreams stopped.

Once you have a relationship with the dream symbols you can use that for increasing meaning and growing in waking life. In the words of Emily Bronte: “I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.”

Bio: When I was a child my two favorite activities were reading and daydreaming. My love of learning led me to pursue non-traditional education. I earned an MA in Counseling Psychology and a PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy. Using rituals and symbolic systems have been a large part of my work. I’ve authored two books, Crossing the Bridge, and I Do, and the soon to be released From There to Here. I’m the co-author of The Art of Ritual, and Rituals for Life, Love and Loss. SM


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