Dreams have been a guide to us since the dawn of time! Are you paying attention to yours?
Carl Jung is a sage for me, along with many deeply spiritual friends and guides I've met in life--most of my approach to dreamwork comes from these places. In my Christian tradition, dreams are an important tool to connect with God and to know how you are being called.
Psychologically, dreams help us process and store memories, and make sense of our waking life.
In my own life, dreams have helped me know when I am on the right path, and have made very difficult decisions crystal clear. For these spiritual gifts, I am grateful.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started down the path of learning from your dreams.
Write them down.
Right away. When I wake up and realize I've been having a dream, I dictate to Siri. For those of you who are really sensitive to light or sleep interruptions, this is a good option. I don't even move in bed. I just say, "Hey Siri, create a note," and I dictate the dream.
You can also use a journal that you keep at your bedside. The trick is writing them down right away.
Your sleepy brain might not realize that the colors, people, and places in your dream are significant. But they are! Make sure to include all details--even the ones that you think are minor. Perhaps you talk about being in a field--what kind of field was it? Poppies? Wheat? It matters.
Read them in the morning.
When you read your dream, start with a prayer that you will see what needs to be seen, and then look it over. Read through it a few times, underlining details and patterns--you can use different colored highlighters.
Don't take them literally - they are full of symbolism!
Dreams are meant to be metaphoric guides, like parables. Many people worry that some dreams of destruction are prophetic. While I do believe in prophetic dreams, you must really look at the dream's symbolism. A dream of destruction or death is most likely representing that a part of you or a part of your life is dying or falling away. In this case, you can ask yourself what is being changed or coming to an end?
Jung talks about archetypes (images who meanings make sense across time and cultures) and symbolism--there are great books out there on these topics that I encourage you to explore if this subject matter interests you further. In one of my dreams I was weeding a garden where the roses were dying and there was a huge thistle--it was the only weed I couldn't pull up and it actually caused me pain to try. I immediately looked up these symbols (rose, thistle) to see what meaning they could hold, as I was going through a lot of interpersonal struggles in my waking life.
Approaches to interpretation
One way to look at your dream, is through a lens in which every being in the dream represents a part of you. With this, you need to ask yourself what part of you the being represents. For example, just last night I dreamed that my little niece kept wanting to hug me and find safety with me. When I look at myself as both my niece and the adult me in the dream, I can see how my niece represents a more vulnerable and pure part of myself, and see that I (adult me in the dream) have the ability to nurture and protect myself. There are many ways to discern this dream, that is simply one way.
Another approach is to work in a group or with a friend. The other person or people can listen to you read your dream. They then imagine that it was their dream and they can make nonjudgemental statements or questions to you about it. For example, if I described the dream where my niece came to me for safety and cuddles, someone hearing the dream as their own might say to me, "If it were my dream, I would be curious about why the little girl needed safety." This will allow me to experience the dream from different perspectives and perhaps help my waking mind to open up to other message my subconscious or spirit was trying to communicate to me.
There are many more approaches--these are two of my favorite and they are ones that you can start right away.
Reflect on your dreams regularly
Dreams have the power to provide meaning and messages to you even long after they happen. I can look back at a powerful dream I had three years ago--the meaning I made of it then made sense for my life and helped me, AND the dream can continue to unfold and make meaning for me today. Dreams really are magical gifts!