Dreams – gateways to well-being.
The quest for a life well lived is all around us. I sometimes think the constancy of memes with lovely pictures and philosophical truisms from Buddha and Ghandi and Einstein, etc, etc is designed to keep us distracted from the escalating evil and nonsense of the world. It’s a way for us to deal with all the things that make us feel like crap: Panama papers, increased pension payments, idiot politicians, on-going wars, humanitarian crises and a new term where failure lurks, and some ‘expert’ who knows jack-shit about education is waiting to pounce with their latest diktat about what teachers need to be doing.
Well-being isn’t just about physical health, although we can’t under-rate that. It’s about the whole person: the mind, body and spirit interface. Well-being is at heart your ability to know yourself and heal yourself. It means listening to your body, trusting your intuition, knowing what works for you in all parts of your life. So many of us have given up trusting ourselves that we end up miserable and unhappy with wretched lives.
There are many pathways to well-being – meditation, retreats, education, action. But one of the simplest ways back to yourself, to enhance well-being, is through your dreams. Laugh not: dreams are the window to who you really are. Freud, for all his lunacy, was onto something – dreams are the gateway to the truth, to who you are and how you could be living your life. Freud said that dreams were “the royal road to the unconscious.” His theories on many things have been rejected, but some of his thoughts on dreams still have relevance. He suggested that during dreams, the preconscious is more relaxed than in waking hours, but still alert so images in dreams are often not what they appear to be, and need deeper interpretation if they are to inform us on the structures of the unconscious. He also floated the idea that one simple symbol or image presented in a person’s dream may have multiple meanings. He went onto divide dreams into three sorts, but the one that is most useful in our quest for well-being is the symbolic dream which requires deeper interpretation.
Yes, we all dream: some of us simply don’t recall them and/or aren’t that interested in what happens behind closed eyes. You just need to know how to tap into all that wonder and magic tucked away inside your head, deep in your subconscious, buried in your dreams.
Many years ago during my first degree I majored in Psychology as well as English and the very best part of my degree was the third year Psych unit on Dreams. It was magic. We skated across Freud and Jung and learnt how to retrieve and interpret our own dreams and I am here to tell you, dear reader, that you too can do this and cast a bright light on your own deepest feelings, fears and desires. This will tell you more about yourself than any other sort of pop-psychology ever can!
Dreams are our sorting-house. Dreams help us solve problems and find solutions. There are many stories of people finding solutions to areas of their life and work in dreams. I blogged on this aspect of dreams some time ago. If you are open to your subconscious, and able to catch and keep your dreams you too can solve problems and understand yourself on a whole new level.
We dream several times a night, usually on a 90 minute cycle and usually during REM sleep. If you awake after one of these periods then you are likely to remember your dreams. Often in the morning you will wake with several threads in your head, making little sense. But this is because you are recalling the trails of several dreams, not just one. But dreams do not necessarily make sense, they’re not neat well structured stories popping out of your brain’s type-writer. They are messy and confused and sometimes scary. But they are all about you. Some facet of your life, your day is in there. Your head, your dreams: you are the star.
How do you access your dreams and their message?
1.You have to practice – you have to actively try to keep hold of your dreams, you have to train yourself to remember them. Once you have the knack of capturing fragments you will find that usually the full dream follows. It’s a bit like hooking a fish and then reeling it in – slowly, steadily, stealthily.
2.Keep a dream journal – this is the only way to capture dreams and interpret them sensibly. Get yourself a lovely little note-book and keep it beside your bed. As you wake, before you get out of bed, keeping your eyes closed, try to recall your dreams. Usually they come in fragments, but that’s fine, it can be enough. Usually there will be little sense when you begin but you must persevere.
3.Note your recurring symbols – people, places, things – this tells you a great deal and your own symbols are far more important than a generalised book of dreams full of symbols: for example, my baby girl always means joy, if my mother appears then I know things will be all right, if I am on the water then I automatically feel okay and there can be no danger.
4.Note your feelings during the dream and especially on waking – this part is the key to understanding yourself – take the feeling from the instant of waking, then examine it later in the day – does that feeling stand up – why did you feel like that? Feelings can be warnings, don’t ignore them.
5.Keep your journal regularly to build a picture of what you dream about – are there patterns; do you have reoccurring dreams, do the same people re-appear? Be aware of key dates in your life – do your dreams reflect these times?
5b.The only way to fully interpret your own dreams is through building up a regular picture over time so you understand and know your own dreamings, your own patterns of making sense of your world.
After a while keeping hold of your dreams will come naturally to you. You will find too that as you write down your dreams (or tell them to a sympathetic soul) that they make sense. A brief interrogation of your dreams, your subconscious, will tell you all sorts of things – what you are worried about, what you fear, what makes you feel good, how you can solve problems. It’s a neat trick to go to sleep with something bubbling that you can’t quite fix in your waking life and let it do its thing there at the back of your mind, your deep self looking after your day to day self.
Here’s an example of a dream from this week and how I came to its meaning.
I am on top of a large shelf, it is broad and very high up. I am a bit uncertain about why I am there, especially as I’m not keen on heights. In the corner my beloved sleeps in a comfortable bed. But I am working – directing people below to do things, fetch things for me. Mostly books it seems as I am reading beautifully illustrated stories and then arranging them on a high shelf opposite where I am on my high ledge. I was worried about getting down as it was so high but when I wanted to return to the ground I got down all by myself in a couple of easy steps.
Hm… I thought when I woke up, what was that all about? I examined who was there, only my husband who was safe and tucked away: the people below me were faceless but benign. I seemed to be working and happy in my work, but it wasn’t a place I knew – and I have particular places that represent work, so I knew it wasn’t one of the ‘real’ work places of my dreamscape. Then the feeling came to me: I was fine, I was on top of things – literally and then of course, metaphorically. This is clearly a good message and was quite reassuring to a person juggling quite a few things.
Your dreams are as Freud said, the road to your self: to your deep self, your true self who, like a friend tells the truth when they are drunk. Your dreams tell the truth about yourself when you are asleep. Tap into this vast reservoir of knowledge, wisdom and wonder and you will find many ways to live a better, more authentic life. You will be more buttressed against the evils of the world. Your well-being will be enhanced. (Images from Private Collection)