There are certain common dream symbols that should leave the dreamer asking specific questions. Overall these questions are very directly related to the situation the dream expresses. It is important in dream interpretation to keep a good balance between what the different elements of the dream mean to the dreamer and what additional information and insight that can be learned from what is already known about common dream scenarios or symbols.
Carl Jung, a contemporary of Freud as well as a close friend developed the concept of the collective unconscious in which he said universal symbols and images were stored in every individual. Although there may be cultural differences the symbols represented a universal theme seen in folklore, fairy tales and hallucinations of psychotic individuals. Much of his writing was an attempt at showing these connections similar to Dr. Fraser’s Golden Bough in which the interconnectedness of mythological symbols was made extremely evident. The point that both of these very important thinkers have made is that there are certain central universal symbols that the human unconscious holds and whose meaning can be interpreted in a specific situation once universal symbol is understood.
How this implies to dream interpretation is through the application of universal symbols to specific dreams for a specific person. This is not done deductively or by isolating certain symbols in a dream and looking up their meaning and a dictionary. Instead it is having a good general awareness of universal themes and how they affect an individual situation.
It may be best to start by an example. One of the most remembered dreams are those of being chased. This can be in part due to the fact that our ancestors needed to be partially woken up very often at night to see if there may be in a dangerous situation. It also may be that the anxiety that this type of dream elicits is so intense that it is easy to remember. The question that this dream symbol elicits is are we aware of all potential threats in our current situation? Is there something in our waking lives that requires our attention because it may be a potential danger.
Dreams often have a quality of fluidity or water. It may take the form of being clear or cloudy as well as the force of being calm or turbulent. The association between a fluid quality in a dream and our emotions should be interpreted very carefully. For example if someone is dreaming that they are breathing slowly in a calm pool as they begin to relax the fluid element has reached its docile state as well as the dreamer has begun to calm themselves. The opposite is also true when the dream entails some fluid fury which prevents the dreamer from maintaining consistency and begins to develop fears of drowning or being overcome by their emotions.
Vehicles are also a common dream symbol. They take the shape of anything that we incorporate ourselves into and become part of a larger whole. Most commonly we get into a car in a dream and begin to drive. The vehicle in our dreams reflect what direction we feel our lives are taking and how much control we think we have over that vehicle and the path ahead of us. If you find yourself struggling to escape on a child’s bicycle from some threat in a dream you may begin to ask yourself what kind of control you have over your future and how you are able to mobilize that control to change things. On the other hand, is frequently the case with heavy-duty action videogamers you are quite willing to stand up to overwhelming force knowing that you have played this game before and defeated it. There are scientific studies that show that people who enjoy extremely violent video games have significantly less nightmares and feel more in control of their lives particularly when they’re dreaming.
Vehicles can also give us the power to make a transition and envision ourselves getting to our destination through a transformation like sitting in the pilot seat of a jet fighter. Vehicles can also highlight obstacles we think we are facing and need to work through since our cars are all equipped with such warning devices. As a result having a dream of being in a vehicle leads to the question of is this transformation sufficient to deal with the current threats or is there a need to reevaluate resources and ability to maneuver when facing this opposition.
It is rare that one has a dream alone. That does not mean that dreams are entirely about other people. Fritz Pearls made it very clear in his gestalt therapy that every person in the dream is a reflection of yourself. He would often take people and put them in the center of a group therapy session on what was called the, “hot seat” where they would assign other people in their dreams to the other group participants. He would then help the person who had the dream see characteristics of themselves that they needed to develop as well as understanding how specific people in their dreams related to existing relationships or interpersonal issues that needed to be worked through. Dreaming of a lover, in particular, is frequently symbolic of an aspect of ourselves from which we feel detached. (It may be an insight that Fritz Pearls learned when he was ostracized from the East Coast psychoanalytic community and rejected by his lover and famous psychoanalyst because of his radical views on “anal aggression” but that is another story)
Another more universal dream image involves the examination. Can take place in the context of dreaming your school or some other place in which an evaluation is being made. The underlying dream image is that of confidence or lack of it. Usually the exams are sudden or unsettling in some way in the dream but the issue remains the same. Do you have the self-confidence and knowledge to pass the test or have you learned whatever, “lesson of life” you are facing to be able to solve it. These are not just dreams of schoolchildren and often reflect our ability to master this several different stages of life we universally go through either integrating the needed awareness or wallowing in the s despair.
There is a distinction drawn by experts studying the field for many years between dreams of paralysis and so-called, “night terrors.” Modern brain researchers have made interesting distinctions between dreams occurring during the REM state and dreams occurring at other states. All other states of sleeping presuppose an inability to move the physical body. Dreams during those states are essentially ones in which any physiological reaction is paralysis. The assumption is that those dreams generate tremendous amounts of anxiety because of the inability of the subject to physically move. During the REM dream state and option of physical movement is always present and can be seen by the fact that people experience death situations but wake up just before the actual terminal incident. Dreams about paralysis aside from this intense level bring into question the ability that one has to control a situation and the need to reevaluate these assumptions.
Dreams are multidimensional and fluid in their logic and lack of reality. A re-examination of the dream may help you clarify the transitions. Be especially aware of those transitions which are terminated, negative or perceived as death by the dream. One of the universal dream symbols pointed out by Dr. Fraser was that the symbol of death indicated a need for sublimity. It is a time to be aware of dramatic changes that may be occurring and not being silly about our existence in life.
The next issue in dream interpretation has to do with perception of movement. It is divided into several major subcategories. It is rare that one is given the ability to fly in a dream without some prior homework. You may remember an odd dream in which you lifted your hands above your head and suddenly found yourself being propelled. This can happen even in short segments in a dream and make the question of how much control you can muster in a chaotic situation. If you encounter a flying dream how much you control the situation is a very important. There’s much information out about controlling your movements in your dreams or lucid dreaming.
Most dreams in which you perceive open are initially uncontrolled and if so you have a sense of falling. Not all falling dreams are negative or scary. People who have overcome the end eight child’s fear of heights may have a different perception of this kind of dream. On one hand there is a sense of serenity and an act of letting go and trusting others and on the other hand there is a feeling of disintegration and lack of ability to control the fall.
Ever felt embarrassed for nude in dream? This is very common and brings to mind of the experienced dream interpreter the issue of psychological or emotional exposure or vulnerability. In other respects it may be a redefining of the body and its powers. For instance a paraplegic’s dream of walking after losing a leg in violent conflict may be feeling of loss of movement embarrassment.
Some of the other dream symbols are not quite as universal but still worth mentioning. Dreaming of a baby may have more meaning than just an addition to the household. It can easily represent something new, a potential development or growth in any area of our waking life.
Dreaming of food they have more meetings that just going to bed hungry. Food symbolizes energy knowledge or nourishment particularly in the way it charges our intellect; which may be hungry for new information or insights.
It is long been considered that dreaming of a house may relate to your self or your immediate family. Some think that it is also a representation of how you organize your mind. Being in a specific area of the house also has insight. Basements often represent areas that have been neglected. Addicts on the other hand store away important memories. Bedrooms relate to intimate thoughts and feelings and so on throughout the house.
Without taking the fanatical approach of Freud who felt that everything in a dream was sexualized erotic dreams can simply be an outlet for sexual expression. It is important to see the distortions that take place around sexuality and dreams for they give you a clue as to some of the unconscious meaning in your dream.
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