there is plenty of anecdotal history on dreams and what they might mean
or symbolize, we date our modern interest in dream study to Sigmund Freud,
who was first to identify the subconscious as the part of the mind that
stores memories and desires.
This identification became a major breakthrough in understanding how our
dreams are linked to daily activities in our waking life. Freud's brilliant
exploration of dream content analysis was unfortunately limited by his
narrow focus on sexuality as the common lens for reviewing all dreams.
Despite this, Freud's work has been acknowledged as an important contributor
in our understanding of the dream world.
Everyone dreams. Scientists have discovered that probably all healthy
people dream, including infants. Through laboratory work, they've determined
that the dream period is marked by observable rapid eye movement (REM)
and that dreams take place on the average every ninety minutes.
They have also learned that dream deprivation can have profound effects
on our psychological and emotional wellbeing.
In a laboratory study conducted by dream researchers William Dement and
Charles Fisher of New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, people were awakened
whenever REM began, thus were not allowed to finish any dream. They were
not allowed to dream for six nights, or to nap during the day.
In a control group equal amounts of sleep were denied, including non-napping;
however, the control group participants were only awakened during non-REM
portions of sleep. The study found that the dream-deprived subjects became
more and more anxious and irritable and admitted making poorer lifestyle
choices then normal.
For example, they drank and smoke more often and were more hostile and
resentful than under normal circumstances. On the other hand, the control
group, sleep but not dream deprived, showed no change in personality or
behavior. Scientists concluded that dreams are critical to our psychological
Not many weeks go by when we don't either hear someone make reference
to a dream which caught their attention or have one of our own. It is
when we have the earth-shaking dream that hints of something spectacular
brewing, or is a full-blown nightmare that we wish that "knew"
what it meant.
Rather than waiting for that hang-gliding moment to arrive, start practicing
dream analysis now. To do this:
First-- Get a notebook. You will find that you recall your dream
better as you write, and that even the words you choose to describe the
dream help give you insight later as to what the dreams means.
Furthermore, by recording your dreams regularly and in a notebook, you
will be able to see patterns and personal symbols as you read back over
several dreams at one time.
If you have a hard time recalling dreams, give yourself a suggestion before
bedtime that you will remember your dreams that night, or drink some water
before retiring to help you to wake up in the middle of the night, perhaps
just after a dream ends.
If you have the opposite problem of waking too often with dreams to record,
give yourself the suggestion that you will recall the last dreams before
morning, unless it is very important that you recall an earlier one. The
unconscious mind is very amenable to suggestion.
Second-- Relax before you retire. If you go to bed tense or too
tired, you may sleep so soundly that you will not be able to recall your
dreams. By relaxing beforehand, you allow your psyche to shift gears away
from the outward, role-oriented, public life you lead to reveal the inner,
more emotional part of you.
Third-- Notice what is on your mind-- Dreams generally give focus
to whatever occupies our mind or hearts; so, if you are aware of your
thoughts and feelings just before you go to sleep, you may find yourself
halfway to interpreting your dreams when you awake.
Fourth-- Don't forget to give yourself a suggestion. "I will
remember my dreams" may suffice, or you may wish to pray for guidance,
or for understanding a particular area.
Fifth-- Wake up comfortably. If you use an alarm clock, try to
use a soft alarm, or quiet music; a loud, jarring or verbal music bring
you to consciousness too quickly, and sever the thin, fragile line to
Sixth-- Don't move too abruptly. Again, it is difficult to hold
onto the thin, filmy material of the unconscious. A quick movement, even
a stretch as you lay in bed can plant you firmly in the conscious world,
with only a wisp of a feeling that you had some great and important dream.
Take a few moments to go over the dream in your mind. Then carefully retrieve
your journal to write it down. Start by writing out a simple story line,
as described below. When you have more time, go back and add additional
that you've had a dream and have recorded it. What now? Michaels gives
us five easy-to-use steps that will enable us to identify the theme and
from that hopefully, the aspect of our lives that the dream messenger
wishes us to address. The steps are:
Step one: Emotions-- What were your feelings during the dream and
as you awoke? Were they familiar feelings? Are they feelings you desire
more of, or would rather do without? Emotions are often a very strong
clue to the meaning of a dream.
Step two: What is the basic story line?-- Be a disinterested third
party and sum the dream up in a sentence or two. "Someone or something
is doing what...?" For example:
Dream--There is a flowerpot on a windowsill. The plant is very
beautiful and healthy.
Upon closer inspection, you notice that a bug is beginning to eat one
of the leaves. You are startled and know that you must act quickly if
you are to save the plant, but don't know if you can.
When you awake you feel hurt, not wanting to see something that is so
beautiful destroyed. A story line that addresses both the theme and the
emotion might be "Someone sees something beautiful, but in order
to keep it so, has to act quickly to put a stop to something horrible
Step three: Matching the theme or story line to an area of life--
Notice that none of the detail of the dream is kept in the theme, but
rather the action and the emotion. This helps the dreamer to apply the
theme to any aspect of his or her waking life.
The dreamer might ask: "If this theme were a reflection of my waking
life or a part of me, what area or part would it reflect?" In the
above dream, one might ask what wonderful being is threatened by something
the dreamer must "nip in the bud?"
Step four: Symbols-- Despite much talk about universal symbols
and standard dream symbols, symbols are first and foremost personal. As
you look at your dreams, be aware of what the symbols mean to you. They
can mean the same thing as they do to others, or they can mean different
A dog behind a fence can make you feel safe or make you sad as you recall
that your beloved pet was locked in all day when you left for school.
Of course you may also accept many commonly held dream symbols.
Step five: Application-- After you decide on the dream's theme
and match the theme to an area of your life, look at the symbols and associate
them to actual memories or personal meaning.
Do insights and meanings emerge? Think of how to apply these. Is there
an implied action, such as starting an exercise program? Remember, dreams
are letters from your soul, not generally meant to simply entertain you.
Under most circumstances, applying the dream's insight will produce a
constructive change in you as you align yourself more closely with your
Let us look briefly at the 27 types of dreams that Michaels documents
in the remainder of the book. For each category, Michaels provides descriptions
of dream types in that category, followed by "live" examples
of dreams and analyses.
Afterwards, she summarizes each type by recapturing the identifying features,
to make it easier for the dreamer to sort, label and understand his or
her dream content.
Dreams related to basic life issues
Included are dreams concerning:
1. Body and Health
4. Male and female balancing
When you learn to pay attention to your dreams, you may realize that you
have your own built-in doctor, or so it seems. Your dreams will show you
when certain foods disagree with your body, or how to raise your energy
or calm yourself down, and even how to heal yourself.
Each of your cells has a consciousness that communicates with the whole,
just as holographic photography can reveal the whole entity from the smallest
segment. These dreams communicate often through common symbols for the
body, such as cars and houses, or less common ones, such as rusted or
leaking pipes which may signify problems with the eliminations or with
a woman's menses.
Sometimes the messages are very direct. Be sure to consult a health professional
concerning serious health issues.
Relationship issues may also be direct or symbolic in dreams. People you
know in waking life may represent some characteristic of themselves that
is important to the dream's message to you, or they may represent themselves
directly in their relationship to you.
The following trick can help you decide which is the case. Whether the
person is someone you know well or someone you hardly know, think of two
traits about that person that you like and two traits that you don't like.
Then apply those traits to yourself or someone close to you; if there
is a substantial match, the person is mirroring traits that you need to
look at in yourself or someone close to you.
If there is no direct match, then it is more likely that the relationship
itself is being portrayed in the dream.
As with any dream, apply the five-step process to determine the dream's
theme. If the theme clearly reminds you of a current or past relationship,
it is a relationship dream that you need to act upon.
Most often, these dreams give us feedback about our behavior in the relationship,
or feedback that will help prepare us for a future relationship that we
are seeking, showing us how to clean up our acts to make room for a new
or better relationship.
Finally, be aware that dreams almost always exaggerate both actions and
emotions; it is their way of getting our attention. If our dream audience
cheers when we punch someone for their obvious wrongdoing, it is not advocating
the violent action but rather the indignation and assertive behavior that
Our dreams always help us to be on our best behavior, but that does not
mean being a "goody two-shoes" as we, or some other vulnerable
person or group gets walked all over.
Similar logic can be applied to the other four dream types in this category.
Decision-making dreams do not give you answers but rather a clearer view
of the questions and landscape so that you can make the right decision.
One dreamer saw two golden haired dogs that looked very much alike but
were really quite different.
When asked about their differences, she replied in the dream that one
was a pedigree Pekingese, while the other was an ordinary dog of mixed
breed. Upon awakening, she realized that the dream had to do with her
relationship with Bill, who, like herself, was blond.
While they seemed to have similar interests, the dream allowed her to
focus on bill's temperament, high strung and finicky, traits similar to
the pedigreed dog. The dream helped her to make a decision with which
she had wrestled for some time.
Identifying features include dreams that have you choosing among options,
deciding whether something is real or fake, or dreams that involve taking
a mode of transportation to a destination. If you are in the process of
making an important decision, try triggering a decision-making dream.
Ask, as you drift off to sleep: "If I do such and such, what will
the result be like?"
See what comes up in your dreams that night. If it seems totally unrelated,
try it again the next night; sometimes it takes awhile to prime the pump.
Rebalancing dreams may come up when we tend to be too one-sided in expressing
the opposite sex traits of our being. Everyone has both male and female
characteristics and generally orientates him or herself to one or the
other. The other trait is used less often but still often reflects prominently
in one's personality.
When one is substantially out of balance, it may be quite apparent. Males
lacking in female essence will tend to lack sensitivity, gentleness or
nurturing. Females who have limited male essence may lack assertiveness
or be too dependent. As we grow and change physically and emotionally,
we sometimes need to re balance our psyches; dreams are one way to do
Characteristic of such dreams is the presence of a person of the opposite
sex with whom we identify or whom we admire. This figure represents the
anima (female essence in a man's dream and animus (male essence in a woman's
dream) part of us. We may see ourselves doing something that is not characteristic
of us and that usually represents the opposite trait which needs to be
brought into our lives to balance us.
Or, the anima /animus may appear as a negative figure, pointing out a
trait that is overly developed.
Strength dreams act like meters to show us the level of strength or vulnerability
we are feeling. They often come at periods of our lives when we are facing
difficult or challenging situations. This can include starting a new school
or career, or facing the death of a loved one.
One important thing about sex dreams is that they are not always about
sex. Because of the level of emotion often associated with sex, sex dreams
may be symbolic of any powerful emotion we may feel at any time.
A dream about a positive sexual encounter with a boss that you despise
may be the psyche's way of healing the negative energy so that you can
initiate a better working relationship. However, sometimes we have sex
dreams as a way of balancing our own sexual energy or resolving our psychological
feelings about sexuality.
Evaluate sex dreams in the usual way; paying close attention to the roles
as well as the action. See what aspect of your life the theme fits best;
then act on it in accordance with your personal standards and good judgment.
And remember, dreams are not judgmental.
They reflect the standards you absorbed while growing up and messages
from your own soul regarding those standards.
Dreams that help you to remove life's roadblocks--
Included are dreams concerning:
7. Re balancing your emotional state
8. Reviewing past events or states of mind
This next section of dreams is not substantially different from those
discussed above in terms of how to interpret and apply the messages. Re
balancing your emotional state is a lot like re balancing your male and
The psyche serves as a gauge to what is normal in each person; it then
notifies us in the dream state when we are off balance. Oftentimes the
re balancing is achieved simply by the dream itself, through mirroring
back to us the areas in which we are stuck.
Sometimes, by showing us an exaggerated mood, the dream is saying, "Is
this who you really are?" to enable us to change our conduct or attitude
and return to balance.
Review dreams, as the title implies, allow us to look back at a recent
incident or unfinished business and see whether we handled it as well
as we might have done.
Oftentimes, we may find ourselves in another's person's shoes if the waking
incident involved a relationship. These dreams help us process the "leftovers,"
by checking out the small things that may inhibit healing and wholeness
in all aspects of our lives.
Nonsense dreams are like caricatures; they are absurdity that is placed
in our faces to get our attention. Most nonsense dreams make perfect sense
upon closer examination, and then become one of the other types of dreams
we have examined.
A dream about eating a shoe may be a direct comment on the nutritional
content of our food choices; one showing you with an extra large head
or a tiny hat may nudge you to review your disposition about your level
of achievement, especially if you've been bragging a lot.
Recurring dreams are another of the psyche's tools that may either be
used make a point or to bring attention to a critical need or simply to
help in a long-term healing process. Some people dream repeated stories
about loved ones who are deceased.
Others may dream of overcoming seemingly insurmountable difficulties,
again and again, to remind them of their strength during long and difficult
times. Some such dreams keep the same theme but get worse with each subsequent
dream until it becomes the "nightmare from hell," like a child
who whimpers to get attention and falls into a full-blown tantrum if it
still doesn't get its way.
Recurring dreams should be treated as all others so that the message may
be accepted or acted upon.
Dreams that help you realize your potential
Included are dreams concerning:
11. Dreams that signal something new
12. Dreams that promise a favorable outcome
13. Energizing dreams
14. Creativity dreams
15. Practice dreams
All of the dreams in this section seem to truly signify a change in you
that is noticeable almost immediately. Energizing dreams can actually
elevate your energy level and creativity dreams can instigate or improve
Practice dreams can both prepare you for an emotionally charged one-time
activity (such as speaking to a group) or reinforce ongoing skills you
may have. Of course, the traits and talents signaled in our dreams are
strengthened by what we do in our waking life to reinforce them.
Learning a new skill and stopping bad habits fall into this category and
we know that these require much reinforcement to result in lifelong changes.
Included are dreams concerning:
16. Frightening Dreams
17. Dreams about death
In promoting wellbeing and wholeness, the psyche sometimes must help us
deal with unpleasant matters, things we would rather avoid. Our natural
reaction is to "push away" such information, much as a child
might stop up his ears to avoid hearing a parental lecture.
This distorts the images that come through, creating images and story
lines that appear frightening. According to Michaels, there aren't really
frightening dreams, only frightened dreamers.
We may find ourselves face to face with what we fear most, which becomes
an opportunity for change and healing; we may mimic the pain and trauma
that exists in our waking lives in order to help us see a way to alleviate
it; or we "see the enemy and know it to be us," through projecting
a rejected part of ourselves.
All are opportunities to promote wellness in our lives. Sometimes, these
dreams come to make us aware of potential danger, such as job loss or
accidents. We help ourselves best by understanding the message and accepting
it or acting on it.
Highest on the scale of fear-invoking dreams are dreams about our own
or a loved one's death. Like sex dreams, the vast majority of death dreams
are metaphorical. Since death is the ultimate change, such dreams usually
symbolize major change.
In rare cases, the dreams may be an actual death warning, which may come
either to help us avoid a fatal accident or to prepare us for a loved
one's death, or even our own.
The three things that characterize these rare dreams are:
1. Very vivid imagery; 2. Emotions that would match the dreamer's if the
incident occurred in waking life, and 3. True to life details, i.e. the
actual car or house, etc. as in waking life where event takes place.
As with all dreams, we should identify and apply the theme to our lives
to see if there is a metaphorical fit. What is this critically important
message? If we cannot find a metaphorical fit, we may try to resolve whatever
situation the dream warning might indicate, such as getting the car's
brakes checked or discussing the plane trip with the individual we dreamed
about if we feel comfortable doing so.
If the death we saw becomes inevitable, perhaps it was our psyche's way
of preparing us, a strength dream.
Other people and your dreams
Included are dreams concerning
18. Other person dreams
19. Counseling dreams
This is an unusual category of dreams and is not easy to spot. Sometimes
our dreams about other people are not about relationship issues, but are
about how others see and feel about us, or how we see and feel about others.
These dreams seem to literally cross the threshold of our individuality,
much like a psychic dream, and connect us to another being. A secretary,
who was experiencing a very difficult time with a controlling boss, dreamed
of pink flamingoes being beaten severely by a shopkeeper.
She saw that she was afraid to speak out on the bird's behalf because
she knew that she might make it harder for the remaining bird (2 others
had died from the beatings) after she left. Upon analyzing the dream,
she realized that she was the maimed flamingo, her boss the shopkeeper
and a close friend and fellow employee, the observer.
The unspoken empathy from the co-worker helped her feel better and to
rally some under the tyranny. The dead birds were previous secretaries
who had quit before her arrival. This equating of death with quitting
is an example of the metaphorical use of death dreams.
In another dream, someone observed a friend standing out in the rain who
refused her sincere offer to share her oversized umbrella. She felt hurt
that she could not reach her lonely friend. Upon close analysis, she realized
that she'd switched shoes, that the lonely person was herself and that
she'd recently rejected a friend's sincere outreach efforts.
Recognizing how her friend felt prompted her to call and repair the damages
and accept the attention she so needed. Counseling dreams are similar
to the above, allowing one who is in a client/counselor relationship to
identify with their client's needs through dreams that mirror the client's
emotions or, in some cases, actual situations that they are facing.
These dreams are brought on by a sincere desire to help and can enable
the therapist uncover unspoken material that can be used in sensitive
and respectful manners to enhance and speed up the client's healing.
Infinite harmonies: Divine graces that come directly through dreams
Included are dreams concerning:
20. Healing Dreams
21. Integration of the Self achieved through dreams
Where there is harmony between body, mind and spirit, wholeness and health
occur." Healing dreams promote harmony that leads to physical, mental
or emotional wellness. While some healing dreams are spontaneous, Micheals
believes the dreamer may also request a healing. She did so only once,
and she received one.
It came upon the heels of multiple surgeries one year to repair facial
bones from an early childhood accident. Exhausted and having breathing
difficulties, she exclaimed before retiring that if ever she needed a
healing dream, "it was now." She dreamed of a huge snake-like
dragon lying in concentric circles that ate pills supplied by its own
The serious, pompous-looking dragon made her laugh and gave her energy
and strength. In fact, every time she thought of the dragon, she felt
re-energized. She soon learned that the dragon of her dreams was the ancient
archetypal symbol for healing. Other dreams help you integrate parts of
your psyche, similar again to the rebalancing dreams.
You go to sleep as Jane Doe and awake as the new, improved Jane Doe, more
confident, radiant and stronger, permanently. Common images in these dreams
are mountaintop scenes, perfect circles, number 7's, or wise old men.
They are often unexpected and come after a period of genuine striving;
they seem to be the soul's way of giving you a wonderful pat on the back.
New horizons: Exploring spiritual unknowns through dreams
Included are dreams concerning:
22. Dreams that cross death's threshold
23. Dream visits to other realms
24. ESP dreams
25. Dreams of past lives
26. World-event dreams
27. Lucid dreams
The common element in these dreams is their obvious ability to reveal
to us that we are all connected. They do this by having us reach beyond
our individuality into timelessness and "space" less ness. We
see that life does not end with death, nor does it begin with birth.
We can see loved ones across the miles and tap into world events. These
dreams are seldom asked for, nor do we know why they come to some individuals
but not others. Mystics across the centuries, near death experiences and
other anecdotal evidence confirms that the veil between the "deceased"
and the living is indeed thin, and that it is mainly our distractions
with this world, coupled with entrenched and inhibiting beliefs, that
separate us from recognizing visits from deceased loved ones.
It is for this reason that such visits most often take place when we are
in the dream state, when we are less inhibited and distracted. One final
comment on the common elements of dreams in this category is that they
all have a literal quality about them, and they all seem to leave a strong
hint of reality.
The deceased may give a favorite fragrance or habit, for instance; or,
as you fly off to another realm, you may pass over a street name that
you recognize, or you may see a calendar with a date that tells you you're
in a past life.
Is it any wonder then that the last chapter focuses on lucid dreaming,
those dreams where we are conscious of dreaming and able to observe and
change our interactions with the dream world. The Tibetans believe that
lucid dreaming helps prepare us for our final transition and that finding
and merging with the light was a way of reaching transformation in this
Lucid dreams certainly allow the conscious and the unconscious to merge,
which is one way of giving us a window view of our soul. If you have one,
look for the light and try to merge with it; it is good practice.
It is important to realize that, even when they seem quite out of the
blue, dreams do not come unbidden or without purpose. They come to help
us in some way, prepare us in some way, heal us and make us whole in some
They come to awaken us to who we truly are. They do this best when we
pay them attention, seek to understand the message and respond to it as
best we are able, including just by acknowledging our gratitude.
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