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Another Perspective

Why It’s a Mistake to Interpret Dreams

The other day a friend told me he’d been asked to interpret another person’s dream. He wanted to know what I thought about dream interpretation. Here are my thoughts.
Dreams function as a bridge between consciousness and the unconscious. They’re able to do this because dream images are symbols. Like all symbols, dream images point beyond themselves to a greater reality.*
In dream work what we seek is engagement with the reality that lies behind the image. What is that reality? Why has it come to us at this moment? What is it saying? What part of us is like this reality? These are the kinds of questions to ask of the images in our dreams. They’ll provide a response that’s alive and have the ability to heal.
This vitality isn’t possible when a dream image is interpreted, given a ‘this means that’ explanation. Dreams speak a poetic language. Their images have a variety of references, not just one. When a specific meaning is attached to an image, its other possible renderings are missed. This results in a product of limited value. Also, be aware when someone applies their interpretation to your dream, what you have is something that tells you more about what’s going on inside that person’s psyche than it does your own.
An unanticipated consequence of dream interpretation is the exploitation of the unconscious. The unconscious is not a natural resource waiting to be mined. It’s a living component of our soul that desires relationship, not understanding. Experience has shown the pursuit of understanding is regarded by the unconscious as a hostile act. It responds by withdrawing its vitality. Nightmares frequently follow.
It’s for these reasons I urged my friend to stay away from dream interpretations. They’re fool’s gold.
If the goal of dream work isn’t understanding dreams but creating a relationship with unknown parts of ourselves, what’s the best way of doing this? The answer is to befriend our dreams, to form a relationship with the underlying realities out of which our dream images emerge. Befriending dreams, rather than interpreting dreams, offers the greatest potential for healing and growth.
Coming next: “How to Befriend Dreams Images”
*An example of a symbol is the cross of Christ. It points beyond the place and means of Jesus’s death to a greater reality: new life.
For a discussion of the connection between God and dreams, see my book, God and Dreams: Is There A Connection?

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