Dreams are like enchanted doorways to the mind, revealing our deepest needs, desires, feelings and fears. In the most whimsical, bizarre and sometimes terrifying ways, our dreams present to us symbols, metaphors and allegories that are rich in personal meaning and significance.
Our dreams can teach us a lot about ourselves, there is no denying that. And while they are extremely invaluable tools of self-discovery, the art of “dream interpretation” has been greatly muddied, monetized and complicated to unnecessary extents.
Have you ever had a dream that you were curious to discover the meaning of, but felt the need to consult some kind of “A-Z dream dictionary,” online dream meaning website, or even “dream consultant” such as a psychic or intuitive? If you are like most people, you will feel as though this is a natural and necessary step in order for you to understand the meaning of your dreams. But it isn’t.
I’ve bought dream dictionaries and have consulted with all types of people in the past, trying to desperately understand the meaning of dreams which I felt had great significance to me. But eventually I realized that the entire confusing process was completely unnecessary.
Understanding the meaning of your dreams doesn’t need to be something cryptic or complex. It never needed to be in the first place. And today you will discover why.
The Answers are Within You – Not Without
Since birth we have been conditioned to listen to everyone but ourselves. We have been heavily indoctrinated into the belief that “any true and worthy answer” comes from without ourselves – from figures of authority, from religion, from educational institutions and from family members. We are taught not only to second-guess our thoughts, judgments and intuitions, but to completely ignore and discount them.
Therefore, it’s no wonder that when it comes to understanding the meaning of our dreams, we immediately scour the outer world for answers, believing deep down that our answers aren’t truly trustworthy, satisfying or worthwhile enough. Strangely, this seems to be the norm.
And while it can help to consult websites, books, forums, and even other people for guidance and assistance, we seem to harbor a very imbalanced perspective towards understanding the meaning of our dreams that prevents us from truly learning from them.
While there are some widely accepted interpretations for the different objects, people and occurrences in our dreams (which shouldn’t be completely discredited), our dreams are highly personal in nature meaning that only really we can understand their true meanings and messages.
Your life context; your experiences, your feelings, your beliefs, your values, your fears, your desires, your dreams, your perspectives will be uniquely different from others. Your dreams are finely tuned to you. And therefore, your answers will also be finely tuned to you.
Uncover the Hidden Meaning of Your Dreams with One Simple Technique
Personally, dream interpretation has been one of the most powerful tools of self-insight in my life. No matter how pleasant, embarrassing or horrific my dreams have been, I’ve always been able to learn lessons from them.
One technique I use that never leaves me lacking answers, vaguely confused, or under a cloak of skepticism and distrust, is called “free association.”
Free association is basically the process of spitting out as many thoughts or feelings as you can onto a piece of paper, and making connections between them.
Author Doreen Valiente, defines free association eloquently:
A method of interpreting dreams which is often recommended by psychologists, is that of free association. This means that you think over the symbolism of the dream, and record whatever your mind spontaneously associates with it, however irrelevant such an association may at first appear.Originally created by Freud in the late 1800’s, free association is often used in psychoanalysis to uncover hidden thoughts and feelings that have been repressed. These thoughts and feelings often appear as stories, places, experiences, objects and feelings within dreams.
But … you might be wondering, "How do I go about free associating by myself?" "Do I need anything in particular?" "Is it difficult?"
The answer is that free association is just as easy and simple as making a cup of tea. All you really need is a pen and paper. But to effectively free associate you will need to keep a few things in mind:
1. Make sure you have an attitude of non-judgement and curiosity.
Free association is about letting thoughts and words come to you, completely unfiltered. This could mean that you might write down seemingly irrelevant, embarrassing, strange, shocking or even “crazy” things. Resist the temptation to judge yourself and hold back: you will only withhold potentially important and revealing information. The more open you are, the more you will understand the meaning of your dreams.
2. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.
This is the essence of free association: spew out anything you think or feel in relation to your dream. It's a sort of mental diarrhea. For instance, if you’ve had a dream about being chased to the edge of a cliff, you might free associate words such as “fear of failure, threat, hiding from something, demanding parents, responsibilities, stressed, lost, scared, fed up, walking on eggshells” and so forth.
Free association tends to look something like this:
3. Feel free to pause.
The difference between free association and free writing, is that free association is done thoughtfully, while free writing is done as an act of mentally purging all thoughts that come into your mind. When you start to free associate, take time to pause, think, introspect, and dig for a word or feeling – but not for too long (or, not for more than a few seconds)! Free association is about getting into a gentle flow.
4. Reflect and draw connections.
After you have finished free associating every word that comes to mind, take a few minutes to reflect on what you have written. What connections can you find? For example, you might have free associated a dream about traveling to a foreign land with words like “adventure, change, desire for more, want to do something, excitement, big world, explore.” Reflecting on these words, it could be concluded that you want to expand your world and that you are ready for change to occur in your life. You might also be tired of your old ways, and you might desire the adventure of new ways of life.
5. The frequency of a dream greatly impacts its significance.
Ideally free association should be applied to dreams that frequently emerge each night. The more often a certain type of dream appears in your life, the more likely it is of great significance to you. But then, if a dream pops out of the blue which just happens to stun or confound you, by all means free associate!
While it might be easier and more convenient to quickly search up the meaning of your dreams online or in a book, true self-discovery is about looking inside for the answers and realizing that often the most authentic discoveries actually come from within you.
Remember that your dreams have unique and highly personal meanings that only you can uncover.
What have your experiences been with trying to understand the meaning of your dreams?