Have you seen the commercial for the sleep med that shows Abraham Lincoln, a beaver, and a diver all assembled in a kitchen? I realize the ad is designed for medication marketing, but it also does a fabulous job of illustrating what makes dream translation often seem difficult.
If we took that commercial, or most any dream and assembled it into a sentence it would resemble something known in the psychiatric community as "word salad". Word salad sounds like normal speech but the words making up the sentence usually have no readily discernible association: "Hamster meaning says Carmen Consuelo believes menagerie flinch at play."
Putting together a string of unrelated words is quite difficult when one is awake. As bizarre as waking life sometimes seems, we can usually see a pattern. With dreams, however, the freewheeling unconscious takes over and the associations are far more difficult to find. To interpret dreams, we must learn to fuse the rational with the irrational. In other words, we must learn to speak the language of the irrational and one of the reasons this is so difficult is because dreams are not communicating in language. They are communicating via pictures, symbols, feelings. It is up to us to take these images and then assign them the words they are missing.
The ABCs of dream interpretation are actually the DAFs; defined below.
Our dreams mean what they say and say what they mean. Our job is to find that meaning, to translate it exactly, not to give a vague interpretation to what is going on. If I say "eglise" in French and you do not speak French but speak English, the word must be translated. The English word for "eglise" is "church". When someone translates, they tell you what the word means in your language as directly as possible. The translator does not point to a library and tell you that an "eglise" is not that. The only time an interpretation or synonym is used is when there literally is no word in your language for the one being translated.
This is the first place to start in dream interpretation. If you see a ghost in your dream ask yourself what exactly a ghost is. Imagine you had to explain ghost to a person who had never heard of one before. At this point, as much as possible, try to stick with the image itself rather than associating. I know this sounds pretty obvious, but it is often the obvious which is most overlooked!
Once you thoroughly understand the simple meaning of the image, ask yourself what you personally associate the symbol with. Do this before consulting any dream dictionary; even mine! You may have an entirely different association than what you read in a book and it is always your association that is most relevant, most important, most powerful. For example, perhaps instead of associating ghost with something scary and haunted, you might associate ghost with the Holy Ghost--something powerful, divine, a spark of God/dess.
Just doing this will often make the dream very clear. But there is another element that is extremely helpful in dream translation: feeling.
One of the most valuable pieces of information in a dream often times comes not from the symbol in the dream but from the feeling in the dream. How did you feel when you awoke? Were you happy, sad, forlorn, or elated for some inexplicable reason? Or try this: were you terribly afraid in the dream but when you awoke did you feel joy and contentment? If so, perhaps you worked something out in your dream.
Using the DAFs of dream interpretation is a little like sorting the vegetables in your dream salad; the process helps us to understand the correlation of images which at first appear random. Once you understand why a radish has been mixed in with a piece of lettuce, or why Abraham Lincoln has been paired with a beaver, you are well on your way to deciphering that letter to you from your unconscious.
Until next time, sleep well and dream out loud!
*~Aisling Ireland~* is an ordained Spiritual Counselor providing dream interpretation and Tarot readings. To make an appointment check out her website at:
Carl Jung was one of the pioneers of dream interpretation. This book is one of my favorites because unlike most of Jung's other work, this one is easy to read, understand and use in one's daily life.