This is Part Two of a three-part series. It focuses on different ways to play with dreams rather than on strict notions of interpretation.
Be wary of books that center on universal meanings for symbols. Perhaps some symbols are universal; most, however, have specific cultural and personal associations.
A snake, for example, is often considered to be a phallic symbol. However, in older, matriarchal-based societies, the snake may represent the birth process; in others it stands for life force energy.
Your feelings and intuition are more relevant than traditional interpretations. It's YOUR dream; thus, a snake is a symbol that has a unique meaning for you. If you feel that it represents an unfolding process of creativity, then it does. If you remember creepy-crawly sensations in the woods, follow those feelings.
When possible, make time in the morning for this process of interpretation. Many images and sensations are fresh then, which later on may become blurred by the events of the day. However, by going into a light meditative state later on in the day, you can revive your emotional responses, especially if you focus on the strongest sensations from the dream. For example, if in your dream you opened the closet door, and a giant cobra lunged out at you, you will have little difficulty reliving your response.
Over and Over Again
Dreams that call for special attention are those one has repeatedly. I have a recurrent dream that I've been in college for several months and realize that there's a class I haven't attended at all.
When I have this dream, I look at my life very carefully in order to discover what I'm neglecting. Lately the situation has gotten resolved in the dream itself; i.e., I find the classroom; the professor doesn't notice that I've been missing; I manage to make up the work I've missed.
I've learned that this is a common repeating dream. Yours may be different. Some people dream frequently about blocked plumbing. This may refer to blockage on a physical or emotional level.
All repeating dreams have in common an urgent message. They deserve priority attention. As mentioned in the first article, focus on how you feel about the dream. Your understanding will most likely flow from your emotions.
My missing class dream (it's always a math class, by the way) might also be telling me that I'm in a state of panic. My most productive action might be to deal with that. If I can clear panic from my life, I can do whatever I need to more easily.
Seeing the Big Picture
The purpose of writing down one's dreams isn't simply to encourage your remembering them or to provide an immediate reference. It can be equally valuable to read over your dreams for the week or month. Doing so will make it even easier to understand their special language and their particular messages for you.
As you examine your own dreams for patterns while reviewing the events of the period during which they occurred, you might also find that your dreams accurately forecast your hidden beliefs, which, if unexamined, may lead to the creation of a reality you'd prefer not to experience.
Your dreams can also point out solutions you've overlooked in waking life and describe new avenues for your creative expression.
An Imaginary Interpretation
Joan's boss has recommended her for a promotion at her firm. She feels flattered by his confidence in her, but she doesn't share it. She also, however, feels that she would regret turning it down without considering it. She asks for a week to think about it.
That night she dreams that she's in a Broadway production, a musical comedy with many big dance scenes and lots of songs. She tries out for the lead role but makes the chorus instead. In the middle of a dance scene the lead actress trips and falls on the stage. Jean thinks, "I'm so glad I didn't get that part; it could have happened to me."
In interpreting the dream, feelings provide the most important clue. Always be aware of how you feel when you wake up from a dream.
In Joan's case, if when she wakes up she feels disappointed or frustrated, if she finds herself going through her day and saying to herself, "I don't want to stay in the position I have; I need some risk in my life," then the dream is telling her she believes that the rewards of taking the new job are worth the possibility of falling on her face, because she's tired of being in the chorus line of the Broadway production that's her life.
If she feels relieved, and that feeling continues, it seems likely that accepting the promotion isn't her best move at this time. However, that doesn't have to be the end of the story. Although she's given herself a temporary reprieve, she will at some point (and sooner is better than later) need to look at her fear of humiliation. Not only is it stopping her in her career, but it may well also be limiting her in other areas of life.
Giving the Dream a Different Ending
This is an entertaining and creative way to play with dream meanings. If you don't like how your dream ends, think of an ending you would prefer. See if you can plausibly and vividly imagine it. This can be easiest in the state of meditation or when half-asleep the following night.
Joan could change the ending of her Broadway spectacular dream this way. When the lead performer falls down she is asked to replace her, to become the new lead. She then imagines how this makes her feel. Is she thrilled? Does she love being a star? Does she find that it's really a lot of work with little reward? Her response to the changed ending will tell her a lot about how she wants to choose in her waking life.
By the way, this method of changing the ending is by no means limited to dreams. I find it valuable to always imagine myself living the results of various choices I may be contemplating. This method can give us information never obtainable through logic.
Part Three of this series will go further into the area of interpretation, with special emphasis on dreams about animals.