How to Analyze Your Dreams (And Why It’s Important)

Everyone wonders what their dreams mean, and there are many complicated systems one can use to learn about them. Since any attempt at looking inward is rewarding,  all of these systems probably help some.

“The biggest myth about dreams is that they are frivolous manifestations reflecting basic occurrences of our daily experiences,” said Chicago psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber.

Why We Dream

Dreaming is the communication between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind, helping people create wholeness, Sumber says. “Dreams are the bridge that allows movement back and forth between what we think we know and what we really know.”

How To Analyze Your Dreams

One of the biggest myths about dream analysis is that there’s a set of stringent rules people need to follow. But every person is unique, so there are no formulas or prescriptions.

Dreams “can only be understood in the larger context of the individual’s unfolding and self-discovery,” Sumber says. However, there are several guidelines that can help you see your dreams more thoughtfully and dig deeper into their meaning.

Four questions to use when analyzing your dreams:

  1. How did I feel at the very end of the dream itself? (In the dream, not after you woke up.)
  2. What was the most emotionally significant thing that happened the day before you had this dream? (What gave you the strongest good or bad feeling?)
  3. How was the feeling at the end of the dream the opposite of the strong feeling you had yesterday?
  4. What could you learn if you decided to throw your dream away and just learn from the real experiences you had the day before?

Put down the dream dictionaries. You’ve probably come across dream dictionaries that feature specific meanings for objects. As Sumber notes, while there may be some universal meaning for these symbols, the key is to figure out what the dream means to you

“While there may be a trace of collective meaning for certain universal symbols that do have some bearing on our internal analysis and growth, I am far more interested in where the dreamer goes with the symbol and what the dreamer connects to as a result of the dream.”

Remember you’re the expert. “There are no experts other than yourself when it comes to your own psyche so don’t stop trusting your own inner guide to your unconscious,” Sumber says.

He adds that, “therapists need to place aside all of their information, tools and associations for universal symbols and dream interpretation with each new client and treat each person as a unique, new world to be discovered.”

Don’t worry if you don’t feel you remembered the whole dream. You remembered just what you needed to remember for now. If there was some other aspect of the dream that was important, either the dream will recur or the important aspect will come up again in a subsequent dream.


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