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Dream interpretation: choosing a dream

Choosing a dream

“How do I know which dream to start with?” emailed Tim, eager to begin applying some of my techniques. Tim remembers four or five dreams a night, and realises that working in depth with one dream a day would be too much. “I was hoping you might answer my question in a blog,” she said.

When was the last time you worked deeply with a dream? If it’s been a while, or if you’re a beginner and wondering where to start, here’s my top priority list:

 

  • A recurring dream or recurring dream theme

If you have a recurring dream (or recurring dream theme) with an unresolved or unsatisfactory ending, and you’ve had the dream within the last few weeks, that’s the most powerful place to begin. Dreams reflect the last 1-2 days, so every time you have the recurring dream or theme it’s reflecting a recurring waking life issue that’s not working out well for you. Working with this dream you can identify the issue, your inner conflicts about the issue (which may surprise you), the usual approaches you try (that fail), and the unconscious beliefs that are blocking you from resolving it successfully.

 

  • An emotionally charged dream

A dream in which you feel a heightened emotion – especially an uncomfortable emotion – is invaluable to work with. The emotion is usually linked to an unconscious belief or behaviour pattern that is restricting your growth. This kind of dream can help you to identify an emotional event in your past that is still affecting your life today, and – when you apply dream alchemy techniques – can lead to powerful release and healing.

 

  • A vivid dream

An uplifting, colourful, intense, vivid dream often reflects a breakthrough (or a near-breakthrough), and working with such a dream can support you as the effects of the change ripple through your life in unexpected ways. It’s also good to understand, affirm, and celebrate the changes these dreams herald, and to prepare yourself for some strong emotions that may take you by surprise as they are released as part of the process.

 

  • A dream that poses a problem or question

Most dreams involve trying to solve a problem or find an answer to a question, and these reflect a waking life problem or question you’re trying to solve. (It takes work to relate the dream problem to the waking life problem because dreams are symbolic.) Look for a dream with a bizarre problem or question, the more surreal the better. Here’s what you can do with these dreams.  This technique can help you to question your question, or understand why you see a particular situation as a problem. It can help you shift your perspective and find new solutions. It can totally transform your life.

 

  • A dream that refers to the past

Although dreams reflect the last 1-2 days, they may include references to the past (your childhood home, ex-partners, people or places you once knew). These dreams can help you to go back to see how your past is still shaping your present, and to work with dream alchemy to change this.

 

  • A night of dreams

Don’t be too quick to choose just one dream from a heavy night’s dream recall. Those four or five dreams you may remember from one night’s sleep often reflect the same situation from different angles.

 

  • Just begin!

Or just choose that dream from last night – you know the one, the one that’s still haunting you. It’s reflecting the last 1-2 days so it’s fresh comment (and ripe with insight for you to discover) on whatever you’re going through right now.

 

  • Still not sure how to begin?

If deeply working with a dream on your own just seems too daunting, book a consultation with me. There are plenty of options, and it’s much more fun.

 

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Paula Abdul’s dream

Dream analysis on Studio Ten show

I was talking with Paula Abdul and Ita Buttrose on Studio 10 this morning about their dreams and what they mean, as well as looking at some common dream themes. What’s Paula’s recurring dream? What was Ita’s epic dream all about?

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Rewiring the brain with Dream Alchemy

Rewiring the brain with Dream Alchemy

Imagine you have a dream about climbing an endless staircase, one that doubles back on itself just when the last step is in sight, or one that twists like a mobius strip, or tricks the eye like an Escher print. It’s quite a common dream, and, like all unresolved dreams, it reflects an unresolved situation in waking life. It might be as simple as a creative problem you can’t resolve at work, or as complex as a relationship issue you can’t resolve in your personal life.

Now, you wouldn’t just be trotting around that dream staircase thinking ho-hum, would you? After a few rounds you’d be feeling an emotion or two, perhaps frustration, irritation, panic, resignation, disappointment, relief (phew, saved from getting there and confronting something), confusion, what else? What do you imagine you might feel in this kind of dream?

Emotions tend to be heightened in dreams as we touch upon raw feelings (often unconscious) that we bury or hold back from expressing when we are awake. But although you may wake up from an emotional dream with relief, “Oh, thank goodness, only normal staircases in my life today and, anyway, I always take the elevator,” don’t dismiss that dream or the emotions you felt. Somewhere in your life, in the last two days, you lived that analogy of feeling as if you were on an endless staircase, of sensing that a situation would turn back on itself just when the last step was in sight, of not being able to see a solution to getting to where you want to be. And that emotion that you felt in the dream is a key to what is stopping you from resolving the waking life issue, to seeing a solution to the problem.

We all have our blind spots, our unique ways of seeing – or not seeing – the world, based on our automatic habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and responding to situations. Those patterns are laid down (wired into our brains, automated, plunged into our unconscious mind) as a result of our early experiences, or as a result of more recent emotional trauma. Whatever new and positive experiences life might offer us, that old wiring pattern can be very hard to shift. Why? We established those patterns for our survival, to protect us and keep us safe from the things we feared at that early age or following that trauma. Many of those patterns were learned from our parents or guardians as they modelled their habitual ways of dealing with their fears. It takes a lot for us to give up a pattern that we unconsciously believe keeps us safe, even if it’s no longer relevant in today’s world, or – in most cases – limiting our options and ways of being in the world, stopping us from finding new, better patterns of relating and responding in the world.

How do you rewire your brain to reach that last step?In the example of the endless staircase dream, the dreamer is wired to automatically (unconsciously) avoid that last step, or draw out a situation or make it more convoluted than it needs to be. Why? For every dreamer who has this dream, for every person who is trapped in this pattern, the reason will be unique, but one thing is for sure – at least one strong emotion is holding the wiring in place. One person might lack the self esteem to take that last step, another might fear success or failure (there are plenty more possibilities), and in each case that lack of self esteem or fear of success or failure (or other reason to avoid that last step) stems from a past emotional experience or strong emotional conditioning from parents or guardians.

So how do you rewire your brain, or reprogram your unconscious habitual beliefs and patterns?

In sports psychology, it’s known that if you practice a move a few times and then visualise it many times a day for weeks, when you try that move again you will have improved or even mastered it. The same goes for developing other new skills, such as a pianist mastering a new piece by visualising the placement of her fingers on the keyboard as she hears the music. Science has proven that – in the circumstances in which it has been tested – repetitive visualisation rewires the brain for new skills.

When I create dream alchemy visualisations I ask people to repeat them twenty or thirty times a day for two weeks, then a couple of times a day for a few more weeks. These are figures I’ve arrived at over many years of trial and error. They are designed to rewire the brain (reprogram unconscious beliefs and the patterns they generate), and they are effective because they utilise the person’s unique dream symbols.

Our dream symbols and themes are the pictures our individual dreaming minds come up with while our brains are processing our conscious and unconscious experiences of the last 24-48 hours, trying to make sense of our world. As we dream, we try to fit our recent experiences in with our current understanding of the world, and mostly we manage to do that, even when our current understanding of the world is not serving us well. Those dream symbols and themes are the closest language we can get to the language of our unique unconscious mind, the closest language we can get to the language of our brain wiring.

So with dream alchemy you visualise a key dream symbol transforming, or a key dream theme resolving. In the example you might visualise seeing that last step and stepping effortlessly onto it, or you might straighten and shorten your complex dream staircase and then take that last step. Repetition is a necessary key, just as it is when used in mastering a sports or music skill through visualisation.

There is one other very important factor with dream alchemy, and it’s something that can make people feel so uncomfortable that they hold back from doing the visualisation fully, or stop doing the repetitions. Yet that uncomfortable feeling is actually a sign that the dream alchemy is the spot on formula. With dream alchemy, you need to visualise transforming the negative emotion you felt in the dream (e.g. confusion or irritation) into a positive emotion (e.g. clarity or enrichment). If your pattern is heavily invested in the negative emotion (e.g. confusion or irritation are comfort zone for you, keeping you ‘safe’ from the changes you fear that clarity or enrichment might demand), you’re going to feel very uncomfortable about visualising those emotional shifts in your dream alchemy.

This is the point where you either need to have faith and push through (because you want to change), or have me take you through the dream alchemy personally and repetitively. Faith is born of understanding the dream. When you interpret a dream (or engage my help with doing this), you get to see your pattern with new eyes. You get to understand where it came from, and you get to identify and understand the emotions that underpin it. It’s the details of your dream (details beyond the general theme of the staircase itself in this example) that, once analysed, give that understanding. You know when it’s right, because it all suddenly makes sense. But all the while you have that buried emotion deep down inside, intellectual reasoning and sheer will alone is not powerful enough to transform that emotion.

Here’s how to transform an emotion that’s holding a pattern in place. First identify the emotion. Dream analysis is one of the best tools for this. Secondly, feel the emotion. Sorry, no short cut here. Get into it, feel it, notice where you feel it in your body as well as in your heart, let it speak to you, see what thoughts and other feelings come up, perhaps notice associated beliefs, and when you’ve really delved into it and felt it, thank it for enlightening you and then let it go. Imagine it drifting up and out of your body to dissolve into a puff of pure air, completely gone, leaving its positive counterpart emotion free to take its place within you.

Then continue with your dream alchemy visualisation. You’ll begin to notice changes in the way you respond in the world, changes in the way you feel about taking that last step (in this example), or you’ll suddenly have a eureka moment about that creative work problem and see the perfect solution. It will seem easy, and that old pattern will now seem strange, even funny. At that point, you have successfully rewired your brain. Oh, and grown personally, creatively, and spiritually. Enjoy!

(PS Happy Birthday time: this blog was launched four years ago today.)

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How to use recurring dreams to resolve practical life issues

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The right question

How can you escape being eaten by a hungry lion?

How can you escape being eaten by a hungry lion?

Are you looking to your dreams for answers to important questions? Do you go to bed hoping for a dream that will explain all and show you the best way forward? Are you looking for solutions to personal issues, guidance on career, or a bankable genius eureka to boost your fortune?

The dreaming mind offers all these possibilities, IF you’re looking at your dream from the right angle. And what is the right angle? It starts with the right question. The right question goes straight to the point and delivers the right answer, the best solution, the breakthrough.

Most dreams have a storyline, comprising four parts.

The first part of a dream is the opening. It’s the ‘Once upon a time …’ or ‘I was walking along …’. This is the part of the dream that sets the scene.

The second part of a dream is often a problem or question. It’s the ‘A hungry lion was chasing me …’ or ‘I couldn’t find my way …’ or ‘My car was missing ..’. Each of these can be seen as a problem or a question. For example, you might see the problem as the presence of a hungry lion, or you might see the question as, ‘How can I escape being eaten by the hungry lion?’

The third part of a dream is usually where your dreaming brain tries to work out a solution. In the lion example, you might try running faster, climbing higher, jumping into water or hiding. This part of a dream is usually the longest, as various approaches to solving the problem or finding an answer to the question are tried out.

How can I stop the hungry lion chasing me?

How can I stop the hungry lion chasing me?

Many dreams end here, without a part four, in a never-ending search for a solution. These are unresolved dreams. You wake up from these with a sense of the unfinished, perhaps feeling frustrated as if you’ve been working hard all night going round in circles getting nowhere, the hungry lion still hot on your tail.

The fourth part of a dream – for those dreams that find a solution – is the resolution, the ending. Your dream may have a happy ending (you are rescued from the lion) or an unhappy ending (your rescuer is eaten by the lion, even though you are saved).

Before reading further, think of a couple of dreams you have had recently, and see if you can break them down into these three or four parts. See if you can identify the problem or question in each dream. Write the problem or question down.

How do I know the lion is hungry?

How do I know the lion is hungry?

So far, so good. Thinking logically, all you need to do is identify the problem or question in part two of your dream and ask yourself how this relates to your waking life. For example, you might see the question, ‘How can I escape being eaten by the hungry lion?’ as being like ‘How can I escape the feeling that everyone wants more from me than I can give – that everyone wants a part of me?’ Once you’ve identified the waking life problem or question your dream is processing, you know that the rest of the dream is concerned with finding a solution to your problem, an answer to your question. Isn’t that wonderful!

Well, yes. It’s a wonderful beginning. Remember that dreams never tell you what to do. They tell you how things ARE. Your dreams are a result of your dreaming brain processing your experiences of the last 24-48 hours, so what you get from looking at a dream is an insight into how your brain processes your life. THIS is wonderful!

When you interpret a dream, you get to understand how you process your life experiences. You get to understand why your life is the way it is. If your lion dream features you running away, never finding an escape, then this is how you are processing your life – you are running away, never finding an escape from the feeling that everyone wants more from you than you can give. If your dream ends with your rescuer being killed, you get to understand that your brain sees a solution where you could ‘kill off’ your tendency to rescue people. Your dreaming brain has solved the problem of you wearing yourself out, eating yourself away with rescuing other people only to still feel pursued and drained. Whether or not you take this action when you wake up is your decision. Your dream does not tell you to do this, it simply indicates that your brain is looking at this as a possible solution and also reveals that this would bring up some unhappiness for you to deal with.

Most often your dreams travel old ground, trying the same old approaches because your brain (and your unconscious mind) is programmed this way by all your past experiences. The brain usually chooses the old way over the new. Occasionally, though, the brain will surprise you with a breakthrough – a new way of processing the same old stuff, a new creative solution, perhaps even that bankable eureka.

Your dream tells it like it is. It tells you about you and how you brain works today. You then make your decisions based on that message.

So, here’s the big thing

Why hasn’t the lion eaten before now?

Why hasn’t the lion eaten before now?

Knowing that every dream reflects how your brain is processing your life, you must question the question your dream poses! The question in part two of your dream is just as much a result of the way your dream processes your life as the rest of the dream. You ‘see’ a problem in your life and your dreaming brain brings up this ‘problem’, exactly as you see it, because that’s its job. Its job is to process your life experiences of the last 24-48 hours, and one of your life experiences in that last 24-48 hours was the ‘problem’ exactly as you experienced – and decided to see – it.

Can you see the power of questioning your dream question? When you question your dream question you question how you normally question your life. You question why you see certain things as problems. You question why you see a problem one way instead, perhaps, of from a more insightful angle.

Here’s what to do

Take the question you have identified in your dream, and see how many other questions you can get out of it. Like this:

How can I escape being eaten by the hungry lion?
How can I stop the hungry lion chasing me?
Why am I running away from the hungry lion?
How do I know the lion is hungry?
Is the lion hungry?
Why is the lion hungry?
What’s a lion’s favourite food?
Why is the lion chasing me and not someone else?
Why hasn’t the lion eaten before now?
Have I got some other food I can give the lion?
Can I tell the lion where to get better food?
Can the lion do something for me in exchange for better food?

I’m sure you can add more to this list!

Simply doing this for the question in part two of your dream may be enlightening enough. It reveals many ways to look at a situation, reminding you that some angles or perspectives look more problematic than others. It may help you to see that you’re not asking the best question. Reframing your situation and asking a different question results in a different answer.

Consider the question, ‘Is the lion hungry?’ Maybe you’ve misread a situation as threatening and you’re spending all your energy trying to escape it, and all the while the situation is not at all threatening. Maybe that lion is running after you because he needs to tell you something helpful. Like you’re running towards a very hungry tiger!

Consider the question, ‘Why is the lion chasing me and not someone else?’ Thinking about this you might realise that you tend to set yourself up as an easy target, too willing to let others have a piece of you maybe.

Consider the question, ‘Why hasn’t the lion eaten before now?’ Contemplating this, you might be baffled. Lion are supposed to be strong, they get what they want – so this lion must have lost its strength, lost its ability to be king of the jungle. You might realise that you have been forgetting to feed and nurture your inner strength. You may see that you have starved your inner strength, and that’s why you feel too weak to stand up to other people’s demands on your time and energy.

Use your dream interpretation skills to understand your dream symbols (lion, hungry …) and see how they relate to your life. Look at your dream to understand how you are currently seeing and processing your life.

Then, before looking for an answer to your waking life problem in your dream, look for the question. When you’ve found the question, reframe it many ways.

Think about those reframed questions, and answer them. Along the way, you’ll discover the key question – the right question – that shifts your perspective and unlocks the best answer.

[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, October 2008. First published as a Dream Sight article.]

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Radio 5AA, Adelaide: Former glory

Alison dreamed she inherited a big, run down mansion

Alison dreamed she inherited a big, run down mansion

Words can be very telling, especially the words we use to describe our dreams. They often come direct from our unconscious mind – perfect keys to interpretation. So next time someone is telling you about a dream, listen for those tell-tale words.

Alison called Radio 5AA last week when I was interpreting dreams on Amanda Blair’s show.

Alison asked about a recurring dream in which she inherits a big, run down mansion that would need lots of money to return it to its “former glory”.

It was the “former glory” bit that stood out to me. What insight do you get from those particular words?

There was a bit more to the dream. There’s always a snake in the house, but with each successive dream Alison has felt more comfortable with it being there.

The dream started 3 years ago. Since dreams always reflect the last 24-48 hours, recurring dreams reflect recurring issues in our lives. Every time the issue comes up, so does the dream. In Alison’s case, we know this issue first came up 3 years ago, when the recurring theme began.

According to her dream, three years ago Alison realised that she had an opportunity to “return to former glory” an aspect of her life that had become run down, probably due to neglect. My feeling is that this is to do with her career or study. During the past three years she has been gathering the courage, step by step, to face her fear and do this. In Alison’s dream, the snake represents the fear she is becoming increasingly comfortable with.

I didn’t get much further than this on air, as Alison leapt in to affirm that she could relate to the interpretation. I suggested a dream alchemy practice: visualise the house swiftly returning to its “former glory” at the wave of a magic wand and see herself moving into it and feeling good about this. The point of dream alchemy is to communicate with the unconscious mind using its own language (the same language it used in the dream) to create change – in this case, a fear-free return to “former glory”, a former, much cherished way of being.

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