How to analyze your dreams and why is it crucial for self-development
Our dreams tells us about things outside of our conscious awareness. That is why they are so useful for therapy and dealing with neurosis.
Especially important are dreams while you are becoming your perfect self, the individual you were always supposed to be, but are not quite there yet. There are parts of your personality, hidden in your unconscious mind, you can access only through methods like active imagination or dream analysis.
The analytical psychology, created by Carl G. Jung, is heavily dependent on dream analysis. Jung himself spent years analyzing his dreams and visions (and he captured most of them in the Red Book) and even came up with the method of active imagination.
Okay, but how do you actually analyze your dreams? If you are like most people you probably don’t remember your dreams. You wake up and have only a fuzzy memory, that vanishes after a few seconds. Not much material for analysis.
I have been analyzing my dreams for about 2 years now, and I had whole months where I didn’t miss a single day. And that comes from someone who didn’t pay any attention to his dreams and was always forgetting them immediately. That was before I was aware of their significance.
Here I will share my methods for creating the perfect conditions for your dreams to be strong and to emerge every night, methods for capturing them and the basics of dream analysis.
[ Creating the perfect conditions for the dream ]
If you follow some basic rules it is almost guaranteed you will dream every day and remember it too.
First is regular sleep. It helps tremendously to have a routine and be able to wake up at the same time every day.
Clean living. You need to keep the mind clean. I found, in my years of dream analysis, that when I use any substances, the dreams will not be strong enough to get close to the barrier of consciousness. If I use too much coffee — no dreams. If I smoke or take snus — no dreams.
What helped a lot was an active lifestyle. This February and March I had dreams every other day, because I was doing jiu jitsu twice a week. Since the corona started, and I’ve been staying at home, in isolation, not moving much, the dreams ceased to happen that often.
Then there are herbs you can take to make your brain blood circulation better. The most useful herb I know for this is Withania Somnifera, ayurvedic Ashwagandha. It’s name literally means “dream-giving”.
For the perfect room conditions: sleep in a room that is pitch black. Don’t use any blue light screens 2 hours before bed. Lock your room to minimize any fear of outside interference. Feel completely safe and alone. Use ear plugs if you are sensitive to noise.
You can borrow some mental techniques from the lucid dreamers. Most people are only able to dream the dream, let it happen to them. Not lucid dreamers. They became so skilled in dreaming, through extensive training, that they are able to communicate with the unconscious entities in their dreams and even create the dream as they see fit. One of the basic techniques they use is this: setting intentions. Before you fall asleep, tell yourself what you want to dream about, what problem or life situation you need help with and also tell yourself that you will dream tonight.
[ Capturing the dream ]
How often did you wake up from a dream in the middle of the night, then went back to sleep and when you woke up with your alarm clock, you had no idea what you dreamt about?
That happens to everyone, even experienced dreamers.
What you need to do to capture the dream is very simple. Pen and paper.
Place it next to your bed, on your nightstand, under your pillow, wherever. The point is that when you wake up in the middle of the night, and the message from the unconscious realm is still floating near the surface, above the consciousness barrier, and you can scribble about it on the paper. Doesn’t matter it will be hard to read, you are familiar with your writing and you will be able to read it a few hours later when you wake up again.
I’ve used this method successfully and it works. Sometimes, when I have a phone nearby I write a Google Keep note. Voice recordings work only for really strong dreams (writing is better for weaker dreams, because you remember other parts of the dream as you write. Doesn’t happen with voice recordings). When there is no phone or paper, I will just grab Kindle Paperwhite and type a note on the touchscreen.
If you set up your environment like this, you will be able to capture the dreams every day. The hardest obstacle is of course finding the willpower to write about the dream when you wake up at 3 AM and you can barely open your eyes, let alone hold a pen and write and don’t want to burn your eyes with the phone backlight. When you do find the willpower tho, you will more often than not find a deep meaning in the dream.
[ Analyzing the dream ]
So now you have written about your dream and it sounds like a bunch of nonsense that will not help you in any way?
Realize that dreams are full of symbols, concepts and deep meaning that may not be obvious at first.
Dreams are always connected to your psychological state and your current life circumstances.
I find the best way to demonstrate how dream analysis works is by examples.
I am on a boat on the sea. I am not in control of the boat and I feel I don’t want to be there. There is a captain and a manager.
I am using the radio to capture incoming signals. I don’t hear anything yet, but I am waiting patiently. Then I go below deck and climb on a bunk bed, to the top bed.
Analysis: Always notice your feelings in the dream. Separate your analysis from the capture, do not try to analyze the dream as you are taking the note.
During the time I dreamt this I was dealing with stuff at my work. I was thinking of quitting.
I realized this is a work dream pretty fast. My boss was a captain who sailed a few ships over the sea (he’s a sysadmin, but sails as a hobby). The manager was a manager at work. In the dream I wasn’t sure who those two are, but it became clear after I woke up and read my dream note. Those two were pretty much controlling my life in the office. Giving me tasks etc.
Around this time I was also exchanging emails with a game developer studio, having a multiple phase interview for a new job. This was the waiting for the signals in the dream. In real life I was checking my phone every day for a new email, communication with them took weeks. Their firm was also a storey above our firm, that was represented by the top bunk bed.
Conclusion: This was a kind of a dream that didn’t hold any deeper meaning, it was just my unconsciousness dealing with the real life situation and making a sense of it. Now I will analyze another, deeper dream.
Walking around the mall I meet especially attractive witch/nymph. She had slightly green makeup. I have a short conversation with her and she tells me “You never know who you will meet. Good things sometimes just happen, like right now”. I could not resist her. We ended up at her place.
She told me her name was “Mintha”.
Analysis: There is a concept of Anima in analytical psychology. Anima is a part of male psyche representing the soft female side. Most men come to contact with this part of their mind in their 50’s, when they start becoming more feminine.
Anima can come to you also in your dreams. It is the representation of every sexual partner your ancestors had combined with the image of your ideal woman. It can also come in the form of a nymph or a witch.
At that time I was spending 4 days in Czech national park, just walking around the forest, sleeping in a hostel. In Slavic mythology there are known forest nymphs who lure men with their voice, similar to Sirens (Odysseus). That is why it was a nymph with a greenish makeup.
I did some digging around and found there is a goddess Minthe, the lover of Hades, the King of the Underworld.
Conclusion: I do not know how deep into my unconsciousness I got, when I literally met the lover of the King of the Underworld (The Unconsciousness), but at least I got to see how my ideal woman looks.
Okay, so that’s it for the examples. As the last thing I will describe some of the concepts and symbols that usually show up in everyone’s dreams:
- Water, Ocean — feminine, chaos, unconscious, womb
- Forest — unconsciousness
- House —consciousness
- Shooting someone or something — finishing a task
- Killing someone — becoming individual, independent of that person
- Burning — renewal, starting anew
- Wolves — animal self, Shadow side
- Rain — emotions
- Raincoat — being immune to emotions
- Police, agents — authority, school/work, manipulative partner
You can always find more on google, just google a dream symbol you need help with when putting together the story of your dream, so something like “pyramids dream analysis”, “sand dream analysis” etc.
Cross-reference multiple sources for accurate symbol descriptions. In time you will get experienced enough you will be able to analyze your dreams just by your intuition.
Dreams are extremely powerful tool for really getting to know yourself and the parts of your personality you are not conscious of. Use them.