This page is filled with easy, but effective methods for exploring the meaning of dreams. The exercises can be done one-on-one, in a group or by yourself.
Share the dream
Have the person tell you their dream in detail speaking in the present tense (take notes if you want to). Using the present tense helps keep the dream alive.
Have them title their dream if they haven’t already. A dream title can immediately shed light on the meaning of the dream. Make the titles meaningful and think more about a lengthy headline than a short title.
Also, sometimes it’s not possible to record an entire dream upon waking, so coming up with a title first may help you remember it later.
Ask questions to get as much information about the dream as you can
- How did you feel when you woke up?
- Reality check: could the dream be a possible future projection? (A warning about something that might happen?)
- What was the lighting like in the dream? (day light can indicate that the dreamer is already somewhat aware of the dream’s message whereas night time lighting or darkness can indicate that the dream is communicating messages that the dreamer is not as aware of in waking life.)
- Do you know the characters in waking life? If so, what are your associations with them? Describe them in three words.
- Are there animals in the dream? What are they doing? What kind of animals and what is their condition (aggressive, passive, predator, prey, healthy, sick)?
- Is the dream landscape like any place you’ve been in waking life? If so, what are your associations with the location/landscape? What is the weather like?
- Were there any particular colors? What do you associate with the colors? Are there healing blues? Sickly yellows?
- Were there any puns? (an image of a bee might be suggesting to just “be”)
- Was there anything in particular that struck you as odd?
There are many different questions you can ask; trust your intuition.
What is the main dream activity?
This process tries to establish an underlying message that is beyond the dream symbolism.
Example: The dream title might be, “There are ants eating my stairwell and I use a chemical to kill them,” but the activity might be, “Killing destructive ants with a chemical.”
This dream example comes from a colleague of mine who found out she had cancer in her spine. The ants were symbolic of cancer cells eating away at her spinal column. The dream chemical was the chemotherapy she used to heal and cure herself of cancer.
Correlation between dream and waking life
Explore the dream action/activity and the dreamer’s current life circumstances. Are there any parallels?
Note the example above. There was a direct correlation to the dreamer’s waking life and dream imagery.
Explore the dream ego (whatever the dreamer is doing in the ream): is s/he active, passive, resistant, reactive, engaged, disengaged, etc?
Note: The dream ego’s participation in the dream sequences or activities can be an indicator of what the dreamer is doing in waking life or can do in waking life to change something.
Using the ant and stairwell example, the dreamer was actively getting rid of something, so the dream “ego” was being active. She was participating in getting rid of something destructive.
As the dreamer tells you their dream, write key words from the dream description. Make a list of these words and have the dreamer tell you the first thing that comes to her mind when you say each word.
Example: you say “blue” = they might say “sadness”, sun = “warmth”, flower = “growth”, growth = “new life”
Retell the dream as though everything is “me.”
Have the dreamer retell the entire dream, saying things like “the ant part of me is eating the staircase part of me.” This is a very revealing process.
Enact the dream or aspects of the dream.
Pretend to be one aspect of the dream while the dreamer interacts with you. If the dreamer experienced anxiety in a dream about taking a test, one of you can be the anxiety and the other can be the test taker. Or one can be the test taker and the other can be the test. Have a dialogue and see what surfaces.
If it were my dream
Share your thoughts and “Ahas” about the persons dream. Speak about the other person’s dream as thought it were yours. For example, “If it were my dream, I’d consider the possibility that these ants eating my stairwell are a sign that something is wrong with my body. The good news is that I am able to kill them with a chemical.”
Re-enter the dream
Using either silence, guided imagery or a shaman’s drum, have the dreamer reenter the dream and explore the dream scenery. This can help the dreamer find information that was not remembered upon waking. The imagined version of the dream can be just as relevant as the actual sleeping dream. Do not dismiss “imaged” imagery just because you are awake.
Honor the dream
Do something creative to embody the meanings. Make an art piece, write a poem, sing a song, do a dance, or perform a ritual.
Read Next: Having the Aha Experience