by Gillian Holloway, Ph.D. (Reflections Magazine, Winter 1994)
Every 90 minutes while you are sleeping an exercise in personal growth and spiritual unfoldment takes place. The imagery in your dreams not only reflects current conflicts, but contains powerful messages about your life purpose and destiny as well. The respectful uncovering of these messages is a stunningly effective avenue for reconnecting with the more essential and divine self.
Gary was a hard-working likable man, proud of his job and his abilities. Increasingly though, Gary found his job unpleasantly stressful and he strained to adapt to the increased workload. Even when his energy and health wavered, Gary continued to force himself through the daily tunnel of work. In a short time, fatigue turned from an office joke into a chronic haze.
Gary struggled by day, and at night was tortured by grinding nightmares. He dreamed he was a young boy again, and his father berated him for his every action. He responded by trying to please his father, even agreeing that he was indeed "a screw-up." Inwardly he vowed to become perfect so that his father would be unable to find fault with him again. Regardless of his actions though, his father was never satisfied, and expressed scorn for Gray's nervous nail-biting while recounting a litany of the boys shortcomings. These "fingernail" nightmares made little sense to Gary, since his father is now deceased, but he found them terribly upsetting and draining.
Many people are unaware their dreams primarily address current life circumstances even while borrowing emotional "snapshots" from past imprinting to tell their story. In considering this Gary realized his current boss evoked a sense of worthlessness that originated in his early relationship with his father. Identifying context is important, but the power of dreamwork lies in the knowledge that every dream contains special gift for the dreamer. The subconscious mind operates at the genius level, and may act as an intersection between the soul and the personality.
Thus dreams do not merely reflect what we know; they reveal seeds of wisdom that can actually free us from long standing impasses. The gift within Gray's dream lay in reflecting his perpetuation of the pattern that controlled him. How we are treated by others is indeed a mirror of how we treat ourselves. Gary "chewed" on himself in response to criticism, and damaged his real self by striving for false perfection. He experienced a profound shift when we discussed the way self-criticism magnetically attracts the criticism of others, just as his nail-biting provoked the scorn of his father long ago. While this dream did not eliminate all Gray's challenges, it led to a turning point in his relationship with himself, and thus in his world-view. Gary uses this dream as a talisman whenever he encounters triggers of the old pattern, and his freedom increases over time. As he releases the inner critic, his truer talents, expressions and unlimited self are emerging naturally.
We dream several times each night, but research shows the final dream just before awakening contains the most practical solutions to challenges. The first dream of the evening on the other hand, contains the most revelatory, mystical and psychic material. This dream may occur just as you drift off, or within the first two hours of sleep. If you want help with problem-solving, record your final dream in the morning. If you seek visionary and psychic input try to capture your first dream of the night. Whatever your goal use a dream journal. Recording dreams on a regular basis connects the rational mind with the inner life, and forges vital partnerships between aspects of the self.
Record your dreams from start to finish using present tense, as if you are re-living the events. If the dream is quite long, record scenes in separate paragraphs and analyze them one at a time. Highlight action passages. They are most often metaphors for the targeted action in waking life. Struggling uphill often reflects burdens and extra challenges on the road to improved circumstances. What feels like an uphill battle right now?
Trying to find a parking place suggests career challenges. Where are you supposed to part your "vehicle" right now? Emotional upheavals may generate dreams of floods, or terrible earthquakes. Notice your attempted solutions and how they affect the outcome.
The action-reaction cycle in your dream gives clues to waking patterns and how they improve or perpetuate challenges. People with eating disorders often dream of starving or overfeeding their pets; both are attempts to correct an imbalance which instead perpetuate. it. Such dreams usually contain gifts of spiritual or psychological insights into the origin of the person's pain, as well as clues toward possible solutions. If you recognize patterns in your dreams, look carefully for the part you play in the patterns, and at imagery that suggests healing and change.
How did you feel in the dream? Intense emotion is the subconscious mind's volume control and increases recall. Scenes of natural disasters, sinking ships and mortal wounds are common shortly after romantic break-ups and other losses. Remember that violence in dreams is usually about violence to the self. Those gory scenes depict internal pain more often than physical danger.
One man dreamed repeatedly of a gathering tornado arriving at his home and tearing it apart. In a matter of months his wife left him, took their children and file:d for divorce, devastating his life as he knew it. This same man though, was later helped to rebuild his life by a series of dreams featuring angels assisting him at a construction site. Whenever fear overwhelmed him, a being of light arrived to show the next step. He understood these dreams to mean his spiritual connection would see him through the task of rebuilding his life. This appears to have come true, for he later regained custody of the children, developed a new career, and recently purchased a home where they have created a new and happy life together.
Many symbols have quite obvious meaning, as in the poignant dream of a of a man who discovered a compass within his heart. His sense of direction and life purpose did become clear when he followed his heart. When a symbol is less obvious, examine your associations by describing it with a few adjectives. Ask what in your life could also be described by those same adjectives. You may want to consider spiritual and transpersonal symbology as well. Double check the interpretation by the degree to which it is congruent with the action of the dream. For example: many people consider water a symbol for universal wisdom. While holding merit as one possibility, this belief fails the test of plot congruence more often than not. A recently divorced woman who dreams of water flooding her basement and threatening to pull her under is not dreaming of drowning in universal wisdom. She is of course dealing with a frightening flood of emotion, and her fears of becoming engulfed by a tide of feelings. The symbols' meaning will generally coincide beautifully with the dreams story line. One woman dreamed of making breakfast for her children using a corkscrew to scramble their eggs. This was not only ineffective, but extremely upsetting to her. We discovered the corkscrew symbolized her increasing tendency to use alcohol, and warned that soon this pattern would impact her ability to "nourish" her children. Expect symbols to fit, use a light touch to unravel them, and they will reveal their secrets to you.
You may have noticed an increase in spiritual imagery in your dream lately. Many people are reporting flying journeys, recovering mystical abilities, explanations of planetary changes, and experiences of divine light and angelic contact. Whether we hold these events as experiences or dreams is a matter of individual truth. What I find most compelling is the undeniable personal transformation and healing that accompanies them. Barbara Marx Hubbard said of our evolution that we are now inheriting the abilities of the gods. The dream realm offers a training ground for practicing powers of healing, forgiveness and oneness that seem part of a developmental emergence. If the secret of life is indeed within, then our dreams are surely signposts along that inner journey. Trust in yourself by trusting those dreams, and explore them fearlessly.