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My childhood mornings consisted of rolling out of bed and straight to the table where all eight of us in the family would sit for breakfast. I would narrate my dreams of the night before and then mum would interpret them for me. As I got older, I learned to do the same, and so it became a shared ritual—we all spoke about our dreams, and found ways to acknowledge their resonance in everyday life. Now I’m the go-to dream guru for my friends and family—even strangers have shared dreams with me. I know it sounds really hippie, but I think everyone has the ability to decode their own dreaming. It’s just an art or a language that has been lost in the West, in favour of scientific reason. In my own words, dream interpretation has been colonised. I’m sure that if I had a strong premonition from a dream, and wanted to use that as a legitimate excuse not to go to work, I think that I would probably get fired, or at least a warning and a few bizarre looks.
But I’m totally not joking when I say I have prophetic dreams—only a few weeks ago I dreamed about Prince and then the very next day it was announced that Prince was coming to town. Ikr?!
People have found significance in dreams for a long time. Most human mythologies involve some sort of dream prophesy. Famous dreamers are Joseph (the dude in the Bible with the technicolour dreamcoat), Jesus, Edgar Allen Poe, a load of Ancient Gods and Goddesses, Martin Luther King, and Homer Simpson. And whilst the majority of that list aren’t even real people, there’s gotta be something to be said for this ancient behaviour. David Lynch basically owes all of his genius to dreaming.
It’s a lot easier to interpret the dreams of somebody you know, for obvious reasons. Dreams can be prophetic and can be used as helpful spiritual and practical guides if you choose to listen to them. It comes down to feeling it out, definitely, but there are a few dream-reading tropes that whilst are certainly not applicable to everyone in any situation, serve as a useful rubric for dream interpretation.
Firstly, remember that everything in your dream is you or about you (unless it’s prophetic and I can’t explain the difference between prophetic dreams and non-prophetic ones, but I think you probably know if you’re a Cassandra cos shit just comes true in your life). It can be helpful to think of the dream as a play. Don’t worry, I am not going to sing the praises of Jungian archetypes (although this certainly comes into it, and as much as Jung is a total whack job phallocentric pseudo-scientist, the archetypes serve their purpose), but thinking about the dream as a play allows us to think more about what everything might mean. What matters when staging a play? The characters, yes, but also think about setting, props, lighting, sound. All of these things come together to make a cohesive (somewhat) narrative—the play’s ambience, mood, or whatever comes across when all of these things are put together and connote something. The overall narrative or plot is always central to the play of course, but what are the individual facets doing (or what is your brain doing to them) to contribute to the play’s greater meaning (if any—not all dreams have meaning, as not all plays have meaning).
So when thinking about a dream, apply the same principle of staging a play to interpreting it. Who are the characters? Where is the dream set? What props are being used/are of significance? Is it light? Dark? In black and white, or colour? Is there music? Silence? What can you hear? Once you’ve got this concept down, start thinking about what some dream symbols might mean. Although everyone’s psyche is different, and as I said, I’m not Jung’s devotee, there are certain symbols that have sort of come to have a communal meaning (in mainstream narrative culture, imo; and that have generated inherent properties even though lol… sorry I digress), that we can draw on.
I’ll go through a few of these, then I will create a fake dream scenario for you to test your new skills out on. Remember that there’s no one dream language, each culture will have its own cultural symbols that have significance or meaning only within that shared code. Dreaming is personal and if someone tells you something about your dream and you’re like… wtf? Then I’d say trust your intuition and realise that person doesn’t know shit. Allow yourself to be open to what dreams are saying, and don’t feel weird taking advice from a dream. Call it divine, call it human, the messages your brain is telling itself through dreaming are pretty damn cool when you really think about it, and even if you’re not gonna give up the microscope for the dream diary, have some fun and allow your brain to give into intuition.
Is often your subconscious. And while you could argue that dreaming is in its entirety your subconscious, in your dream narrative it is the deep deep depths of that, the concerns that your subconscious is having that you haven’t addressed and are perhaps overwhelming. I often dream about being out at sea, or in a big body of water when I have a lot of shit going on that I ignore. Think about it as drowning in your issues. Your dream is bringing them up perhaps because it needs you to deal with it. I know it’s really weird that I talk like these things have agency, but you know what I mean. Also just general feelings of being lost in your life. If you’re lacking direction it’s likely you’ll dream of being in water at some stage. And also remember, mood is really important. If you’re dreaming of holidaying in the sunny Caribbean, you’re in the water, sipping on pina coladas, and actually you’re in a Wham! video clip—it’s probably not about any deep emotional issues. So water, drowning, emotion, issues, Wham!, it all makes sense (right?!)
Heaps of possible answers, but I always go for dreaming of being naked as a symbol of vulnerability, or unwanted revelations. I’ll dream of being nude in public when I’m feeling particularly self-conscious (either in general or about a particular situation). Where you’re nude counts of course. Finding yourself nude at school might mean that you’re feeling uneasy about a situation in which your role is student-like, I don’t mean strictly in a learning environment, but there could be a situation in your life in which your role is to learn. If you’re nude on stage, it might mean you’re worried about your public appearance. This one for me is fairly obvious, unless you’re a naturist or dgaf, most people are pretty self-conscious about their naked bodies so apply this same principle to the dream sitch and you might find some answers.
Old people or children
Or parental figures etc., basically just people. Think about what these people symbolise in your everyday life. For instance, an old person might be wisdom. A young child might symbolise naïveté or lessons to be learned. If the people in your dream are people you know—friends, siblings etc.—think about what these people mean for you in everyday life and apply that to the dream situation. Jungian archetypes (there are twelve of them) can be useful here if you don’t take them too seriously. The wise old man/woman, trickster (and so on), are characters that Jung claimed to be apparent in all dreams, and that they all symbolise different areas of the subconscious. Not one to promote a blanket statement myself, all I can say is that when used judiciously they can be quite useful. If you’re interested in seeing them put to use cleverly, watch David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive—also prepare to be tripped out.
Or building. This is one of my favourite things to consider in dream interpretation because it’s got so many layers and can be directly linked to different areas of your life. If your dream is set in a basement, there’s some deep sludge you need to sort out man. Not necessarily dark, but very much to do with those Plutonic emotions that can be hard to deal with on the daily. If your dream is set in a bathroom, I often relate this back to water—emotion, but also cleanliness. Is there something that you feel dirty or bad about that you need to cleanse? Bedroom? Could be to do with sex, or your personal everyday life. Attic and upper levels are to do with higher thoughts and self. Just work your way up from the bottom and again, come back to the feeling of those rooms in everyday life. What goes on in there? What do they make you think of?
I wish that I could go through every single damn symbol with you, but these are just a handful of (I think) pretty common ones that can be used as a starting point. I’ll test you now with my fake dream scenario.
You are on a boat with your classmates from 6th form. You’re all having a pretty good time, getting rowdy, pretty drunk etc. But you’ve got that weird feeling, almost like you haven’t seen these people in a long time and you don’t know what is holding you together? You carry on drinking with them anyway. Partying on, the weather takes a turn for the worst and then you all of a sudden find yourself on a storm out at sea. You fall off into the ocean, and are yelling up for someone else on the boat to save you but they can’t hear you—in fact they’re all still partying. You’re slowly drowning, drowning, when an old man in a dinghy comes floating towards you, takes you to land and then in his house, laying you to rest in a cool, crisp room with white linen. You wake up, feeling refreshed, new.
Okay, so I’m sure y’all could have come up with something way more OG than that, but it should be pretty easy. If your answer looks a little something like: you’ve outgrown your friends/you’re maturing/you are unsure what path to take in your life right now/feeling a little lost/feel like your past is holding you back/feel like you’re overwhelmed with decisions and the past is really appealing cos you know it, and it’s easy, and going forward, leaving it all behind, seems like the ‘right’ thing to do but you don’t know how etc. etc. then yay! The most salient points are setting: on the water; that you are surrounded by people from your past, and note that they’re from school (a learning environment); feelings of being lost, drowning; that an old man comes to find you and saves you (wisdom, a guiding light); and the white room at the end (could be a clean slate/contrition etc). If you’re way off, or none of these are relevant to you, well, who am I to tell you that you can’t interpret dreams?
So that was the ABC of dreaming, but if you didn’t read that and only skipped to the end, remember three things. 1). Everything in your dream is you. 2). Your dream is like a play (everything counts). 3). Go with your intuition, feelings, feelings, feelings people! Get in touch with them. Practise on your friends and family, on yourself. And if you’re really keen: 4). Keep a dream journal. If you’re serious about this bizz, keeping a dream journal actually helps you to remember your dreams more, and things become more apparent in writing. The more you are in touch with your dreamself, the more you are in touch with you and your base emotions. Spiritual health is as important as physical, mental. Dare to dream!
Faith Dreamy Wilson