I have been actively working with my own dreams for about 10 years now. By this, I mean I faithfully recall and record my dreams on a daily basis. And I follow the energy of my dreams to help guide me in making sense of situations, and to help me make key choices and decisions in my life. As a result, my dreams have become the key way for me to access my hidden unconscious-self, my inner world, my shadow-parts and the collective unconscious/spiritual realm.
On the odd days when I cannot remember my dreams I feel disconnected from myself, agitated and out of balance. Whilst my dreams often show me unpleasant aspects and desires that I possess and so aren't always a welcome memory, I've learnt over time to honour even these (or especially) these dreams, as they really do hold up a mirror for me to see all the aspects of myself; including those I deny or reject.
My personal and spiritual growth now is led by my dreams and by my conscious daily relationship I've developed. And because my psyche knows I will listen and heed the information in my dreams, I can also ask for guidance and information in the form of dream intentions, more on this later.
I often hear people say things like: "I don't think I dream!" "I can't ever remember my dreams." "Oh it was just a dream, nonsense."
Well, in short, everyone dreams. You don't remember them because you don't want to remember them - you haven't made that inner-deal with your psyche that you will faithfully listen and pay attention to and value your dreams, so the relationship between your conscious waking mind and you unconscious does not exist.
And as for the last point, well this stems from the same patriarchal mind-set that says gut instinct and intuition is nonsense, that doesn't want to pay heed to the idea of the unconscious and that thinks animals are just animals and without a soul...
For centuries Shamans have worked with dreams as vital sources of information and in the healing process, dreams are after all very similar to the process of journeying to obtain information and healing, which by the way you can also ask for in your dreams. And of course Jung was the pioneer in this field and enabled us to see just how much valuable information is available to us every day about who we really are and what we really need to life a meaningful life.
Here are some tools for starting to work with your dreams in a more conscious way:
- Dream Journals: Start keeping a dream journal. Each morning set aside some extra time on first waking (and before you engage with anyone else ideally). Start to write down anything and everything you can recall, no matter how small to begin with or whether you know the sequence or full details; just write it all down. Keep doing this each morning. Eventually you will start to find you can recall more and more each day, leading to recall of the full dream from start to finish and sometimes also the sequence of dreams. Note down ALL of the people and animals in your dreams. Write down each character, how you feel about them in the dream and in real life, what they are doing in the dream and how they look; each small detail is information. Note down the environment and the situation, the conditions (the weather, is it day or night, etc.); What are you doing? Are you at work? In nature? And so on. Also note the era - is it present day? In your childhood? Or does it seem from a time before you were born if so what is the era?
- Dream Intentions: Before you go to sleep at night, write down an intention in your dream journal, ask for some specific information or guidance on something in you life. This can be anything, be open to receiving this in whatever form it wants to come to you, even if it is the absolute opposite of what you want to hear! Also be open to the possibility that it may not come that night but in the nights ahead (your psyche may have other priorities for you that night!); just ask and keep practicing this, not every night mind you, you don't want to be overwhelmed!!!
- The Lysis: Start to record and work with the ending of your dreams. Jungian analyst and author Marion Woodman talks about the lysis in her books. She says the end of your dreams shows you the way your energy wants to go. This is a subtle noticing and feeling into the energy of the dream. But if you make a habit of writing "Lysis" and then how the dream ends, again you will start to attune with this energy . For example a dream may show me a situation that is stressful to me, or I'm trying too hard to achieve something, then suddenly I'm at the end of the dream and it has a different energy or quality, which is very different to the main part of the dream. It is that end part that I need to listen to and try to follow in my waking life, i.e. in the example I gave, to stop trying so hard, to stop rushing things, to slow down, maybe rest more.
- Symbols & Interpretation: Be wary of reading books or websites that list what dream symbols mean. Jung was very clear that the meaning can only be derived from what the person themselves makes of the symbol; what it means to them. Others including analysts can of course guide you through questions, but the answers and meaning can only come from you - it's your symbol, even those that are universal or archetypal, the meaning is still your own.
- Power Animals: If you're interested in Shamanism, particularly notice what animals appear in your dreams, and start to read up on their messages. Our power animals often come to us in dreams, as they know they can get direct access to us without our conscious, rigid mind stopping them.
- Big Dreams: These are dreams that are usually of a spiritual nature - you will know when you have one, it moves you like nothing before, you sense it is significant, it may feel blissful; transcendent. You may feel like God or Spirit has come to you in the dream. These are definitely worth recording, although in my experience I can recall all of my big dreams as they tend to have a profound and enduring affect, are usually exquisitely beautiful and very moving...
So, I hope I've conveyed that dreams are a wonderful source of information at hand for each of us every single day. They can guide us wisely and safely through life's choices and pathways. If we recognise the crossroads, the bridges, the doorways, the water in our dreams as the powerful motifs that they are for us, and we harness a close relationship with our own psyche, one which is faithful and constant, then we can be blessed with a wealth of imagery, energy and help as we go through life.
I'm happy to offer people individual coaching, via Skype, on working with your dreams, please contact me if you're interested in exploring this part of your growth further.
© Angela Dunning, 12 April 2015