2017-02-16 / Guest Column

Using Our Dreams to Understand Ourselves

By Michael Feld, L.C.S.W.
Certified Psychoanalyst
Licensed Psychotherapist

More and more people today are recognizing that their dreams hold clues to a better understanding of themselves. Psychoanalysts and biblical scholars have long been interested in dreams. A quote from the Talmud on dreams says the following: “A dream which has not been explained is like a letter that has not been read.” Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, wrote: “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.” Psychoanalyst Karen Horney saw dreams as “a door to the larger self.” She felt that dreams “represent ways to solve our conflicts.”

Dreams have three primary functions:

1. To relieve anxiety

2. To provide us with greater insight about ourselves.

3. To attempt to arrive at solutions for our inner conflicts.

Try following these simple rules to better understand yourself through your dreams:

1. Welcome your dreams—develop an attitude that encourages dreaming. View your dreams as gifts, as treasures. Allow yourself to develop an appreciation for the messages in your dreams. Recognize that the dream expresses what troubles you and how you might solve these problems.

2. Pay attention to all your thoughts and feelings about the dream. This includes your feelings during the dream, after it and while retelling it. Also, what you felt when you first woke up.

3. Pay attention to the content of the dream. Who are the characters in the dream? Look at each character as representing a different part of yourself. Perhaps they represent your internal conflicts. If you are in the dream, the character you are is the one that is most acceptable to you. Remember you might also be the other characters in the dream, especially the characters you most dislike.

4. Note what is going on in your life currently that may be expressed in the dream.

5. Note what has gone on in your life in the past that may be represented in the dream.

6. Pay attention to the blending of your past and present experiences in the dream. How old are you in the dream? Where were you in the dream?

7. Look for changes in your dreams. Do these changes reflect changes in you and in your life?

8. Always ask yourself: Why did I have this dream now? What is the message in the dream?

9. Sit with your dreams. Don’t’ be afraid to experience them.

10. Recognize the dream as yours. Remember, it is a very rich clue to a better understanding of yourself.


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