A dream is the subconscious trying to communicate. After reading a few books about dreams and hunting around online, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I think I’ve always believed that to some degree, but I used to think nightmares were demonic, and I didn’t want to pay attention to them. Now, I’m trying to look at the dreams that scare me as messages from my own soul. There are two recurring dreams I’ve had for years, and I think I’ve finally figured them out.
The book “Inner Work: Using Dreams And Active Imagination for Personal Growth” by Robert A. Johnson has really helped. It taught me the interpretation method I used for my dreams, and maybe it can help you. The first step is to simply list all the symbols in the dreams. Why? Dream language isn’t literal, it uses symbols. That means even if you dream about a person you know, the dream probably isn’t about that person. That person represents something else, most likely within yourself. A symbol can be an object, event, action, color, sensation, etc. Basically anything you can identify.
So, here are my two recurring dreams:
- I can feel something in my throat and mouth. I reach in, and find a long strand or clump of hair. I keep trying to pull it out, but it keeps going on and on. Sometimes it will get stuck and it feels like I’m choking.
- I’m covered in pieces of glass, they’re in my ears, eyes, nose, everything. I can’t go on with whatever I was doing in the dream, I have to keep stopping and picking out the pieces.
The symbols I identify in the first dream are: hair, pulling out, choking, and getting stuck. In the second dream, it’s pieces of glass, picking out glass, and getting interrupted. After identifying the symbols, I drew associations from them. According to “Inner Work,” it’s important not to free associate, but keep going back to the original symbol. I made a mind map, with each symbol at the center, and branches for my associations. The purpose of this part of dream interpretation is to come up with as many as you can. My associations for “hair” included identity, sexuality, vanity, and beauty.
How do you know which association is the “right” one? The book talks a lot about following the energy or “the click.” Basically, when you bump up against the correct association, the correct translation for the symbol, your body will react. You’ll feel an energy or gut reaction. For me, with the “hair” symbol, I resonated most with “identity.” I’ve had a lot of different hair cuts and styles over the years, and used my hair to express my identity. That’s true for a lot of people, and even though another important part of dream interpretation is to figure out what a symbol means to you personally, a lot of symbols and their translations are universal. In my case, with “hair,” the association was both personal and more universal.
I did the same process with the rest of the symbols in the first dream and the second one. Here’s a summary of what I translated, with the association I must resonated with in bold:
Pulling out (the hair): Escaping, freeing
Choking: Getting stuck, pausing, voiceless, muted, dying
Glass: Broken mirror, window, reflective, fractured
Picking out glass: Healing, painful healing, preventing infection
Getting interrupted: Getting stuck, pausing, halting
Once the associations are made, it’s time to put everything together. At this point, at least for me, the meaning of the dreams was already pretty clear. This isn’t always the case, and the book actually recommends writing a few possible interpretations. Like the symbols, the “right” one will click.
My two recurring dreams are telling me the same thing. Hair and glass both represent identity. The connection with hair and identity is obvious upon a closer look, while the broken glass is a little more complex. Broken glass, which is closely associated with a broken mirror and fracturing, means my identity is broken into pieces. It’s not whole. As for the hair dream, the hair getting caught in my throat means I’m not able to free my identity. It keeps getting stuck, and it feels like I’m choking on it. With the glass dream, my broken identity is causing me pain and makes me stop going about my life, because I keep pausing and trying to free it.
How does this apply to my real life? How do I feel about my identity? Pretty lost, honestly, and I have for years, which is why these dreams keep coming up. I’ve never really felt like part of a community. I did for a while in a church, but it collapsed and everyone scattered, the relationships gone forever. Looking back, the community also wasn’t healthy. Ever since then, I’ve been searching, but afraid. I also don’t feel like I have a identity in my work. What I write for work doesn’t represent me in any way, it’s just work, and it doesn’t let me be very creative. The big thing I realized recently, though, is that the novel I’m writing isn’t really “me.” I’ve been working on it for like six years straight, but it’s not actually something I would want to read. I don’t read mysteries or detective thrillers. Why am I writing one?
The last part of dream interpretation is asking the question, “What now?” What do I do about it?” For a community, it’s always a work in process, and it’s slow. I’m sort of going to church again and small group just started, so that will just take time. The biggest change I’m going to make, however, is pausing my novel and adjusting to the possibility that it’s time to put it away. I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year and write something I actually want to read. I already have a sci-fi/speculative fiction idea, and I’m really going to let my imagination go wild. That isn’t something I’ve been able to do in my writing before, so I’m excited.
Dreams are powerful, friends. Pay attention to them. They are always speaking.