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Feelings in Dreams

Japanese Water Wheel

I was asked today if it is significant that the feelings from a dream stay with you, well beyond when you wake from an impactful dream. The answer….  Yes it is!

Feelings are entwined with dreams, it’s actually hard to have one without the other. Some dreams are like passing reports, a fact sheet if you like. Most have a large feeling content which actually drives the symbolism, one of the reasons it is so complex. Much of the time feelings will come and go within the natural context of the dream, much as they do in daily life as our day progresses and events come and go. Generally not much specifically lingers on, there’s a general ‘sense’ of the day by the time work is done and that’s about it. That is unless something quite impactful happens, then it’s a different story. An excellent example is when people say “I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when <insert famous event> happened and I saw it on the news”. This is the intensity of emotion imprinting the images we see at the time into our brain.

Now think of this in context of a dream leaving a lingering feeling. In the same way dreams will sometimes create some bizarre imagery to get us to take notice (finally) of what they are trying to tell us, they will sometimes use intense feelings to do the same thing. OR it can be that what the dream we are dealing with has a very strong emotional store and that by leaving the proverbial ‘door’ to that emotional store open long after the dream has finished, it can allow those emotions to drain out over a period of time. These are dynamics we really have to decide for ourselves – they are our dreams after all. Do we keep the door open or close it and lock those feelings in until it creaks open again?

The example today was a work dream. It’s really important people have work dreams. Often they are mundane and essentially uninteresting, but again, in a work environment there is a lot going on and this has to be processed through the subconscious. Interactions with colleagues, pressure from higher levels in the company, demands from boards, deadlines, the list goes on…. No one gets to escape these things. The reason it’s important people have work dreams, I take particular note when going through patients’ dreams if they have a lack of work dreams, is that the dream process helps us de-stress and wind down. Those small conflicts and annoyances with colleagues, as small as most of them are, all add up over a while. The client or customer calls that are stressful to deal with, office infrastructure not working (printer, I’m looking at you..) and the list goes on. There’s so many events in the day that even though they are quite small, each one adds to the former and so we have quite a load by the time our day finishes.

To explain why having intervals of sleep with dreams, especially the work ones, is so important we’re going to turn to an old fable. This version places us in the court of an Indian ruler. One of his wise men had crafted this king a very fine chess board. The king was so pleased he offered the palace wise man (who was also quite good at maths) a reward of his own choosing. The wise man told the king all he wanted was rice. The king was very pleased with this as he had a lot of rice. When the king asked how much rice, the wise man said he wanted one grain on the first square of the board, two grains on the second, four grains on the third square and so on, doubling the rice quota on each square until each of the 64 squares had their full amount. The king agreed and ordered his servants to do this. It was to his great surprise that the chessboard quickly filled with rice and then the room and there was still much more to go. The maths of this is rather large and becomes 2 to the power of 63, which doesn’t mean much to most of us, until you put it in the perspective that if each grain of rice were laid end to end, the line would reach to the star Alpha Centauri and back to earth again. That’s a lot of rice!

As with any good parable, it’s not really about grains of rice. It’s showing us that if we don’t deal with our emotional loading on a daily basis it can quickly accumulate into an entirely unmanageable amount. Being that we’re at work for a lot of our lives with all of its expectations, that’s a large portion of our emotional loading right there. Being that most of us work five or six days a week, it’s also pretty constant, especially if you think about how much you think about work when you’re not there. Add those little ‘after hours’ jobs that need doing through our days off (usually digital media) and all of a sudden it’s nearly taking over people’s lives, certainly our minds and that free-thinking space we need just for unwinding and thinking about the things we want to, not work.

Feelings in dreams are important, in fact they’re vital and often give the biggest indications and clues to what the dream is actually about. When feelings linger after waking, take notice… they’re trying to tell you something about what your mind needs to do at the moment. Listen carefully and you will get the answers and solutions you need. Keep seeking, they will find you, they’re your own solutions for you.

Don’t let the emotions from yesterday come into today, you don’t need all that accumulation, it will only impact your creativity, ideas flow, energy levels and everything else you need to make you work day a fun, productive and enjoyable one. Let yesterday go and start the day afresh, find the solutions you need for work, apply them and watch the results, they will be impressive.

The vicarious nature of dreams

Many people have dreams relating to pursuits and activities they desire to participate in. Often I’m asked “Why am I having these dreams”?

Desire is a very strong driver in our lives. The desire to experience is especially strong and can drive many of our actions in life. There is a giant leap between experience and thought. So many of us live in our minds. Our mind is an amazing place but has limited scope when it’s placed against actually stepping into a situation that is a manifestation of what we really want.

Life is a huge space and there are so many opportunities afforded. The point of difference is where we step into a life where we think about things or actually do them. It’s not any easy step and this is where dreams come in. The subconscious is a vast place and has many resources for us. It’s called the subconscious for a reason and specifically that is it’s below our conscious level, i.e. that which we’re aware of.

Many dreams come to us to inspire. So many people look for the ‘meaning’ in their dreams, yet, this question is more often than not within the limitations of our linear and logical ‘conscious’ mind which is filled with it’s own limitations. Dreams dredge depths from within us which for the most part we are unaware of – they create a scenario which enacts our deeper desires and play out what we feel might be. Not only that, they seek to instruct, purely from the deeper reaches of our otherwise secret selves, so that often we are facilitated to experience ahead of time what may be before us. An adjunct to this is the ‘vicarious process’ where they actually instruct us through the process of what we wish to experience. Sounds strange I know, but once you’ve seen thousands of dreams it becomes very clear.

If you’re reading this, likely you’re cognisant enough to recognise that our inner realms stretch beyond what we can feel and touch in daily life. the ability of dreams to reach into realms we aren’t normally aware of is well recognised. Some say that dreams are random neural firings – good luck to those, a very empty life is ahead there. The true richness of dreams is just this, they access a part of our ind that isn’t recordable by ‘modern’ scientific instruments. I put modern in quotation marks, as at every point in time, society considers its current state as modern. People in the 18th century considered themselves modern at the time, which of course they were, but in retrospect we can see the vast lacking they had. So it will be as the future looks upon us.

Trends, technological limitations, fixed lines of thought in a generic society – however you look at it we are under the limitations of our times. Dreams have the ability to reach beyond those limitations and show us both what can and will be.

I remember some time ago when I went to a lecturer and asked why I had a particular dream. at the time I was learning to dive (scuba) and had dreamt about being deep underwater and another diver tearing my mask off and removing the breathing apparatus. Luckily he’d been through Navy dive training and the dream (in much more detail) as I described to him was identical to Navy diver training to the letter. This is when I learned about the vicarious nature of dreams.

Amongst their many functions, dreams have a strong teaching mechanism, it’s simply up to us if we are willing to undergo their manifold expression, and beyond that, to live it in life. There’s the next step! To quote a cheesy Hollywood movie “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” …

How to interpret dreams

Dreams are fascinating. People ask me about them all the time once they know what I do for a living. Everyone has them but so few understand them. Across these blogs I’ll be going through some of the ways you can understand your dreams a little better and how to make them a tool for your inner and personal growth.

I was out in the surf today with a friend and he was telling me about all the travel dreams he’s been having lately. We went though a few dynamics that he is having in his life lately and a few indications of what they were about came up as we unfolded his current wishes and drives. This is where ‘dream dictionaries’ start to become irrelevant very fast. To say one dream symbol means something specifically can be very limiting and is more likely than not to miss the entire point of the dream it occurred in. Dreams are all about context. The context and storyline a symbol occurs in is vital to the symbol’s meaning itself. And that’s just a starter. There’s your personal history in association with the symbol or character in the the dream, what has that symbol or person meant to you in your past? What were the emotional dynamics associated with the symbol? How does it interact with the other symbols in the dream’s storyline?

It may sound odd referring to symbols in dreams, but to your subconscious, that’s what every component of a dream is. Every part of your dream is a symbolic expression from an inner part of your psyche. A blade of grass, a rock, your pet as a child, friends, relatives, strangers and so on are all symbolic uprisings from your mind. It might be work colleagues, someone you just met or a friend you’ve known all your life, but what that person symbolises to you is specific to your experience of them through your interactions if they are known to you or by various other features and actions if it is a character in the dream you have never known outside this space.

“So how do I go about understanding what my dreams mean?” Is one of the most commonly asked questions I get. The answer is a long one and even after 20 years of dealing with dreams professionally, there is always more to learn, and with each person you’re pretty much starting from scratch as you need to know what is happening in their life, now, in the past and their sense of any  future direction.

The great thing for you is they’re your dreams, so at some level, whether you are aware of it or not, your mind knows exactly what the dream means. Not just the whole dream but every detail within the dream as well. OK, there’s some grass there – so why did your mind construct grass there? Why exactly that much in that type of space? And why that particular length?

As you can see there are a lot of ways of looking at just a single component of a dream, so imagine the complexities of weaving every detail of the dream into an entire meaning in itself. That’s my job, this is what I do with clients every day. You can start to do it too, and I really advise having a go at interpreting your dreams, a really solid go. You never know what you’ll find!

So what are the first steps in working out your dreams? Well the first part of the process is to WRITE THEM DOWN! Yes, writing your dreams down is the only way to recount the details and sequences of events accurately. You normally have a about 40-60 seconds from when you wake before the details can start to fade, or you might even forget the dream altogether. It doesn’t matter if you can’t write the whole dream down, a few key points jotted onto a pad or into your dream diary are enough to trigger your mind to remember the dream later on when you have time to record it. Phones can be good too, but it depends how co-ordinated your typing is when you wake. Most find it easier to put pen or pencil to paper. If you put it into your phone or computer, make sure to keep a sequenced file. This naturally happens in a dream diary of course with the flow of pages. Why? Because series of dreams over time hold themes and concepts that you really can only grasp when you have a series of dreams to work through and spot the interrelationships. This may be over weeks, months or years, depending how deep the the theme is and how often it occurs.

What are some of the dreams you can remember right now? They may seem disjointed and nothing to do with each other, but if you look deeper, are there points of relationship or a common idea or symbol held in them, even though they may be quite a time apart. These are the sorts of things I look for and encourage patients to seek out when transcribing their dreams and reading back through them over time. The connections.

So there we have a key to what dreams are about, there a connection of one part of your mind (the subconscious) to another part of your mind (the conscious). By working out the messages and meanings in your dreams, the connect between your outer mind (the logical and creative thinking you entertain each day) and the deeper subconscious which houses an array of emotions, buried memories, wishes, desires and aspirations which it wants to tell you all about. But…. The subconscious can only communicate symbolically, it can’t type out a written piece like this to tell you what is happening and what is being processed in your mind. And this is where we’ll be heading in future weekly blogs, how to unravel this symbolism, the language of dreams to help you in your daily life.

Stay tuned each week, there’s a lot to come