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Volumes could be written about this subject, and have been. In this node I will try to give somewhat of a crash course on this way of finding yourself and provide starting points for further research.

On the importance of numbers:


Numbers are never insignificant. The order of them, however, may be. For example, if you dream that you wake up at 12:01, and your significant other's birthday is on January 12th, there might be a connection. Numbers can be represented in characters and objects, three coins in your pocket have the same significance as meeting someone with a number three on their shirt.

On the importance of repetition:


Repetitive dreams (dreaming the same thing night after night) are indicative of an unresolved issue. Once the issue is dealt with, even mentally, the dream passes. The same phenomenon is found in young children who want to hear the same story over and over again.

On the importance of characters:


Men can represent women, women can represent men and people in general don't represent themselves. The best method of finding out who and what the people symbolize is to run it through one's head. When the right person is reached, you will know. There is no more to it.

On the importance of symbols:


The following were shamelessly lifted from a variety of sources, including but not limited to, Mr. McAdam.

Angel - protection
Barrel - if full, prosperity. If empty, tightness of money.
Bear - a friend who is awkward will help you, if you are kind to him (her).
Bees - successful work.
Birds - if flying high, good luck. If flying low, bad luck. If singing, success.
Boat - a fortunate journey.
Book - sought-after wisdom is within reach.
Bread - material well-being.
Bridge - if crossed, a happy solution to a problem.
Calendar - loss due to untimeliness.
Chair - a change in employment.
Cheese - gain, profit.
Crab - separation.
Desk - if one is working at a desk, it means one should spend more time outdoors. If the desk is empty, it means a change in jobs.
Duck - someone acting anonymously.
Eggs - abundance.
Fishes - on the surface of the water, abundance and wealth. At the bottom, danger. Fishes can also indicate fertility or pregnancy.
Flag - change, success.
Fruit - abundance.
Gambling - good, if one loses. Bad, if one wins.
Glass - if broken, success. If empty, distress.
Goat - inconsistancy in a relationship or job.
Grasshopper - loss.
Guitar - declaration of love.
Gun - deceptive gain.
Hermit - need to bring quietness into one's life.
House - home life, often future home life. If one dreams of a home with a light inside or smoke rising from a chimney, it means one is unlikely to live alone. An empty house denotes living in solitude.
Key - opportunity for gaining wisdom.
Kiss - betrayal or self-betrayal.
Lamp - be prudent.
Mirror - betrayal.
Monkey - someone near is not to be trusted.
Mushrooms - long life, protection.
Mustard - problems anew.
Owl - don't start anything on next day.
Palace - sorrow caused by pride.
Pen - a new offer or proposal.
Prison - if entering, oppression. If leaving or escaping, recovery from depression.
Rabbit - if white or grey, friendship, partnership, success. If black, lies and reverses.
Reptile - slander, betrayal.
Ring - reconciliation.
Scissors - quarrels.
Snake - someone has a grudge against you.
Stapler - becoming attached to someone of questionable integrity.
Swan - great success.
Telephone - bad news awaits. Bad luck.
Trees- if a path through a forest, one will soon find one's purpose in life. If downed trees, success. If trees bare of leaves, a new beginning. If full trees, danger from complacency.
Umbrella - lasting friendship, security.
Vinegar - jealousy.
Volcano - adventure, passion.
Water - if flowing water, such as a river or stream, increased romance. If water is murky, one is unsure of one's own feelings.
Weapons - be on guard.
Wine - a happy old age.
Worms - put small worries aside.

Of course, these vary from person to person. For example, if you were bitten by a rabbit as a small child and this has scarred you, don't go with the above definition for the rabbit symbol.

On the rule of opposites


As it has often been said, opposites are true in dreams (Death signifies rebirth, winning in a gamble is bad luck...) However, the opposites aren't complete and exlusive opposites, moreso they are associated and interchangable in one's mind.

Finally,

The suicidal dream


Killing oneself in a dream can mean many things, but does not neccessarily indicate depression. People who have kept dream journals and killed themselves have most often had this as a final dream: The dreamer is in a large vehicle (Airplane, 18-wheeler, etc. A regular car does not qualify) and is headed towards a sunset. If someone tells you that he/she dreamed this, get professional help. By all means. Or, if they trust you enough, seriously talk to them.

The following is meant as a supplement to piq's excellent writeup on Dream Interpretation, not as a contradiction.

Dreams make sense. They even make the same kind of sense as 'real' life, or at least our mental interpretations of real life. They are our interpretations of real life.

You can understand dreams in the same way as you understand real life, simply by following the linkages of thought and association between the elements of the dream. There is very little fixity of symbol and meaning between people, which means that 'dream dictionaries', while a useful way of sparking your own thought processes about the dream, cannot provide you with a reductive interpretation of it. It has been established by Carl Jung and others that we all share a collective unconscious, populated by recurring archetypes which are shared by all people, even from totally different cultures - however, you cannot fully interpret the content of your dream through archetypal analysis any more than you can know a city from studying a map.

There is no need to build up a vast store of symbols and their common meanings, as if learning a new language. The language of dreams is your language. It's a very personal thing. Just as you know your own thoughts, you can know your own dreams. Jung had an enormous knowledge of symbols and stories, but never forgot to find out from his patients exactly how they felt during each part of their dream.

How did the dream feel? What does it bring to mind? If you are wondering what a certain event in the dream means, ask yourself, how did it make me feel? How did I react? What else makes me react that way? If there is a character in your dream about whom you are wondering, ask yourself, how did I feel about them? Who in my life do I feel that way about? If something terrible happens, ask yourself, what am I afraid of that would feel like this?

Not only is this way of interpreting dreams easy and powerful, but it also has the side effect of integration - this kind of enquiry integrates your conscious thought processes with your subconscious dreams and thinking. Rather than distancing yourself from your dream as if it were a theoretical entity, a movie you saw last night, you are living it, remembering it and thinking about it as if it actually happened to you. It did actually happen to you, and is as available and comprehensible as your everyday experience in the waking world.

It is a mistake to believe that humankind's collective unconscious, the symbols that we all share, is uniform and detailed enough to permit a dictionary of meanings of all objects and actors in dreams.

Perhaps a few things like Mother, Father, Phallic symbol will have much the same resonance for most of us, but I don't think that it goes much further than that.

It is impossible to say with any degree of veracity that, for instance, a Crab always means separation in a dream, or even that it usually means that. To say this would be to say that differences in culture and individual temperament, milieu and personal history are all trivial and irrelevant.

the only way to find out what the thing, person, action or circumstance means is to ask the dreamer what it means for them. At some level, they do know, and they can often vocalise this knowledge if asked the right question.

Start by asking questions like:
What does the crab mean to you?
Why is it there?
Does it want to be there?
What does it want?
How does it feel about you?
How does it feel? Is it happy?
How do you feel about it?
What did you expect it to do?
Why did it do what it does?

It is not the thing in itself, but the emotional weight, the motivation and relation to the dreamer that is important.

Finally, do not interpret a dream is if it was a jigsaw puzzle, a list of pieces that must all be put together and is then complete, solved, finished.

Dreams are like water. A dream is like a well. You can bring many buckets of meaning up from the depths, but the dream remains, deep and quiet, mysterious and fluid.

It is dangerous to believe, beyond any doubt, that the "symbols" from one person's dream mean the same thing as those in another person's dream. The idea of a simplistic dream interpretation theory, as in the breaking down of "symbols" into an easy to define chart, is quite mad. Or at least it is from my point of view.

There are different kinds of dreams. Some are fluffy dreams filled with people we know and some kind of silliness that everyone gets involved in. There are lucid dreams and there are intense, powerful dreams that stay with us long after we awaken. Does the appearance of a rabbit in a light, fluffy dream mean the same as a rabbit in a dark and intense dream? They are two different rabbits. One might appear because in our own personal reality we think of rabbits as indicative of good luck. Another might appear because of a childhood experience where we were bitten by a neighbor's pet rabbit, causing a subconscious fear. To interpret the rabbit as only meaning one thing is absurd.

On many levels we all interpret the world differently. Picture a roller coaster ride in your dream. Would this not mean different things to someone who loves roller coasters and someone who is scared to death of them?

My own dreams, those of the intense variety, there are a number of recurring themes. I have had people who specialize in dream interpretation look at them, and their deductions have rarely made sense in the context of my dreams. I am pursued by what I call "the red riders," who by their description seem to be disgruntled seraphim. You could say, okay, they are angels and signify protection. Not really. They are hunting me and there are so many varieties of angels that appear in my dreams that they all mean something quite different.

I believe that we have individual realities and a collective reality. I believe the merger of these two realities is what creates the world we live in. There are two places where our individual reality can break completely with the collective reality. These two places are death and dreams. In our waking life we must adhere to certain standards and belief systems that are accepted by the majority of people around us. Within the constraints of the collective reality, we cannot do certain things. We cannot fly. We cannot walk on water. We cannot move into a palace and live in luxury. We work with the collective reality to determine what is possible and what is not possible. So, at certain times, we escape the shackles of the collective reality and travel into the essence of our own reality.

Dreams take us to a place where we don't have to play by the rules. There may be rules but they rarely correspond to the rules of the collective reality. What may be valuable is to understand the rules of your dreams and follow them. To become lucid and drive your dreams, you must understand the nature of their parameters. These parameters will change from person to person and dream to dream. Therefore, this works best with recurring dreams and recurring dream themes and settings.

An outsider with an open mind may be your best guide to interpreting your dreams. By nature you will usually try to assign meanings that you favor to your dreams. Yet, the important thing to remember is that the context of the dream as well as the symbolism is important. Make a list of key components of recurring dreams. Write down the actions that are taken by the key components. Write down the words you hear and the way they are spoken. All components of dreams are relevant, although we may focus only on those we deem important while awake.

The doorknob may be far more important than the door.

Study the trends in your dreams. Reflect upon how one dream builds upon another. How are they connected? Is there a story being told? Or are they independent capsules? Perhaps dreams are messages from the subconscious telling us things we have either forgotten or are not recognizing in our conscious mind. There are those of us whose dreams come as powerful images that are not easily forgotten when we wake. How much of a dream do we really remember? Do only certain things stand out after we wake up? You may remember a plane crash in the dream, but do you remember all the particulars surrounding the crash? There are many questions. The answers are not easily found. You can connect the dots and draw your own conclusions but they may not be the correct conclusions. The only response is to muse over them and realize they are a frontier we have yet to fully explore and understand.

Compensatory function of dreams

One interesting aspect of Jung's theory of dream psychology is the compensatory function of dreams. Acting as a "self-regulation of the psychic organism", this function has as its input the subliminal material unknowingly gathered during the waking hours of the day(s) prior to the dream. In this way, through the dream, the unconscious provides the individual with complementary awareness needed for successful adaptation to its environment. Often, the perceptions assimilated by the unconscious is strikingly different from those gathered by the conscious mind. The conscious suppresses a lot of sensory stimuli in order to affirm already held preconceptions.

In opposition to Freud (and in accordance with many of the writeups above), Jung stresses the importance of not regarding the dream symbols as having fixed meanings: "the symbol in the dream has more the value of a parable: it does not conceal, it teaches." The symbols should be considered in relation to the conscious content of the psyche at the time prior to the dream. To form a useful interpretation, it's necessary that the analyst be able to correctly assess the subject's conscious attitude.


Quotes are from C. G. Jung's General Aspects of Dream Psychology.

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