The Mystery Of Dreaming
Carl Jung, founder of Jungian psychology, believed that individual's store psychic energy in the unconscious mind. The "unconscious" is the inner storing house that is not open to awareness unless we cooperate with ourselves (or our Higher Power), in the journey toward personal growth and development. Dreams are one way for the unconscious mind to express inner conflict and psychic trauma so that we can understand and process the information.
Dreaming is a universal experience. There may be intensity to our dreams or they may be vague and forgettable. Often our dreams may awaken us in the form of night-terrors. They may follow a repetitious pattern over time which can be rather annoying. When we awaken after dreaming, the experience may generate a constellation of feelings which are troublesome and difficult to explain. The feelings associated with dreaming may linger for some time.
Bookstores are filled with books written about the process of dreaming and how to interpret dreams. Some authors may act as a prophetic visionary, providing people with insights into current and future experiences, goals and direction. The author's goal is to "thread the needle" regarding an interpretation for one's dream.
I believe we must look at dreams from a different perspective. Rather than contents to be interpreted, they represent an aspect of the "self" that is yearning for emotional expression and release. They are not about our experience with others, but our connection to our own inner experience. A dream can be characterized as a metaphor for personal, unresolved issues. Through a dream-state, we may be working through inner conflicts that require some resolution. Often, I ask people to become the various parts of their dreams and play them out as if they are telling a story. By dramatizing various aspects of it, people are able to observe a pattern or thread that connects all of the parts to the whole of their inner experience. Dreams are a microcosm of those personal issues that are affecting the "self."
A former patient of mine had been struggling with the issue of giving himself permission to cooperate in his pilgrimage toward personal change. He had been afraid of success. He felt guilty for leaving his parents behind in his emotional quest to find psychological growth and healing.
This client had an interesting dream. He was on a roller-coaster enjoying the freedom of the ride when all of a sudden the person in the coaster car in front of him was cut in half! All that showed was the abdomen of an unrecognizable person. He woke up terrified. Now he needed an explanation.
Since I believe that aspects of a dream represent specific features of a person's life, I had him tell this story as if it was happening to him in the present. After he completed expressing his dream, having played out various components of it, I created a personal metaphor for him. I concluded that he was on a journey toward psychological wholeness and that he felt cut off from realizing his aspirations due to internal conflict over the permission to succeed.
I asked him for feedback regarding my explanation. He was rather amazed to see the parallels between his dream and his current life experience. I believe that dreams happen for a reason. They can be "gifts of grace." These experiences come into our lives to help us to open up to new insights. They represent powerful tools for change. My patient's dream was symbolic of all that was happening in his current experience. Dreams can be instruments that assist us in the pursuit of spiritual and psychological growth. For my client, the metaphor was a potent message to assist him toward personal fulfillment.
The following are some guidelines to consider regarding the dreaming process:
- Remember, dreams come unbidden.
- Always ask yourself, what do the feelings from the dream relate to?
- What are you currently experiencing that may have been a trigger for the dream?
- If there is a repetitious pattern to the dream, what issue are you ignoring?
- After the dream, consider ways in the "here and now" of completing it in a way that meets your needs and desires.
- Explore doing guided meditation with positive affirmations prior to sleeping. This will help calm you unconscious mind.
- Don't interpret your dreams. Dreams are a metaphor for aspects of your personal experience.
James P. Krehbiel is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached at (480) 664-6665 or krehbielcounseling.com.