Our dreams provide us with insights on our waking problems and wishes, all offered to us nightly, free-of-charge, if we only care to stop and take note of them. Interpreting dreams is for everyone, not just those already attuned to the psychic and subconscious self. Learn how to decode your dreams to gain access to a wealth of intuitive wisdom.
Method One of Four:
Painting an Accurate Picture of Your Dreams Edit
Learn how to remember your dreams . Dream interpretation is more meaningful when you have a clear picture of your dreams, rather than a string of hazy images that you struggle to recall. Remembering your dreams clearly is much easier when you get a good night’s sleep and take measures to remember as much as possible.
- Keep a dream journal next to your bed and write down everything you remember of your dreams on waking. Make this a daily morning ritual before doing anything else.
- Write down everything, even if it doesn’t make sense. The things that don’t make sense or seem out of place may end up being the most valuable insights.
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Don’t create a plot where there isn’t one. It might be tempting to connect separate symbols in your dreams by overlaying them with a plot of sorts, in order to make more sense of it all. Avoid this temptation, since you could obscure the real meaning of your dream.
Avoid using dream interpretation aids. Your dreams are reflections of yourself and belong to you. While dream dictionaries and dream interpretation aids can be of some assistance in a very general way, the real nitty gritty of understanding what your dream means will always come down to you, your personal circumstances and the context of the dream and your waking life.
Method Two of Four:
Recognizing Images and Events Edit
Look for the obvious. Before delving any deeper, always analyze a dream at its most basic level first, and that is done by looking for the most obvious meanings. Some questions to ask of your dream include:
- What do you recognize from waking life? For example, you might have misplaced your car keys the night before and your dream shows you that you left them in a bowl on the umbrella stand instead of your usual hook on the wall. In this case, there is probably no need to wonder what keys and bowls symbolize!
- Do you see things in your dream you’ve already experienced? Sometimes we dream about something we’ve done, a TV show, or something we’ve read online or in a book, and our subconscious is bringing it to life in technicolor (basically, a free show!). The meaning behind this is probably simple entertainment as your mind sorts through the daily chaff.
Decide whether the dream reflects a real life situation. Are there particular events going on in your daily life that have elements of concern, or that lack resolution for you? You may be having a dream that addresses these events in a straightforward way. If so, your interpretation job is simple.
- If you had a fight with your mom, and you dream about fighting with her, you already have the answer to what that particular dream means.
- If you have a big test or deadline coming up, and you dream about failing or missing it, you’ve had a straightforward anxiety dream, and there’s probably no need to look for deeper symbolism.
Decide what the dream means to you. Dreams that are straightforward with recognizable objects and events are very useful. They are a means by which you can solve problems that have been dogging you throughout the day, week, or month, even where your worries are not conscious.
- If you dream over and over about fighting with your mom, it’s more than just a reflection of the day’s events; it shows that this issue is bothering you so much that it stays with you all night, and it’s something that should be addressed in waking life.
- Dreams about real life issues you need to solve can help you figure out a solution. History is filled with the inventions begun in dreams, from scientists to fashionistas.
- Dreams help you to learn as you process the day’s experiences. They layer down the things you’ve learned during the day and smarten up your learning so that on awakening, you ought to be a little cleverer at whatever it was you learned the day before. 
Method Three of Four:
Interpreting Abstract Dreams Edit
Analyze the emotions you felt in the dream. Dreams often come to us by way of metaphor, like a puzzle awaiting us to piece it together. It’s a lot harder to figure out the meaning of a completely abstract dream than it is to interpret one with obvious connections to your waking life. But all your dreams, abstract or not, are coming from you, and they all have some kind of truth and meaning. Pay close attention to the emotions the dream elicits – that’s the key to figuring out what it means. Ask yourself these questions:
- How did this dream leave me feeling? What are the principal emotions arising out this dream?”
- When have you recently felt that emotion in waking life? It is likely that your emotions in the dream are replaying emotions already impacting you during your waking hours, such as being angry with somebody, or feeling down about not meeting a deadline, or feeling happy that a good friend is coming to visit.
Look for key images that stand out in your dream. There’s no one way to interpret them; figure out what makes the most sense in terms of your current emotional state.
- For example, if you dreamed about a red alligator swinging off your boss’s lamp and leering at you, you might conclude that you are angry that your boss has taken the limelight and is crowing about your work as his own. Or, you might see this as your boss being angry with you for not throwing light on something ugly that has reared its head at the workplace. Or, you might have a morbid fear of the red alligator figurine on your boss’ desk because the only time you’re ever in your boss’ office is when you’re in trouble, staring at that darned thing to avoid his gaze! While the “symbols” of the dream can be fairly broadly interpreted from the nature or type of those symbols, you still need to fill in the details.
Be honest with yourself . Not only do you need to be willing to put in the effort to try to interpret your dreams, but you also need to be honest about your feelings and emotions. In reality, your dreams will hardly ever tell you something that you don’t already know on some level – it’s just more likely that you have been repressing or pushing something aside.
Method Four of Four:
Honing Your Interpretation Abilities Edit
Practice interpreting your dreams often. Dream interpretation definitely gets better with practice, since with each interpretation you gain a better understanding of your own subconscious. While dream interpretation is fairly intuitive and self-directed in nature, it can be helpful to have some generalized examples to guide you in ways that people choose to interpret their dreams. Here are some examples to give you an idea are provided next:
- Let’s say you’re stranded on a desert island in your dream. If you’ve recently broken up with your partner, this could easily make sense. Maybe you feel guilty about the break-up and think it’s partly your fault. Or maybe you’re still angry about it. Sometimes the feelings you have as you’re drifting off to sleep spill over into your dreams.
- You dream you’re back at school again trying to pass exams that in real life, you passed ages ago. And no matter how hard you try to pass them, the pencil keeps snapping, or the exam paper flies out the window, or you’re just stumped for answers. Swing back to everyday life and you’re doing really well, successful at all you have undertaken. A dream like this can simply be telling you that you don’t need to worry about something that’s worrying you right now because you got over that hurdle in the past; alternatively, it could be warning you that you’re skating on thin ice and can’t rely on winging it this time, and that you need to stick your head in the books and learn something new – and fast!
Recognize patterns. Over time, you’ll start seeing the same things pop up in your dreams. Take note of them in your dream journal, and pay attention to what emotions surround them. In the future, these dreams will be easy to interpret. For example, if you dream of a bluebird, you may not know at first what it symbolizes for you. Eventually you might come to realize it’s associated with times of extreme change in your life. When you dream of a bluebird again in the future, you’ll already have the groundwork laid for interpretation.
Know when your dream interpretation is correct. The key thing to remember is that there are no rules to dream interpretation and so there are no rights or wrongs to the interpretation process. It’s all down to your self-honesty, self-knowledge and willingness to apply your dream knowledge to your waking life situations. A successful dream interpretation really comes down to the following elements:
- Your interpretation resonates with you and the path you’re following in life.
- Interpreting your dreams adds something positive to your personal growth and emotional or spiritual fulfillment.
- Acting upon your dreams is not only becoming second nature, but is giving you good, positive results.
- If it’s not working for you, are you allowing yourself to get over the initial hurdles of confusion or skepticism before finally tossing in the towel on using dream interpretation as a means of self awareness?
- Keep in mind, dreams are a subjective thing; murky at best, but always entertaining.
Don’t forget whatever your dream was.
Read the experts and understand their many varied approaches to dream analysis and interpreting strategies. Jungian analysts, in particular, have published a lot on dreamwork. Especially recommended are the works of Marie-Louise von Franz (see ‘The Way of the Dream’, 1988). It is important not to get too caught up in one way over another, however, as the jury is still out on what dreaming is all about. Which really means, that you’re free to develop your own methods, theories and preferences!
Try to understand the general meaning of dream symbols through a dream dictionary and see how it relates to your life.
Professor William Domhoff has been keeping an online database of dreams, which you might like to browse through to peek into what other people are dreaming about. 
Trying to live in a dreamworld is very different from trying to live out a dream. When you act upon your dreams after interpreting them, you do so consciously, and with determination, purpose, and a clear head. On the other hand, living in a dreamworld is pretty much giving yourself over to imaginings, and waiting for something to happen instead of instigating it yourself. That’s a sure recipe for letting life pass you by and you definitely need to wake up!
Do not use this technique if you’d rather remain uninformed about what’s going on in your subconscious mind. Some people prefer it that way, and that’s a choice as valid as any other.
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