As I’ve mentioned tons of times already, analyzing dreams is how I became interested in psychology. I know what some of you are thinking, “Analyzing dreams is pop psych not actual psychology”, but you are wrong, and I’ll show you why.
Someone new to reading dreams will most likely do what I did and buy a book like Cloud Nine: A Dreamer’s Dictionary. Although your intentions are good, this is a great way to be led astray. If you go to Barns and Nobel, you will find shelves filled with books trying to help you “decode your dreams”. Unfortunately a lot of these books take a very spiritual spin on analysis; they are often dictionaries that contain common dream symbols that try to help you figure out what the universe is telling you. Now, I am not saying that dreams cannot be spiritual creations, or your link to another world, but I am a psychologist and I will tell you what I know about dream analysis from a psychological point of view.
Step 1: Disregard any books you might have on dream analysis.
I started becoming good at analyzing dreams after realizing that the books offered some good insight, but were hit or miss when I tried looking up symbols. Furthermore many of the explained symbols found in these books are very general (like horoscopes) and thus seem right but really don’t help much. Everyone has some fear of death, dreams are usually more specific.
Step 2: Know the person you’re analyzing
You won’t get anywhere if you don’t know enough about the dreamer. When it comes to dreams, very few things are universal. If they have a dream about a clown, you need to know what clowns mean to them. Are they scared of clowns? Was their uncle a clown? Does someone in their life wear too much makeup? All these things are relevant, so if you don’t know enough about the particular person you need to ask enough questions before you can even begin to analyze them.
Step 3: Stay relative
Dreams are a way for our minds to unwind, to think about what has happened to us recently and to connect it to our past. A great place to start is to connect dream elements with recent events. However, don’t limit yourself to just what has happened recently because elements of our subconscious are also present in our dreams, and they can go as far back as our memory allows.
Step 4: Pay attention to detail
Everything in a dream is there for a reason, some are more important than others, but everything none the less has a purpose. Try to focus on a handful of elements that the dreamer seems to talk about most (no matter how seemingly insignificant) and try to draw connections between them and current events.
Other than these 4 tips, keep in mind that almost everything in a dream is a symbol and needs to be “figured out” before true meaning can arise. A person may dream about being chased by a saber toothed tiger, does this mean that he has a fear of large cats? maybe. But it is more likely that the act of being chased is more significant, what is he running from? What in his life could be metaphorically chasing him around? Why is he so desperate to escape?
If I run across some interesting dreams I’ll post them and their analysis relatively soon.
Good luck! and always feel free to email me with questions.
Photo Credit: svilen001