by Mary Cook, M.A., R.A.S.

picasso_the-dreamDreams are windows to our unconscious and can help us to navigate human and spiritual possibilities. They originate from various aspects of ourselves, including what we have internalized from people who have significantly influenced us. Our relationship with God and with others in Heavenly realms, can be glimpsed in dreams with spiritual messages. Some dreams portray our untapped potential and thus may inspire us to greater heights. Dreams can warn us of danger, help us prepare for challenges and hint at wonderful events to come. Dreams often symbolically reflect conflicts between healthy and unhealthy, or between ambivalent aspects of ourselves. Addictions, compulsions or other sick parts of us are frequently depicted in dream characters, sometimes greatly exaggerated. For people recovering from unhealthy habits, dream content of compulsions or other past negative behaviors, can warn of relapse, symbolize another source of potential discord, or nudge us to address the deeper roots of the problem.

The process of deciphering dreams requires us to release sufficient judgment over the negative elements, in order to explore the dream with an open mind. It is useful to note the themes and the feelings present in our dreams. Asking what questions and answers the dream poses and what title we could give it, are also helpful in dream inquiry. Some dreams suggest solutions and others end with a problem over which we feel powerless. When the latter occurs, we are encouraged to address the issues presented in dream material, for a deeper understanding of ourselves and the path before us. This is especially important with recurring dreams. Allowing ourselves to relax deeply and re-enter the dream in a meditative state, permits us to stop action at any point and question dream characters and features. Dreams can help us identify unconscious hindrances to positive goals. When our goals are not aligned with our daily thoughts, feelings and actions, progress is impeded.

In general, when we are unhappy, unhealthy and unfulfilled, and cannot determine the cause, there is an unconscious limiting behavior, belief, or emotion sabotaging us. In order to move forward, we must identify and transform this.

As in stories, dreams typically have an antagonist and a protagonist. Dream characters and other elements can occasionally be taken literally, but more often they are metaphors for impulses, attitudes, actions, thoughts and feelings. Dreams of abuse, entrapment, rape, torture and murder must include victims. They also often incorporate characters attempting to intervene, and a character who witnesses the proceedings. Even when dreams are reminiscent of waking life events, it’s also helpful to explore them in terms of elements of our relationship with self. It is valuable to question what part of us feels helpless, stuck, or violated? We can question what part of us bullies, over-controls, shames and harms? From what parts of ourselves do we withhold freedom or impose impossible conditions? Is there a part of us that would need to “die”, for something new to emerge in us? What part of us is curious, open-minded, vulnerable, trusting, and loving? What part of us expresses courage, strength, freedom, resourcefulness and persistence in finding solutions? What part of us acknowledges and assertively asks for important needs to be met, and what are those needs?

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