Once you apply the Five Steps to a dozen dreams, you will be on your way to a lifetime of clear dream messages.
STEP 1—EMOTIONS. Feelings and reactions are the first clue to what the dream means and sometimes it is the most important clue. For example, if you dream you are lying in a coffin but wake up feeling happy, the dream is not a prediction of death or of something negative.
A STRONG EMOTIONAL PUNCH. An intense dream can make you feel emotional for hours. Feelings can get out of balance; dreams keep you aware so your emotions stay on an even keel. The more in touch you are with feelings, the easier it is to cope with life.
A DREAM MIRROR. As a primary function, dreams often mirror your emotions so that you can recognize, label, and handle them. For example, suppose that in real life you find a co-worker or a family member annoying. You try to be patient but they trigger a reaction every time you interact. One night you dream that you punch or attach the person. Hold on—the dream does not tell you to hit the associate or family member; it may simply mirror your feelings or hint that you have stepped too far, beyond patience.
STEP 2—STORY LINE. Finding the story line is often the most fruitful piece of the puzzle and can lead to an instant recognition of what the dream means. The story line states the gist of a dream without repeating details, by using general words like "someone" and "something." For example, a young man dreams he is trying to catch a firefly on a warm summer night. He reaches out but keeps missing, chases one frantically, but the firefly gets away. Out of frustration, he sits down on the grass and as he sits quietly, the firefly comes near. Moving gently, the young man catches the firefly. The story line is, “Someone fails when they act frantically but succeeds when they become quiet.” Or, “Someone gets what they want by staying calm and letting it come to them.” Each version describes the dream and yet there is no mention of a young man, a firefly, or sitting on the grass.
WHAT IT DOES. By creating a one-sentence summary of the main points using general words, you focus on the big picture. Many techniques jump right into the symbols, but symbols are like the flavor or the decor on a cake—they add a lot of pizazz but do not define the substance! Starting with the story line prevents you from jumping to conclusions about what a dream means, which is the most common error in dream analysis. A story line lets you scout the territory—as the most important step to a quick understanding of the dream.
FOR A LONG DREAM. Divide a long or complex dream into parts and give each one a story line. Each one may repeat the same theme to emphasize a message. Or, each part may reveal something new about an overall issue.
STEP 3—MATCH STORY LINE TO LIFE. Match the story line to an area of your life. Dreams are about you and your life so the question is, "To what in me or my life does the dream refer?” Decide what area of life, trait, or attitude, the story points to. For example, if you dream you ran a race and won a gold medal, winning the race may be a metaphor about career, fitting into a special dress, or gaining respect for a talent. The story line should resonate to a question, problem, issue, or relationship and when you recognize how the story line aligns with an issue, the message often clicks.
EXAMPLE—EMILY’S DREAM. I am in a garden. There is something I need to do but I have plans to visit friends so I put it aside. As I watch myself, I see myself smoking a long, thin cigarette. At first smoking seems cool. But then I see that no matter how I hold the cigarette—I look dirty, like a street bum. The more I watch, the more unhappy I get. I am disgusted. I know I will have to do something about it.
STORY LINE: Someone reviews a habit which at first appears fun but becomes so repulsive that they want to end it.
DREAMER'S LIFE. Emily smoked for years and then quit. When friends who smoked came to visit, Emily got a kick out of having a cigarette with them. After they left, she began to smoke on the sly once in a while which she hid from her husband. The dream put a spotlight on Emily’s secret habit and reminded her that as a health nut, smoking was not cool. By changing her perspective, the dream gave Emily the impetus to stop smoking.
CONVERT STORY LINE INTO QUESTIONS. If you get stuck, turn the story line into questions. In this example you could ask: "What attitudes, habits, or activities do I have that seem cool?" Check what has changed or may need a re-think.
Symbols are about “associations”—memories linked to a past experience. A memory is like a slice of an experience and symbols lead you to that experience, which tells you what the symbol means. To find what a dream means, review related memories.
UNIQUE TO YOU. This is how memory associations work. A red rose reminds one person of love because they received flowers on Valentine's Day. A red rose reminds someone else of sorrow, because they placed a rose on the casket of a loved one. Trust your own experience to find the meaning of a dream symbol. A dream dictionary provides only generalizations which rarely apply to your unique dream. Proceed with confidence. Understanding a symbol is as natural as thinking about memories and the punch line of a joke.
The main way to explore symbols is Freud's association method: FREUD'SASSOCIATION METHOD. The idea behind "past associations" says, “What does that symbol remind me of?” Then see whether the memory relates to your dream. If nothing clicks, take another step backward into your memories and see what else the symbol reminds you of. Ask how each new memory may relate to the dream. Keep working backwards until a memory clicks and brings to the dream symbol.
FOR EXAMPLE, Selma, a college woman in her early twenties, dreamed: "I am in the coat section of a department store. At first, I don’t see anything I like. Then I see a rack with pink coats that I love, but I walk past them and pick out a light grey coat. I am happy with my selection yet feel disappointed." Selma searched her memories about a pink coat; at first, nothing came up. Suddenly she remembered how a few months before, she was in a department store with a college friend who was shopping for a coat. Selma asked herself how the shopping trip could relate to her dream and recalled that she had been drawn to a beautiful coral coat and remembered what was on her mind as she looked at it. Bingo! When she had saw the coat, Selma told herself, "When I meet my true love, I might buy a pink coat." As soon as the memory flashed, Selma knew the dream was about the new man in her life, a college senior; she had been wondering if he could be her true love. Alas, Selma chose the grey coat so the dream said the new guy was not "the" one—which proved correct. The dream helped Selma sift her feelings and enjoy the relationship for what it was—a lovely college romance and friendship. As you work backwards with memories related to a dream symbol, it can add insight and/or crack the meaning of a dream.
STEP 5—WHAT THE DREAM MEANS.In the final step, you put the pieces together and then use the message. If you ask a friend for advice but do not take it, the friend will stop offering advice. The same happens with dreams. However, your psyche (inner self) will repeat a message; it is programmed to communicate and does not give up on you. If you take a break because of illness or a busy life, the psyche will reinstate a dream dialogue whenever you are ready.
A BEST FRIEND. The psyche is a best friend—the part of you that knows all your thoughts, feelings, and what you strive for. Dream messages are rarely drastic. They are slow, practical insights that point to solutions, add creative approaches, unfold career success, and bring understanding about life and relationships. How you apply the message should be consistent with your beliefs and produce a positive result in a natural way. Most messages relate to daily issues yet at the same time, mystic Edgar Cayce said we pre-dream everything important that happens to us. So, on occasion—a dream can be an intense heads up about what is around the corner (see ESP in dreams).
CHECK OUT THE DREAM LIBRARY. If you had a dream, see topics in the Library of Dreams to compare your dream.