This is the third article of a series on myths about dreaming. Last week’s article discussed the myth that dreams ‘should’ be controlled or manipulated. This article explores another myth: that dreams have no value unless they are interpreted or analyzed.
Dream analysis is a prolific area of humanity’s exploration into dreaming. Most people get curious at some point in their lives as to what their dreams mean. Common questions include, What does this dream mean? What does this symbol mean? Why did I dream that? What is my subconscious trying to tell me? Is this dream prophetic?
Entire books, methodologies, and fields of study have been created around symbolism and imagery in dreams and around what they mean. You can have your dreams evaluated by apps, paid professionals, religious leaders, or your friends. Analyzing and interpreting dreams can be fun, exciting, scary, insightful, and even life-changing at times. However, while approaching dreams from a position of interpreting or analyzing them can have benefits, there are also downsides, one of which is that a myth has arisen around what you must do to get value from your dreams.
Myth #3: To get value from dreaming, you should try to interpret, analyze, or understand your dreams. This is the classic statement of, “I had the weirdest dream last night. What do you think it means?” An old friend recently shared that he’s been having dreams about dying. He recited a few incidents that happened in his dreams around this recurring theme of death, then asked, “What does it mean?”
Truth: If you try to interpret, analyze, or understand your dreams, you may only distract yourself.
You can, of course, assign meaning to things that happen in dreams. There are entire communities of people, traditions, and professions, all over the world, whose primary focus is understanding the meaning of the symbols that they find in their dreams and in other aspects of life. This is a wonderful undertaking. However, the truth is that if you try to interpret or analyze your dreams, you will also be distracting yourself from the potential of a deeper level of natural experience.
Focusing on analyzing, deconstructing, or decomposing your dreams can prevent you from allowing those dream experiences simply to wash over you, as if you were lying in the sand and gentle waves were washing over you. While dreams can be approached analytically, you can also just allow them to affect you. Allow them to impact you. Allow yourself to be washed by them and don’t necessarily rush to understand meaning or try to analyze them into some pattern that fits with your waking life.
When you allow that to happen, the experience of not understanding can be a wonderful gift. It’s like standing in that forest, looking up at the many, many different shades of green, not understanding how it happens, but letting it be enough for now just to see the forest, to smell the forest, to hear the sounds of the forest. Let it be enough simply to allow yourself to experience being in a forest that’s not of your own creation, but is a community that you live near, that you can be a part of, that your sense of individualized self is connected to. This attitude towards dreaming can give you a whole new opportunity to experience the world of dreams directly.
Try This: Next time you remember a dream, try not to analyze it. Instead, consider another kind of experience: giving the dream world permission to have integrity and wholeness of its own. Try noticing what occurs and what is experienced, rather than analyzing it.
Note: there’s nothing wrong with analyzing or interpreting your dreams. That’s one way of approaching dreams, and many people find great value and satisfaction in it. The dream world is like being in the ocean. The ocean is huge. You can swim circles in it. You can try to swim across. You can have boats and submarines, be a dolphin or a whale, and explore the ocean in any way you choose. There’s no right or wrong way. As presented in the book, Wisdom of Dreaming, Dreamosophy is a particular approach that brings different opportunities. Dreamosophy presents an approach in which you don’t have to ask what a dream means and you don’t have to analyze, because the meaning is direct and the experience is complete and whole in and of itself. If you’d like to learn more about Dreamosophy, check out Wisdom of Dreaming: A Guide to an Effective Dream Life by Paul M. Sheldon.