We all dream of bigger and better things for ourselves; a better sex life, more meaningful relationships, weight loss, smoother skin and a healthier body. Typically, these dreams come to us when we’re awake. But what about the dreams that come to us when we’re asleep? For thousands of years these dreams have been the source of guidance and inspiration. In ancient times, dreams were thought to originate from outside our bodies. They were seen as messages from the gods: omens of things to happen in the future.
Around 1895, Sigmund Freud took dreams out of this mythological realm and attempted to place them within the purview of science. Dr. Freud maintained our sleeping dreams represent our deepest and truest desires. As such, they hold great value in discovering who we are, what we want and who we have the potential to be.
As a psychotherapist who works with individuals and families to help them heal in their relationships with themselves and others, I also find dreams incredibly useful in understanding where we’ve come from, where we are and where we need to go.
Recently, I used dream interpretation to help a young man reach a new level of acceptance and intimacy with his father. The patient, an incredibly sensitive and loving man in his late 20s, struggles with sex and alcohol addiction. Recently his father was diagnosed with an inoperable melanoma. The patient came into session with a dream that we interpreted as his need to accept his father for the man who he is; imperfect and at times disappointing, rather than as a fantasy he wished him to be. Through this analysis, my patient realized his father loves him deeply as a son, as he loves his father, but that their expectations and demands of one another kept them emotionally apart.
While not all of my experiences with dreams are this powerful, I do find it useful to explore them when they arise. I also find it useful to keep a dream journal by my own bed into which I write the bits and pieces of my dreams that I’m able to remember in the morning. Through looking back over these simple notes, I’m able to get valuable insights that I use to think about and guide my actions. I encourage you to do the same.
Remember that we’re both participants and observers in our lives. By actively participating in our conscious experiences we’re able to live our lives to the fullest. By observing what is taking place in our dreams, we’re able to gain insight into our desires for the future and live our lives with more meaning and fewer regrets.