As I recall, the book was very long, and I didn't read all of it. To be honest, once I got through the first chapter I felt like I had the whole dream thing down (keep in mind I was a teenager at the time, so I pretty much knew everything). The basic gist of it was this: your dreams are your subconscious projecting your inner feelings in code. And since not all of us are entirely in touch with our inner feelings, it can be very beneficial to pay attention and try to decipher the code in order to recognize those feelings, because once we do, we might be able to take steps toward resolving some unknown inner conflicts and thus live a happier life.
The key to the code, I learned from the book, was to pay attention to the people, places, and things in your dream and how you feel about them. Many sources out there will tell you that certain "dream symbols" mean specific things- like dogs represent loyalty, flowers mean love, etc. However, this is only true for certain things, and for obvious reasons. For example, dreaming that your teeth fall out is representative of being anxious about something, and that is fairly universal because really, is there anyone who would be happy about their teeth falling out? Probably not.
The important thing is to break down your dream into its basic components and to ask yourself, "How do I feel about this in my everyday life?" For example, if I have a dream about my seventh grade English teacher, there is a reason. If I ask myself how I feel about my seventh grade English teacher, I might say that she was very tough but at the same time I felt like I learned quite a lot from her. I take that feeling and then try to compare it to something happening in my life right now, like maybe my current job, which is tough but I feel like I'm learning a lot. If I dream that something terrible happens to my teacher, it may mean that I fear losing my job. Knowing that that is a subconscious fear, I can take steps to allay my fears by rededicating myself, preparing for potential job loss, or gathering reasons why my fear is unfounded. All of these steps will lead me to become a less fearful, more fulfilled person.
After I learned all of this from that book, I began to look at my dreams with fresh eyes. Every night was like a therapy session, and dreams that on the surface seemed as random as they were illogical were suddenly perfectly orchestrated metaphors for my life. Every dream was like a puzzle, and every solved puzzle was another insight into my subconscious. It was so much fun! Plus, I got to amaze my friends and family by interpreting their dreams and becoming their dream guru. Kinda cool.
To give you a recent real-life example, lately I've been pondering recurring nightmares/dreams I've had in which planes and helicopters crash. They have become so regular that I can't see a plane in the sky anymore without pinching myself to make sure I'm awake. Because if I'm not, that sucker is going to crash and I'd better hightail it outta there. It's just a fact. Anyway, a long time ago I had figured out that those dreams represented what I've learned is my greatest fear: that everything I know to be good, right, and real suddenly falls apart and I'm left with nothing of real emotional value (think husbands with secret lives, friends who try to kill you, etc.). In my mind, planes are safe. They take you where you want to go, and are supposed to do so without incident. Until something goes horribly wrong and they crash and you die.
Anyway, the other night I started wondering why it was that I had always dreamed about planes (there were a few years when the dreams became buildings falling down, but lately we've been back to planes- yes, I know this sounds like post-9/11 trauma, but they actually started long before that...which is in itself a little creepy...but that's for another post). I realized that the dreams started shortly after my parents divorced, a time during which I think a part of me did feel like my life was falling apart. And then it occurred to me: my parents met while working at an airport. My mom was a former flight attendant turned ticket agent, and my dad was a recreational pilot and ticket agent. Coincidence? I think not. Funny how our clever our subconscious coding can be.
My newest recurring dream is about tornadoes. My son is obsessed with tornadoes, so I'm always watching shows about them and reading books on them with him. I assumed that was why I was always dreaming about them, but then I decided to take a closer look. How did I feel about the tornadoes? Well, in every dream I would feel terrified- it was a tornado, after all- but I would also feel a little excited and in awe. And after every narrow escape I would think, "Cool. I just lived through a tornado." So my question to myself is this: what is something that scares me, and yet I think it is so awesome and cool at the same time?
The answer is: writing. I want to be a writer. I think it would be so cool to be published, and yet a part of me is terrified of it! What if I'm not good enough? What if I try and I fail? What if I run out of things to say? (highly unlikely, but we're working on 'what if's' here, okay?) Writing is something I'm so close to, I look at it with wonder, and yet I just barely skirt by it, not ready to take the leap into the whirlwind world of publishing, not sure if I'm ready for a damaging storm of rejection. Writing is my tornado.
Now that I am aware of that, I know two things:
1) Writing is important enough to me that it has seeped into my subconscious. That tells me that it's not just a passing phase, it's something that's real and important to me, and it's time to take it seriously.
2) I can allow it to scare me away and never feel that rush of "Hey, I got through this!" Or I can plunge ahead full force, chase the storm and live to tell about it. I think I'll pick the latter.
Writing this post and writing on this blog is a small step in the right direction for me. It's allowing me to acknowledge my passion and to feed it, even if it's in a small way.
That's what my dreams have done for me.
What could your dreams do for you?