A dream is not just white noise, they are the secret language of our unconscious. Drawing on years of clinical experience, Doris Cohen teaches you to recall and record your dreams, unlock the secrets of your personal dream language, interpret the meaning of your dreams, and harness the power of the brain to uncover a life of abundance, meaning, and self-awareness.
Dreams always reflect what is currently uppermost in your mind. Like a newspaper, they tell you something about the “current events” of your life. Remember this as you begin step 3, which is best done later in the day or, preferably, the day after the dream. Very slowly, reread or repeat aloud the dream as you have recorded it. When words are spoken too quickly, we often miss their essence. So when you speak your dream aloud, do it slowly. This slow meditation often proves surprisingly revealing and can begin to give you a better sense of what your dream is about. Just repeat the dream without interpretation, always keeping in mind that your dreams are always about you and you alone.
Have you ever dreamed of what seemed like a frightening situation? When you take the time to describe that situation slowly and steadily, you may find that the message revealed is encouraging and not at all frightening. A friend of mine told me she often dreamed of floods and drowning. I asked her to repeat her dream to me, slowly. When she slowed down, she had time to consider that, in the dream, she neither drowned nor feared drowning. Rather, she tried to stay afloat and always woke up before any harm came to her. By slowing down and reflecting, moment by moment, on what had actually happened in the dream, she was able to see that this dream, which at first seemed so alarming, was actually assuring her that, despite her inability to control all aspects of her life, she always found a way to stay afloat and ride out the flood—in this case, by waking up.
Another friend recalled a recurring dream from childhood in which she was falling through the air. She never knew exactly how she came to be falling; she was just suddenly falling through space. In the dream— and also while recollecting the dream—she felt panic. She described falling for what seemed like forever, as if she had been dropped out of the sky. She told me she prayed like crazy to wake up before she hit the ground. She remembered always waking from that dream with her heart racing and with a pounding in her chest. When I asked her to repeat the dream more slowly, we were able to come up with questions that revealed more about the dream’s message.
I asked her whether it was day or night in the dream, and whether anyone was with her. She recalled that she had been falling in the daytime and that she had been alone in the dream. Symbolically, falling often represents something you cannot manage or control; you are out of control and cannot stop the fall without hurting yourself—that is, without hitting the ground. That was the essence of my friend’s dream. She couldn’t stop herself and instead fell farther and farther. As she slowly went over the details a second time, however, she felt noticeably less panicked and eventually realized that the dream offered a lovely message, which we put like this: You are falling; you are praying; and you never hit the bottom. Thus, your prayers will be answered. Your prayers will save you.
This is the beauty of dreams—even, as in this case, brief dreams with very few details. Some people may dismiss this dream as being “bad” or nonsensical, or not even bother to work with it, because dreams of falling are very common. Or perhaps they blame the feeling of falling on something they ate at dinner that upset their stomachs! But by pausing and speaking the dream slowly while considering every part of it, the meaning of the dream becomes clear—and in a highly personalized and supportive way that is applicable to waking life.
If you choose to discuss your dreams with another person or a group of people, remember that you must verbalize the description of your dreams yourself, even if your audience offers input and clarification. Imagine if, while my friend was describing her recurring dream of falling, I had said: “Well, of course you were afraid of hitting the ground—you would have died. But it’s okay, because you woke up before that happened.” If she accepted my analysis without verbalizing the facts of the dream, she probably wouldn’t have found as much guidance in the dream as she did.
In fact, it helps immensely to repeat your dreams to yourself. In doing so, you acknowledge that you are the dreamer and thereby cross the bridge into your own unconscious. You use speech, language, to give information from your unconscious (the dream) to your left brain. When you do this slowly and for yourself, you are better able to notice the symbolic information that underlies the literal words. “I was falling from the sky and praying I would wake up before I hit the ground” becomes “When I feel out of control, praying or seeking support will save me.” I may know what you mean; your listener (partner, friend, sibling) may know what you mean; but I want you to know what you mean—and to put that meaning into words.
You must always engage personally with your dreams, rather than letting someone else rush you through the process or provide meaning for you. Many years ago, I dreamed that I was descending a spiral staircase into a basement. I was moving quickly, gracefully, almost as if I were floating down the stairs. I was not falling; I was completely in control. Standard methods of interpretation might determine that this dream meant that I was losing something—that I was “descending” in life, and that the dream was a bad omen. I knew, however, that the dream had not been about “losing” anything from my life, because I had woken from it feeling thrilled, feeling exhilarated.
Remember, your response to a dream is often very telling when it comes to deciphering its message. So I ignored the standard interpretation of my dream, and considered it for myself. I repeated it aloud very slowly, while thinking about what else a basement could represent—and, most importantly, what a basement represented to me. Yes, I thought, a basement is the lower part of a building, but it is also the only space in a home that resides within the earth, which makes it the deepest level of a home. This symbolic meaning resonated with me because, at the time in my life when I had the dream, I was increasingly committed to doing my own dreamwork and guiding other people to do the same. Thus, it became apparent that the dream was affirming for me that I was on the right path and that I was accessing deeper levels of my own unconscious. This illustrates why it is best to observe and embrace rather than judge.
Repetitive activities tend to help you access the unconscious, because the conscious brain becomes bored with repetitive tasks. You brush your teeth up and down; you wash the same dishes in the same sink; you take the same route home from work every day. Then one day, you seem to lose the time that elapses between beginning and completing the task, even though you have been awake the whole time. If you want to remain attentive to things that demand your focus—like driving—you have to vary the routine. Variation frees the conscious brain from boredom and forces it to be cognizant of your actions. When you slow down as you relate your dream, you force your brain to attend to its details.
Things always make sense if you look at them carefully. When you repeat your dream aloud, slowly—really listening and letting your left brain absorb what you are saying—you begin to translate your dreams for yourself. This is a key element of my simple method—to help you learn to interpret your dreams without relying on a dictionary, an analyst, or an interpreter. Your dreams will change substantially throughout your life, but what matters is now. You live in the present and need to see what is holding you back—see it, assess it, address it—so that you can move forward in your life immediately.
To sum up…
- Repeat or reread your dream aloud.
- Speak slowly, keeping in mind that the dreamer is always dreaming about the dreamer.
- Verbalize your thoughts and feelings yourself, so that your brain fully absorbs the information. Don’t let others do it for you.