Dreams as Guidance to Life's Questions
If you woke up one morning and suddenly realized that you lived with friends and advisors who could provide you with helpful and consistent advice about your life, wouldn't you want to check in with them - at least occasionally? What if you discovered that this advice extended to much needed insights into any area of your life, whether it was romance, work, health, spiritual growth, finances, relationships, even your future? You might think it foolish to ignore the wisdom of individuals who knew the answers, who loved you unconditionally, and who only had your best interests in mind. And yet most individuals ignore this very insight every day because it comes to them in the form of their dreams - and it is a wealth of insight and guidance that is just waiting to be tapped from the subconscious mind.
Regardless of what we may think to the contrary, science has proven that everyone dreams. The challenge is simply that we have not conditioned ourselves to remember let alone work with our dreams. A secondary challenge may be that we might think dreams too difficult to understand, but the truth of the matter is that individuals can instantly learn how to work with dreams even if they don't understand every symbol. For example, this is the dream of a middle-aged man:
I dreamed that I was looking at a shiny new car in the show room on a car lot. It was beautiful and I decided that I wanted it. I tried to get into the car but there was no key. When I finally found a salesperson with the key, the car wouldn't start. When the car was fixed and finally started, I couldn't get the car in gear -- the car rolled backwards off of its platform in the showroom, crashing through the showroom window and into the parking lot. I quickly got out of the car and suddenly the hood opened and the engine rose out of the car and started heading towards me. I ran off in a panic.
At first we might wonder what the individual's dream was all about, but what if we were told that in real life this individual had just been offered a new job that looked fairly attractive? Is it possible that the new car in the dream is somehow connected to the new job offer and that neither will be as promising as it first appeared?
For the most part, dreams contrast and correlate the activities that are going on in our lives. They often provide the dreamer with other ways of looking at activities, relationships, and concerns that have been on his or her mind. Working with a dream simply suggests that we get a sense of whether or not the dream is positive, negative, uplifting, a warning - whatever it may be. After we have a sense of the theme or the feeling of the dream, the next step is to attempt to discover what area of our life appears most connected to that dream. In other words, even if we don't understand every symbol, can we get an idea of what the dream may be suggesting about our life?
Some scientific studies have suggested that the conscious mind filters out more than 95% of the stimulus coming to it. Although this may sound high, we are generally not aware of such things as the feeling of the clothing on our body, the sensation of the glasses on our nose, the sounds of the heating and air conditioning system, the intensity of the light in a room, the noise being made by a co-worker sitting near us - most things around us - unless we draw our attention to them. The same is true about our subtle interactions with others, our intuitive insights that lay just beneath conscious awareness, and our spiritual prompting that originates from the level of the soul. Yet, all of these things reside within the realm of the subconscious mind and can be brought to the surface. In fact, that is why individuals can often remember more that went on at a crime season under hypnosis than they remember consciously. It is the subconscious mind that awakens while we sleep, providing dreamers with insights and guidance about their bodies, their minds, and their souls.
In terms of a physical dream, a twenty-year old woman had the following:
I dreamt that I was hungry and went to the refrigerator to get something to eat. When I opened the fridge I was horrified to see that the bottom shelf was covered with big, ugly cockroaches.
If you had to guess about the dreamer's diet, would you guess that the dreamer was prone to healthy eating or instead that the dreamer had been eating garbage? Even if you did not know that a refrigerator can be symbolic of the food you have been eating, the dream suggests that there is something bad about the dreamer's food.
A dream that ultimately dealt with a dreamer's emotional feelings and concerns occurred for a woman in her fifties:
I dreamt that I was trying to go back into a building that was being destroyed. I was trying to save something. Everything around me was crumbling and I suddenly realized that there was nothing in the building worth saving. Saving my life was more important.
Since dreams oftentimes contrast and correlate the current events in the dreamer's life, we need to ask the dreamer what was occurring in her life at the time of the dream. If the dreamer responded with the fact that she was having second thoughts about following-through on her decision to divorce her husband, what would you say the dream was suggesting? Obviously, the woman needs to move on.
In terms of spiritual guidance dreams, a humorous dream occurred when a man in his sixties wrote out the question before falling asleep in order to see if he could obtain the answer in his dreams: "What do I need to work on spiritually?" His dream was as follows:
I dreamed that I was in the army (I have never been in the army) and I was some kind of a drill sergeant doing important paperwork. My desk was filled with important papers and things that were scheduled -- everything was neatly organized and in it's proper place. Suddenly a younger man came into my office unannounced. He was singing and dancing and appeared to be having a very good time with himself. To my surprise, he jumped up on top of my desk and started tap dancing all over my paperwork. Everything that I had neatly organized was in disarray. After making a thorough mess, the man continued to sing and dance and danced right out of my office. Immediately, I picked up the phone and called security and yelled into the receiver, "I want that man arrested, and I want to know who he is!" I slammed the phone down, very angry for the interruption. Suddenly, security came into my office bringing the man who had caused the disruption. They announced that they had caught him and that he was "the company clown."
From the dream, do you think that the man needs to be more serious and regimented in his life, or do you think the dream is telling him that he needs to become more relaxed and to learn how to enjoy life? Obviously, the dream is suggesting that the dreamer is already too serious and too controlled. In the same way that this individual sought dream guidance, each of us can ask virtually any question and receive helpful insights from our dreams.
Having worked with dreams for more than twenty-five years, I am convinced that even a novice to the world of dreams and dream interpretation receives valid and helpful guidance anytime that she or he is asleep. All we really need to do is to attempt to begin remembering our dreams. Perhaps putting a notepad next to the night stand will jog our memories in the morning, or maybe we're one of those individuals who makes several trips to the bathroom during the night - keep some paper near the sink and simply jot down a few notes before falling back to sleep. The best thing to do is simply to begin writing something down every morning, even if it's only "I feel tired." The more we let our subconscious mind know that we are open to the inner world of dreams, the more we avail ourselves of a wealth of knowledge and insight we always had available but just never knew where to look for it.
Kevin J. Todeschi is the author of two popular books on the subject of dream interpretation: Dream Interpretation (and More!) Made Easy and The Encyclopedia of Symbolism. A frequent media guest, he often interprets dreams on the air. In addition to his work with dreams, he has been a student and teacher of the Edgar Cayce material for more than twenty-five years. As an international speaker, he has lectured on five continents to thousands of individuals. A prolific writer, his previous works include Edgar Cayce on Soul Mates, Edgar Cayce on the Akashic Records, and Soul Development: Edgar Cayce's Approach for a New World.