Sunday, June 3, 2012

What's in a Dream?

"You dream every night, even if you don't remember your dreams. All dreams — even nightmares — contain positive messages. The trick is learning to decipher the symbolism so you can understand what your dreams are trying to tell you." ~ Betty Bethards

Awhile ago, I received this book as a gift at a time in my life when dreams were overwhelming as I was working through some pretty rough stuff. It's called "The Dream Book: Symbols for Self Understanding" by Betty Bethards. And the reason I really like it is, she speaks my language. She's spiritual, but she's also practical and appeals to the psychological aspects of dreams just as much as the spiritual implications. So, regardless of what you're into ... or not, I think this book could resonate with most people.

Without getting into all of it, one of the main things Betty drives home in this book is that everyone's mind, subconscious, higher Self, etc. is there to help. So even when we have nightmares, they're not meant to scare us, just to grab our attention by exaggerating something to an extreme. And while she does get into general definitions of various symbols, she emphasizes that everyone's mind has its own language, so while some symbols are kind of universal with all of us, there are a lot that only we can figure out.

It's pretty intriguing to think about though. I feel like every time I go to lie down at night now, I'm getting ready to learn something new about myself or get some guidance on something. I'm excited to go to bed when I once dreaded it. Sleep is no longer just about satisfying a biological need anymore or bracing for nightmares. It's about downloading a bunch of information about myself to use in my waking moments ... for free.

Our mind doesn't "talk" in words, but rather images, because they're easier for us to remember and understand. Just like we learn to walk and talk and associate words with images and concepts, we have to learn how to decipher our brain's symbols when we dream. And it takes some time. The scenery, setting, time frame and other details that stick out are ALL important and can tell you so much more than you realize.

In addition, one big thing that sticks out about Betty's book: Our dreams are about ourselves. So, we are the writers, directors AND actors in our dreams. The people we interact with are actually aspects of ourselves and their characteristics are ones we project on them. Even if it's someone you know, you associate that person with specific traits, qualities ... and those are reflective of you. That changes a lot of things if you think about it.

So, to the point. In my particular case, and I realize this is going to be pretty exposing here, prior to July/August of last year, I would rarely remember my dreams, especially over the last four years. I was also repressing a lot of stuff then, too.

Around that time ... basically around mid-summer of last year, I started having nightmares. Really bad ones. They were often of men attacking me, trying to rape me or just hold me down against my will. Sometimes, it was a person I knew ... sometimes it was a complete stranger. If it wasn't that, it was me being chased by someone who wanted to hurt me, often had a weapon (again, sometimes it was someone I knew, sometimes it wasn't). Oftentimes I would try to fight the person off, but would be powerless, or I'd seek a hiding place ... I also would often be "rescued" by someone, another man, or protected by one. Sometimes the man was another person I knew, rescuing me, sometimes it was a stranger.

Parts of the nightmares were mirroring things or feelings I've actually felt/or was currently facing ... but most of the time, they were very extreme versions of fears or bad experiences I had and aspects of myself.

Anyway, the point here being. They weren't literal ... and they weren't about anyone else but myself. So regardless if the person in my dream was a person I knew, his image was actually a reflection of myself or projection of myself. The feelings I correlated with him were my own. So the fear, the trapped feeling, sure, some of that was stuff I'd repressed and once I stopped repressing, it was coming out in dreams every night. But it was also about the parts of me or of life that I viewed as a threat. In this case, men, emotion, being exposed, opening up, letting someone in, being dominated or taken advantage of, the list goes on ...

I continue to struggle with these kinds of dreams, but they're different these days. I'm starting to face the person chasing me (which according to Betty, is me facing said fear or threat). And I'm starting to open up again and trust again. And the most recent dream I had with the person who used to be a threat — he wasn't anymore. He spoke to me and I wanted to run, but I didn't. I spoke back. It felt like talking to an old friend, someone I'd known for a lifetime. His familiar cadence felt like an exhaled breath I'd been holding for a long time. He made me laugh. He asked me to remember the good and to stop painting him with all the bad, he asked me to make peace with him. And ... I did. And I woke up feeling a sense of solace I haven't felt in a long time.

So, in essence, I made peace with that part of myself, the part he symbolized. The parts the other men symbolize in my dream, which I suspect is about emotion and vulnerability ... well, I'm working on it. Hopefully one day, I'll embrace them all. But for now, it's a work in progress.

One thing at a time.



  1. The openness that you exhibit in the post is truly remarkable to me. You have a beatiful and fascinating mind my friend...I would love to share stories sometime. Have a wonderful Monday :-)

    1. Thanks Keith ... on all fronts :-) ... and ditto (about sharing stories). Have a great Monday, too :-)