Understand the depth of dream meanings & learn to know thyself
To fully understand the depth of dream meanings, and make the most of the application of this knowledge, you must start to engage with your dreaming mind. Like anything of value in life, when you give something your attention and energy, you see greater rewards over time. This is most commonly referred to as “dreamwork”. Once you begin the fascinating adventure of understanding your own dreams, I am sure it will seem much more like play than work!
Understanding dreams can seem overwhelming and confusing to begin with. However, once you realise a few key insights, it becomes a lot easier. The first thing is to understand this is happening within your own mind, so everything in the dream somehow relates to you and your direct experience. The second is that dreams speak in two main languages: the visual and the emotional.
The visual language is what we commonly refer to as the “symbols” your dream contains — when an object becomes a metaphor and is loaded with potential meaning. Every dream is also charged or tinged with a kind of feeling, too. Noticing and acknowledging those feelings and then considering how this relates to the symbols can help reveal greater insights.
Understanding that dreams are a personal experience, always consider what symbols mean to you personally before considering the wider cultural or more general symbolic meanings. Finally, dreams often work by revealing patterns and connections.
Scientists now believe that one of the purposes of sleep is to allow the mind to consolidate memories and facilitate learning. I believe dreams reflect this process. They help you connect recent experiences with similar ones in your past. This can help you to recall them later (memory consolidation). They also work to help you make sense of what you are experiencing (learning). This may include obvious repetition of actual life events, such as if you move house again or start another new job. Dream connections can also happen when similar feelings arise, such as the sense of rejection you felt when not picked for the sports team in school and then a similar feeling later in life at being overlooked for a promotion. Dreams often appear to illustrate what is going on beneath the surface of your life.
Working with dreams is a powerful tool for personal inquiry. The process can help you to understand your hidden fears and desires, work out relationships and cope with change. But is there a larger, more enduring reason why we seek to understand our dreams? It is believed there is. In seeking to understand our dreams, we are taking just one of the many paths to understand our true self. There are, of course, many paths that have the same goal — meditation, analysis and therapy, to name but a few. Dreamwork is most effective when paired with other such activities, particularly mindfulness, reflection and journaling. It works best when it is one more tool in your kit that you use to know yourself better.
Know Thyself was inscribed on the ancient Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where supplicants would go to seek divine guidance. At the ancient Egyptian Temple of Luxor, a similar phrase reads “Man, know thyself … and thou shalt know the gods.” More recently, in 1831, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a poem, Gnothi Seauton (ancient Greek for know thyself), that reflected his understanding of what he believed was “god” or a divine presence in each of us. In understanding your dreams, you can understand and “know thyself”, thereby gaining insight into how you relate to the world, to other people, and ultimately even to the divine. To understand the depth of dream meanings can help you reach into that which is most sacred and profound within you.
Let’s use the metaphor of a “dream well” to illustrate this connection. Imagine a deep well in the desert, wilderness or village (whatever place resonates most with you). This is your well. Where you go to draw up the liquid that is most essential to life, that restores, rejuvenates and refreshes you. This water is the essence of your soul. When you dream, you draw water from this well. Your own, unique and personal source of dreams. But where does this water in the well come from?
Deep beneath the ground, water flows in invisible streams, sometimes trickling in thin rivulets through rocks and minerals, other times opening into vast underground rivers. And, though we only see our own well, many other wells exist, drawing
from these same rivers and streams.
The rivers connecting these wells together are our community, our culture and history. Many wells can draw from the same water. Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung referred to this as our Collective Unconscious. Our dreams allow us to access this information; the swirling, flowing stream of feelings, memories and ideas. This adds extra layers to the simply personal meanings of dreams. It can also include and be influenced by the role you play in the wider community, what is going on around you as a neighbourhood, tribe, nation or religion.
Beyond that, where do these rivers and streams go? What is the destination? We know the answer is, of course, the sea. All rivers, unless unnaturally blocked, eventually reach the ocean. This is the World Soul. It is the shared experience of every living thing on Earth, that which connects each of us to everything else. The great ocean of the World Soul is part of us all and we are part of it.
When you dream, you may have an intensely personal experience. Your dreams may be charged with fear, passion, desire, anger or vague uncertainty. You may dream of parents, lovers, children, friends or enemies. You may dream of houses, schools and workplaces. All of this is relevant and can give great insight into your own personal life.
All dreams come from the same source and have the same destination. All dreams can teach something more than just how to get on better with your loved ones or how to overcome the anxiety of not performing well. All dreams are multilayered, complex and rich with personal meaning, as well as meaning related to the wider community. They can even contain insights that have relevance to humanity as a whole, to the planet and to our ultimate purpose in life.
Why do we seek to understand of the depth of dream meanings? Because we seek to understand our own existence, our own purpose. And, as the ancients seem to have understood, to know ourselves is to know the divine. When you ask what your dreams mean, you begin to ask what in your life has meaning, which may result in understanding the meaning of your life.
What to learn more about what your dreams mean? Visit our Dreams archive page.