I’m in a car, heading to the retreat center with two friends, and our conversation topics include Dolly Parton, letting go of baggage, and having your breasts cut off. What on earth were we talking about? The dreams we had the night before. It was interesting to me that the day after I’d decided to write about the importance of dreams, we all had spiritually significant dreams to talk about! Especially my Dolly Parton dreaming friend, who never remembers her dreams.
Dream interpretation has gotten a bad rap over the years because it’s often been done poorly. But, done well, it can become a very beneficial spiritual practice. I tried it about seven years ago when someone mentioned it could be helpful. I found a book called, The Chocolate Covered Umbrella, a short book that looked at dreams from a Jungian perspective.
The book encourages you to get a notebook and start writing down your dreams, even fragments of dreams, as soon as you can in the morning. In fact, savoring them before you even get out of bed will help you remember them. Writing down these scraps of dreams will “prime the pump,” and you’ll begin to remember more and more of your dreams.
You don’t have to focus on the images, e.g. A snake= sex or flying=freedom, in fact, I would caution against that. But, after you right down the dream, you can ask yourself these questions.
- How did the dream make me feel? Different parts may have raised different feelings.
- Take each character in the dream and ask: if that character (person, dog, etc.) is a part of me, what is that part of me saying, wanting, needing?
- Is there an overall theme to the dream? This can be interesting over time if you begin to see the same theme emerging from several dreams; it may be important to listen to.
- Is there something the dream is leading me to do? Change? Release? Heal?
A word about nightmares. Nightmares are just as important as dreams, maybe even more so. If you have a nightmare, try this (when you are awake and safe). Picture the monster or scary part of the nightmare and have a conversation with it. Ask, “What are you trying to tell me?” “What do you need?”
I did this dream journaling for a solid year and it was really helpful. I believe there is great Biblical evidence that God speaks to people through dreams. But, there are also pastrami dreams that you get from eating weird food, and there are also stress dreams. Stress dreams are the most common types of dreams and help you sort out your day-to-day life, the things on your mind when you go to bed. All types of dreams can be a fountain of wisdom and information from your unconscious, to help you learn and grow during your waking hours.
But, God dreams are the most significant! They might bring significant healing or give you wisdom about a difficult decision. Don’t worry about discerning the different kinds of dreams, just enjoy getting to know your unconscious self through your dreams. Pondering God dreams led me to write my first book series, The Birthright Series, in which I used dreams to lead a group of teens to help people in trouble.
Hold on to your dream journal though. I took mine to a conference and left it in the nightstand at the hotel. When I called the Hotel to ask, they could not find it. That means somewhere out there someone is reading a journal thinking, “Wow, this person must have been on drugs!”
Give dream journaling a try and let me know what you discover. Have you tried it before? I’d love to know how it went for you.