This is a first glance at a quick method to analyze your dreams in five easy steps, as summarized below. Further details about each step follow in Chapters 3 through 7.
Discovering what your dreams mean is as easy as learning to ride a bicycle. Use these five steps to get your balance on a dozen dreams and you will be on your way to a lifetime of dream insights. Once you get into the rhythm, you can begin to see the meaning of many dreams in five minutes.
Note your feelings (1) during the dream and (2) as you wake up. Your emotional reaction to a dream is the first clue to what it means, and on occasion, your reaction is the most important clue. For example, if you see yourself lying in a coffin but you wake up feeling happy, the dream is not likely a prediction of your demise.
2: Story Line.
The story line is a generalized “restating” of the dream without repeating the actual details. It is not a summary. A summary merely extracts the main ideas using the same terms as the original story. To get the story line, you extract the main action and the end result of the dream without using the actual words. You replace the story’s original words with general terms like “someone” or “something.”
Clear as mud so far? The following examples will clarify what a story line sounds like. This step may take a smidgeon of practice, but since it is often a key turning point to finding the meaning of a dream, it is well worth the effort.
FOR EXAMPLE, a young man dreams that he is trying to catch a firefly on a warm summer night. He swats at the fireflies yet keeps missing; he chases one, but it gets away. Out of frustration he plunks down on the grass and sits quietly. As he relaxes, a firefly gets close and he gently catches it.
THE STORY LINE IS: “Frantic activity fails, but someone succeeds after becoming quiet.” Or “Someone gets what they want by staying calm and letting it come to them.” Each version of the story captures the gist of the dream, but there is no direct mention of the young man, a firefly, or sitting on the grass. Like a silhouette, the story line ignores the details and, instead focuses on the story generalizations and results. By doing so, what is important comes into focus.
3: Match the Story Line to an Area of Your Life.As always, the question is not “What does this dream mean?” The question is, “To what in my life (my actions, decisions, or relationships) or in me (my personality, attitudes, or emotions)—does the dream refer?” Like fitting a puzzle piece into the big picture of your life, determine what, in you, or in your life, may sound like the story line. Examine the story line gist you just put together as if it is an arrow pointing to a situation, a trait, or an attitude.
You can turn the story line into a question. That can help you see where the arrow points. For example, in the above dream about the young man and the firefly, the dreamer might ask himself, “Am I frantic in some area of my life?” Or “What issue could be resolved if I stay quiet instead of pushing?” Once the story line matches an area of your life, the message often clicks.
The brain is hardwired to visually record and remember your memories, thoughts, and events. As a result, most memories are “pictures linked to feelings,” which is important to note. Since the brain stores memories as images, it is no surprise that dreams—which are a by-product of the mind—also use pictures to communicate their message.
Dream symbols are pictures that relate to and are “linked to” memories and experiences such as graduating from school, receiving flowers, or a special exchange with a loved one. Because a dream symbol has an emotional link to your past, a symbol leaves an emotional footprint on your heart and can speak volumes. That is why—when you explore a dream symbol such as a flower or a piece of jewelery—you examine it in two ways. First, see how the image makes you feel, and second, check out what past experiences the symbol relates to, in your life. This two-pronged approach to dream symbols—the feelings a symbol evokes and the memory it relates to—is called “exploring your associations.” You examine the related emotions and you examine where, when, and how that particular image or scene touched your life. Like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of crumbs through the woods, that trail of your associations will lead you to what the dream symbol means.
For example, you see a red sports car in a dream and it makes you feel elated. Later, you remember that when you graduated from college, you fantasized about reaching the top of the corporate ladder and driving a sports car. In this case, the feelings and past memory of the red sports car relates to those early motives to achieve in career, and as a message, the symbol invites you to assess how far you have come to reaching your goals.
5: What the Dream Means.
By the time you run a dream through steps one to four, you have noticed your feelings (step one), created a story line and matched it to a real-life situation (steps two and three), and observed how its main symbols relate to your personal experience (step four). By that time or anywhere along the way, an “aha” moment often comes together to reveal the dream message.
Discovering what the dream is telling you is half of the game; the other half is to apply the insight. A dream is practical and useful—if and only if—you apply its insight. Step five is about applying what you get from the dream into your life. Whether the message invites you to change an attitude, explore career options, or expresses congratulations for a job well done, using a dream message is like building a solid house, one brick at a time. Every time you apply a new insight to your life, it is like adding a brick to a mansion you are creating. Its application helps you unleash your potential one step at a time and puts the odds in your favor of achieving success, peace, and happiness.