Your dreams are a natural part of your sleep routine that are anything but routine.
When you fall asleep, you relinquish control of your thoughts and your dreaming mind takes over- leading you on any number of seemingly random adventures that no one but you gets to experience. Why is that? Why do dreams only exist in the mind of the dreamer, herself? Funny enough, even though dreams are unique to the individual, the language of dreaming is eerily similar for all of us.
What are dreams doing for us while we sleep? Its a part of our health and wellness that we rarely get into, but
your dreams are actually moving you towards emotional and spiritual well-being every night.
As a dream interpreter for fifteen years, I have heard everything. Dreamers constantly try to prepare me for “the weirdest dream you’ve ever heard”, but most dreams are actually normal because they’re so weird. People don’t realize that dreams operate using a set of language rules that are different from the typical language of our conscious mind. The unconscious mind operates the land of dreams and so the rules are different; but there are still rules. And by learning to understand those guidelines, I have come to see that your dreams are always working on your behalf.
Here are three things that you don’t realize your dreams are doing for you while you’re fast asleep.
They are giving you new ways to address emotional wounds
According to dream researcher and author Dr. Ernest Hartmann, dreams contextualize our emotions. They put our emotional experiences into a story context where we can express the full depth of what we feel.
In a research study which was reported in Dr. Hartmann’s book Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams individuals going through a divorce were asked to record their dreams; the study found that “(dreamers) who in the early days of the divorce reported more dreams about their spouses were coping better one year later on some measures than were those who did not have such dreams;” proving the adaptive function of dreams for our emotional well-being.
See, your dreams are putting emotions that you can’t express, into visions that you can express. They give you a new way to talk about something that is too painful to talk about. And, the beauty of it is you don’t even have to be aware of what the dream means for it to be healing.
I’ll show you what I mean.
Shortly after my father died, my mother shared a dream with me. She did not know it’s origin or it’s meaning but she wanted to tell me the dream because it was so strange. As she shared it, I began to hear the themes coming through her dream; themes of love, beauty, loss, and resilience.
She dreamed that she was standing outside of her house and everything was covered in a deep cold blanket of snow. It was totally silent and the snow was mesmerizing. Then she noticed that a huge tree had fallen on her house, creating severe damage. But as she examined the house, she realized that the four main pillars of the home were not damaged and that the house would be okay.
When I pointed out to my mom that she and dad had four children and in the dream there were four pillars of her house, upon which the tree (the death of our dad) had fallen and created severe damage; she gasped. She felt relief to know that the dream suggested all would be okay even in the midst of such a mess. And then she added that she understood the snow to be our deep, cold, all-encompassing grief.
We talked about that dream over and over again in the next few months because it helped her understand something. By talking about her dream, my mom uncovered a new symbolic way to talk about, and process the pain from an unimaginable wound in her life.
They are teaching you how strong you are
“Get some rest,” is advice that gets offered up in times of mental, physical and emotional distress. When we sleep, all of our systems get repaired and strengthened. So the presence of dreams is proof that you are getting stronger, because it is proof of sleep. But even more than that, your dreams are literally illustrating for you how strong you can be.
The dreaming mind operates outside of time and space. It can weave together memories from your entire lifetime into one single dream. And it does. One function of dreams is to search through your mental files of experience to find all of the examples of the same behavior or a pattern of behavior.
It can piece together all of the times you had to be strong in the face of fear and merge them into one dream where you are being pursued by a wild animal. Maybe in the dream you effectively escape from the near attack, or maybe you turn and talk directly to the animal to find that it walks away the moment you face it. Whatever your dreams conjur up in the dark of night, it can act as a mirror of your strength during the day.
Often when someone shares a terrifying dream with me, the first thing I will point out is where the dreamer showed courage in the dream. Together we examine places in waking life where she has showed the same type of courage in facing her real life fears.
Interestingly, children experience more nightmares than adults. This is presumably because they encounter more new (potentially scary) situations as they are still learning to navigate in chaotic world. But your unconscious mind continues to collect your memories and continues to use dream images to mirror your own strength back to you- to remind you of all the ways you are continually showing up and flexing your practiced skills of bravery, courage and strength.
In times when you are encountering many new life experiences at once, like during a major life transition, you might find that you’re also experiencing more vivid dreams. This is a sure sign of that you are being stronger than you think you are in your waking life. Let your dreams encourage you to keep going- lean into your new challenges with confidence.
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They are showing you what’s really on your mind
Sometimes we don’t see what is right in front of us. But your dreams can help with that.
Your unconscious mind is constantly churning out stories for you. Every time you fall asleep, your mind gets to work sorting out the new stuff and linking it to similar old stuff. When something gets enough “stuff” linked to it, it shows up as significant character or dream element. The stronger the image or element in a dream, the more stuff (i.e. personal history) there is in your unconscious mind having to do with that thing. If you dream about discovering a new room in your house, for example, it is a sign that you’ve discovered some new, significant skill or that you’ve attained a powerful new perspective about something recently.
The more psychic energy an idea has around it, the more importance it’s presence will be in a dream. So your dreams are showing you what is playing a significant role in your waking life right now, at this very moment. That is why one of the strategies for dream interpretation is to ask the dreamer to give the dream a title.
When you give something a title, you figure out pretty quickly what the most important elements are. Writing your dreams down is important, but giving them a title is even more important. It will hep you see what’s right in front of you.
Your dreams are on your side.
They are constantly showing up for you and supporting your emotional and spiritual well-being, whether you notice it or not. Your dreams are not random images and clips thrown together haphazardly by the jagged brain activity of sleep, they are purposefully crafted by your dreaming mind to give you new language to talk about difficult things, to mirror your strength, and to show you what’s really bothering you at this moment. What did you dream about last night? It’s worth considering the answer to this question. And if you don’t remember them, don’t worry. More will come along tonight, and the next night, and the next night after that.