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Dream Interpretation

Part 1 An Introduction to Dream Interpretation

The interpretation of dreams by dream experts may be almost as old as dreaming itself.  We know that all humans, and many animals, dream every night, and humans have always been fascinated to learn what causes dreams and what they mean. Freud rightly termed dreams "The Royal Road to the Unconscious". In the next few months I am going to build up a section on dreams which will allow you a far greater understanding of them.  I begin toay with a basic introduction.

The interpretation of dreams dates back at least as far as 3000-4000 B.C.  We know that because the interpretations of dreams were recorded in permanent form on clay tablets.  It is thought that many primitive peoples were unable to initially distinguish between the real world and the dream world.  In many cases, these people looked upon the dream world as an extension of the physical world around them, and in many cases they saw the dream world as more powerful than the waking one. This of course could be said to have a lot of credibility because what we do not acknowledge in ourselves does tend to come up from the unconscious and affect our lives when we least expect it.  Many early societies developed sophisticated ways of working with dreams. This is where the ideas of "creative dreaming"  and "lucid dreaming"comes from

Dream interpretation was so important to the ancient Greek and Roman's that dream interpreters often accompanied generals and other military leaders into battles.  Dreams were taken extremely seriously, and the Greeks and Romans in particular often viewed dreams as messages sent by their gods.  Dreams also had a religious content in ancient Egypt, and priests were alsoskilled dream interpreters.  They were among the items recorded by the ancient Egyptians in the form of hieroglyphics.  Those whose dreams were especially vivid or significant were thought to be blessed and were given special status in these ancient societies.  Likewise, people who were able to interpret dreams were thought to receive these gifts directly from the gods, and they enjoyed a special status in society as well.  There are over 700 mentions of dreams in the bible, and people in biblical times saw dreams as very significant.  

In many cases, dreams were often seen as a form of prophecy.  People often interpreted their dreams as omens or warnings, and adjusted their activities accordingly.  They were often believed to be omens from deities, messages from spirits, or messages from departed souls.  In some cases, dreams were even seen as the work of demons, meant to confuse and trouble the dreamer. Dreams were so important that they often dictated the actions of political and military leaders, affecting everything from the prosecution of a battle to the outcome of a political decision.  Dreams were also thought to provide vital clues to healers, and they were used in the diagnosis and treatment of all manners of illness.

Dreaming were often looked upon by indigenous peoples as a way to commune directly with gods and spirits, and dreams are still used in this way by cultures around the world.  Many people believed, and some still do, that during dream sleep the soul leaves the body and communes with the spirit world. The Chinese were one culture who believed that the soul left the body each night during dream sleep.  They believed that if the dreamer were suddenly awakened the soul may not be able to return to the body.  That is why some Chinese are apparently wary about the use of alarm clocks!

Some Mexican and Native American societies share this ancient view of the importance of dreams, and share the belief in a separate dimension that is visited during dream sleep.  These people believed that their departed ancestors lived in their dreams, and that they were able to take forms like animals and plants. Thus dreams were seen as a way for them to commune with their recent and ancient ancestors, and to gather wisdom and knowledge that would serve them in their waking lives.  Dreams were also seen as ways to gather information about their purpose or mission in life.

As we can see early people had a deep respect for dreams.  This respect changed radically early in the 19th century, and dreams in that era were often dismissed as reactions to anxiety, outside noises or even bad food and indigestion.  During this period of time, dreams were thought to have no meaning at all, and interest in dream interpretation all but evaporated.  This all changed, however, with the arrival of Sigmund Freud later in the 19th century.  Sigmund Freud stunned the world of psychiatry by stressing the importance of dreams, and he revived the once dead art of dream interpretation. Having for quite some time believed that the 'rational' was all there was, we once again began to understand the importance of the non rational.  We began to understand that we have a lot of activity going on on an unconscious level.  It is very important to understand that a great deal of what is going on in our unconscious, contrary to Freud's interpretation, is positive.  Depending on our life circumstance it is quite possible to suppress a great deal of your most positive qualities.  Indeed as my life progresses, I become more and more certain that what is most repressed and made unconscious are our positive qualities. Jung of course saw also that the unconscious was full of positive qualities as well as negative and developmed, in my opinion, an unsurpassed system rich in sybolism to interpret dreams.

We will find that there is much validity in the early use of dreams. The main change is that we now know that by becoming conscious of our unconscious activity we can use it to grow and become strong and there is nothing outside of us coming from our dreams that can harm us.  The only thing that can harm us is being unconscious of it.  Dreams involve sybolism and understanding dreams involves understanding that sybolism as it particluarly relates to us. By this I mean that although general definitions of dream symbolís have validity, they must always be understood within the particular circumstance of the person involved.  We all have our own unique life circumstance and therefore each of our dream interpretations if they are to be helpful will need to take into account our uniqueness.  For this reason, I would advise you to be careful allowing others to interpret your dreams.  This should only be done with a person you feel comfoportable with, who follows a system of dream interpretation that you agree with.  We are talking about the unconscious here and with recent problems about "therapists" creating false memory, caution should be applied.  You can of course as you discover more interpret your own dreams.  Do though be careful once you get into this of even sharing them with friends.  Most people seem to consider themselves something of an expert in dream interpretation and will come forthright out with their interpretation.  I have found this has often thrown me, and took to only retelling my dreams to my most trusted friends or after I was sure I had interpretated and worked through the dream already.  Likewise if someone shares their dreams with us, we can take care not to come in with any quick interpretations and if we do want to interpret a bit, we can remember to ask the person if it could be this, rather than telling them it is - this will allow them to be in charge of a process which rightly belongs to them. Don't get me wrong here.  Sharing dreams can be a process which greatly accellerates growth, just be careful who you share them with!

Dream Interpretation Part 1 Introduction

1a Understanding the sleep cycle

Part 1b  FAQ on dreams

Part 1c Keys to Understanding Dreams

Dream Interpretation Part 2 Theories

Part 2.. Freud's Theories on Dreams

The Animus and Anima - Archytypical Symbols in Dreams

The Mandala

Adler and Perls theories on dreams

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