Twilight … Avatar … Google … the Sewing Machine … the Theory of Relativity …
These were all inspired by a dream … an actual REM kind of dream that you have when you sleep. Throughout history, artists, writers, inventors, and scientists have solved problems and drawn great inspiration from their dreams. You’d be surprised how many great ideas and personal solutions you are literally “dreaming up” each and every night, too.
You see, we all dream every night, whether we remember them or not. In fact, we enter the dream state (also known as REM, Rapid Eye Movement) every ninety minutes throughout the night. Every cycle of dreaming grows in duration throughout the night. The first dream of the night may only be three minutes or so and the last dream you have before waking in the morning, provided you had a good seven to eight hours of sleep, can be forty-five minutes to an hour long. On average, you will dream about five times every night, and if you’re lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, you will have had well over 100,000 dreams throughout your lifetime!
Can’t remember your dreams or want to remember more of them? It’s easier than you think. Whenever you wake up, whether it is in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or you’re waking up for good in the morning, stay put! It is essential that you remain in the same position you wake up in because that is the position you were dreaming in. If you move your body you disconnect yourself from the dream you were in just seconds ago. If you have to wake up with an alarm, go ahead and turn it off then get right back into that position you woke up in and give yourself just a few minutes to let the dream come back to you. Don’t think about what you have to do that day. Quiet your mind. Stay put. You’ll be surprised what is there, waiting for you to capture it.
If nothing comes to you then start asking yourself questions such as, how am I feeling? Who was with me? What was I doing? These questions will help jog your memory because we always experience some form of emotion in our dreams, we are usually with someone, and we are certainly doing something. Whatever it is you remember, even if it’s just a tiny piece, please be sure to write it down or at the very least, tell it to somebody or it will be gone after breakfast. Make this a habit and you’ll start remembering more and more. It’s like a muscle, the more you do this simple exercise the stronger your dream muscle will get. I promise, those floodgates will open and you will be amazed at how much of a life you have been living at night,
That’s a lot of great ideas, advice, and solutions that unfortunately will go unnoticed, unremembered, or simply dismissed as “just a dream.” Let me assure you, after reading this book, you’ll never dismiss your dreams again.
So, what are these strange movies that play in our heads at night when we sleep? Where do they come from? What purpose do they serve? Does my dream last night about purchasing a baby crib full of spaghetti mean I need to seek professional help? WTF?
Since prehistoric times mankind has wondered about dreams. In 2001, an expedition into the Chauvet Cave in the valley of the Ardèche River in France discovered cave drawings that are believed to be depicting a dream. The ancient Romans thought dreams were messages from the gods and many would take long pilgrimages to dream temples where they would spend the night in hopes of receiving a dream of wisdom or healing. There are over 700 references to dreams and visions within the pages of the Bible, all suggesting that dreams are messages from God or His angels. The ancient Chinese believed that a dream is when the soul leaves the body to travel the world. However, if they should be suddenly awakened, their soul may fail to return to the body. Even today some Chinese aren’t too keen about having an alarm clock! Essentially, the time-tested consensus is that dreaming is a powerful experience and is connected to something greater than ourselves.
The Greek philosopher Plato was one of the first to get it right that dreams don’t come from some outside source but rather from the self … although the part of the self he believed they originated from was the liver. Two thousand years later, Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychoanalysis, affirmed that dreams indeed come from the self, the subconscious part of the self. He even brought us a step closer by teaching us that dreams not only come from the self but are about the self … the sexually suppressed self. According to Freud, just about everything in our dream can somehow be connected to our genitals and our wanton, misguided, and lustful desires. Sigh. I guess living in the prudish Victorian Era will do that to you. Thankfully, Freud’s protégé, Carl Gustav Jung, came along and taught us that yes, dreams do come from the self, dreams are indeed about the self, and what’s more, understanding dreams helps us to improve the self, not just the sexual self but the entire self. In fact, I subscribe to Jung’s dream philosophy. I believe that everything in our dreams is connected to some part of the self or to something or someone that directly affects the self. I believe there are many common archetypes (symbols, images, and themes) that appear in all of our dreams that hold a collective or shared meaning for almost all of us. I believe that dream analysis, or oneiroscopy, which is the medical term for it, is the most insightful form of self discovery available.
I believe that dreams are so insightful and powerful because I believe that dreams are thoughts. You see, when you are dreaming, you are thinking, but on a much deeper and focused level than when you’re awake. Think about it, when you go to sleep the lights are off, your eyes are closed, and the world around you is shut out. There are no distractions. The mind doesn’t stop working at this point. Whatever your stream of thought is as you drift off continues and begins to go inward, and as your conscious, waking, literal mind slips into a state of rest, your deep inner subconscious mind takes over. Once you enter the REM phase of sleep, which is when dreaming takes place, a structure located on the brain stem called the pons, sends signals to the cerebral cortex (the region of the brain responsible for most of our thought processes) that dreaming has begun, which means some very serious and deep thinking is now happening. So, that waking stream of thought that was using words and that your conscious mind had control of is now controlled by your inner subconscious mind and is no longer using just words but is also using images, experiences, and emotions. Your thoughts have turned into dreams.
If dreams are thoughts, then why are they so bizarre? The best way that I can explain it is that when you are dreaming you are thinking with metaphors.
“He’s as healthy as a horse”; “It’s raining cats and dogs out there”; “She is such a big baby.” Metaphors compare two things in order to create a picture that helps us make our point. The next time you have a conversation, try to take a mental note of how many metaphors are used between you and the other person. You’d probably be surprised how quickly the tally will go up. We naturally communicate this way. Dreams work in the same way. But rather than speaking the metaphor, they bring it to life.
For example, if you dream of drowning, it’s no fun, but when you wake up and catch your breath, you need to ask yourself what part of your life could be compared to drowning. Where in your life are you having a hard time staying afloat? What’s bringing you down? Like a metaphor, your dreams illustrate what’s going on in your life and how you truly feel about it … and even what you need to do about it!
Believe it or not, there are many times in which our dreams will show us how to handle specific problems, especially when we dream about people we see in everyday life, like our children, our spouses, or our bosses. In this book, using real life examples, I will show you how—through our dreams—we speak to ourselves about what is going on in our lives, how we guide ourselves through difficult situations, and how we point ourselves toward what we really, truly, and deeply need to live the life we are meant to live.
This book is divided into the most common dream themes we all get such as animals, vehicles, nightmares, etc. I will show you how these various themes are connected to a specific area of your life or your personality. Rather than flipping through to the particular theme you are most interested in, I encourage you to read straight through because the skills, tips, and interpretations you’ll learn in each themed chapter tend to build on the previous chapter and I don’t want you to miss out on any important and valuable lessons. But of course, once you’ve read the book all the way through, I recommend you keep it handy so you can continue to use it as a reference. If you have a crazy dream about a lion, for instance, you can flip straight to the section about predatory cats and get the answer you are looking for.
As I mentioned before, I will be illustrating these themes with real life dream examples from real people. The examples I’ve chosen do not in any way imply that these are the only dreams that can be had containing these themes and symbols. I chose them because they are good examples of how these common themes and symbols work within the context of a dream in order to convey a message to the dreamer about his or her waking life situation. Odds are you’re going to relate to a lot of the dreams and real life stories that are in this book. Even if you have never had any of the dreams found in this book...