Dream interpretation 101

Different people have different ideas about what dreams mean. Some people believe that dreams don’t have meaning while others believe they are a window into your unconscious mind, holding important keys to understanding yourself. This latter belief stems from the work of Carl Jung, who is featured in the Bonus YSS.

Lots of people do believe that dreams have meaning, but just what they mean is open to interpretation. Most therapists who believe dream interpretation emphasize that interpreting a dream is a very personal process. For instance, a bunny rabbit in your dream might represent something cute and cuddly while a bunny in another person’s dream might represent sadness and loss since his/her pet bunny died in his/her arms.

But, some general guidelines can help you to interpret the basics of your dream so that it has meaning to YOU. To get started, when you wish to explore a dream:

  1. Describe the content of your dream.
  2. Describe the mood that you felt during your dream.
  3. Describe the outcome of the dream.


Once you have written down everything that you can think of about your dream it’s time to play with it. Yes! PLAY with it. This is not an exact science and how you feel about your dream will probably be different than how another person feels about it. Duh, it’s YOUR dream. In fact, how you felt in your dream is the most ripe source of meaning and, in particular, how you feel about the setting, people, events and objects in the dream will help you to piece together what the dream means to you.

Your feelings basically tell you the most about the meaning of the dream content.

In addition, what you do in response to situations within a dream can be telling. For example, your mom says, “I’ve made you pancakes sweet-love” to you in a dream and all of a sudden you are screaming your head off at her. Maybe you wouldn’t do this  in real life (thank goodness!) so why do it in a dream? Good question! Something to ponder for sure. Or, the girl you’ve had a crush on forever finally leans in for that kiss and you pull away. What??!! Wait!!! Why would you do that? That’s an interesting aspect of the dream that is prime territory for exploring and may help you to uncover it’s meaning to you.

To further help you with your dream’s meaning ask yourself, what is the setting of the dream? Does that setting/place have meaning to you? Likewise, what about the people in your dream? What do you associate with them? For instance, let’s pretend that your kindergarten classmate, Rosie, shows up in your dream. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Rosie? If you think, “I never really liked Rosie, she always took my favorite shovel in the sandbox,” then you could make the case that Rosie represents  feelings of anger or not getting what you want. Then you might ask yourself, “Is there something going on in my life that is making me feel that way right now?”

The same rule applies to events and objects: Were you anxious about the stranger approaching the gate or did he make you feel loved? Were you scared of the giant fuzzy rabbit or did you feel comforted by it? Next, correlate or match those feelings with feelings you have had recently in real life. Or maybe think about when you have had those same feelings in the past. Does anything come to mind?

In addition, look for any day residues in your dream. Sometimes something that happened during the day will pop up in the dream as a way of sorting information. It may not have any meaning except for representing a part of your day or it may hold a lot of meaning, it’s up to you to interpret the significance of it in your life.

Sometimes dreams have compensatory significance, which means that they are a way for the psyche to compensate for some kind of reality. For example, some people have dreams where they are screaming their heads off at people in real life with whom they are angry but unable to express that anger for whatever reason.  Your psyche is releasing the anger that in reality you are not expressing.

The words spoken in a dream sometimes have special meaning. If someone says something to you in a dream and you remember the exact phrase in the morning, write it down and try to find the meaning. The spoken word in dreams is very succinct and loaded with material, pay attention.

Another way your psyche vies for your attention is when there is a blatant contradiction in a dream. Maybe a river is flooding but instead of bags of sand you are adding buckets of water to it. What would this contradiction tell you about how you may be handling a particular problem in your life that may be flooding you with emotion? Are you adding to it?

Finally, what is the dream telling you? Where does it go? How is it resolved? Is there a moment when describing it you say, “then all of a sudden…?” That’s an important part of the dream, according to some dream experts. Pay attention to what occurs just after that.

A dream exists in the context of the dreamer’s life.

Get to know who you are and what your life is all about and your dreams may have more meaning to you.


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