Thank goodness we are not held accountable for the things we do in our dreams! Most of us have indulged in violent or antisocial behavior, been promiscuous, or conducted a business meeting topless! These images can be frightening and shame producing if we identify with the self who shows up in the dream.
Identifying with the figure who represents you in a dream sometimes makes it impossible to deepen the understanding of the message of the dream because you feel so squeamish about what happened in the dream. The most important thing to remember is that the figure who is YOU in the dream is not actually YOU. That figure represents the current state of identity–the YOU you know yourself to be today or the night you had the dream.Many times the dream is the harbinger of new and unfolding aspects of identity. Those emerging aspects of self are always frightening or disgusting or upsetting to the self you are today. For example, a woman who was very quiet and retiring was on the cusp of speaking up more for herself. She dreamed that she was growing claws and fangs. She woke horrified. To the self she knew herself to be–retiring, quiet, and unable to express aggression, the new emerging self who would be able to do that was horrifying.
So when you find yourself doing something unexpected, or embarrassing or criminal or shocking–remember it’s only relative to an established sense of self. The new parts of self often come in as exaggerated or extreme. Your own wise psyche is preparing you for a change and getting your more staid, familiar self ready. Be curious about what’s coming in, and why it might appear so shocking to your familiar identity.
Sometimes a dream is long, complicated, and the series of events doesn’t make any sense to you when you up. It might be a long narrative that takes twists and turns and leads to a strange and confusing conclusion. Giving the dream a title can often help to extract the essential pattern of the dream. For example, the dream may be a journey, or a search, or a conflict. By backing away from all the details of the dream and determining the essential story line, the basic meaning of the dream emerges. The confusing details fall away and the bare bones meaning of the dream stands out.
The title should always be oriented toward the main character of the dream, usually the dreamer, and should not be distracted by potent images. For example, a dreamer dreams: I am running down a hill in the country when I realize there is a unicorn behind a tree. Suddenly a fire engine goes whizzing by, but I still go running on. Everyone told me I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I am running from the city where we now live to the hometown where I grew up and it’s just a bit over 26 miles.
In this dream, the unicorn, the fire engine, the location, and the length of the run are all very enticing and surely meaningful details, but the dream is about a person experiencing the journey back to her home town as a marathon. A good title would be “A Strenuous Feat to Get Back Home” or “The Journey Back Will Require Endurance and Sweat.” The title points to the meaning of the dream–that whatever is going on for the dreamer, it is going to be an arduous, challenging effort and she’s going to have to rely on her own steam.
Go back in your journal and title some of your dreams. If you haven’t got a journal, start one and after writing down a dream, think about a good title. If you want more practice, watch a television show. Pretend the show is your dream. Choose which character you are and from her point of view, title the “dream show.” Or make up a bizarre little story and then give it a title from the main character’s point of view.