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    Thread: Self Interpretation Adventures - Discussion

    1. #1
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      Self Interpretation Adventures - Discussion

      Hello! I'd like to talk a bit about my experience with interpreting my own dreams and dream interpretation in general.

      For as long as I've dabbled in interpreting my own dreams, I've always gotten the impression that they translate rather easily and straightforward for the most part. Symbols and my attitude and emotions correlate well to things I'm going through in my waking life, and I'm able to satisfy myself most of the time and say "Oh, yeah dreaming of rafting down a muddy river dodging tornadoes makes sense because XYZ."

      In the past year or so, my interpretations have become more elaborate. And I'm finding my conclusions are... well, lots of things. Questionable, uncomfortable, and more insightful than what I'm used to. For example, this past week I've had multiple dreams tell me in cryptic and VERY direct ways that I need to learn to be more assertive (there's much more to it, but I'm keeping it short). Maybe it's not uncommon, but I'm straight up not used to dreams being so aggressive when it comes to encouraging personal growth within myself. It's giving me a lot to think about. Also, it's not the first time this has happened to me.

      Aside from interpreting my own dreams and casually picking apart symbols and possible meanings of close friends' dreams, I can't say I have extensive experience. If anyone who's confident in their ability is reading this, may I ask a few questions?

      How deep does interpretation go in your opinion? I have friends who swear by it and friends who deny dreams have any sort of meaning.

      Do you have go-to resources for interpretation, like online dictionaries or books? How did you learn?

      If you have any break through experiences or ah-ha moments, feel free to share them. I'd love to hear about it!

      Thank you for your attention.
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    2. #2
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      After many years of looking at this subject, I finally came to the conclusion that generally -- but not always -- dreams carry no real meaning; they are basically a continuation of the work your brain does during the day to draw usable imagery from the information your senses supply and allow perception to occur; except that the imagery created during sleep usually comes not from senses but from day residue or memory… just random stuff.

      In my opinion, the unconscious portion of our mind does a fine job communicating with the conscious portion of our mind all the time, during wake or sleep. The connection is fluid, active, constant, and there really is no need for the unconscious to send us cryptic signals during dreams in the hopes that we’ll be able to understand and use the advice (which to me also seems remarkably inefficient!). In other words, the random imagery generated during dreams (in the absence of the actual imagery created during waking-life) is generally just that: meaningless random imagery and nothing more.

      However: With all that said, interpreting your own dreams can be a very good thing to do.

      Because by their nature dreams exist solely as memories, and often quickly fading memories at that, how you recall that random imagery upon waking can indeed tell you a lot about yourself. I personally have come to believe that a lot of imagery in dreams was not created during the dream at all, but later, as a dreamer tries to make sense of her dream *. By the same token, symbols and meaning that never occurred during the dream might be attached to the memory of the dream. And I believe that there is nothing wrong with that:

      How you interpret the random imagery of dreams, or how you build upon the memory of the dream to convert it from random imagery into a meaningful experience, really can tell you a lot about yourself, and is an excellent example of how our unconscious mind operates. In other words, your memory and interpretation of a dream might very likely reflect issues you are dealing with in waking-life (or refusing to deal with), or obligations you are ignoring, or feelings you've been suppressing, or etc. This is a very good thing.

      For example, lets say you have a dream that is literally nothing more than separate flashes of a bus, an old house, and a friend you haven’t seen in years. Upon waking, you gather that imagery into a bundle of meaningful memory, maybe by putting yourself on the bus, perhaps with your friend in another seat, looking wistfully at the old house (now high on a hill). Now you have yourself a comprehensible story to which you can attach meaning; perhaps that you and your friend have become strangers, traveling through life on the same path yet apart, and your friend still longs to revisit the old world you two once shared –- and you decide that maybe you should call him. Through that interpretation, and not the dream itself, you’ve worked with your unconscious to make a decision about a subject (rekindling old friendships) that you’ve been ignoring or neglecting. The interpretation had little to do with the original dream imagery, but was still very useful.

      tl;dr: Dreams are generally just random imagery, meaningless by nature, but how you remember that imagery, and the meaning you attach to the memory, can be valuable.

      I could be wrong about all of this, but at least it is something to consider.

      All this, by the way, might indicate that the only person truly capable of interpreting a dream is the dreamer. Having someone else interpret your dream –- especially someone who doesn’t know you well, or hasn’t been well trained in the art of getting you to draw your own conclusions –- would only result in them attaching their meaning to the imagery, and keeping you from determining something helpful on your own.

      I suppose It would be nice if I addressed your specific questions:

      How deep does interpretation go in your opinion? I have friends who swear by it and friends who deny dreams have any sort of meaning.
      Hey, I think I might have answered that one!

      Do you have go-to resources for interpretation, like online dictionaries or books? How did you learn?
      I highly recommend staying as far away from dream dictionaries of any sort, as in my opinion they not only cannot interpret an individual's dream, but they can lead that individual astray.

      I learned mostly from experience, and from a brief period long ago when I thought I was good at interpreting other people's dreams, but I also read folks like Jung and Freud.
      There is one little book I found that was most helpful (especially in explaining what I'm trying to say here). It's called Inner Work, by Robert A. Johnson, and seems to still be in print.

      *[EDIT: I just realized that I left out an important bit. I forgot to mention that when a dreamer is massaging the memory of a dream in order to make sense of it, she isn't consciously aware that embellishments are happening. Once any changes or additions are made, they will be remembered, without question, as if they were original details of the dream. Again, there is nothing wrong with this sort of editing; it's just how we make sense of things.]
      Last edited by Sageous; 05-26-2019 at 10:50 PM.
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    3. #3
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      My view is somewhat similar to that of Sageous, except I'm not as sure as he that most dreams don't have any inherent meaning. It could be that they do have inherent meaning, because they reflect what's going on in your mind.

      On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that most dreams don't have much of any meaning. Because maybe dreams are just part of the daily "hardware maintenance" for our brains and have little to do with the "software" (i.e., our psychology).

      Also, whether or not dreams have meaning depends on what is meant by the word "meaning". If there's a poem that's meaningful to you in some way, does it matter that the poet intended it to have a different meaning, or maybe no particular meaning at all? Similarly, the ink blots used in Rorschach tests have no inherent meaning at all, yet they may still reveal meaningful things about you when you look at them and describe what you see.

      So, like Sageous, I agree that looking for meanings in dreams is a really useful--not to mention fun--thing to do, even if the dreams themselves have no inherent meaning. I should add that I find writing down whatever I can remember about my dreams to be very useful. The act of writing down a dream almost always causes me to make interesting connections that I never would have made just by thinking about the dream. These might or might not be "connections" that are inherent in the dream itself. But that doesn't really matter as long as they help you gain insight into yourself. (Though, admittedly, it is way more fun to think that such things really are inherent in the dream.)
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    4. #4
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      Thank you both for your input! As a skeptic of all things, I can absolutely see where you both are coming from when saying that the meaning behind dreams could and probably is self imposed upon waking and remembering the dream. And I very much appreciate that neither of you gave a hard no, and can see the value of finding (or giving) meaning to a dream even if there was none in the first place. These dreams that have been "telling" me to get more assertive may or may not be real in the sense that it's my subconscious actually telling me to do something. But the fact that I'm perceiving it in that way and taking it as a sign to become a better version of myself holds value in itself.


      Quote Originally Posted by Zthread View Post
      Similarly, the ink blots used in Rorschach tests have no inherent meaning at all, yet they may still reveal meaningful things about you when you look at them and describe what you see.
      This in particular made a lot of sense to me.

      And thank you, Sageous, for your book recommendation. I'll be sure to check that out.
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    5. #5
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      Quote Originally Posted by anti_nation View Post
      Thank you both for your input! As a skeptic of all things, I can absolutely see where you both are coming from when saying that the meaning behind dreams could and probably is self imposed upon waking and remembering the dream. And I very much appreciate that neither of you gave a hard no, and can see the value of finding (or giving) meaning to a dream even if there was none in the first place. These dreams that have been "telling" me to get more assertive may or may not be real in the sense that it's my subconscious actually telling me to do something. But the fact that I'm perceiving it in that way and taking it as a sign to become a better version of myself holds value in itself.
      Another approach to working with dreams that's in opposition to doing dream interpretation is just to be more aware of what's going on in your dreams, without trying to figure out what they mean. Just think about the events of the dream, the dream imagery, how they made you feel, etc., and let that have whatever effects it has on you. It's sort of a mental feedback loop, where being more aware of your dreams provides the feedback. In this view, dreams are thought of as being similar to works of art. Art can be inspirational, but analyzing exactly what a work of art means can detract from its ability to inspire. Similarly, when you explain why a joke is funny, it destroys the humor. And explaining how a magic trick works destroys the magical effect.

      Here's an excerpt from the lyrics of Bob Dylan's song "Gates of Eden," that recently made me think more about this anti-interpretational approach:

      At dawn my lover comes to me
      And tells me of her dreams
      With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
      Into the ditch of what each one means
      At times I think there are no words
      But these to tell what’s true
      And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden.
      So Bob Dylan probably isn't into dream interpretation. At least he probably wasn't when he wrote that song.

      However, I have to admit that I still often try to figure out what my dreams mean. With many dreams, the apparent meaning just jumps out at me. It's unavoidable.
      Last edited by Zthread; 05-29-2019 at 06:24 PM.
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