Reading your dreams
Reading your dreams
By Andrew J. Pulskamp

For millennia humans have struggled to decode and define dreams. What do they mean, where do they come from and why do they occur? Are they trying to tell us something? These nightly journeys into the subconscious can confound the very dreamers dreaming them. But there are those who develop an expertise in this field, who can help others understand just what's going on when their head hits the pillow.

"Dreams are communications from your inner mind, the subconscious to the conscious mind. They are communications and feedback from the previous day's consciousness," says Daniel Condron, chancellor at the School of Metaphysics. "If you understand the language of dreams then you can understand the dream," he adds.

"In dreams a car represents the physical body because the body is what the mind or soul uses to take us from one place to another."

School of Metaphysics

According to Condron there are universal symbols that are present in dreams that can be learned and interpreted. There is even a dream dictionary that identifies thousands of dream symbols and provides definitions. According to the dictionary some common themes are mansions, which represent the mind, cars, which represent our physical bodies and animals, which often represent the dreamer's habits.

"I couldn't disagree with that approach more," says Alan Siegel, a clinical psychologist and the author of Dreamcatching. He continues, "You have to examine the whole concept of a dream, the feeling and all the details. If you see a horse in your dream, was that horse an old gray mare out to pasture or a black stallion at midnight? Those are two different things."

Siegel says that the old mare could symbolize something that's been beaten down and put out to pasture, while the black stallion is more reminiscent of power and potency. Siegel points out though, that ascribing definite meanings to certain symbols can mislead one in their pursuit for the true meaning of a particular dream.

Condron contends that symbols can be defined as they cross cultures and ages. He explains, "There are certain universal experiences common to humanity. For example just about everyone in the world has seen a car or automobile. In Japan they know what a car is, in Europe they know what it is, in South America they know what it is -- it is a universal experience." He continues, "In dreams a car represents the physical body because the body is what the mind or soul uses to take us from one place to another."

Whether or not symbols have shared meanings is debatable, but one thing is apparent. Many people have similar experiences within their dreams or nightmares. Like the dream where you're out in public - without a stitch of clothing on. Being naked in class, at work or at church is definitely an unsettling experience even if you are just dreaming. Both Condron and Siegel have a similar explanation for this one.

"Being naked in public, that would be something that would likely have to do with feeling exposed or having exceeded the boundaries of a relationship," says Siegel.

"Being naked in public, that would be something that would likely have to do with feeling exposed or having exceeded the boundaries of a relationship."

clinical psychologist/author

Condron concurs, "Clothing represents our outer expression. And when you're naked, it means that you are open or honest, maybe the person got exposed or revealed. These dreams are something that are okay. You're not being so closed off."

Recurring dreams are common too. Jessica Simpson, a student at Auburn University, who has had the same dream every three months or so for four years, says she definitely believes that one's subconscious uses dreams as a vehicle to communicate with the conscious. The sophomore describes her recurring dream. "It's kind of weird. What happens is that I'm in medieval times and I'm a prince trying to save someone who is inside a castle, but I can't get through. Every time I try to get to the castle I get stopped by a big bush."

No matter what Simpson does to get in the castle, her progress is always impeded by the bush. She swims the moat, there's the bush; she tries the rear entrance and there's the bush.

Siegel and Condron both basically agree that recurring dreams usually revolve around a lesson that's not being learned. The subconscious mind tries to hammer it home but it's missed, so that lesson is taught again and again until it's mastered.

When it comes to Simpson's particular dream, Siegel and Condron have different takes on what it means.

"Well the bush is a plant," says Condrun, "and green plants represent the subconscious mind. She has experienced something in her subconscious mind, but she's not able to use it. She's not using the subconscious to get into the castle, which is her conscious mind."

In simpler terms, Condron believes that Simpson may be working toward a goal that she's not using all her faculties to arrive at. She may be working physically and consciously but not subconsciously, which is an entirely different workplace altogether.

Siegel doesn't prefer to interpret one dream standing alone without knowing the dreamer but he did take a shot at this one, saying, "It could be a relationship issue where she's trying to get in touch with her male side. She could be trying to find another part of herself in a relationship that's locked up and out of touch."

Siegel points out that the dream could also revolve around general obstacles that exist in Simpson's life. He encourages dreamers to interpret dreams openly. "Approach dreams using the symbolic part of the brain rather than the analytical part," offers Siegel. "Once that's done, plug back into the dream and then analyze these symbols."

Siegel says the castle in the dream could relate to a childhood trip to Europe or maybe Simpson has a friend with the last name of Castle. Each element of the dream could have individual personal significance that might not necessarily conform to a dream dictionary or someone else's interpretation.

Siegel and Condron concur that it is valuable to examine and interpret your dreams, especially if you think they are trying to teach you a lesson. The hard part is decoding the specifics to find a larger meaning. For this, there is the dream dictionary, dream therapists, dream experts and even Web sites, like Dreamschool connected to the School of Metaphysics, that offers to enhance your understanding of your dreams.

"I think people should pay more attention to their dreams," says Simpson. "It's not like the human body does anything that is just an accident. It's not like dreams are some brain fart when you're sleeping." Who knows, you just might learn something.