How to interpret dreams (A 5-step guide)

An uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter.

Almost all of us see dreams at night whether we remember them or not. It is believed that we see around 3 to 6 dreams per night, each dream lasting between 5 to 20 minutes.

Dreams, like emotions, are a means of communication between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind.

In most cases, they carry a message that your subconscious mind wants to send you so that you may better understand yourself or solve your life problems.

Is interpreting dreams important?
The short answer is yes.

It has become ever more important in today’s society where many are taught to ignore their emotions.

We classify people not as rational and irrational but as rational and emotional, as if ’emotional’ is the antithesis of ‘rational’.

We are told that we shouldn’t take our emotions seriously because they’re just a ‘waste of time’, that they ‘cloud our thinking’ and force us to make irrational decisions. While there is a kernel of truth to that statement but dismissing emotions ‘irrational’ is a grave mistake.

Emotions are our guiding mechanisms that guide us through life, facilitating our survival and reproductive success. They’re there for a reason and are not to be ignored.

Yet, thanks to societal conditioning, by the time we’re adults, most of us become experts at suppressing our emotions

How to interpret dreams
Here’s a step-by-step guide that teaches you how to interpret your dreams…
1) Recall the dream
First off, recall the dream as vividly as you can. Write it down in as much detail as you can. They best way to do this is to record your dream in a journal as soon as you wake up because we tend to quickly forget our dreams as we go about our day.

Ask yourself, “How was I feeling in the dream?”

Was it fear? Some kind of concern? Worry? Helplessness? Or happiness?

Write down all the emotions that you felt in the dream. Remember, ultimately dream interpretation is all a game of emotions. You want to know what kind of emotion your subconscious mind was trying to convey you.

2) Figure out the dominant emotion

The next step is to figure out the dominant emotion that you were experiencing in your dream- the central theme around which the dream was constructed.
Once you’ve done that ask yourself, “What is going on currently in my life that is triggering the same emotion?” “What has been bothering me lately?” “What am I concerned about these days?”

You’re trying to understand if the dream was a reflection of your current life. These sorts of dreams are often unrealistic, weird and symbolic. How you behave in these dreams reflects your behavior in real life.

For example, if a colleague was treating you unfairly and you weren’t able to do anything about it, you might dream that a friend is attacking you and you’re not able to defend yourself.

This friend was a symbol that your subconscious mind used to represent your colleague and the fact that you couldn’t defend yourself reflects your actual helplessness in dealing with your colleague. Helplessness would be the emotion to look for in this example.


3) Was it a wish-fulfillment?
If a dream does not reflect how you feel about any of your current life situation, then most probably it will be a wish-fulfillment dream i.e. a dream in which you see yourself doing something that you recently wanted to do in your real life.

These dreams are often devoid of any symbolism and are pretty much realistic.

For instance, if you missed an opportunity to talk to your crush during the day then you might see yourself approaching them in your dream. Or if you saw a new Harley Davidson motorbike ad on the TV and wondered how amazing it would be to ride it, then you might dream about riding it.

Wish-fulfillment dreams always make you feel good. So happiness or ‘feeling good’ would be the emotions to look for in such dreams while you’re interpreting them.

interpreting dreams
Since many other animals also experience REM sleep (the stage of sleep in which we’re most likely to dream), it is believed that they also experience dreams like we do.

4) Did it involve the release of suppressed emotions?
If during the day (or recently), you were forced to suppress any emotion due to the pressure of circumstances, then you’ll most likely release that suppressed emotion in your dream.
Say you invited a friend to a party along with many other guests. He got drunk and behaved rudely with you and with everyone.

You felt like admonishing but didn’t because there were dignified guests present and you didn’t want to further spoil the party or simply because you weren’t assertive enough.

Therefore, you ended up suppressing your anger. That night you might dream that you’re admonishing or warning your rude friend or some symbol that represents your rude friend.

It’s nothing more than your suppressed anger getting released. Interestingly, it can also be seen as a wish-fulfillment dream where your wish to admonish is fulfilled.

5) Dreams and external stimuli
In some cases, dreams might just be a result of an external sensory stimulus.

For example, if you’re feeling cold in your bed, you might dream that it’s snowing or that you’re at a very cold, icy place. Similarly, if you’re feeling very hot while you’re asleep, you might dream that you’re in a desert.

I had this dream one night where I had to drink a glass of juice that was in front of me. Instead of taking a nice little sip, I grabbed it and gobbled the whole glass, along with the glass.

The glass got stuck in my throat. During the whole dream, I was trying to either swallow the glass down or take it out by burying my fingers deep into my throat. It was a hellish experience.

When I woke up in the morning, I realized that my jacket was too tightly zipped-up to the neck.

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