Over the last several weeks, I have been working with my dreams. As I spend more time with them and get to know them, I notice I feel less anxious about having a "bad" dream. I am learning to appreciate the gifts that can be found within even the most unpleasant dreams.
So it is with our bodies, as well. When we experience pain, we can move away from it, or we can move toward it. There are many parallels between exploring the pains in our physical body and exploring the meaning of our dreams.
What yet unknown information is held deep within the unexplored parts of our being? Like the messages in our bodies, these messages from the night are worthy of our attention.
"As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason." -Carl Jung
Unitarian Universalist minister and dream explorer, Jeremy Taylor, believes that "all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness." He argues that we dream about things we are ready to see and the fact that we are dreaming a dream means we have the capacity to work through it in some way.
This matches my experience. Dreams often point to the issues we are wrestling with in our waking lives. Having a dream about these scenarios gives us the opportunity to explore them in a different way. Dreams are full of metaphor and symbol, which invites us to tap into the non-linear parts of ourselves. We "get out of our head," so to speak.
As I have been delving into my dreams, one of my favorite questions to ask has been, "what is the question this dream wants me to be conscious of?" Another similar approach is to ask "what is the gift in this dream?" These both allow me to open into the possibility that there is something in my dream that wants to be seen or known.
There are many different approaches to dream work. As a starting point, I like Jeremy Taylor's Dream Work Toolkit. He describes "Six Basic Hints for Dream Work," including "No dreams come just to tell you what you already know."
Another way to begin is to give your dream a title. This can be a way to capture the essence of a dream. The title may be a simple description of the focal point. What stands out to you in your dream?
Whenever we have unpleasant dreams, we have a choice about how we respond. If we want to, we can explore the meaning in the dream. For example, we can imagine facing the scary creature coming at us. By engaging with this creature and seeing it, does it become more or less scary? What does it have to tell us? If something feels too scary to face, can we imagine an alternative ending where we get away from the scary thing or where something or someone comes in and protects us?
There are many creative ways that we can work with the images and characters of our dreams and find resolution. In my experience, dreams show me parts of myself that are hidden in the shadows. Working with our dreams is a chance to bring these parts of ourselves into the light.