How to Remember and Interpret Your Dreams to Reduce Stress
by Debbie Mandel
We all dream about daily concerns, fears, desires and occurrences in the form of a jigsaw puzzle, or a surrealistic movie. Sometimes we recall our dreams vividly and in great detail and other times, they drift away from memory like ephemeral clouds. There are many dream encyclopedias listing common dream symbols and their meaning. However, of greater importance is what the dream symbolizes to the individual—what he or she perceives to be the specific meaning and relationship to what is going on in one’s emotional life. Interpreting dreams is a good strategy for stress-reduction. The uninhibited storytelling that unfolds at night releases the clues to worries, hidden stressors and deeply buried past hurts. By making the conscious intention to remember a dream, preparing a pad and pen or tape recorder on the night table and then recording the images first thing in the morning before brushing one’s teeth increases the probability of recall. By remembering our dreams we will have a more direct access to our personalities - our secret desires and the ability to heal from stress.
Dreaming helps us to sort out the feelings that have burrowed deeply into our minds and hearts. Suppressed emotions that we do not dare acknowledge during the day time take on various forms in dreams, a whole of cast of characters, including inanimate objects, all parts of ourselves portraying different versions of the same old story. Ever dream that:
- You’re in high school taking a final that you have not studied for
- Your tooth is falling out
- You are falling off a cliff
- A powerful wave floods your home
- Walking around naked in the streets
- Your mother or father has died
Dreams act out our specific vulnerabilities using our own personal mythology. As in the “exam dream,” perhaps you feel unprepared or inadequate for what you are about to do reminiscent of feeling unprepared for a final. Try to figure out what it is that you feel unprepared for and work on it. If you dream that your tooth falls out, maybe it is time to go to the dentist, or maybe you are worried about another body part that needs medical attention. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment may be the first step in reducing that stressor. The flooding wave might represent a suppressed sadness that threatens to inundate your daily activities. Try to identify the source of that sadness, so that you can face it, emote and then move on.
Do you need a dream interpreter to help explore the meanings? Here are some suggestions to remember your dreams and let the collective images guide you toward a more stress-free day.
- Before you go to bed, let your mind know that you intend to remember the dream.
- Meditate for five minutes before bedtime to relax your mind and heart. Breathe according to your natural rhythm. Let whatever images drift in and out of consciousness come and go freely. Do not judge what you see. Observe the images float by.
- Establish a regular bed time and wake up time.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
- Have a lamp, note pad and pen handy as soon as you wake up from a dream. Keep a log of your dreams. Record your feelings about what you dreamt- do you feel frustrated, angry, sad, joyous, etc.?
- Read your dream journal weekly. Try to identify the patterns.
- Try to understand that every character and object in your dream represents some aspect of yourself.
- Sometimes dreams provide open pathways for our feelings- those we are not free to act out in daily living. In dreams you are able to see aggressive impulses and desires that you cannot see otherwise.
- Talk about your dreams with trusted friends who will help you to objectively figure them out.
Dreams hold powerful clues to where you are in life now. Use them to lay to rest negativities and to make room for a creative and positive energy. Recreate your dreams to tell the story you want!
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com