Why We Dream
We have different types of dreams.
- Some dreams are memory processing and storage where our minds sort through the minutiae of our lives. These are typically dreams we don't remember or super mundane dreams that aren't very interesting.
- Other dreams may be symbolic in nature, in which our subconscious minds, higher selves, guides, etc. try to communicate with us via personal symbology (symbols that make sense to each of us individually) or collective conscious symbolism (symbols that are common to everyone). These are often the "weird" dreams with elements that don't seem, upon waking, to make much sense.
- A third type of dreams is the prophetic dream that may predict future events. I'm not a fan of these because there's usually nothing I can do about what I see on a global scale. They may be very specific or quite broad, and we often don't realize the dreams were prophetic until after the fact. For example, I tend to have prophetic dreams about earthquakes, train derailments, and school shootings - but never with enough specificity that I can actually warn anyone or take any action.
- We may also have "visitation" dreams. These dreams tend to be hyper-real, and we visit with loved ones who have died, or in cases of astral projection, visit with people we may know who are still alive. If a dream seems hyper-real, chances are it is either a visitation or astral projection.
Dreaming of Other People
One of the keys in dream interpretation is remembering this: every person you dream of in a symbolic dream is actually an aspect of yourself, so when you dream about another person, you are actually dreaming about yourself. If the person is someone you know, ask yourself which aspects of that person do you resonate with in your waking world. Or, which faults do they have you can barely stand? These might give you a clue to the aspect of yourself the dream is talking about. If it is someone you don't know, look for personality traits or features that may be telling you something about yourself.
The other thing another person might represent in your dream is an archetype. Without delving too deeply into Jungian psychology (which is a fascinating topic all of its own), Jung outlined major archetypes that represent aspects of self, desires, fears, etc.
The 12 Major Archetypes
Below are the main archetypes that appear in dreams.
- OUTLAW - This is your rebellious side. The part of you that fights the power and desires to live outside of the bounds of polite society. The outlaw may represent your desire to change what isn't working in your life or pointing out areas where you may be causing damage to yourself. Taken too far, the outlaw can become harmful to self and others.
- EXPLORER - This is your desire to get out, experience, learn, and know. Often, the explorer is a call to your soul's true purpose, guiding you to where you need to be to follow your soul's path. On the dark side, the explorer can avoid creating ties or finding satisfaction in life.
- CREATOR - Your creative side! It is your call to action to explore how you create in your own life. The dark side of the creative can be lack of focus or pursuit of vision to the detriment of gaining knowledge and wisdom.
- HERO - A call to courage, this is your desire to be the hero in your own story through acts of both everyday courage and extraordinary bravery. At it's darkest, the hero may become the martyr or sacrifice self.
- MAGICIAN - The magician is the source of alchemy in your life. It invites you to make things happen in your life - and on the dark side, it may be showing you how you are manipulative or feeling manipulated.
- SAGE - Your wise self, the sage is your call to seek the truth in your life, whatever it may be, through the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The sage is about more than intelligence, however, it's also about wisdom. At it's darkest, the sage can become a know-it-all with an out of control ego as opposed to one who has gained wisdom through scholarly pursuit.
- RULER - This is the aspect of yourself that is about power and control. On the positive side, power is about personal power and presenting yourself in the world in a powerful way. On the negative side, power can become about ego and control of others.
- INNOCENT - I often call this the Divine Child, because the innocent sometimes comes across in dreams as a beautiful and pure child. The innocent represents your faith and optimism. Taken too far, the innocent archetype can lead to foolishness and blind trust in those who do not deserve it.
- REGULAR - The regular guy/gal is a representation of egalitarianism (equality for all). It is about belonging and lack of pretense. Taken too far, it represents going too far to fit in and losing oneself.
- CAREGIVER - This is about loving and helping others. The caregiver represents selflessness, although taken too far it can represent loss of self or abdication of personal needs to the point of self-exploitation.
- LOVER - This archetype is about relationship to others - not just romantically, but also via friendship, family, or humanitarian love. It's a recognition of the oneness between all souls. Taken too far, it can become loss of self or desire to please for love and attention.
- JESTER - The jester represents living in the moment, finding enjoyment in the small things, and living life to its fullest. The jester is lightheartedness, humor, and joy. Taken too far, the jester is frivolity or wasting time.
So what should you pay attention to in dreams? Everything can be symbolic. Colors (wall colors, vehicle colors, etc.), numbers (such as a number of people or a number of items), objects in the background, landscape, thoughts and feelings, words....pretty much everything in your dreams may be symbolic. How people look, what they wear, if they have facial hair, if they wear glasses....The more detail you recall, the more likely the interpretation is to be accurate.
While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (thank you, Dr. Freud), often objects in symbolic dreams mean something other than their literal interpretation.
- CLOTHES in dreams are about how we want to be seen and perceived - or how we are feeling psychologically For example, if you're wearing a sexy little number, it may suggest that you want to be perceived as sensuous, while wearing a huge parka may suggest you wish to stay under cover, or your underwear may suggest you're feeling exposed (and who hasn't had that dream?) The context of the clothing is important, as is the color (we'll cover colors on another day.)
- VEHICLES in dreams are about control in your life. Are you in control of the vehicle, or have the brakes stopped working? Can you steer? Have you lost your vehicle and can't find it? These all tell you something about how in control you are feeling in various aspects of your life. For example, if someone else is driving the vehicle and you're just a passenger, you may feel that person is controlling some aspect of your life. If you're barreling down hill and can't get the brakes to work, you may be feeling out of control and in danger of crashing and burning. If you lose your vehicle, you may feel as if you've lost control over some aspect of your life (look to other hints in the dream to tell you what that might be).
- DOLPHINS/WHALES represent spiritual guidance and inspiration, as well as intuition and awareness.
- WATER in dreams represents spirituality, emotions, and the unconscious. With water, look to it's state, color and clarity to provide more context. For example, muddy waters may suggest you are feeling confused or like someone is obfuscating on an issue. Choppy waters (rivers, rough seas) may suggest emotional or spiritual turmoil. Clear waters may represent clarity and clear vision. Calm waters may represent spiritual peace and calm emotions.
- SCHOOL dreams are common anxiety dreams for adults who haven't been in school for years. For example, I have a recurring dream that it is finals week at college and I haven't been to class all quarter and haven't a damn clue where my classroom is, much less how I will be able to take the test. This is a very common recurring anxiety dream for people. School in dreams may also represent the desire to learn or the need to gain knowledge/wisdom about something. Look to dream context for other clues.
- HOUSES are about your inner self and who you really are. Different rooms in the house may symbolize different things; for example, the kitchen may be about spiritual or emotional nourishment, while a bedroom may indicate that you need to rest.
- HOSPITALS in dreams --perhaps not surprisingly--are about healing. It doesn't necessarily mean physical healing (although sometimes it can.) It can also be spiritual, mental, or emotional. If you are in a hospital having surgery, it may suggest it is time to cut something out of your life, or it may be suggesting that you feel you have lost control of your body in some way. Doctors in dreams may also symbolize healing.
- KILLING in dreams is one of the symbols that people find the most disturbing, especially if you are the one doing the killing. However, fear not, if you've never had the waking urge to kill, you probably aren't a closet murderer just waiting to waste someone. Instead, killing in dreams represents your desire to kill a part of your personality - either because it doesn't serve you, or because it is part of yourself with which you are uncomfortable.
- BIRTH dreams often symbolize creativity, as giving birth is creation in its purest form. It can also symbolize new beginnings.
- BABIES in dreams may symbolize your need to nature some aspect of yourself, or it may symbolize starting anew.
- FLYING in dreams can represent spirituality. It can also represent rising above some situation or it may represent success.
Color is very important in dreams, so if a color stands out to you at all in a dream (whether it's a color of a shirt, the name of the color, or any other way a color might show up), it's probably meaningful.
- Light colors - In general, lighter colors tend to represent positive things, as do very clear colors.
- Dark colors - On the other hand, dark colors (colors mixed with a lot of black or very cloudy/muddy colors) may represent negativity.
- Vivid colors - The brighter or more vivid a color, the more your subconscious is trying to get you to pay attention and recall/remember the color and its meaning.
- Black - Black is often representative of the unknown or unconscious. It might also represent your shadow self - that is, an aspect of yourself that makes you uncomfortable. However, it's important to work with your shadows and bring them into the light. Shadow aspects can be used for good in your life - because there is duality in everything, so you can choose whether it is a positive or negative force.
- Blue - Blue represents truth, wisdom, and integrity. You can also tie colors in dreams into chakra colors, so blue is the color of the throat chakra.
- Brown - This is the color of being grounded and can represent earthiness, as well.
- Gold - This is the color of spiritual richness and spiritual reward.
- Green is the color of healing. It's also a color that represents positive change and growth. It can also represent your heart chakra, which is associated with unconditional love.
- Indigo is the color of the Divine. It may also be associated with psychic abilities and spiritual guidance.
- Orange is a sociable, friendly color. It's also the color of your second chakra, which is related to your place in family and society.
- Purple is more than just the color of royalty. It is also a color of wealth, prosperity, devotion, compassion, and kindness. It is associated with the sixth (third eye) chakra, as well.
- Silver is the color of justice and protection.
- White is a color of peace, purity, and new beginnings. It is also representative of the Divine and related to your crown chakra.
- Red, which is associated with the root chakra, is a color that may represent vigor, passion, intensity of emotion, shame, or danger.
- Yellow is the color of intellect, illness, taking action, and self-confidence. It is also associated with the third (solar plexus) chakra, which is associated with a sense of self.
When numbers appear in dreams, they come in various ways. You may actually see, speak, or hear a number. You might also note a certain number of objects - such as two people, four forks, etc. If a number sticks out to you post-dream, it is probably significant.
- 0 - I always think it's funny that 0 is included as a dream symbol number. After all, if there is zero of something in your dream (I had zero pink bunnies in my dream - that must mean 0 was in my dream), is that significant? Of course not - but zero can still appear mostly written, heard, or spoken. If it does stand out to you, it stands for nothingness or empty space. Its presence in a dream might be telling you it is okay to clear space in your life and leave room so other things can enter.
- 1 - This number stands for ego, individuality, or autonomy.
- 2 - If two appears, it speaks of balance, yin-yang, or partnership.
- 3 - The number three speaks of inner strength, vitality, and trinities (such as body-mind-spirit, etc.)
- 4 is a number of balance and stability. It may also indicate hard work, or things that come in fours, such as the four directions.
- 5 indicates taking action, boldness, and spontaneity. It may also indicate the five senses.
- 6 represents cooperation, community, union, and bliss.
- 7 is a number of healing and completion. It may also represent things that come in 7s, such as your chakras or days of the week.
- 8 represents intuition, success, and karma.
- 9 is a number of inspiration or rebirth. It can also be a number of completion.
The information I've shared about dreams above is just the tip of the iceberg in dream interpretation. If you are really interested, I recommend finding a good dream dictionary. As far as online sources go, I find dreammoods.com tends to have information about symbols that resonates with me and most closely matches my own interpretations. Always look to your individual interpretations before you look to the collective conscious symbols. I find that many people actually do recognize what their dreams are telling them once they spend a little time thinking about it.
Last night I dreamed about playing dodgeball (which later morphed into field hockey and then some weird golf game), and everyone was divided into a yellow team or a purple team. I didn't get a jersey for either team, and the director of the game kept trying to give me a clear jersey (always great for showing off the bra or greeting your husband at the door when you come home). I wanted to be on a team - I didn't care which - and insisted that the director give me a team.
I discovered there was a blonde woman (her name was Annie) with short hair who had taken my jersey (that bitch!). She was on the yellow team, but she wanted the opportunity to be on either team depending on who was winning or losing. I was so upset at this injustice, and I tried to get her to give up my jersey, but she wouldn’t.
The director (who had short, dark hair) looked through all the colors and kept giving me colors that weren't either team. I kept insisting on being placed on one of the teams. Finally, she came up with a purple jersey, but it was more violet while the rest of the team was dark purple.
Then I went and joined the game, but realized what a slow freakin' runner I was. I was adept at playing, but I just wasn’t as fast as the other players. Two other teams had joined the game, and nobody was sticking to a team anymore - the teams (the other two colors were blue and red) were all intermingled. So instead, I found a cache of colorful golf balls buried in a hole in the ground and played with that. The cache was at the top of a hill, and I pulled up each colorful ball and tossed it down the hill to a green playing field.
Here are some of the symbols that showed up in my dream:
- • A director or overseer
- • Blonde woman (Annie) who tried to “steal” my position
- • Short hair
- • Dark hair
- • Blonde hair
- • Balls of different types and sizes
- • The number two (two teams, two lines)
- • Wanting to be part of a team
- • Sports
- • Teams
- • Running
- • Various colors with the most predominate colors being purple, yellow, violet, and white/clear
- • Jerseys
- • Slow
- • Hole in the ground hiding a cache of something
Here’s the process by which I interpret this dream.
1. I start by looking at the context of the dream, which is a ball game of some type. I desperately wish to participate. This gives me the overall theme of the dream – it tells me what the dream is about. It is being played on a field that is rough and rocky – with lots of hills, but there is a bright green, smooth pitch at the bottom of the dirt hills. In this case, the sport changes throughout the dream, so what is probably important is the field on which it is played – as well as the fact that there are balls in the game.
- A ball indicates wholeness and playfulness.
- The field – which is the main setting of the dream – is kind of dark (overcast with an overall dark feel), and the terrain is variable and often hazardous. Still, there are also beautiful, flat green parts, as well. This indicates a duality of both abundance and freedom (green field), along with my belief in lack (lack of abundance, etc.). Since both are in my dream equally, it shows I’m struggling in my life with optimism and pessimism at the same time, and neither is particularly winning out right now. The hills represent obstacles and dirt represents frugality. The overall darkness indicates this is all part of my shadow self, and the dream is telling me something about aspects of myself I wish to hide or not acknowledge.
- In the dream, I am throwing balls down dirt hills to greener fields where the balls can come into play again. So I am tossing my wholeness away from pessimism and darkness towards optimism and joy once again. I am tossing it away from the darkness, pessimism, and lack of abundance towards the abundant and optimistic play field.
- Annie was blonde with short hair. She took something that belonged to me, leaving me to feel as if there was an injustice there. Annie is an aspect of me.
- Blonde is often a symbol of needing to be more carefree and joyful. Annie (or variations such as Anna, Anne, etc.) is a name I often use for characters in short stories, so clearly some subconcious aspect of self that comes to fore – perhaps an idealized version of me. That Annie is a female shows some archetypal aspect of the feminine - caring, passivity, nurturing, etc.
- The director of the game was also a woman. She had short, dark hair.
- Short hair is suggestive of downsizing or masculine aspects.
- Dark hair depicts an aspect of mystery or shadow. The fact the woman is a director shows she is somehow in charge or a leader – she has control over the duality or the game.
- Both of these people are aspects of myself, and they played a big role in the dream and my emotions there.
- Looking at the two women who were main characters and the cues they provided here, I am seeing them as the yin and yang aspects of myself. One side is fair, open, empowered, and little bit mysterious, and decisive but at the same time isn’t arriving at decisions quickly enough for my tastes. The other side is more carefree, but also passive, and not always as honest or forthright as she can be – probably out of self-protection or a desire to be a certain way (in this case – she wanted to be on a “winning” team and was therefore deceptive in her practices.) I see her as behaving unethically and blocking me from something I want.
- I was equally frustrated with both women, but for different reasons. This shows me there are aspects of both my yin and my yang that still frustrated me or make me unhappy. However, in the end I prevail with both women and am allowed to enter the playing field, which suggests I am consciously working to accept my shadow self in order to bring it into the light of my consciousness.
- Numbers: The number two is a very strong symbol that repeats throughout the dream (two teams, two more teams, two women, two lines, etc.), telling me it is something important. Two suggests balance and yin and yang, which is reinforcing one of the main themes I’ve already discovered.
- Colors: The four main colors of yellow, purple, violet, and clear/white are as follows:
- Yellow is self-confidence, intellect, and taking action; purple is loyalty, wealth, kindness, intuition and compassion. Violet is spirituality and intuition. White is peace and new beginnings.
- These are again supporting the main theme of the dream – that I am struggling between two aspects of self – intellect and compassion perhaps – and that I am also trying to overlay it with a sense of peace or Divinity. Ultimately, compassion prevails (I wind up on the purple team) – although it is more focused on spirituality and intuition than wealth and compassion.
- Other symbols: Teams (which are filled with my friends, by the way) are about relationships and friendships and working together. The fact I am unhappy I am not part of one or the other suggests I am struggling with a relationship in my real life (I am), and that I long for resolution.
- Sports indicate recognition of talents and achieving my goals. I want this very badly in my dream, but I realize I’m a slow runner (however, I am adept at the sport – just not quick) – which suggests the (self) recognition of talents and achievement of goals is coming more slowly than I would wish.
- The jerseys in the dream are just a way to convey the colors – which they do. The balls are different colors, as well.
- The hole in the dirt suggests hidden aspects of self, but it is filled with a cache of colorful balls – which indicate wholeness and various aspects of my personality. I dig up the balls and toss them down the hill – tossing each aspect of self from dark to light.
- This dream is about some frustrations I have going on in my life right now. It is suggesting that I feel I am somehow falling behind, particularly spiritually and as it relates to prosperity/abundance, relationships, and my feelings about how my life is going right now.
- I’m feeling some impatience with myself, as I am struggling a bit spiritually now. It may help to know I am recovering from a concussion right now, and since I was injured a few weeks ago, I’ve not been quite as able to be my usual sunny self, although it’s getting better every day. This has led to frustration about several things in my life, including my professional and spiritual growth, my prosperity and abundance, and a few relationships that have been giving me trouble.
- Normally when I feel I’m not winning at life, I’m able to go to my happy place and bring about changes through positive thinking, etc. Right now, I’m feeling a bit blocked in my ability to do that due to some cognitive changes associated with the head injury.
- However, this dream, while it is showing me my frustration, is also showing me that I am moving in the direction of returning to my more customary happy place where I can create and manifest positivity by my thoughts, words, and actions. It’s showing me that I am, through my own thoughts and actions, ultimately returning to that place even though I am feeling frustrated right now.
- I believe Annie is a manifestation of my frustrations with my concussion, while the director is showing me that – while I may be a bit confused right now – ultimately I will return to the place that I am in charge of my thoughts and actions and how they manifest in my life.