What do our dreams mean? When you have a powerful, memorable dream, there is a strong urge to interpret it, understand it. I use a dream interpretation tool – taught to me by Martha Beck, Ph.D. my coaching teacher and mentor, author of the great new book: Diana Herselfand monthly columnist for Oprah magazine.  And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

The reason we are driven to understand our dreams is because on some level we realize instantly that this is vital information of some kind – what message is your dear body, your subconscious, your gut wisdom trying to send you? Hope you’ve had a juicy dream recently!  If not, wait a few days, and one will appear.

Dream Interpretation Tool

  1. Write down everything you can remember about the dream. Upon waking, while the dream is still fresh in your mind, retell the whole story – who was there? when was this taking place? what was around you? where were you?
  2. Now reread the dream, and circle the important symbols. These can be all the nouns and big feelings or things you “knew” in your head. Places can be significant. Colors are important if they leap out at you. Don’t think too hard about it, just circle the important elements. (There is no right or wrong quantity. If you feel 5 elements were significant or 25, so be it.)
  3. List the circled dream elements on a piece of lined paper, leaving three lines per element. (Ex., on line 1 your write one circled element, and on line 4, the next one, and on line 7 the next one, and so on, in a neat column along the left margin.)
  4. Create two more columns, for a total of three columns on the page. You can label the columns: Dream Elements, Descriptors, & Directives
  5. In order to understand what the dream has to tell you, you have to take the perspective of each element of the dream and figure out why it’s there and what it wants you to know. This is tricky, but important. It’s as if you’ll be interviewing each element of your dream to unlock its message.
  6. To focus yourself on just that one element for the moment, and to help you shift perspective, put your finger on the element (in column 1). You might also use a penny or paperclip. Example:  if your dream starts in say, your mother’s house, and that’s the first element on your list, then you’d put put your marker there, and consciously take on the perspective of the mother’s house. 
  7. Say out loud: I’m “the element.” Then describe “yourself” (as the element) in three words. I’m x, I’m y, and I’m z. Example: I’m my mother’s house. I’m cluttered, I’m comforting, I’m old fashioned.
  8. Write down those three words on the lines next to the element on the lined paper, in column 2.
  9. Go all the way through your list of elements and place your marker on the element. Take its perspective and describe itself in three words or phrases next to that element in Column 2.
  10. Now, go back to the first element on your list, and place the marker there again.
  11. Repeat the information you have, still in the perspective of the element. In the example, I’d say: I’m my mother’s house. I’m cluttered, I’m comforting, I’m old fashioned. 
  12. Ask “yourself” as the element – What am I here to tell the dreamer?  Example: I’m my mother’s house. I’m cluttered, I’m comforting, I’m old fashioned. What am I here to tell “Julia?” (But don’t use my name. Obviously you would insert your own name, or the name of the dreamer, if you were interpreting a dream for someone else.)
  13. Whatever insight or directive comes to you from the element, write it down. Example:  I’m my mother’s house. I’m cluttered, I’m comforting, I’m old fashioned. What am I here to tell “Julia?” I’d clear my mind and see if there’s a message from My mother’s house. It might be something like: You’re in your comfort zone. Or Everything is safe. Or No wonder you’re such a whack job! Look around here for a minute! 
  14. Finish collecting messages and directives from your elements and write them in Column three. 
  15. Think back and see if anything in the dream was red. Red is a color that is thrown into the dream, to get your attention. If an element were red, circle its directive. It is important. If there’s nothing red, no worries.
  16. Final step: just read column three back as if it were directions from your wiser self. See what you have to tell yourself that is so important!

This is a powerful and enlightening tool. I’ve used it on many occasions when I’ve had a strong, memorable dream. It doesn’t have to be a long or detailed dream, just one that got your attention.  Happy Dream Interpreting. Let me know if you have life-altering messages from the land of sleep and dreams.