Given the power of dreams to reveal ourselves to ourselves, why do relatively few take advantage of this opportunity? Early societies had symbolic and mystical explanations for every life experience, including dreams. In a postmodern, global culture, many of us have not been taught a way to understand dreams.

Understanding the Language of Dreams

Your dreams deliver a rich soup of information every day. How can you remember them?

How To Remember Your Dreams

  1. Ask yourself to dream about something you want help with before going to sleep.
  2. Record dreams before they fade using a notepad or tape recorder.
  3. Take what you get, even a dream fragment.
  4. Don’t overdo alcohol or other sedatives before bedtime—they can disrupt sleep and make it harder to remember dreams.
  5. Get enough sleep to help you better recall your dreams.
  6. Be patient. You may not remember your dreams right away.
  7. Don’t lose a lot of sleep trying to remember every dream.

Types of Dreams

There are very different types of dreams. Mostly, we experience dreams as a composite of familiar experiences. Those experiences may flow into each other more suddenly or abruptly than in waking life. These ordinary dreams usually do contain significant meaning worth exploring.

Other kinds of dreams may shake you up or even challenge your model of reality. The most commonly recognized categories of dreams are as follows (a single dream may fit more than one of these categories):

  • Ordinary
  • Guiding
  • Repetitive
  • Archetypal
  • Nightmares
  • Lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences
  • Paranormal
  • “Big” dreams
  1. Guiding dreams can outline the core issue a person is struggling with and provide extensive guidance on how to proceed with treatment. Other guiding dreams may offer meaningful perspectives from an inner healer or teacher.
  2. Repetitive dreams suggest that the unrealized dream material has not been understood or the dreamer can’t or won’t respond to it.
  3. Archetypal dreams contain universal forms (archetypes). For example, an image of a golden sphere can represent wholeness and completion of long internal work.
  4. Nightmares are sufficiently frightening that they awaken the dreamer to a situation unaddressed in conscious life. The dreamer usually recalls nightmare contents. This is different from “sleep terrors” where someone may awaken in a terrified state but be unable to record the dream contents. The difference may be physiological, since sleep terrors are produced during a deeper state of sleep.
  5. In a lucid dream, the dreamer is aware of dreaming and is able to make conscious choices within the dream. Lucid dreams may correspond with a heightened ability to maintain consciousness in relaxed states, something found in people who advance in meditation practice or consciously pursue dreamwork.

    In addition to being awake within a lucid dream, some people report an experience of leaving their bodies during the dream state. Dr. Stephen LaBerge favors the view that these out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are a product of the imagination. He has conducted research that supports his belief. Dr. Charles Tart is another respected researcher whose experiments support his belief that people can partially separate from their physical bodies and even report objective perceptions obtained during OBEs.

  6. Paranormal dreams are those said to contain information one might not otherwise know through the physical senses. (You don’t need to believe in psychic abilities to benefit from the imagery produced by the sleeping mind.) It’s not unusual, for instance, for people to dream that someone has died and find out that later that this was true, even though it was unexpected and they hadn’t been told. Such dreams may be more common with highly-charged emotional events.
  7. “Big” dreams contain visions or information beyond one’s daily, personal concerns. These are relatively rare and may be more common to people of intellectual, visionary or spiritual stature. An example of such a dream is that of C. G. Jung before one of the great world wars of the 20th century, in which he saw Europe floating in an ocean of blood.