Remembering a dream in its entirety is the exception. Usually, dreamers remember a snippet or at most a section of a dream. Often in such cases, the imagery defies an obvious interpretation. That’s when it is especially important to use the dream interpretation method that I have been teaching. It brings the symbolism into focus and reveals the metaphoric meaning.
This week we’ll deal with one of these cryptic dream snippets, and since it is really short, this is a good time to review the interpretation process. There are five steps. The first one is that the dreamer tells the dream:
A dream snippetI am sitting at home at my kitchen table eating my breakfast. I look up, and there is a giraffe staring me in the face. And that’s all I remember.
Step 2The second step is to isolate the symbols. It’s important to look beyond the obvious nouns. Actions, moods that have been expressed, even adjectives or adverbs that are particularly colorful are important to consider. In the case of this dream snippet, the following are the words to consider: sitting, home, kitchen table, eating breakfast, look up, giraffe, staring me in the face.
This may seem like a really short dream—and in fact, it probably took no more than a few seconds to experience—but notice already the richness of symbolism it contains. I helped the dreamer isolate seven symbols which will offer a rich, interpretive commentary.
Step 3Now we begin the real work of dream interpretation: figuring out the metaphoric meanings of each of these symbols.
In this case, the symbols can be divided into two categories. Some of the symbols are common in many dreams: eating and a house are images that occur repeatedly in dreams. Then there are other symbols that are much rarer: A giraffe staring the dreamer in the face is a symbol that one would not typically see. You can’t go to a book and look it up, expecting to find a metaphoric interpretation of this image. Even if one were to see an explanation, the chances of it being accurate would be almost nil. The only place to go to get a meaningful interpretation is to the dreamer himself.
The trick is to engage the dreamer in a kind of free-association pondering of the image itself. The first thing to do is to remind the dreamer that we are looking for a metaphor. With that understanding, I then usually ask the dreamer to “Tell me about…” whatever the symbol is. Sometimes this takes a bit of coaxing, especially if the dreamer is particularly literal minded. But after a while most dreamers catch on, and the process becomes easier.
In the case of this dream snippet, the initial symbols are more common ones, so they are easier to understand. With this dream, I started by asking the dreamer to “Tell me about sitting.” He replied, “It’s when you want to rest.”
We’ll continue this thread on Wednesday.