“What if you interpret a dream for someone and you get it wrong?” he asked, quickly adding, “No offence, just curious.”
It’s a great question, one I’ve been asked by journalists over the years, and one I was asked in a social situation this week by someone who wanted to know a little more about my work.
Some people ask the question because they think dream interpretation is a prophetic art, a process of reading a dream to predict the dreamer’s future. They point to the prophetic dreams listed in the Bible, or to various contemporary dream readers who advertise this approach. If interpreting a dream means predicting the future for a dreamer, and the dreamer acts on that prediction – marries an unsuitable partner, invests all their funds into a business, or dismisses a health issue – then dream interpretation, and consulting a dream interpreter, is a risky business.
Other people ask the question because they think dreams deliver specific guidance, an absolute message that the dreamer should follow, whether that guidance is from the inner self, a guide, a greater intuition accessible in the dream state, or a divine force, and that the role of a dream interpreter is to uncover or clarify that guidance. While all those things may be possible, it’s not the way I work with clients, and it’s not the way I teach interpretation, analysis, or dream therapy through my books, courses, podcasts, and blogs.
My approach, based on my independent research and deep work with clients since 1992, is to explore and analyse dreams to discover the dreamer’s mindset, particularly their unconscious mindset. Whether I’m working with you as your dream analyst or dream therapist to help you uncover your mindset, or whether you’re learning to identify your mindset through my courses and resources, the focus is on understanding yourself more deeply through your dreams.
When you understand yourself more deeply, you’re in a stronger position to make good decisions. Rather than looking to a dream to deliver guidance, you look to a dream to give you more information about yourself and the unconscious beliefs and patterns of behaviour that drive the ways you see and interact with the world.
Dreams, explored and interpreted in this way, reveal your inner self in all its beautiful unconscious lightness and shadows: your gifts and talents, your emotional conflicts, your limiting beliefs and blocks, the whys and wherefores of your dilemmas, the hurts and sorrows, the potential to heal, transform, and grow, the Big Picture of how you are at this moment. Gathering all this wisdom about your unconscious mindset together you have the fresh insight and perspective you need to understand the shape of your life today, to identify solutions to problems, and to transform things for the better.
As a dream analyst or dream therapist, I find that when someone tells me a dream I do have a pretty clear understanding of the dream and the general underlying unconscious mindset. It’s a skill that can be taught, trained, and then developed through years of practice. But when a client has finished telling me her dream, I don’t jump to the interpretation. I walk through her dream with her, acting more as a guide. I help her to see the patterns for herself. I ask questions, point out connections, and assist her to gather the threads that reveal the tapestry I might have seen at the start. Sometimes the finished tapestry is identical to the one I saw, sometimes it differs in small details, and often it is much deeper and richer in every way for undertaking the exploratory journey together.
Is the final dream interpretation right or wrong?
The client walks away with her own interpretation, her personal understanding after the work we have done. Her understanding might be the same as mine, or it might differ in small details, perhaps depending on what she’s willing to acknowledge, what she’s not ready to see, or what she would prefer her dream to mean. In the end, the interpretation is hers to decide as is the guidance she takes from what she has learned about her inner self through exploring her dream with me.