“Oh my god, I had the CRAZIEST dream last night.”
How many times have you heard this phrase uttered? Dreams, while they can be funny, scary, gross, sexy, or confusing, the idea that we have them is purely fascinating. Some people dream in black and white, some in color, some in a language they don’t speak, some in a language NO ONE speaks, and some people claim they don’t dream at all, though science has proven this isn’t true; the dreamer simply doesn’t remember them. Some people have the same dream over and over again, and some have a dream one time they wish they’d dream 1,000 times more. When you really think about it, it’s all a bit awe-inspiring, no?
Recently I had a dream that I was walking down a non-descript yet familiar street with a non-descript yet familiar person. A woman. As we walked, I telepathically communicated to her an issue that I’d been having with someone in my waking life. It was a conflict that I’d been obsessing over for weeks with little internal resolution. After I’d communicated this issue to my dream friend (she did seem friendly…), she turned to me and said, “There isn’t an issue here. There was never anything to be upset about or dwell upon. You don’t need resolution because there was never a real problem.”
When I woke up, I felt completely at peace. As I brought to mind the problem, instead of feeling the normal anxious and sad reaction to it, I felt…well, I felt fine! Resolved! Closure. In that moment it was clear that my unconscious mind had given me the answer through the dream I’d had, and more importantly I believed it to be the truth, 100%. It made me wonder if that experience was a fluke or if it was possible to purposefully tap into my deep well of inner wisdom in order to influence and enrich my life’s journey.
I spoke with the charming and insightful Dr. Michael Lennox, a psychologist, astrologer, and dream interpretation expert based in Los Angeles, California about our ability to actively access our deepest, most authentic wisdom through our dreams.
“Dreams are one of the best ways to tap into ourselves beyond the thinking mind. The mind’s job is to navigate us through the world. I like to say it “sees far but is always wrong.” He explained that this means the mind’s main objective is to create a construct in which we can move through life in a way that makes sense. The thinking mind speaks the language we learn from everyday life, per se, while the unconscious mind (he categorizes this as “all that is invisible”) speaks in abstracts and symbols. His work is based on the following idea:
If we can decode the symbolic language of our dreams, we can then apply the meaning of those symbols to our lives.
While it is possible that lightning bolts of wisdom can come hurling through the thick clouds of our dreamscapes without invitation, Michael (he insisted I call him Michael, so why shouldn’t you?) offered some advice on how to “petition” our dreams for answers to questions or problems we may have.
“Petitioning a dream is simply making a conscious choice to ask the dream state to give you wisdom,” he said. “I recommend ritualizing this, especially if you’re a beginner at this work. As with any spiritual practice, it’s helpful to create a sense of the sacred around this petitioning. It helps signal to your deepest self that you are open and receptive to the information.”
He added that this is a very personal thing and can involve anything that helps center you before bed in order to be receptive to the wisdom of your unconscious mind. “You can speak your petition out loud or write it down, share it with someone, whatever. By doing that you’re saying, ‘Hey Dream State. I have this problem that I’d like your help with. I ask my inner wisdom to present itself tonight in my dreams.”
Once you recall a dream upon waking, the next step is interpreting. We’ve all seen those hefty dream dictionaries where you can look up the meaning of symbols you experience in your dreams, but I wondered if that was the most beneficial way to extrapolate meaning, albeit the most popular.
“I like to glean universal meaning from the symbols first, then apply them personally to the dreamer,” Michael said. He explained that “universal meaning” is built into life, and when used in interpreting dreams is meant to teach us what we already know in a new way.
“For instance, and this is a popular one, snakes. If someone dreams about a snake and is afraid of snakes in their waking life, they might instantly assume that their dream is telling them there’s something to be afraid of. Or, if someone finds snakes interesting or sexy, they’re going to put that onto the dream symbolism. That’s merely superstition or projection of fear or excitement onto the symbol, not the universal meaning behind it. Snakes are symbol of change by nature. They shed their skin. They do it regularly, and there’s always a new skin ready to go beneath the old one as it sheds away. It’s important to look at the universal or fundamental meaning of a symbol, then apply it personally without projecting onto it.”
Lastly, Michael advised honoring your dreams through a creative act. Perhaps you’ve heard that people who don’t recall dreams can begin remembering them better if they write them down the moment they wake up? Same idea. By translating your dreams into something creative you’re training yourself to understand them better. According to Michael, it’s a language barrier between the thinking and unconscious mind.
“Because our dreams are speaking to us in an abstract language of shapes, colors, et cetera, by responding to those messages in a creative or abstract way we are then helping our unconscious mind to better understand what we are trying to learn from it.”
Wait, whaaaaaatttt? My mind was melting in my brain bowl with that one.
Was he saying that not only can we listen to what our unconscious mind is trying to tell us, but also that we can talk back and it will listen to us and, through practice, learn to communicate it’s wisdom more clearly? Yeah, I know how confusing that sounded. I needed him to explain this process further.
“It’s all about accepting the abstract and relaxing into to it without judgment. It’s important to remember that we must come at dream interpreting and integration from an authentic place. How receptive are you to what your dreams have to offer you?” he said. “You’ve got to trust the self-investigation and that if you ask your dreams for help with something, they will help you even if you don’t understand at first.”
Deep stuff, right? As we said our goodbyes and I thanked him for his insight, he offered me one more thought that points out so clearly this idea that our dreams serve a higher purpose, even if at first we cannot see it. “Doesn’t it seem like you having a dream where you learned something that then motivated you to write this article that might teach others something is pretty interconnected?”
I’m not sure, but as he hung up I’m almost certain I heard him drop the mic.
For more information on Dr. Lennox’s work: