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What did you dream last night?

My fascination with dreams started in college when I took a psychology class and the professor encouraged us to keep a “dream journal” for a week just to see what came up in our sleeping brains. I was really amazed by the short stories my sleeping brain was telling me when I paid attention. In fact, my sleeping brain turned out to be quite the poet, using symbolism and metaphor that my English professor at the time would have died for! I actually continued to keep a dream journal from that point on, and anytime I remember a dream upon waking, I write it down in as much detail as possible. What do our dreams mean, however, and how can paying attention to our dreams help us in our waking life?

In the August issue of The Sun (my favorite magazine which I’ve mentioned on this blog before, and I’m sure I will again!) the featured interview is with Marc Ian Barasch. Barasch worked as a journalist for many years, and became interested in dreams when he went through a period in his own life of having very vivid dreams. In his case, the theme of his dreams centered on decapitation, bullets and/or needles being lodged in his neck, and “death” peering into his house from windows. Scary stuff! Ultimately, the dreams led to him “waking up” to the fact that his health was in danger, and he went to a doctor and was eventually diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Barasch then traveled the world interviewing dream experts of all kinds, and came to the conclusion that dreams play a pivotal role in our lives. Barasch states that dreams represent to us a parts of reality, and of ourselves that we often overlook or do not want to see. Dreams can show us that our identities are multi-faceted, in fact, a common way to work with material from a dream is to imagine that each part or character in the dream is a part of us, and to examine the meaning of these parts. Barasch says it can be particularly helpful to look at the parts of the dream that seem the least like ourselves – as dreams can provide a powerful opportunity to look past our usual experience of ourselves, and see ourselves in a new way.

It takes courage to pay attention to the symbolic meaning of our dreams as they often challenge our beliefs. It can also be difficult to carve out the time to pay attention to our dreams because it takes effort and much reflection to make sense of them. However, Barasch quotes an Aboriginal saying that “those who lose dreaming are lost”. Basically we are really missing out on a whole level of important meaning in our lives if we dismiss our dreams!

Barasch suggests that our first question to each other in the morning should be, “what did you dream last night?” vs. “what are you up to today?” or “what’s for breakfast?” It would certainly make for some interesting conversation!

If you are currently in psychotherapy, or considering psychotherapy, bringing in your dreams to discuss with your therapist can be a safe and supportive place to make sense of dream material. Keeping a dream journal can facilitate this process as well – often in the process of writing down a dream I will remember other pieces of my dream and even start to make some connections between my current dream and things that have been on my mind, or things I have been anxious or worried about. I wish you both the courage and time to take a look into your sleeping brain, and what it has to say!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions! Thanks for reading!

If you are interested in reading Barasch’s book Healing Dreams: Exploring the Dreams that can Transform your Life you can get it here:

If you are interested in The Sun (my favorite magazine!) which features an interesting interview each month with poetry and short stories (ad free!) you can click here:

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