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Jerry Gifford
the dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul
Decoding The Dream Into A Simple Language

Dream Symbols


Link: Common Dream Motifs


The Language of Dreams
Nov. 2010

What Is The Language in Dreams?

Simply spoken, which seldom applies to the language used in dreams, the language in dreams are symbolic representations that are metaphorical references to the dreamer's emotional state of being. The dream uses images that are symbols of representation, and are references about some aspect of the dreamer's life. Because every experience in human life is psychological {physical experiences are also psychological experiences} the symbolic images in dreams are a metaphorical reference to a particular emotional energy in the dreamer's life. The symbols are metaphorical and seldom literal. And are they always about the dreamer, with other persons, objects, places or things either representing an aspect of the dreamer's psyche or/and the relationship of the image{s} to the dreamer's life. In the dream a house is the dreamer and the course of actions {house on fire} is a reference to the emotional attachment to the unresolved conflict in the dreamer's life. Another example would be the mother in a dream. Where teh dream is addressing the mother as a relationship to the dreamer, the dream is not about the mother's emotions but the dreamer's emotions associated with the mother. In short, the language in dreams are symbolic images that are a metaphorical reference to emotional life of the dreamer. The dream is all about the person who is dreaming.

What Is The Reason For The Dream Language?

Universal Inheritance
Carl Jung development a theory of ARCHETPYES, innate universal psychic dispositions or an instinctive trends that are representative of models of people, behaviors or personalities. Jung's ARCHETPYES are described as being 'self-portraits of the instincts'. All humans inherit these instincts and it is understandable as to why they appear in our dreams. ARCHETYPES are from what Jung called the 'Collective Unconscious' and include symbols that occur in mythology. The collective unconscious is that part of the psyche which retains and transmits the common psychological inheritance of mankind. The collective unconscious is not individual but common to all mankind, and even perhaps to all animals. It is the instinctive aspect of the psyche, just as in the turtle knowing exactly where the water is at birth and knowing to go straight for it.

Your Brain on Dreams-The Science of Dreaming
Recent studies have shown that the part of the brain that control emotions is also the same part of the brain that controls are dreams. By injecting subjects with mildly radioactive glucose researchers are able to trace the source of dreams to the limbic system, a primitive part of the brain that controls emotions. During dreaming, the limbic system explodes like fireworks with neural activity, suffusing our dreams with drama.

The psychology of dreams, as presented by Jung, supposes the dream is focused on the emotions of the dreamer. It would not require much difference to understand why. The same part of the brain that controls emotions also controls the dream. Because the dream is about the emotions it only makes sense that the two aspects are located in the same part of the brain. Since all humans have the same physical brain structure, all humans retain those primitive images that relate to the human condition, and spirit. They are imprinted on the psyche. A 'no-brainer' in understanding Jung's 'correct' assumption that our dreams are addressing the emotional conflicts in life.

What Are Symbols?

Symbols are a language of communication intended to represent or stand for a person, object, group, process, or idea. Symbols may be presented graphically (e.g., the cross for Christianity, or the light/dark halved circle for yin-yang) or representational (e.g., Uncle Sam standing for the U.S., or a lion standing for courage). In dreams they are representations, symbolic. Dream symbols are a language of and by themselves used as images within a dream that address highly charged emotional conflicts in the dreamer's life. In dreams they are used as metaphorical references to a particular emotional aspect of the dreamer.

What Is A Metaphor?

A metaphor is where one thing is spoken as if it were another. The house in a dream would be symbolic image, a metaphor for the dreamer, a representation of the dreamer. The house is the dreamer and the rooms or other images related to the house would be aspects related to the dreamer's life. The images would be representations of the dreamer's psychological, physical and/or spiritual condition, a proxy for the complexes. In most instances you should take dream symbols as metaphorical references to the dreamer's condition and not a literal interpretation, to fully understand the message in the dream.

History and the Evolution of Symbols

Throughout history mankind has used symbols to illustrate what the spoken tongue often fails to convey. Ancient Egyptians used symbols, or ideograms/ideographs, as part of their hieroglyphic language. Roman numerals were symbolic representations of the earliest numeric system. The Greek alphabet used symbols to illustrate words or characters. Ancient China used symbols to depict objects/ people and other aspects of their everyday lives. And Native Americans used expressed symbols as representations of their language {see the different systems of above languages here}.

Since all humans have the same physical brain structure, all humans retain those primitive images that relate to the human condition, and spirit. They are imprinted on the psyche. The above examples of the different cultural references to symbols as a part of a system of language is a part of the evolution of the primitive mind that is retained as symbolic references in the dream.

How Are Dreams Structured?
There is no 'one' defining theory of dream structure. But the majority of dreams are composed of four parts or phases, pretty much like in a drama. The dream is very much like your life on stage, and you are the director, actor and witness. First we need to figure out the scene and time of dream as well as 'dramatis personae' {the actors in a play}. In first phase, which can be regarded as the exposition {the first part in which the principal themes normally are introduced} , the initial situation (setting) is represented – already pointing at central conflict expressed in dream. The second phase is the plot and contains something new (essential change or needed change associated with the emotional conflict), which leads the dream in the third phase: the culmination. In this phase the most critical things happen, which bring the dream to a closure: the fourth phase or denouement { the final clarification or resolution of a plot in a play}. Jung attributed extraordinary significance to the end of dream. The end of dream is so important, Jung held, because we cannot consciously influence on the outcome (i.e. change the end), and dreams so reflect the real situation. "Nature is often obscure or impenetrable, but she is not, like man, deceitful. We must therefore take it that the dream is just what it pretends to be, neither more nor less. If it shows something in a negative light, there is no reason for assuming that it is meant positively."

According to the end of dream, Jung discriminated between favourable and unfavourable dreams. If we were to reverse the well-known proverb, then for dreams we may say that a good end makes a good beginning. Favourable dreams have quieting effect and direct us to the most constructive ways of solving problems. On the contrary, unfavourable dreams contain a warning of, perhaps life important, negative changes. Hence dreams can be said to have a prospective function; they warn us about bright or dark future. Favourable or unfavourable end of dream, however, must not be taken as a final and absolute meaning of dream. This can be done only after several interconnected dreams.

Even though Jung found the structure of dreams as described above, he warned not to take this as literal law. Look at the whole dream [and subsequent dreams] to determine what the dream message is.

Do Dreams Predict the Future?
Predicting the future? Dreams do at times provide us with insights to possible events in the future. But it is as much a caluation of what the mind and body already know than a supernatural event. Jung calls this 'compensation'. Dreams compensate the waking mind with unconscious information we already possess but may not have conscious access to. The brain is the ultimate super computer. The body is able to communicate illness and disease through the dream, informing a person well before it is detectable by medical means. There are, and throughtout history have been men and women who were 'good' at seeing future events, but when you deeper into these predictions they are as much a general thought than true predictions. Intuitiveness is a form of knowing, a known quality of the look psyche that let's someone sense 'truths' about someone, thing or event. So, can not the dream use such unconscious information, if only in on occassion, to predict future events in the dreamer's life? The science of dreams {psychology}, through Jung and others, have shown us there are metaphysical qualities to the human psyche. It is probably best to be skeptical, but never dismissive. Edgar Cayce was able to view future events having to do with persons or events other than himself. But he was the exception. It is best to view the dream as addressing the past and/or the present more so than predicting future events.

Death In A Dream
Death seldom if ever means an acutal death is to occur or anything related to an actual death of a person. It most often symbolizes an end to something in the dreamer's life. A marriage is at an end, or a job, or a relationship. Here are a few of the most likely possibilities of the meaning of death in dream:

<1>If the dead person is someone you actually knew it may mean you should take notice of what he or she said or did, or what happened to him or her. The person is not coming back to 'haunt' you but to advise you or to help you. In actuality, this person is a part of your own psyche, taking the form of the dead person. Such encounters may help you to fulfill a long desired relationship, or put something right. For example, you may learn to forgive the person {or yourself}and as a consequence get peace and healing for yourself.
<2> If a deceased partner or parent appears in dreams, the above may apply. Bear in mind that the dead do live - inside us; and that it is important to realize when this is a healthy and life-enhansing thing and when it is purely negative, stunting your own personal growth. If it is the latter, resolve to have it out with the dead person the next time he or she appears in a dream
<3> If the dead person in the dream is actually a living person - and especially if that person is your partner or sibling - the dream may be expressing unconscious resentment towards that person, or a desire to be independent. Feelings toward someone close are often ambivalent {simultaneous conflicting feelings toward that person}: love or respect mixed with fear or hatred or resentment or jealousy. The usual conscious response to such a dream will be anxiety, and you will feel anxiety in the dream itself.
<4>The dead person may be you. If so consider the following possibilities:
  • What is being expressed in the dream may be your own anxiety about dying. Death is inevitable {an old Sufi Islamic proverb: when the angel of death appoaches it is horrific, when it reaches you it is bliss}, and facing up to the fact may bring great rewards: self-acceptance; new values; a broadening of one's personality, compensating for past omissions or lopsidedness and utilizing hitherto neglected personal resources. This would be especially applicable if you are in the second half of life.
  • The message may be that your old self needs to be left behind. This may mean that you must stop carrying around with you the crippling burden of your past {irrational guilt-feelings and martyrdom complex, or any other negative self-progreamming}; and, instead, you must open yourself to what the present moment is offering. Alternatively, the 'old self' may be old attachments, habits, ambitions, values, goals; in which case the dream is telling you that the only way forward for you lies through giving these up and looking deeper within yourself for better values, etc. {where 'better' means more in tune with your real self}.

    {Primitive rites of passage,as described in mythological symbolism as well as in dreams, which mark transitional stages in a person's life - birth, initiation into adulthood, marriage and career, death - all contain death-and-rebirth symbolism and express a recognition that the development of new attitudes more appropriate to one's new stage in life {the death and resurrection of Jesus couldbe a metaphor for such death and resurrection stages in the individual spiritual life}. The symbolic death of the initiate in these rites may also be seen as a descent of the conscious ego into the unconscious: it is the unconscious {and the compensating knowledge that it holds} that provides the means for new growth - rebirth.

    It is just possible that, if your own death features repeatedly in dreams, it is an expression of an unconscious wish for death. Freud speculated in 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle' that there might be, in everyone, just two controlling basic drives: one towards life and love and pleasure {Eros}, and the other towards death {'Thanatos'}. This is highly controversial {as is much of Freud's theories}, but it is indisputable that many people display strong masochistic tendancy.

    Are you compelled to repeat painful experiences? Do you tend to interpret what other people say as a criticism of yourself? If so, you may be suffering from repressed guilt-feelings and an unconscious urge to punish yourself - which sometimes take the form of a fate-neurosis and/or a wish {unconscious, as in your dream} to see yourself dead. If you feel this applies to you, talk to a friend about it or consult a psycotherapist. See Suicide

    A wish for death may be a retreat from life's problems and pains, or a response to a sense of failure. If this applies to you, bear in mind, first, that a very sensitive person may also be burdened with an over-severe conscience {the product prehaps, of having a stern father or a sin-and-guilt religious upbringing}. In that case, see the previous paragraph. Secondly, what makes a thing a problem is usually one's attitude towards it. For example, suppose you have been made redundant {repeat mistakes over and over}. If your reaction is to see this as a punishment, see previous paragraph. If you see it as a failure, try to change your attitude or perspective by asking what creative purpose may be being served by your redundancy; perhaps, for instance, the demolishing of an inadequate or false self-image in order to make way for the construction of one that corresponds more closely to your individual ground-plan or 'destiny'.

  • <5> If the gender of the dead person is stressed, the meaning may be that your masculinity/femininity or your animus/anima needs reviving.
    <6> a dead animal in a dream almost certainly refers to some part of you - an instinctive force, perhaps - and the dream will be telling you either that this part of you {e.g. guilt-feelings or inferiority complex} ought to die, because its effects are wholly negative; or that it is a valuable but repressed part of you that you must now bring to life, to rectify an imbalance in your personality.

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