One of the reasons that the use of dreams and symbols has not yet become a part of our cultural worldview may be due to a tendency for dream professionals therapists, psychologists, even many dream interpreters to make them too complicated. To be sure, much of this work is extremely important, providing inroads into the exploration of consciousness and the nature of the mind, but dreams have meanings on multiple levels. Since the subconscious mind can provide insights into virtually every area of our lives, I am convinced that we need to demonstrate practical ways individuals can utilize symbolism and dreams. In fact, the more frequently we can point out the practical side of this type of information, the greater the chance that these tools will become a normal and routine part of everyday life.
Since I regularly lecture around the country to many different types of audiences, I often have the opportunity to see how helpful dreams and symbols can be when their practical and playful side is considered first. One of my favorite audiences is students, not only for their quick responses but because the more convinced this group becomes of the importance of dreams and interpretation, the more likely these tools will become a part of a future worldview.
At a recent middle school lecture I was giving, one of the male students volunteered the following dream: I am in a class with Matthew [a brainy, Asian classmate] and listening to him ramble on about something. The next thing I realize is that Bob [another classmate] has interrupted and is now talking to me.
To be sure, this dream presents a number of interpretation possibilities, many of which may be relevant to the dreamer, such as the dreamers relationships with other students in general, the dreamers sense of self, the dreamers own thought processes and communication skills, even the dreamers literal experiences with Matthew and Bob. The practical approach, however, suggests that these two individuals represent something within the dreamer himself. For this reason I asked the dreamer, Is there anything that Bob and Matthew have in common?
Yeah, the student said quickly, theyre both smart-alecks. He smiled to Bob and Matthew to demonstrate that he meant no harm.
I nodded and was going to diplomatically suggest that very often we can see parts of ourselves in others, but before I did I asked the dreamer, What is your name?
Alex, came the answer, and I smiled.
Do you sometimes act like Bob and Matthew yourself? In other words, are you a smart-Alex? I wrote smart-aleck and smart-Alex side-by-side on the board, causing the class to break out in applause and the teacher to nod affirmatively. The most practical answer had been confirmed.
Another student experience occurred recently at a high school with a group of seniors. During the lecture, I had been explaining how the subconscious mind can access virtually any insight through intuition and the use of symbolism. To demonstrate, I asked each student to take a plain piece of white paper and write out a question that they would like to have an answer to. After writing out their questions, I had them fold their paper in half, then in half again, so that the question was hidden within a quarter-folded piece of paper.
Next, the students gathered into groups of five or six and put their questions together so that one student could shuffle the pieces of paper, which all looked the same. When the questions were shuffled, I asked each student to select a piece of paper. No one knew which question he or she held. Once everyone held a question, I asked the students for silence and had them focus on the piece of paper between their hands. I then told them to imagine a place, a wonderful person, and the wonderful person presenting the individual imagining the scene with an object.
When the imaginative reverie was over, I explained my belief that the subconscious mind already knew the answer to the question that each student held between her or his hands, and that the subconscious mind had actually provided a series of symbols during the reverie that could answer the question, much as a dream does. I then invited the students to unfold their pieces of paper one at a time within their groups, read the question out loud, and then work with the group at interpreting the symbols seen in order to arrive at an answer to the question written on the paper.
Even though they had never worked with dreams or symbols before, much of the class seemed amazed at the insights provided by the subconscious mind. One girl helped her questioner decide on a college major, another student received insights into the outcome of a court trial, a third admitted that she was as indifferent to her relationship with her boyfriend as he seemed to be with her. All these answers had come in the form of symbols.
When I asked if everyone had felt that they had gotten an answer to the question, one of the football seniors raised his hand and stated that the exercise was stupid and didnt work. I asked what his question had been and he said that he had written whether or not his best friend would end up going to college in Florida? The college was more than a thousand miles away.
I asked the young woman who had been holding his question what she had seen. She replied that she had seen a car in which she and her best girlfriend were on their way to the high school. When I pointed out to the football player that his partner had seen her best girlfriend just as his question was about his best friend and that the image had shown them on the way to school just as he had wondered about a particular college the student seemed unimpressed.
I asked the young woman what object her friend had shown her in the image and she replied, a piece of paper, like a letter of some kind. I nodded, thinking that the paper probably symbolized the acceptance letter that the football players friend was waiting to receive. However, knowing that the connection was not likely to impress the male student, I asked the young woman the most practical question I could think of, Where is your best friend going to college?
Her face turned white and she volunteered, to Miami.
The football players response was immediate, All right man, you sold me!
Not only were these two experiences memorable to me, but Im certain they were memorable to Alex and the football player, as well. I truly believe that these two individuals are now much more likely to watch their dreams and to be open to the practical insights contained within dreams and symbols, then they would have been by studying the psychology of dreams for a semester or by taking an entire course on the nature of consciousness. Who knows, maybe these two students will even be among those very individuals who help to make dreams and symbolism an important part of societys evolving worldview.
It is my hope that individuals who work with dreams and the interpretation of symbols whether theyre dreams, picture drawings, the tarot, or imaginative reveries will strive to make the information straightforward and personally relevant, for it is only by making these tools practical that anyone but professionals will ever really decide to use them.
Copyright 2001 Kevin J. Todeschi
Kevin J. Todeschi is the author of Dream Interpretation (and More!) Made