Using Night Dreams to Navigate Life Dreams

This article originally appeared in Chicago-Woman on March 11, 2017.

What Jung Taught Me about Using Dreams for Personal Growth

In his book, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth, Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson offers a blueprint for using dreams to achieve personal goals. I’ve used this method for more than 15 years and it has never failed me. The nightmares we prefer to ignore are often the ones with the most potential to help us. The key is to become attuned to our own unique dream symbols and to learn to interpret them as we would a new language. Once versed in that language, the meaning of dreams becomes apparent with little effort.

Step 1: Making Associations

Begin by writing the dream down and noting the images that stand out. These may be people, objects, situations, colors, etc. Write down every association you have with each dream image. For example, an empty blue vase may remind you of a time when you felt “empty and blue.” Be sensitive to colloquialisms. The subconscious likes word play. Every symbol in your dream has a connotation that belongs to you alone.

Step 2: Connecting Dream Images to Your Life

Look for the parts of your self the dream images represent. Where in your life are “empty and blue” for example. For each image ask yourself, “What part of me is that? Where have I seen it functioning in my life lately?” The answer may come to you: I’ve been feeling “empty and blue” at work. By questioning yourself in this way, you begin to see how the dream relates to an actual part of your life.

Step 3: Interpretation

Now ask yourself: What is the central message that this dream is trying to communicate to me? What is it advising me to do? What is the overall meaning of the dream for my life? Assume the dream has come to challenge you, to help you grow, to wake you up to what you need to learn and where you need to change.

Step 4: Bring the Dream into your Day

Do something today to imprint the dream’s meaning more clearly on your mind. Depending on the dream, this could mean reorganizing your desk, taking a walk or asking a colleague to lunch.

Every dream is a portrait of the dreamer, a mirror reflecting the aspects of your personality of which you are not fully aware. Why not take advantage of the wisdom your subconscious offers every night?

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