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What Can Dreams Tell Us About The Obstacles And Opportunities In Our Lives?

6 Min Read
Lifestyle

How can we use what happens in our dreams to learn more about what's happening in our daily lives?


Between deadlines, international travel, speaking engagements, and conference calls, Wendy Lewis, the President of WLCO beauty, an aesthetic marketing firm in New York City, doesn't get a whole lot of sleep. When she does sleep, however, she often has the same dreams. “One is that I am lost and running endlessly in circles," she says. “Sometimes I am cold in this dream because I am not wearing a coat."

Liza Boyd Benson, managing director of a venture capital firm in New York City, also experiences recurring dreams. “I am always late for class or missed an exam," she shares.

“These are very common dreams," explains Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, a dream intuitive in Rensselaerville, NY, and the former dream consultant for People Country Magazine. She specializes in dream interpretation, symbolism and dream incubation—which can help harness the power of dreams and dreaming to overcome professional or personal hurdles.

Let's take the dream of being left out in the cold without a jacket, she says. “This is a position that female executives often find themselves in during their waking life because of the old boy's network," she says. The coat—or lack thereof—likely symbolizes the absence of protection and warmth. “Female executives may find themselves under extreme pressure to perform and to perform better than their male counterparts which is why dreams of running around in endless circles may occur."

There are multiple ways to interpret some common dreams such as being late for a class or missing an entire semester and then showing up on exam day. Some say these dreams undermine confidence, while others suggest they may do the opposite. “These dreams probably started back in school when you were worried about grades or attendance, but it became associated with emotional stress which is why it tends to recur in your adult life," says Scardamalia.

The real question is how does this dream make you feel? “If when you wake, you feel better because you clearly didn't miss class and know deep inside you would never miss a class, it can serve as an affirmation," Scardamalia says. If, however, you wake and your heart is pounding and adrenalin is surging, it is because, on an emotional level, you are worried about falling short, she says.

Dreams are highly personal which is why the best dream dictionary is your dream journal.

Water, water everywhere

Briana MacWilliam is an author, educator, creative arts therapist, Rieki practitioner and an avid dreamer. She also runs an online school for continuing education for licensed creative arts therapists in New York State called CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com.

Water is an overarching theme in her dreams and always has been. “Frequently I am on the ocean or beach, but sometimes I am anticipating a tidal wave. I usually survive it," she shares. “One time I was in the ocean on a boat, and a storm whipped up, almost like a tornado, and it tried to suck me off the boat, but I clung to the mast," she says. “And then a figure appeared and told me the solution would be to let go. So I did, and I woke up." Other water dreams involve her floating just above a black pool of water and cautiously dipping a toe into the darkness. “The water is warm, but I'm absolutely terrified of it."

“Water has to do with emotions, and emotions are something that women may worry about leaving behind when they step into high power, high responsibility positions," she tells SWAAY.

So what would dreaming about water mean? “These dreams come to tell us that we may think we left our emotions behind, but they are coming back like a tidal wave."

This means different things for different women. “The tsunami is coming, but the question to ask is where and why," Scardamalia explains. “It may not be the job. It could be a personal situation that has been shoved in the background," she says. The bottom line? “Somewhere in your waking life, there is an emotional overwhelm and if you don't do something about it you are going to drown."

Snakes often slither into MacWilliam's dreams. Snakes mean different things based on the dreamer and how they feel about them, Scardamalia says. “Symbolism is very personal," she says. “The best dream diary you will ever have is your journal." Look back and see when and how the snake appears to get a better idea of what it portends.

Harnessing the power of your dreams

"You are not powerless," Scardamalia says. "There are many ways to get to the bottom of the dreams that haunt or inspire you."

Journal

“Write with your dominant hand as yourself and then use the non-dominant hand as the dream to create a dialogue," she says. “Have a conversation with the wave and say, 'Where are you coming from? Why are you threatening me? What am I not seeing?'" This exercise has proven telling for many people, she says. It can also help us find closure from a bad dream. “We often wake up before we finish the dream and this will help us find the gift in the dream."

Dreaming of people who have passed away is common. The meaning depends on the dream, the context, the emotion around it. “That said, my experience and that of other dreamers and dream teachers is that the dead come to visit, to bring us a resolution to a relationship, to offer advice, assurance, love. Even if someone does not believe in a soul or life after death, the visits of the dead often offer healing and comfort," she says. This is another scenario where journaling may help get at the true meaning.

Ask

If there is a question you have in your waking life and would like to dream about it, “write a question and place it under your pillow," she says. "Make your question as clear as possible and allow yourself to fall asleep thinking about it." This is known as incubating a dream. Be patient. If it doesn't work the first time, try again in a few weeks.

Join a dream circle

Conscious dream work. There are basically two kinds of dreams, unconscious and conscious dreams. Scardamalia often runs group dream circles for female CEOS and executives to help teams develop a common vision. “This is a deeper, more magical way of building a dream around a vision," she says. This group exercise involves a dream worker such as Scardamalia who plays a single-headed frame drum as she leads participants on a journey to a common vision. “We set it up based on what the group needs such as the next image for marketing materials or how they see the company evolving."

Look for the pun

“When I first opened my business, I kept having this random dream that all my former bosses were chasing me for some reason," says Megan Driscoll, CEO of EvolveMKD, a New York City-based PR and marketing firm. “It was jarring at first, but then became kind of funny and I'd go to bed each night psyching myself up to outrun them." This dream may be “punning" with the dreamer, says Scardamalia. “It's the idea of out-running her competition (i.e., her former bosses) and may mean that she feels the need to do better than former employers, be smarter, more forward-thinking, and faster and going to bed at night psyching herself up to outrun them; it probably helped her motivate."

The Iroquois Indians say we dream everything before it happens so if you are paying attention to your dreams, you can get a heads up and be prepared for what is coming There are multiple reports of people who dreamed about 9-11-2001 before it happened, she says. “Pay attention to your dreams as there is no area of your life that you can't use dreams to get unstuck or move forward," she says.

Scardamalia recommends these books for those interested in learning more about dreams and dreaming.

The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant

All About Dreams by Gayle Delayney

Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung

Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss

The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker

The Tower in the Woods: Dreaming Your Creativity Awake by Paula Chaffee Scardamalia


This piece was originally published on February 14, 2018.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.