Dreams are spontaneous actions of the brain that pull from different memories, thoughts and ideas that are left meandering through our minds as we fall asleep. Knowing that our minds are working even when we are not consciously in control has made dreaming a fascinating and curious topic.
I remember being in elementary school, when my friends and I would purchase every teenybopper magazine that had information about dreams and dream analysis. Following our curiosity, we read our magazines, signed out books from the library, consulted the archives of the Internet, and often found very little information of substantial use. But we continued to look into the intriguing process of dreaming because it seemed to say so much about ourselves.
From my extensive childhood research, along with theories I’ve looked into today, I have realized that the symbolism of dreams, objects in our dreams and people in our dreams, has little to do with the folklore presented in literature aimed at children aged 14 and under, and more to do with what we are feeling at that particular moment. Many symbols have been decoded to have particular meanings – i.e., dreaming of water means a desire for enrichment in one’s life. Usually, though, these symbols are completely subjective, depending on the person and their history.
For instance, I will often have dreams that involve birds. Consulting Dr. Google, birds are symbolic of “spiritual freedom and psychological liberation.” This could possibly be the reason for my feather-filled dreams, or it might just have to do with my irrational fear of pigeons.
If you ever have a dream that you are interested in analyzing, it does help to consult an outside source to bring some insight into the topic (and for that, try dreammoods.com – they literally have every topic covered from “Abandonment” to “Zoomorphism”). But before that, try thinking about what these symbols mean in your own life and to you personally. Consider factors that may be influencing you throughout the day. Negative factors like stress, a heavy workload or health concerns, along with positive factors like a happy relationship, success at school or the end of a busy work week, will affect your dreams and your thoughts when your mind is both consciously and unconsciously working. Even going to sleep thinking about one specific person or place will influence your thoughts towards them and will stream your mind through a series of memories and artefacts relating to that specific idea on your mind.
Although our dreams are expressions of our subconscious wants, needs, histories and goals, there are ways of influencing your dreams. If you really got a kick out of the movie Inception (And let’s be honest, who didn’t?), you’ll have heard tips that have been effectively used to help control dreams and their content.
If you’re aiming to solve a problem through a dream, the first step is to think about the problem before you go to sleep and make sure it’s the last think on your mind before you doze off. Try keeping something on your bedside table that reminds you of the problem, like a photograph.
Or, try something more symbolic, like a notepad if you’re a writer suffering from writer’s block.
Along with this, the trick is to remember your dream after it’s happened. When you wake up, don’t just jump right out of bed; stay in place for a while and try thinking about what you were dreaming of.
Another way to control your dreams is through lucid dreaming, or being aware of your dream as you’re in it. Much like the concept proposed in Inception, lucid dreaming allows the dreamer to control what happens next, because they remain conscious of the fact that they are dreaming.
To try this, before going to sleep, tell yourself that you are going to know that you are dreaming when you are dreaming. This rare technique takes great levels of control and requires the person to remember they are dreaming throughout. To ensure that you know what is real and what isn’t, find something in your dreams that is different from the real world. For instance, many people say that reading text in a dream is near impossible because it usually is fuzzy, makes no sense or is unstable and constantly changing. In your dreams, try finding something to read and see what it looks like. Lucid dreaming takes a lot of practice, but once mastered, you would essentially be able to make yourself dream of whatever you like.
Whether you’re dreaming of birds, Leonardo DiCaprio or a dream within another dream, try to think of the details and how they relate to your life. Dreams can provide insight into your deepest thoughts and desires, and while they are going on, they may help solve problems and overcome life’s hurdles. And, if you are interested in incepting your own mind with thoughts, always make sure you have a clear distinction between reality and your dreams.
Because dreams feel real while we’re in them – it’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.