A dreamer awakened – Learn how to analyse and interpret your dreams
“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”
– Sigmund Freud
I waited curiously as the normally cheerful woman I knew stammered and fretted. I tried to keep my face impassive, when all I longed to do was raise an eyebrow and smile. She was extremely upset about a vivid dream in which her husband had died and how terrible the grief and horror had been. Moreover, she held a staunch belief that dreams of death were an omen, a warning from beyond and that her husband was now in mortal danger and she had to protect him. To this date, she panics about this dream; little did it matter that her spouse was alive and kicking or that the powers-that-be were perhaps just messing with her! If I could have only explained to her the true meaning of the dream! Perhaps by the time you reach the end of this post you could venture a guess!
The brain is a benevolent parent who wants to give the child what it wants, yet it knows that giving in may not always be in the child’s best interests. Hence, our wishes meet fruition in our dreams, yet we don’t know it. We are unable to understand the absurdity and randomness of our dreams or most of the time we just don’t remember them: a very deliberate ploy on the part of our brains. It fights to keep us in the dark by layering the dream with complexity and obscure metaphors. I had earlier explained how the desires of the Id and the Super Ego collide and merge in the post Enter the dream labyrinth – why do we dream?
Today, dear reader, let us look at an actual dream narrated to me by a friend and we will deconstruct and solve it using the ‘process’ I have been following in all my interpretations. This dreamer too has had a ‘death’ dream and I have chosen this as our sample dream in order to help you see how even our nightmares and negative dreams have a wish embedded in them.
“As far as I can remember, it starts with the doorbell. My maid comes in and nods. I immediately understand that the girl who lived in the apartment below had died. I go to my window and I can see into her living room and I can see people coming in to pay their respects. My mother too, urges us to leave and do the same, however, I stop her and insist quite aggressively that we have dinner first since we could be gone for awhile.
I then pick up my phone (a phone I no longer used in reality) and attempt to text my best friend, who also knew the girl, about the news. However, I just can’t seem to type properly and keep making stupid errors and I get really frustrated. I then think that I should switch my SIM card to my new phone asap.
My dad then comes to me and starts complaining about how he is not happy with the favoritism in his line of work – working as an actor in TV shows (He isn’t and has never been one!!!) All I can think of in the dream is, ‘Hmm, that’s one more thing in common with my boyfriend, whose dad too was an actor.’
I then remember talking to my boyfriend and sadly saying that even though I never liked the girl, I wouldn’t wish death upon her and that what had happened was really unfortunate. And that’s it; that’s where the dream ends.”
Before we get back to this curious dream, let me first show you a very basic template of how I go about interpreting a dream. This process is a very general outline and I have had to tweak it at times depending on the complexity of certain dreams.
Along with this, we would also need extra information about the dreamer herself: about her relationship with the dead girl and events preceding this dream. While we break down this dream together, I will provide relevant background on the dreamer such that you too, fellow dreamer, will be able to connect the dots.
- Let’s get started! Analyzing the flow of events from START to END tells us that the constant is that this girl is dead and that is the main theme and END of the dream; i.e. her death is not something used to further the story or cause another event (another desired outcome); which most probably means that the wish is that this girl was dead. This does not mean that our dreamer is a homicidal maniac ;); it is just the Id’s exaggerated wish to get rid of the person.
- This is further confirmed by the dreamer’s feeling of regret (which in the chart we could classify as a Compensatory emotion); which is the Super Ego stepping in to say, ‘Alright, fun’s over…you got your wish of getting rid of her, now pay for it with guilt.’
- But let’s make more sense of this. Does this analysis feel right to the dreamer? Why did she dream of this particular girl dying? If you recall the pointers I had given in Dream recall, one of the important things to do is to try and link the dream to existing events. When I asked my friend to tell me about her relationship to this girl, this is what she told me; that she knew her from childhood and had never really liked her. However, she hadn’t seen her or heard of her in ages. (Not even an innocent Facebook post which would explain her appearance in the dream.)
- HOWEVER, our dreamer then made a most startling connection. The day prior to the dream, the dreamer had had a conversation with her boyfriend about her inferiority complex about her dark skin color. (The dreamer comes from a country whose culture is pretty harsh to dark skinned people.) ‘So what?’, I hear you say. Patience, dear reader, the dead girl, a fair-skinned one, had constantly taunted our dreamer throughout childhood because of her skin color. There we have it! The link and the cause of the dream!
- Our lovely dreamer’s Id sought vengeance and someone to blame for her complex. Knowing the often savage nature of the Id, it coldly plotted her death. (Of course not without being admonished by the Super Ego at the end)
- Let’s also look at the other events in the dream: on hearing about the death, the dreamer also does not want to rush to the grieving family. She wishes to eat first. Another wish to be able to show how little she cared that she had died and wouldn’t want her life to come to a stand-still for her. A cold and selfish emotion emerging from the Id. (Don’t tsk-tsk, dear reader, I’m positive we will all delve into the dark regions of our souls too! ;))
- We now look at the other people in the dream: we have the maid, the parents, the best friend and the boyfriend. We can explain the appearance of the maid, since the dreamer tells me that in reality the same maid works for the girl and the dreamer. The mother plays the role of urging the family to go visit the neighbor – which gives the dreamer a chance to protest and have a part of the wish fulfilled.
- A very interesting part of this dream is the inclusion of multiple wishes. We are able to separate two sections which seem random and disconnected but are woven into the story. In reality, the dreamer had been gifted an expensive phone by her boyfriend and she states that she felt extremely guilty. In our dream, she needs her phone to tell her best friend about the death but she has trouble using her old phone and the frustration allows her to feel a need for the new phone. Her kind brain, tries to assuage the guilt with the logic: old phone sucks → new phone awesome! You deserve it! (And thus, according to the chart, we’ve solved a smaller wish; the best friend is just used as someone in common who needs to be informed)
- We now come to the last unsolved part: the father and his troublesome life as an actor. On questioning the dreamer, she confirms that her father never had any desire to be an actor, but her boyfriend’s dad had been one. Her satisfaction on her dad having something in common with her partner’s dad originates from a repressed worry that she has about the two families getting along and having things in common.
And there you have it, a convoluted plot unraveled! To summarize:
- We have a troubled dreamer who holds a grudge against a childhood friend – she thus gets rid of her. Her Super Ego however, does play its part in meting out punishment for allowing such a wish.
- Our dreamer is guilty about her new phone – using her old phone proves futile, thus justifying the need for the new one.
- She worries about her family and her partner’s family getting along – her dad magically enters a profession matching that of her partner’s dad.
We might find these wishes and resulting solutions childish, but we must remember that at the core, our most base self is a child, an animal which sees no rules or morals. It constantly wants and needs but on waking we would vehemently deny these needs. But we all need a vent. Repression never helped anyone; and analyzing this dream has given our dreamer an insight into her darkest desires, her fears, hopes and challenges.
I truly hope that you have seen what I have in this dream. The chart is but a guide and helps keep in mind the various aspects that we need to look at. From my experience in explaining this process to others, I have noted that it does take awhile for the process to become a logical part of one’s thinking but slowly yet surely I have seen people begin to deconstruct and understand their dreams on their own.
Now that I have shared my thoughts on interpretation, I intend on posting dreams collected over time as well as those shared by blog readers and analyzing them in a similar manner. I would love for this to be an interactive experience for you and hence I would provide you with the entire dream and the background and information shared by the dreamer. You could then try and piece it together and then read my interpretation. I’m sure that in this way, we can have an insight into the great variety of ways in which our sneaky brains try to pull a fast one on us but still lovingly allow all of us to be quietly and safely insane.
“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night.”
― Charles Fisher