Uncovering the Significance of Dreams

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"Uncovering the Significance of Dreams"
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Dreams have played a significant role in the lives of humans as far back as we can go in recorded history. Native Americans looked to dreams for all of their major decisions. A tribe would seek dream advice before going on a major hunt, going to war, or moving their village. Personal help would also be sought in dreams, such as whom to marry or what to name a child.

The vision quest was, in the minds of Native Americans, not unlike a dream experience. In fact, most "primitive" peoples did not distinguish between visions and dreams. In the vision quest an individual would experience a rite of passage and would also get information on their life path. This would come in the form of symbols and metaphors.

One of the dreamwork techniques used by native peoples had to do with manifesting their dream and vision symbols so that they could see them every day. The designs on clothing, horses, tepees, and even on their bodies represented important images from their dreams and visions. They believed that these images had the power to change them, to give them specific powers and abilities.

Because dreams have played such an important role in peoples of all times, many individuals have tried to create methods of interpreting dreams. One of the earliest dream books we have today was written by the Greek, Artemidorus, in the second century C.E. It was called "Oneirocritica," which means, "The Interpretation of Dreams." This title was borrowed by Sigmund Freud for his famous 1899 book.

A contemporary of Artemidorus was the physician Galen who wrote "On Diagnosis in Dreams." The idea that dreams could help us with our health precedes Galen and Artemidorus by many centuries. Hippocrates, in the fifth century B.C.E. and Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.E. also wrote about dreams as they affect and comment on health.

At the time of Galen and Artemidorus, there were over 300 dream temples in Greece dedicated to the god Aslepios. Aslepios was a god of healing, especially through dreams. (There are many spellings of Aslepios, especially since the Romans borrowed him and gave him a Roman spelling.) Such dream temples existed all over the world, including Asia, Africa, and other ancient cultures, all dedicated to local healing gods and goddesses.

For a wonderful overview of the significance or uses of dreams, I recommend "Our Dreaming Mind" by Robert Van de Castle, Ph.D. Bob takes us on a trip through the history of dreams and demonstrates their significance in every area of life. Aside from the importance of dreams in health, he speaks of dreams in politics, religion, science and invention, and in the arts. There is no aspect of life that has not been touched by dreams.

To give some brief examples, Caesar's wife was warned of his murder in a dream and told him not to go to the senate. Just like a man, Caesar ignored his wife's warning and got carved up my Brutus and friends. Abraham Lincoln foretold his own death in a dream.

In the torah, Daniel interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Not only did he interpret the dream, but he also told Nebuchadnezzar what he had dreamed, as he had forgotten his dream. Joseph got out of the Pharaoh's prison because of his dream interpretation skills. In the New Testament, Mary was reassured about her pregnancy in a dream and Joseph was warned to leave Bethlehem ahead of the attack on the babies.

In science, the structure of the carbon atom was revealed in a dream. The inventor of the sewing machine figured out how to place the needle because of a dream. Many works of art have come from dreams such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." Many works of music and art have been inspired by dreams. One of my dream friends and colleagues will dream of going into an art museum and then paint the picture she sees there when she awakes.

What all of this demonstrates is that dreams are very practical and useful on many different levels. In precognitive dreams individuals have been warned about real dangers. Dreams can help with important decisions in life. As mentioned earlier, dreams can be very helpful in understanding and healing our physical illnesses.

In my own book, "The Hidden Meaning of Illness," I suggest that our illnesses are themselves metaphorical, like a dream symbol, and can point to imbalances in our lives that need to be corrected. The illness is not the real problem but is a symptom or symbol of the problem.

Our dreams can also be very helpful in healing and deepening our relationships. Once we understand that the people in our dreams represent aspects of ourselves, we can begin to see that people in our waking life also represent aspects of the self. In taking back these projections and integrating them into our own psyche, we can progress toward the wholeness that we all seek.

In short, our dreams are relevant to every aspect of our lives and can contribute to healing in any area, including financial. Our dreams are willing to give us their wisdom if we are willing to accept it.

Freud said that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. Jung said that dreams are the royal road to individuation. I think they are both right. Our dreams open the unconscious for us to explore and heal. Through that exploration and healing we are able to individuate or integrate our disparate parts into a whole functioning self.

Our dreams not only tell us what is wrong with us but also what is right with us. Our dreams are constantly trying to stretch us into accepting a higher version or vision of ourselves, to see and experience our inherent power, beauty, and divinity. Let us strive to dream up a better self and a better life.

More about this author: Bob Trowbridge

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