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“Dreams are the Royal Road to the Unconscious”

Many people believe dreams are created by the brain randomly throwing together memories and recently experienced material. From a psychological perspective, dreams are created by the soul or psyche as a way of communicating to the dreamer.

It was Sigmund Freud who stated, “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.” Jung felt that, “The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche.” However, what is the unconscious telling us and for what reason? 

Dreams show qualities of our self to look at; either to be downplayed or incorporated more in order to create psychic balance and movement towards wholeness. These traits are shown to the dreamer through the actions of dream characters or dream animals. 

Start by naming two or three traits of the dream figure. Marie-Louise von Franz suggested asking, “What is it in me that does that?” Identifying and humbling acknowledging these shadow or previously disowned parts of our self is vital for well-being. 

As a person takes ownership and begins to integrate these traits into daily life, personal growth occurs and new energy enters into his or her life. In this sense, dreams act in a self-regulating way. 

Author June Singer noted, “The unconscious presents a point of view which enlarges, completes, or compensates the conscious attitude.” Dreams are a way in which our true self holds up a mirror to us and says, “This is my take on what’s really going on.” 

In the book, Mindsight, author Daniel Siegel stated that dreaming is “one of the important ways we integrate memory and emotion,” with the dream serving as “an amalgam of memories in search of resolution.” Whether dealing with trauma, decision-making or life transitions, it is the feeling tone of the dream which is more important than the actual content of the dream.

Start by looking at the feelings felt by figures in the dream. Honestly address the question, “What situation might I be experiencing (or deny experiencing) feelings similar to those in the dream?” 

Dreams use a symbolic and metaphoric language and this often frustrates people who want to work with their dreams. Be playful and curious with dreams rather than trying to ‘figure out’ what they mean. Use terms such as “it was as if’ or ‘it was like’ to describe vivid features. For example, ‘It was as if the whole wall was going to crumble.’ Ah, then we can move to, “What perspective or idea in me is ready or needs to fall apart?” 

Dreams are one way to gain insights into how you are journeying through life. James Hillman suggested, “The soul is ceaselessly talking about itself in ever-recurring motifs in ever-new variations, like music and it is immeasurable deep.” Where will your inner road lead you?

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.