Why Dreams are Important

Until recently, many people in western cultures haven’t paid much attention to the meaning of their dreams. They considered dreams to be:

1. Meaningless images
2. Random neurons firing in the brain
3. A useless recycling of past days’ events

But that’s changing. As scientists begin to discover quantifiable evidence that dreams are important and meaningful, people are simultaneously beginning to pay more attention to the wisdom of their dreams.

One needn’t look far to find the relevance of dreams and their impact on humanity. They have inspired countless people to subtly and radically change the course of human history:

  • Harriet Tubman dreamed of escape routes that helped her guide slaves to freedom.
  • Jasper Johns produced the dream inspired and famous painting, The Flag.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed about a man who radically transformed after drinking a mysterious potion. Upon waking, Stevenson started to write Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • Handel heard portions of Handel’s Messiah in his sleep.
  • After a terrible nightmare, Elias Howe realized his dream images offered the perfect solution for creating a functioning sewing machine needle.
  • General Patton developed effective military strategies by listening intently to his dreams.

*Source Our Dreaming Mind by Robert Van de Castle

Additionally, dreams provide health warnings and methods for healing (read the inspiring story of breast cancer survivor Wanda Burch in She Who Dreams: A Journey into Healing through Dreamwork by Wanda Easter Burch).

Dreams can foreshadow cataclysmic events and help people avoid dangerous situations.

Dreams inspire career changes, shifts in perspective, and help heal mind, body, soul and heart.

In short, dreams can enrich our lives by providing

  • Entertainment
  • Creative Inspiration
  • Solutions
  • Foreshadowing of events
  • Warnings
  • Methods for healing mind, body and soul

Of course, in order to benefit from the wisdom of your dreams, you have to remember them and listen to their deeper messages. Pay attention and you can revolutionize your life. Start a journal, share your dreams. Then let the magic happen.

To learn more about the intersection of dreams and psychology read Carl Jung and Freud.

Read Next: Why People Forget Their Dreams

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.

Why are Dreams Difficult to Understand

When I teach dreamwork someone invariably asks why dreams are so difficult to understand. If dreams mean something, in other words, why aren’t the meanings obvious?

One reason is that a single dream can address various areas of life at once. Each dream scene, therefore, has multiple layers of meaning.

There are many opposing perspectives on why we dream and whether or not dream images hold symbolic or literal meaning. In this article I discuss a multitude of perspectives because I believe they can all be true – at the same time.

For example, one dream can comment on the state of your

  • past, present and future
  • physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing
  • family dynamics
  • interpersonal relationships
  • work life
  • general life direction
  • etc.

And just like in movies, myths, and stories, dreams come in a variety of genres or moods, each carefully designed to make you feel something. There are

  • comedies
  • action filled adventures
  • thrillers
  • romantic dramas
  • spiritual tales
  • fantasies
  • science fiction
  • horror flicks
  • and some are even X-rated!

A nightmare, perhaps in the guise of a horror movie type dream, has an entirely different feel than a romantic comedy. Connecting with the type of dream can help you explore the various layers of meaning.

For instance, imagine you dream of a rose. The type of your dream, whether nightmare or romantic comedy, may inform the deeper implications of the meaning of the rose. On top of this layer, the rose may be viewed from any of the following perspectives:

Simile: my love is like a red, red rose

Metaphoric: my love is a rose

Puns: He rose from death and was resurrected

Archetypal: The archetype of the rose is the “original model” for all roses. The rose archetype is a universal, energetic blueprint for all roses.

Literal: a rose by any other name is still a rose, or a rose is a rose is a rose

Lucid: While sleeping I see the rose and realize I am dreaming

Prophetic: Dreaming of receiving a rose and later receiving one in waking life (or receiving something in waking life that the rose symbolizes, like a new relationship or love)

Recurring: Dreaming of a rose over and over again, either in identical dream scenarios, or similar scenarios that involve roses

Diagnostic: Having a rose that is infested with bugs may indicate physical or emotional dis-ease

By speaking in symbols and through literal imagery, our dreams can more easily convey multiple messages at once. This is why it’s helpful to explore your dream with other people. We are all limited in our abilities to see many layers of meaning in one dream. We are limited by our experience and blind spots. Working a dream with another person or a group helps us view a dream from a perspective we may not have encountered on our own.

Read Next: A Plethora of Dream Exploration Techniques

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.

Why We Forget Our Dreams

Dream research indicates that all people have about 4 to 6 six dreams a night. Some people remember all six dreams while others don’t remember any.

One might wonder why there is such a drastic difference.  There isn’t one answer, of course, but here are seven common reasons why people don’t remember their dreams.

1. Dreams are Weird

In DreamTime magazine, dreamworker Jeremy Taylor mentions that dreams are frequently unusual, not resembling anything from our waking life, and therefore sometimes difficult to express in thought and word. Also, dreams may reveal new information and are multi-layered in meaning. As a result, dream images are, as Taylor describes, “not yet speech ripe.” He goes on to say that over time, with practice, we can learn how to remember those odd dreams and grasp them long enough to be able to record them.

2. Disinterest in Dreams

Sometimes all you need is a little encouragement to jump start dream recall. Whenever I teach dreamwork, someone inevitably says, “I never remember my dreams. How can I participate in this class?” Usually within a few weeks the same student shares with me that she’s started to remember her dreams.

If you don’t remember your dreams, but want to do dream work, chances are good you will start remembering simply by paying attention. If not, this article offers several techniques you can use to enhance dream recall.

3. Stress, Too Much on One’s Mind, and Lack of Sleep

Stress, no matter the reason, can wreak havoc on a dream life. For some, stress causes nightmares or anxiety dreams. For others, it causes dreams to slip out of consciousness immediately upon waking.

There are techniques for minimizing the impact of stress on dream recall. Please see the “how to remember” section.

4. Alcohol and Drug Consumption

Alcohol and drugs affect the REM cycle and therefore our dreams.

If I have two glasses of wine I have a hard time remembering my dreams. I know others, however, who can drink an entire bottle and have no dream recall problems whatsoever. Every body is different.

Drugs have similar effects. People on various medications have shared in dream groups that their dreams change in unusual ways when they start taking prescriptions. I’m not suggesting you go off any medications to improve dream recall. Consult your health care practitioner before making any changes to your medication.

5. Moon Phases and Biorhythms

Phases of the moon can affect dream cycles. I tend to remember more dreams around the full moon and less around the new moon. We have natural biorhythms that can also affect our dream recall.

Notice if there is a cycle to your dream recall. If you remember dreams sometimes and not others, be grateful for the dreams you remember and don’t worry about the times you don’t.

6. Traumatic Events or Soul Loss

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on trauma and dream recall. The following thoughts are based on experiences I’ve had with people in dream groups.

It seems to me that there are times when a traumatic event can cease dream recall, the ability to remember ones dreams. Regardless of whether or not we have a conscious memory of a traumatic event, we always retain an unconscious memory. In other words, the memory lives in our mind somewhere, even if we don’t remember it.

Since dreams can help us heal our lives, if we are not ready to heal we may not remember our dreams. Psychotherapy, or some type of counseling, may be required to begin the healing process before dream recall can return. If soul loss is involved a soul retrieval may be necessary.

7. An inability or unwillingness to wake up

Dreams help us “wake-up” in the Buddhist sense of the phrase. That is, during waking hours we can fool ourselves into believing we’re something we’re not. For instance, we may be miserable, settling for less than we deserve in life, but trick ourselves into thinking we’re happy. Dreams help us wake up from our illusions so we can see what’s really going on.

Consequently, if there is something the dreamer doesn’t want to recognize about herself, it might be difficult to wake up from sleep or remember dreams that help us see ourself in a new light. Looked at metaphorically, there may be resistance to “waking up” to a new awareness about a personal dilemma.

The question to ask is this “Is there something I don’t want to see in my life that is keeping me asleep or preventing me from remembering my dreams?”


If your dream images slip away before you wake there may be any number of reasons why you are forgetting them. To get started remembering your dreams sometimes all it takes is the decision to remember. Others times a bit more effort is required.

Read Next: How to remember your dreams.

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.

How to Remember Your Dreams

As I mention in Why We Forget Our Dreams, simply reading about dreams may be enough to help you remember your dreams. However, if you want specific techniques there are a few steps you can follow to unlock the door to your dream warehouse.

To get started dreaming,

1. You have to want to remember

If you don’t remember, you may start remembering simply by stating that you want to remember you dreams.

2. Invite dreams into your life
Historically, cultures from around the world practiced elaborate rituals to elicit meaningful dreams. The exact method of the ritual is not important; however, the very act of creating a ritual or focusing one’s attention on the dreaming process helps improve dream recall. Here are some simple ideas:

  • Imagine successfully remembering your dreams.
  • Imagine it’s morning and you’re recording your dream in your journal.
  • Keep a pen and dream journal close to your bed.
  • Prior to sleep, write in your journal, “I will remember my dream in the morning.”
  • Make the conscious decision to remember your dreams.

3. Take dreams seriously, fake it until you make it if you don’t

If you secret believe dreams are silly, or if you think they are random neurons firing in your brain chances are good you don’t care enough to remember. Give dreams a chance by putting aside judgement for awhile. What have you got to lose?

4. Record your first thought or emotion when you wake up

  • As soon as you wake, write whatever comes to mind.
  • If you remember a dream, record it.
  • If you remember a feeling, record it, e.g. I feel happy.
  • If you have a vague sense of something, write, “I have a vague sense of something.”
  • Elaborate if you can, but write something.
  • Draw a simple picture with stick figures.
  • Do this every day until you start remembering.

5. Upon waking in the night from a dream, either get up and record the dream or create a title and repeat it several times

When I’m tired I’m lazy. I don’t like to get out of bed in the middle of the night so I devised this method of remembering dreams. Create a title, repeat it five times and then fall asleep. See title writing details on page 25. (However, writing it down is even better.)

6. If you had a dream but forgot it, return to original sleeping position

If you forget your dreams immediately upon waking, you might remember them as soon as you go to bed the same or even the following night. Also, immediately upon waking return to the position you were in when you were dreaming. This too can help improve dream recall. Better yet, do not move when you wake and realize you were dreaming. The second you move you may forget everything.

Keep a dream journal by your bed to record dream memories as they surface. If you’re too tired to write, use my title trick.

7. Remember the feelings of a forgotten dream and let go of expectation for remembering the details

Many people wake up in the middle of the night and remember their dreams, only to drift back to sleep. Upon waking a second time, you may have a vague feeling of remembering a dream. If this happens, let go of the need to remember the details. Allow the vague dream feelings to build momentum in your body. Focus solely on the feeling, not the imagery. This process helps the images and events of the dream to resurface to conscious memory.

8. Get enough sleep

9. Abstain from drugs and alcohol, or use moderately

10. B vitamins (I’m not sure why, but studies have shown that B vitamins help with dream recall)

Once you start remembering your dreams, it’s time to delve into their rich offerings. Learn how to keep a journal, if you aren’t already, and start dreaming!

Read Next: Why are Dreams Difficult to Understand?

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.

Exploring the Meaning of Dreams

This page is filled with easy, but effective methods for exploring the meaning of dreams. The exercises can be done one-on-one, in a group or by yourself.

Share the dream

Have the person tell you their dream in detail speaking in the present tense (take notes if you want to). Using the present tense helps keep the dream alive.

Dream title

Have them title their dream if they haven’t already. A dream title can immediately shed light on the meaning of the dream. Make the titles meaningful and think more about a lengthy headline than a short title.

Also, sometimes it’s not possible to record an entire dream upon waking, so coming up with a title first may help you remember it later.

Ask questions to get as much information about the dream as you can

  • How did you feel when you woke up?
  • Reality check: could the dream be a possible future projection? (A warning about something that might happen?)
  • What was the lighting like in the dream? (day light can indicate that the dreamer is already somewhat aware of the dream’s message whereas night time lighting or darkness can indicate that the dream is communicating messages that the dreamer is not as aware of in waking life.)
  • Do you know the characters in waking life? If so, what are your associations with them? Describe them in three words.
  • Are there animals in the dream? What are they doing? What kind of animals and what is their condition (aggressive, passive, predator, prey, healthy, sick)?
  • Is the dream landscape like any place you’ve been in waking life? If so, what are your associations with the location/landscape? What is the weather like?
  • Were there any particular colors? What do you associate with the colors? Are there healing blues? Sickly yellows?
  • Were there any puns? (an image of a bee might be suggesting to just “be”)
  • Was there anything in particular that struck you as odd?

There are many different questions you can ask; trust your intuition.

What is the main dream activity?

This process tries to establish an underlying message that is beyond the dream symbolism.

Example: The dream title might be, “There are ants eating my stairwell and I use a chemical to kill them,” but the activity might be, “Killing destructive ants with a chemical.”

This dream example comes from a colleague of mine who found out she had cancer in her spine. The ants were symbolic of cancer cells eating away at her spinal column. The dream chemical was the chemotherapy she used to heal and cure herself of cancer.

Correlation between dream and waking life

Explore the dream action/activity and the dreamer’s current life circumstances. Are there any parallels?

Note the example above. There was a direct correlation to the dreamer’s waking life and dream imagery.

Explore the dream ego (whatever the dreamer is doing in the ream): is  s/he active, passive, resistant, reactive, engaged, disengaged, etc?

Note: The dream ego’s participation in the dream sequences or activities can be an indicator of what the dreamer is doing in waking life or can do in waking life to change something.

Using the ant and stairwell example, the dreamer was actively getting rid of something, so the dream “ego” was being active. She was participating in getting rid of something destructive.

Word association

As the dreamer tells you their dream, write key words from the dream description. Make a list of these words and have the dreamer tell you the first thing that comes to her mind when you say each word.

Example: you say “blue” = they might say “sadness”, sun = “warmth”, flower = “growth”, growth = “new life”

Retell the dream as though everything is “me.”

Have the dreamer retell the entire dream, saying things like “the ant part of me is eating the staircase part of me.” This is a very revealing process.

Enact the dream or aspects of the dream.

Pretend to be one aspect of the dream while the dreamer interacts with you. If the dreamer experienced anxiety in a dream about taking a test, one of you can be the anxiety and the other can be the test taker. Or one can be the test taker and the other can be the test. Have a dialogue and see what surfaces.

If it were my dream

Share your thoughts and “Ahas” about the persons dream. Speak about the other person’s dream as thought it were yours. For example, “If it were my dream, I’d consider the possibility that these ants eating my stairwell are a sign that something is wrong with my body. The good news is that I am able to kill them with a chemical.”

Re-enter the dream

Using either silence, guided imagery or a shaman’s drum, have the dreamer reenter the dream and explore the dream scenery. This can help the dreamer find information that was not remembered upon waking. The imagined version of the dream can be just as relevant as the actual sleeping dream. Do not dismiss “imaged” imagery just because you are awake.

Honor the dream

Do something creative to embody the meanings. Make an art piece, write a poem, sing a song, do a dance, or perform a ritual.

Read Next: Having the Aha Experience

About the Author:

Amy Brucker helps people heal their ancestral wounds so they can free their purpose, passion, and inner power. She offers a one-on-one, private healing/mentoring program Healing the Ancestral Wound. See link "Work with Me" on main menu for details.