Throughout my time doing dreamwork, I’ve come to realize that there are some urban legends hovering out there about the function of dreams and the best ways to work with them.
For me, saying anything definitive about dreams is difficult because they are so personal to each dreamer. Every individual has their own relationship and understanding of their dreams and I feel it’s essential to respect that in order to do dreamwork. At the same time, there are some assumptions made about dreams that I think serve as barriers to people developing a rich and intimate relationship with their dreams. Those assumptions are what this post is about.
I hope through examining these myths we can all become a little bit more open to the unique dream medicine that comes to each and every one of us, every single night.
MYTH #1: Scientists has shown that dreams function to X or Psychologists say that dreams are X.
I hear some variation of this statement about 50-60% of the time I tell people that I do work with dreams. So let’s just be clear right now: Scientists have yet to prove ANYTHING definitive about why we dream, what function dreams play in our lives, or even why we sleep at all for that matter. Sure, there are a lot of theories and people have certainly done studies—but they haven’t proven anything for sure.
To me, this is what makes dreams and dreamwork so exciting. It’s an open frontier, and since you’re a human, you dream, so you have front row seats to the unfolding discovery. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: While I certainly think what science has to say about sleep and dreams is fascinating, I don’t think scientists or psychologists will ever be able to come to a consensus about what dreams ‘truly’ are or why we have them. Because ultimately a dream is a completely unique experience that you and you alone have, and I believe you get to trust what you feel about any subjective experience you have. We get to trust ourselves. We get to believe in our dreams.
MYTH #2: I don’t remember my dreams.
Ah! I hear this so often!! People seem to think that since they don’t regularly remember their dreams now, they are just ‘the type of person’ that doesn’t remember dreams. Understand, dreaming is a practice like yoga or meditation. If you put intention towards dreaming, you will remember your dreams more often. Of course there are wide variations between individual dream recall, and some naturally remember their dreams more often than others. But just like any other skill, with practice and intention, anyone can drastically improve their dream recall.
If you’re looking to improve yours—have no fear, I’ve got you covered! Click the link below to receive your free cheat sheet to remembering your dreams more vividly tonight!
MYTH #3: To figure out what your dream is trying to tell you, look it up in a dream dictionary.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to do this all the time. I do it less now, but it can still be a very interesting way to open up a dream. Sometimes. But I am always seeking to go deep with my dreams by being open to their complexities and contradictions and by experiencing them before analyzing or interpreting them. As a society, we’re still dealing with the legacy of Freud and his version of dream ‘interpretation’ when we think about dreams. Freud roughly outlined a very right-brained, analytical approach to dream exploration. It’s natural enough—when we awaken from a dream, we want to interpret it, pick it apart until we come up with an explanation for it.
In my experience, this is the fastest way to miss what your dream might be trying to heal in you. When we rely too heavily on our analytical mind to make sense of our dream, we often draw conclusions from our dreams that simply confirm the story we are already telling ourselves about who we are, what we believe, and what we are truly capable of. Start with experiencing your dreams with your heart, then bring the mind to the party.
MYTH #4: Lucid dreaming is the way to use your dreams for healing or spiritual transformation.
This is an assumption that seems to have been gaining more traction in recent years, as lucid dreaming has become a popular method of dream exploration. I haven’t personally done a lot of work with lucid dreaming but know others who have had profound experiences with the technique. From what I’ve read, I think it can be a great way to work with your dreams. Personally, I haven’t had any luck trying to lucid dream more often. And guess what? I’ve still found enormous power and insight within all the ‘regular’ dreams I have every single night.
From all the information and products out there trying to increase the likeliness of having a lucid dream, I’m guessing there are others who are having trouble getting their lucid dreaming mojo going. For all of you I just want to say—that’s totally fine!! You don’t even need to remember a dream very well to for the medicine of your dreams to have an effect on your life—and I promise you, as you develop your relationship with your dreams, all of your dreams take on a greater significance.
MYTH #5: If you dream about something shameful or terrifying or just plain awful, that means there’s something wrong with who you are, deep down inside.
Now this one is near and dear to my heart, because I know a lot of people have disturbing dreams that leave them with more questions than answers. And, again because of the legacy of Freud, it can be tempting to believe that if something horrible happens in our dreams, it means there’s something wrong with us. I have clients that I’ve worked with for years and no matter how many times and ways I try to tell them not to judge themselves because of their dreams, there is this thing within us that wants to condemn who we are that can be very hard to resist. So let me be clear: no matter how excruciating your dream is and no matter what horrible thing you do within your dream, you are a human being that is capable of feeling and transmitting unconditional love, and that is all you have to do. If that being feels far away, just know there is a path back home to yourself. Your dreams and your nightmares will be with you every step of the way. And it is so, so sweet.
Thank you so much for reading dear dreamer! Please do let me know your thoughts about this in the comments below & please share if you have ever heard any of these myths!