At the end of a long, stressful workday, you crawl into bed hoping for a good night's sleep.
But after a while, an exhausting dream begins: you see yourself climbing a steep mountain; you struggle and strain finally reaching the top. Then, seemingly without any control of your actions, you step off the cliff and plummet into the canyon below.
You wake up with a start, heart pounding. "It's just a dream," you reassure yourself, "it doesn't really mean anything."
Actually, your dream does have meaning. It most probably means that you are not literally going to fall off a mountain, but the mountain, your climb, your fall, and the terrifying abyss all symbolize hidden feelings about something in your life.
The symbolism could represent certain issues about your family, your work, or perhaps, a personal relationship. Whatever the cause, when you dream, the meaning of the dream does have to do with some issue in your unconscious mind.
As you go through your everyday life, you will experience a myriad of thoughts and feelings. Some remain in your unconscious mind while your conscious mind mind acts as a censor. It often will not allow any thoughts or feelings into your conscious awareness that it perceives to be threatening or frightening or contrary to its long-standing beliefs.
The unconscious mind — the part of our mind that absorbs and subdues about 90 percent of our daily experiences — will not be ignored. It will force a troubling issue into the conscious mind often in the form of dreams.
For example, let's imagine that you are on a high-profile career track. You are ambitious, you work hard and outshine all your peers. You are rewarded and promoted and it appears that your are truly on your way to "the top." But, somewhere deep inside of you, an inner voice (your unconscious mind) whispers to you that this is not the life you really want — that, in fact, you really want to do something that may be lower in salary and less prestigious, but that is more gratifying and meaningful to you. Unfortunately, many people place their talents and energies in fields that they believe they "should" want, rather than the career that is better suited to their values.
Your conscious mind attempts to reject these disturbing thoughts and feelings, but you continue to have recurring dreams, perhaps similar to the one above. Your unconscious mind is insisting that you face your true feelings and re-evaluate your choices.
It is important to understand that dreams are really signals, messages from your unconscious, where often the feelings of your most inner-self exist. When you learn to pay attention to your dreams and to understand what they are trying to tell you, you can then learn to honor your truest feelings, decide to act on them or not, and ultimately create healthy, satisfying changes in your life.
The topic of dreams, their source and effect on our lives is an enormous area of research and study for psychologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists (especially Freudians and Jungians) and mythologists like Joseph Campbell.
I have addressed only a minute portion of the exciting and fascinating study of dreams. Check online and at the library for more information.
Based in Rockport, life and personal coach Susan Britt, M.Ed., a psychotherapist and former university director of career and counseling services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone 978 546-9431.