Who Interprets Your Dreams?

Dream Guide

Most approaches to dreamwork use the dreamer or some dream interpreting source, such as an authoritative book on dreaming or someone who specializes in dream interpretation, such as a Freudian analyst. Sometimes groups get together and everyone chips in their interpretations, with the dreamer left to choose those ideas that best “fit” for them. This is reminiscent of going into a clothing store and trying on things that your friends or the salesperson think would look good on you until you find something you like. The result is that you may come away with something that is perfect, or you may come away with something that fits and looks good on you, but doesn’t stand up over time. It goes out of fashion. Similarly, when you take such an approach to understanding a dream, you are likely to arrive at an interpretation of your dream that “fits” and that you like, yet is not helpful, is misguided, or plain dangerous. For instance, what if you interpret a dream to indicate that someone is your soul mate, you marry them, and it turns into a disaster? Are you going to trust your dreams in the future? Are you going to trust dream interpretation? Most of the time dream interpretation is not so disastrous, only insipid and inconclusive, rather like reading your astrology forecast for the day. You can generally pick out something that fits, but how do you know if the information is in the planetary alignments or merely in the mind of the astrologer? Who can you trust?

To the extent that life is like a dream, this is a question not simply about dreaming, but about experience in general. Who is best qualified to interpret your experience? As children, you learned that authority figures are best qualified, that you should trust them, because they have been alive a lot longer and have specialized knowledge that you lack. This is not so different from trusting your dreams to a dream interpreter. The results are similar. Some of the advice that you get fits and is useful; you take it, make it your own, and that’s who you grow into. You became the person your parents named; you behave either in congruence or reaction to the way they treated you; you take on the language, beliefs, and preferences of those who raised you and the particular culture in which you grew up. Important adults “interpreted” your life for you and you became those interpretations. You became their dream, or you became the product of the combined dreams of a number of people; or you rebelled against their interpretations and became a reactionary dream. In both cases, isn’t your life largely an out-picturing of your particular culture’s dream?

This is not to ignore genetic contributions or to say that is all you are. You are much more than the internalized interpretations of your family and culture. For example, when you internalize the interpretations of others you combine them in unique ways to create interpretations that are partially theirs, partially your own. The common conceit is for you and I to think our identity and our interpretations are our own. Are they?

Most people ignore or actively fight against the realization that their current identity is largely not their own, but rather an internalization of those of their family and culture. The idea that our names, language, and preferences, as well as our beliefs are the result of the parents we were born to and have little to do with “us” threatens our autonomy and independence. While we are certainly more than our names, social identity, language, the patterns of our thinking, emotions and preferences, do they not make up most of who we are and most of what we identify with as self? Doesn’t that mean that most of who we think we are is someone else’s dream? Doesn’t that mean that most of our lives are likely to be an expression of one or another accepted and appropriate dream theme within our culture?

If this is so, what does it say about our autonomy and independence? What does it imply about where we need to look to find ourselves and how to go about doing so? Most people deprive themselves of growth by not confronting this central issue. Instead, they generate metaphysical belief systems to reassure them that they were “meant” to be who they are. They may call it predestination, destiny, reincarnation, soul choice, God’s will, or something else; it boils down to an unwillingness to recognize that their life is essentially the out-picturing of someone else’s cultural dream; it only has to do with them so much as they internalized those values.

Integral Deep Listening assumes that just as beings from other dimensions did not create your night-time dreams, that you can learn to dream your own life instead of living out the cultural script that you internalized and called your own. You automatically, habitually over-rely on both the interpretations of others for meaning in your life and on your own interpretations, which are largely the internalized interpretations of others. If you look closely at your thoughts, feelings, and preferences you can usually trace their origins to the thoughts, feelings, and preferences of others; you will discover that your “conscience” is internalized “shoulds” and wants, and that “intuition,” “God’s will,” “spirit,” and your “inner voice” are other names for the internalized dreams of others.

How would you know if this were true or not? Wouldn’t you first have to have a method by which you could differentiate a culturally-induced dream from your own? Most people answer with the classical adolescent response to this dilemma: “I know I am independent, autonomous, thinking my own thoughts, feeling my own feelings, and listening to my intuition, because my parents and teachers disagree with me.” But observation of typical expressions of adolescent “independence,” such as smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, dress, tattoos, music, and choice of friends, reveals opposition that simply proclaims the reality of their dependency upon those cultural dreams that they are reacting to. Could you not be doing some version of the same thing?

Consider the possibility that you are probably far too reliant upon both the interpretations of others and your own internalized cultural scripting for interpreting both your night-time dreams and the meaning and direction of your life. Neither external nor internalized authority likely represent the perspectives and interpretations of your own inner compass. Both provide helpful and necessary objectivity and perspectives about your dreams and about your life that you have not considered, but these should be viewed as their ideas, not the dream’s ideas. Therefore, the thoughts, feelings, preferences and perspectives both of others and that you have yourself, are less likely than your inner compass to know what a dream means or what the dream of your life “means.” Similarly, you may have your own ideas about the meaning of a dream, but you did not create it. We know this, because if you did, you would know what it meant, wouldn’t you? If you cannot trust others or yourself to know the meaning of a dream, who or what can be a trustworthy source of information about it?

This leads to a second assumption Integral Deep Listening makes about interpreting your dreams and your life. The characters, places, and objects in your waking experience represent perspectives on your life that are authentic, just as do the characters in your night-time dreams, in that they are indigenous to the dream itself. They are in a better position to interpret your experience than are you or anyone else. This is because they are primarily an expression of the consciousness that created the dream, and are only secondarily an expression of the interpretations of both others and your internalized scripted, cultural identity. This is a major reason why Integral Deep Listening encourages you to interview both the characters in your dreams and the personifications of the life issues that matter most to you. This is how you escape from the interpretation echo-chamber of your culture and its values that you have internalized. This is how you access intepretations by perspectives that are authentic, yet not rooted in the culture of your birth. From Freudian Psychoanalysis, a chapter in the book, Dream Yogas.

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