Dream On: The Language of Dreams

Life as we recognize it, consists of a series of prearranged meaningful experiences which are periodically nourished and perfected through external time and personal internal space one after another. Every conceivable aspect of human emotion can be reflected in dreams. Dreams are where heightened aspirations and basic fears marry to consummate endless possibilities and produce increased personal refinement in the human psyche, ultimately leading to ego ideal and self discovery- the most important discovery of all.

Philologists, social historians and cultural anthropologists have revealed that ancient societies were governed by symbolic patterns that were found in their archaic myths and rituals. To our primordial relatives, symbolic images such as statues, designs and temples represented valuable themes of life, aspects which according to some, the 21st Century no longer appears to appreciate. Mythology originated in the universal problems of mankind. The quest for food, mating, procreation, cultural initiation, parent-child relationships and responsibilities, the relationship of the individual to the universe, the fears of war, illness, death and natural catastrophes.

At the present time there exists many popular theories of dreams all offering physical, psychological or psychical explanations. One of the most fascinating of these theories is the premonitory theory which proposes that dreams are important because they are in fact ‘gateways’ to the future which is supposedly predestined for each individual. To accept this theory in its entirety, we must believe that the future is fixed and that there exists a possibility of our knowing it in advance.

An account of this theory can be found in Prof. J. Dunne’s ‘An Experiment with Time’, in which Prof. Dunne explains how premonition can exist. He suggests that premonitory experiences contain psychological truths which intuitively and subconsciously foresee the future. Dreams often clearly reveal the workings of the subconscious mind and offer us complex insights into the character of others and the trend of events that follow and come true afterwards. It is the ideational process existent within dreams that allows us to think things out beforehand and to plan future actions. This power of the mind to reproduce in imagery the experience of the past and possibilities of the future is what makes the mind of humankind so fascinating to Dr. Christopher Evans who has equated the workings of the human brain to a mainframe computer and dreams to individual computer programs.

Dr. Evans suggests that we possess a range of main program repertoires that are already programmed into the brain and that teach us about certain issues. He suggests that dreams can be arranged into a ‘program hierarchy’ with certain type of dreams featuring in a position of importance . At the top come the principal programs that are essential to survival and concerned with fundamental aspects of life based on the results of a UK newspaper and magazine survey discovering that a large percentage of the British population experience similar types of dreams. These dream-types he designed into a list which was determined on merit of nocturnal preoccupation.

List of dream-types

  • Flying or floating in the air
  • Anxiety
  • The sea or lakes
  • Sex
  • The future
  • Smoking
  • Recurring events
  • Finding money
  • Discovering the secret of life
  • Violence
  • Falling
  • Being chased
  • Parties and gatherings
  • Dead friends and relatives
  • Films or tv programmes seen recently
  • Nakedness

Source: Dr. Evans ‘Landscapes of the Night’, 1983.

In 1967 medical astrologer Dr. Francis Moore created an Almanac which contained a dream atmosphere table in which 26 dreams were categorized and basic interpretation and psychoanalysis offered. Below is a condensed list.

Dream Atmosphere Interpretation Analysis
1. Adventure Hidden talents within Restraints in life
2. Bombardment Life too full or confusing Bound by demands
3. Children Escape from adulthood Childhood memories
4. Death Fear of being forsaken Feelings of inferiority
5. Expolsions Pent up emotions Self assertion needed
6. Falling Fear of making a mistake Guilt complex
7. Grostesque Hidden artistic skills Discovery of self
8. Holiness Running away from life Religious leanings
9. Indignance Persecution in life Past affecting future
10. Justice The dream of superiority Masked inferiority
11. Killing Lack of self trust Unrational thoughts
12. Love Wish fulfillment Need to be loved
13. Melancholy Sorrow in life Need to be loved
14. Nakedness Dream of insecurity Need for support
15. Occult Lack of faith in prayer You are an idealist
16. Primitive Dream of abandonment Dislike of ease
17. Quest The dream of ambition Plethora of talents
18. Rushing Neurotic personality Anxiety ridden
19. Spiritualistic A fear of death Too introspective
20. Terror Fear of disaster Guilt complex
21. Unidentifiable Fear of decision making Wishful thinker
22. Victory Dream of success Walking over others
23. Water Desire to urinate Impulsiveness
24. Unknown factor Confused consciousness Unintellectual ideas
25. Youth Fear of old age Passage of time
26. Death Fear of life Immaturity

Whether we believe that dreams are as ancient humankind believed them to be, reflections of the Soul or merely fascinating remnants left over from primordial undeveloped minds, there can be no doubting their strange complexity and expression. Several lifetimes could easily be spent investigating their mystery but would we be any closer to understanding what our dreams mean? We can but only try to fathom them out and work upon our knowledge with wisdom. One way to do this is to focus our dream experience by:-

  • Keeping a dream journal
  • Attending a weekly dream group class
  • Attending residential training courses

Through relating to dreams you experience the richness of the unconsciousness and the spiritual self.  Dreamwork is literally that magic , when shared becomes a part of everyone’s dream and enlightened self.

Dream on…

Shan offers  individual dream interpretation sessions for those who would like to create a firm spiritual base and relatedness with others. E-mail: shahnaz393@yahoo.co.uk    Twitter @shahnazkhan6

Image reproduced from dreamsleep.net

Dreams and their Significance

I dream that I am here
Loaded with heavy chains,
I dreamt the brilliant life
In which I late saw myself.
What is life” A lie,
A patch of shadow, a fiction.
Fortune? An illusion.
All life is a dream,
And dreams—O mockery—
Are themselves but a dream.

‘La Vida Es Sueno’. X. Calderon.

How much do you know about your dreams? In a period of human history when all disposable energy is spent in the investigation and examination of nature, very little attention is paid to the real essence of mankind, which exists in the form of psyche. The still deeply shrouded areas of the human mind that govern the psyche are being unexplored in favour of more concrete concepts that deal with more conscious tangible functions of the mind.

In his book ‘Man and his Symbols’ Dr. Carl Gustav Jung points out that the human mind just like any geographical terrain is made up of its own evolutionary history derived from the plateau of the unconscious which retains many traces left from earlier learning.

To know and understand the psychic life process it is important to realize that dreams and their symbolic images have an important part to play. Various schools of thought consider symbolic ideas to be the vital link to a healthy development of the personality. From the sixth century B.C. to the sixth century A.D. dream interpretation was a popular practice. The Chinese were one of the first civilizations to actually deeply probe into the phenomenon of dreams and to offer principles of interpretation.

Two important literary classics that emerged were Japanese astrologer Abe No Seimi’s ‘Book of Divination by Dreams’ first published in 1772 and Pierre Vattier’s French translation of Gaddorrchamon’s Arabic manuscript ‘L’onirocrite Musalman on Doctrine et Interpretation des Sanges Selon les Arabs’. These texts were significant because they were the first of their kind to attempt to explain dreams as groupings of images and symbols.

At present there exists many popular theories of dreams all offering Scientific, Physical, Psychological or Psychical explanations. The chief theories currently being; (i) The physiological or heavy supper theory, (ii) The personal reminiscence theory, (iii) The theory of racial reminiscence and (iv) The premonitory theory.

The physiological theory put forward by Aristotle over two thousand years ago operates from a digestive model and proposes that dreams are caused by other bodily disturbances which occur as a result of internal evaporation. A heavy meal by drawing blood for the digestion affects the circulation to the brain and gives rise to the dream.

The personal reminiscence theory views dreams as basic mental images that are released by everyday experiences which carry strong significance for the dreamer.

The premonitory theory which proposes that dreams are important because they are in fact ‘gateways’ to the future which is supposedly predetermined for each individual. In order to accept this theory in its entirety, we must believe that the future is fixed and that there exists a possibility of our knowing it.

Anatomical studies have revealed that the brain is the most complex and single most important organ in the body made up of a series of inter-linked structures that are associated with language, thought processes and sensory experience-all necessary for the production of dreams. Humans sleep on average eight to ten hours each night. This means that one third of our life is spent sleeping, so by the time we are seventy five years old, we have slept and dreamt for twenty five years!

As a physical and mental restorative sleep is unequalled. The first concentrated experiments in sleep deprivation were performed by physiologist Marie de Manaceine in the second half of the nineteenth century.The consequences of sleep loss are; restlessness, irritability, photophobia, fearfulness and bizarre reactions to food. According to Prof. J. Empson author of several books concerned with sleep research, persistant insomnia in middle age or earlier is commonly associated with affective illness; i.e. depression, drug abuse, alcoholism and respiratory difficulties.

Psychiatrist Dr. Ernest Hartmann of Boston State Hospital’s Sleep and Dream Laboratory has interestingly linked personality types with length and character of sleep and discovered that short sleepers as a rule tend to be very energetic, decisive, ambitious and socially adept individuals who fit into the extrovert band speculated by philosophers such as Galen and Hippocrates. Long sleepers on the other hand tend to be, according to Dr Hartmann, highly creative speakers who have a tendency to be non-conformist and critically selective in their social views.

Sigmund Freud interpreted the introverted type of personality as an individual morbidly concerned with themselves. Carl Gustav Jung on the other hand held introspection and self-knowledge in high esteem and valued its importance. Beyond doubt, man and woman becomes whole, integrated, calm, fertile and happy when the process of personal individuation is complete. When the conscious and unconscious have learned to live at peace and to complement one another.

On a relatively simple level, dream language is often figurative and our dreams are trying to tell us something. They do not use words to express their meaning but communicate through visual imagery and, to a lesser extent, through the other four senses- sight, smell, taste and hearing. Imagery, in dreams often takes the form of the symbolic and representational, implying that persons and places represent specific principles or situations in the dreamers actual life. When the dream has been explored and a symbolic meaning discovered it can then be applied to the dreamer’s circumstances.

Below is a dream which make sense when we recognize that the characters do not represent real people but rather principles.

I am house hunting and decide to investigate a house that captures my interest. Externally the house is very attractive but once inside, feelings of oppression overwhelm me and force me to flee from the building in a state of terror.


This dream highlights the dreamer’s fundamental insecurity regarding new experiences which relate to adult independence. On the surface, the dreamer appears to be looking forward to the challenge of independence as represented by the ‘attractive house’ but is really subconsciously afraid as represented by the dreaded feeling of terror that they may not be up to the task and will want to flee from the responsibility of adulthood instead.

Shahnaz Khan is a Psychotherapist & Writer. She offers both weekly private individual and group dream therapy sessions for those interested in understanding their dreams and improving their relationships. As well as dream interpretation she also offers astrological analysis. Shahnaz received her training with the late Prof. Petruska Clarkson in Harley Street, London in the mid 90’s.

Image reproduced from retiredindelaware.blogspot.com