You may have noticed during this pandemic that you are remembering your dreams more often. People describe having vivid dreams now more than ever. That may be because you are getting more sleep than usual and that you are waking up naturally, rather than to the alarm clock.
If you are working from home and don’t have to rush off to work, you have more time to notice the dream images and stories that may be there when you wake up.
During periods of stress, dreams tend to be more vivid and disturbing. As Science Alert points out, it is not surprising that with the pandemic “more dreams containing fear, embarrassment, social taboos, occupational stress, grief and loss, unreachable family, as well as more literal dreams around contamination and disease are being recorded.”
A Symbol Is Worth A Thousand Words
Dream symbols exist at three different levels: personal, cultural and universal. Thus, there are several possible meanings to every dream symbol. Dream dictionaries can give you some ideas about what a particular symbol may mean, but no two dreamers will derive the exact same meaning for any symbol. Water, for example, may be comforting to one person but to someone who has nearly drowned, it may be frightening.
Dreams speak to us in metaphors. So during the “lockdown,” you may dream of being “locked up.” One client dreamed recently that she was dragged into a building and wasn’t able to leave. She felt trapped and disempowered and confused, as many people have felt lately. Outside she saw a blue car, which meant to her, as it often does to people, freedom, movement and power.
Bicycles also represent movement and freedom. Many more people are riding bikes now during the pandemic, and they are showing up frequently in their dreams. One dreamer reported dreaming of taking her bike to the store to be fixed and was told she would have to leave it there. She felt sad at the end of the dream which reflected her feeling guilty about not exercising and frustrated about not getting more help.
Grief & Loss
Many symbols of loss are common in dreams. You have likely been missing your family and friends that are unavailable to you now or who have passed away. One client dreamed recently of finding huge clumps of hair on her pillow. Then she saw a bald spot on the top of her head. When she worked on this dream in therapy, she saw that she felt like “pulling her hair out” because of all the stresses she was feeling.
She saw the bald spot as representing the loss of her friend that was moving away and of her family members that had died. The pillow symbolized protection for her troubled mind and the need to rest, something that many people need more of now to deal with the stress of the pandemic.
Working On Your Vivid Dreams
You have your own individual dream symbols and language, devised by your subconscious to tell you stories that have special meaning to you. Dreams are valuable experiences, and like an anthropologist exploring a unique culture, you can observe them, learn from them, share them, and enjoy them.
Here are some tips for how to do that for yourself.
Recalling and recording your dreams
To maximize your chances of remembering a dream, keep your eyes closed when you wake up and don’t think about what you have to do that day. Just lie still and notice any images or dream stories that come to mind. Now reach for a notebook or dream journal and write down the date at the top of the page. Then begin writing down your dream in the first person, present tense, as if it were happening now. This will make the dream images and details come to life.
Circle or underline the keywords
Mark such things as characters, objects, places, colors, directions and so on. This will help you when working on various associations to parts of the dream.
Underline the feelings
Pay attention to particularly emotional parts of the dream that came up for you either during the dream or while writing it down. These emotions are an important key to the meaning of your dream.
Title your dream
Go back to the top of the page and give your dream a title. Choose something that captures some key elements of the dream–a major character, object, feeling, or message.
For example, the dreamer of the bald spot dream titled it “Shocking Hair Loss” and the bike dream was titled “Bike Repair.” Interestingly, the dreamer of the trapped dream entitled it “Absconded and Trapped Somewhat,” which helped her realize that she wasn’t really feeling in danger and was actually just “somewhat concerned,” which made her feel much more confident and relaxed.
Make note of the five W’s
Like a journalist, identify the five W’s of the dream–who, what, where, when, and why. This will help you identify the important aspects of the dream to analyze. A key element to understanding your dream is looking at why now?
Ask yourself why you are having this dream at this particular time. Associations to the pandemic will likely be there along with other events that occurred the day before. They will be important clues to the meaning of your dream and its symbols.
Expand & Play With Your Vivid Dreams
There are numerous things you can do with dream work and to enhance your dream life. Here are a few of them:
Get messages from the characters and objects in the dream
Have the various parts of your dream “talk to you” and give you their advice. Like the “Somewhat Trapped” dreamer, you may get a whole different perspective on your life.
Change the dream
Once you have received the messages you need from your dream, you might want to change or finish the dream in a new way. This is especially helpful for recurring nightmares that may not longer reoccur once the feelings are addressed. The “Somewhat Trapped” dreamer changed the ending of her dream to drive away in the blue car feeling free and in control.
Share your dream
Share your dreams with those you trust and care about. It is a gift to them and also to yourself. We now may have more time in the mornings to share our dreams with our partners and family members. It is a wonderful way to share an intimate part of yourself and your life. You may even have an experience of “co-dreaming” where you notice you are having similar dreams, or actually plan the night before to dream about the same thing.
Discussing and sharing dreams with your children has many advantages for them and yourself. This will help them to welcome and not fear their dreams. Drawing dreams or acting them out together is an enjoyable way to engage children in dream exploration and to have some fun yourself.
This is a great time to pay attention to your dreams and learn from them. There are no “bad dreams” only misunderstood and scary dreams. They all have something important to tell you, especially at this challenging time in our lives.
If you would like to have some help in working on your dreams and learn more about how to use them in your life, please contact us. We are happy to talk with you or have virtual sessions. You may also find some of our dream books on Amazon, including The Dream Sourcebook and The Dream Sharing Sourcebook.