If you read my last dispatch, you know that my month-long online odyssey into the realm of sleep and dreams has taken a sharp and surprising turn into some heavy-duty self-analysis. Lots of spooky stuff swimming around down there in the dreamy primeval shadows, it seems. Lots of crazy dreams. Whatever could they mean? (Remind me to tell you the one in which my cats, speaking in a haughty French accent, trade murmured sarcastic remarks about my haircut.)

Our Final Descent Into Dreaming

Where was I? Oh yeah, it's time to dream on. Today we begin our final descent into the realm of dream interpretation, and I'd like to start by offering, for your consideration, everybody's favorite archetype of the modern high priest of dream analysis โ€” the venerable, bearded, wise and tweedy shrink. He's the guy that Gayle Delaney โ€” author, therapist, renowned dream worker and honored Princeton Ph.D. โ€” is right now shamelessly aping. ""Your dream of za cat iss a reflegtion of your veminine zide," she says, stroking her chin portentously and glaring like a zealot. "Za cat, you zee, iss alvays za veminine i-deeeel."

Then Delaney frowns and lurches forward in her chair. "No it's not!" she cries. "The cat in your dream means only what it means to you, the individual dreamer at the time of a particular dream. What gives anyone the right to say they understand your dreams better than you do?"

Well, how about, years of rigorous training? Fancy Ivy League degrees? Widespread professional recognition. Not hardly, says Delaney, who has those things herself. "The bottom line," she says, "is simple: No one knows your dreams but you.

The Personal Meaning of Dreams

"Listen, you don't need a therapist to tell you what your dreams mean," she says. "As the dreamer, you're the dream's producer. The dream symbols are metaphors you've created, and only you can say what those symbols really mean."

You understand, don't you, that in psychiatric circles, this kind of inflammatory talk is blatant heresy? After all, it's a commonplace of our reasoning, enlightened society that only the wise, trained therapist can unravel and explain your dreams. Guys like Freud and Jung made quite a pretty penny with that notion, thank you, and in the process, they founded famous approaches to dream analysis that have become pillars of modern scientific thought.