Dreams: Finding Out What Really Matters

Dreams: Understanding Dreams

"Well, first," he says, "I don't believe we ever control our dreams. We can influence them, but if what I'm trying to do in a dream is not in harmony with what the dream is trying to tell me, it won't happen. The illusion of control only comes when what I want to do is in harmony with what the dream wants to do."

What about the grim visitation of death in a dream; how could that be a good thing?

Death in Dreams

"In my experience," he says, "death in dreams is always related to the growth and transformation of personality. It's as if the old personality must die symbolically to make way for the new. That may be why children have so many nightmares — children change so quickly. Even happy childhoods are characterized by nightmares, and often these nightmares correspond with growth milestones."

In his book Dream Work, Taylor gives an example: One morning, his preschool-age daughter bounded into his bedroom and told him about a dream in which she, and both her parents, had been killed by a monster. Taylor and his wife were puzzled by the dream, and by his daughter's rather calm acceptance of it, until he realized she'd just learned to tie her shoes.

"There was a strong likelihood," he says, "that this dream represented the death/rebirth of the little girl who didn't know how to tie her shoes. It seemed likely that the dream also depicted the transformation, through death (and subsequent "off-camera" rebirth) of the mother and father who loved the little girl who didn't know how to tie her shoes best in all the world, into the mother and father of the little girl who knew how to tie her shoes best."

Get the picture? Dreams are urgent dispatches from deep inside. We ignore them at our own peril. But in order to benefit from the secrets they reveal, we need to learn to speak dream language. In my next dispatch, I'll show you how easily this magical language can be learned and shared, when Taylor and his dream-savvy doctoral students communally dissect the most memorable dream I ever had.

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