So what is a dream? Fundamentally it’s all the event material from the day being processed through the filter of your particular psyche with its biases, points-of-view, beliefs, and ways of being. If the material is consistent with your particular bias or established world-view then it is processed into longer-term memory. When you remember a dream you are not recalling the exact dream but an abbreviated text of your waking psyche’s perception of it. There’s the raw experience of the dream, then there’s a translation of that into the language of your conscious mind. But buried in that waking narrative there are the “images” of the dream and their unconscious meaning.
It is that unconscious meaning that one mines when attempting to interpret a dream and in those cracks and crevices of the dark and deep there is gold to be found. We do that by understanding our psychological associations with the images. In essence the dream image of a table doesn’t necessarily mean anything except that it might be associated with a table you used to sit at as a child where your grandmother served you warm cookies and milk and you felt all loved and cared for or it was the table you were forced to sit at for hours staring at the wall when you were being punished and felt unloved and uncared for.
Both table images can reveal the current emotional circumstances of your life, e.g. feeling loved or not loved. Both images can reveal inner conflicts. For example, the former meaning of a grandmother’s table could be revealing a lack of love and caring in your life as can the latter meaning. Your grandmother’s table could reveal a need for love but so can the punishment table. Taking this in mind one needs to apply all the possible meanings of an image to ones life as it currently manifests itself. When doing this notice when one meaning seems to stand out or resonate from the others e.g. when it seems right. This will most likely be the meaning that resonates with your current psychological or emotional situation.
So how you might ask could a dictionary of dream meanings possibly define your own personal image? It can’t. What it can do is to get you thinking of and considering your own possible image meanings. It is like a menu that describes a meal but isn’t the meal itself. It can give you an idea of the meal but shouldn’t be mistaken for the actual food and its experience. In short, a good dream dictionary points to possible meanings rather than declaring a meaning. It allows you to explore the different directions you might go in to find a meaning to a particular image.
So enough about images, what about the dream narrative that I unceremoniously discounted in the beginning of this article? Though the narrative comes from the language of the conscious mind with all its biases, prejudices, and confusions it’s those very biases etc. that reveal hidden patterns of behavior that are affecting our lives. These same patterns can reveal solutions to vexing problems or the unseen behaviors of others that may be affecting us negatively. It is also this same unconscious material that influences our thoughts, our feelings, and our beliefs within the conscious world.
Simply put the material hidden within our dreams is all the stuff we unconsciously noticed while our conscious mind was busy with the events and worries of the day. It is from the unconscious mind that our dreams come to us and by understanding both that material and what our conscious mind does with it after waking we can access and process a much greater reality than just the surface material of the everyday.