In Your Dreams

In Your Dreams

What Are These Vision You See in the Dark?

by Miriam Harline

I am traveling with my grandmother. We have stopped at a restaurant. Neither of us know this restaurant; we’re somewhere new, nowhere we’ve ever been before.

We wait in the lobby. It is late afternoon, and the restaurant is empty. I peer into the dining room; it is shadowy, peaceful and very ornate: white tablecloths, sterling silver laid out. The hostess sees us, greets us graciously, but disappears. We don’t mind waiting; we are not in a hurry. We feel that the wait won’t be long.

My grandmother worries the place is too expensive for us. I feel that she is being overconservative because she fears she will not know how to conduct herself. I plan to talk her into staying. I really want to eat in this mysterious, luxurious place. It has an almost supernatural glamour.

In the shadowy lobby hangs a crystal chandelier. The crystals are long, extraordinary delicate, fairylike. I’ve never seen anything like this chandelier. I notice there are many, all down the long lobby. They must be very expensive, but they don’t seem unwelcomingly ostentatious. I point them out to my grandmother; like me, she is entranced.

We continue to wait.

I once worked with a woman who confessed that formerly she’d preferred her dream life to her waking one. She’d been living a cramped existence, with a job she hated, very few friends and no lover; her most significant relationship was with her cat. Yet when she fell asleep she was transported into a world of rich landscapes, of heady loves and angers, where everything revolved around her. Her dreams then were consecutive; the same plot would carry from one to the next. The experience was better than a movie or novel, because for the length of the dream, she was inside it.

Since that time, this woman’s daytime life had improved: she had moved; she had begun therapy and an exercise program; she had a better job and new friends. But the dreams had stopped. I could tell from the wistful way she spoke she didn’t always feel the trade was worth it.

Dreams play a part, large or small, in everyone’s life. For me, they are messages from the unconscious, coded into symbol, a theory I’ve filtered from psychology and dreamwork books. On and off since I was 13, I have recorded to my dreams and interpreted them, seeking feedback about my life. Sometimes I found things I already knew; sometimes I found things I didn’t know, strange and hard to interpret.

I have also drawn from dreams creative inspiration; characters in my fiction owe much to dreams. I’m not the only one to have drawn such inspiration. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein based on a dream, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed he had dreamed 200 or 300 lines of the poem Kubla Khanbut only was able to get 54 onto paper before interruption. Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed scenes for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.According to Robert L. Van de Castle in Our Dreaming Mind, writer Graham Greene started his novel It’s a Battlefield based on a dream. Greene’s dream diary has recently been published. An entire artistic movement, surrealism, was based on the attempt to merge the world of dreams with the world of waking reality.

Science and mathematics have also drawn inspiration from dreams. Probably the most famous scientific dream was that of chemist Friedrich A. von Kekule, who had been trying to figure out the structure of the benzene molecule when he fell asleep and dreamed of floating atoms forming themselves into patterns. A long, snakelike row of atoms then formed a circle and began to spin. Based on his dream, Kekule created a ring model of the benzene molecule, which testing later confirmed. Van de Castle reports that the chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev settled the structure of the periodic table of the elements based on a dream, and the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan repeatedly dreamed mathematical formulas, which he later confirmed. In my own acquaintance, a computer-programmer friend dreamed of bits throwing themselves together off a cliff, which helped him solve a problem on memory usage during file erasure.

Spiritual journeys and changes are classically dream-inspired. The beginning of Islam was inspired by a dream, as was the beginning of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Many Old and New Testament characters changed their lives according to dreams.

Spiritual dreaming continues to this day. One of this paper’s writers, NightOwl, came to the Craft as the result of a dream in which she was told to follow the Goddess. In my own life, I’ve made a major spiritual transition thanks to a dream. That dream (which, writing as Asherah, I detailed in the Lammas 1995 issue) showed me fearfully participating in goddess worship that included human sacrifice. I’d been attending an informal goddess-worship circle, considering whether I should follow the Craft, and the dream made clear to me I had fears of goddess worship I needed to resolve. The upshot was that I faced those fears in counseling before further pursuing the Craft, which I believe gave me a more stable psychic foundation later on.

The dream had another spiritual legacy for me. Asking in meditation to see the goddess of my dream, I received a benign image: a gracious lady in flounced skirts, with many ornaments. This image describes Inanna, a goddess I later dedicated to.

I am a young woman in high school. During class, I throw a concrete ball out the window, but luckily miss everyone outside. Later, I cut class, wandering outside the school and then onto the roof of a one-story addition that juts from the main school at a 90-degree angle. I find that crossing this roof are hoses filled with toxic waste. I want to warn people, but before I can, I accidentally pull one hose loose, so that fluorescent green sludge spews all over me. I wake in the hospital.

Some people cannot remember their dreams. However, sleep studies have shown that almost everyone does have dreams. Nearly everyone studied experiences rapid eye movement (REM) cycles during sleep, and if sleepers are wakened during such a cycle, even people who normally don’t remember dreams recall dreams in progress more than 80 percent of the time.

Studies indicate REM cycles occur, on the average, every 92 minutes and last longer in the later stages of sleep. REM sleep is more frequent in infants; newborns spend about 50 percent of their sleep time in the REM stage. REM sleep drops to the normal adult level of about 18 percent of sleep by the age of four. Elderly adults spend slightly less time in REM sleep.

REM cycles usually indicate dreaming, but this does not mean dreams can necessarily be reduced to REM cycles. Some Indian philosophers believe the dream life is the true life of the self, the waking world an illusion. The Chinese philosopher Chuang-tzu, waking from a dream where he fluttered, a happy and self-satisfied butterfly, debated whether he was a man who’d dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Australian aborigines’ mythos states the whole world was created through dream, with song, by different totemic ancestors, who now sleep again and dream. The aborigines map paths across the land according to different dreamings: Lizard Dreaming, Caterpillar Dreaming.

Some scholars have said the ancient Egyptians believed dreams were the soul’s travels out of the body, a theory shared by some South American and African cultures. Theorists on astral projection hold that some dreams can still be read so. Other scholars say the Egyptians merely found the sleeper preternaturally sensitive to outside influence. This theory is similar to one of the 19th century, expressed by Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; he believed the ghosts of his dreams reflected a bit of undigested mustard or potato, the merely physical transmogrified. A sleeper’s physical sensations do manifest themselves in dreams when dream researchers ran cold or warm water through dreamers’ sleeping pads, 25 percent of dreams were affected but few dream researchers now restrict interpretation to reflecting the physical.

However, Nobel-winning biologist Francis Crick and others have hypothesized a physically oriented dream theory based on neural network theory. This hypothesis posits that dreaming serves to clear our minds of spurious mental associations; by dreaming a weird sequence of events, we purge our minds of the unnecessary connections between them. As a result, these theorists believe, it is actually valuable not to remember dreams.

Psychologists prefer us to remember. Three of the most influential 20th-century schools of dream interpretation are linked, respectively, to Freudian, Jungian and Gestalt psychology.

Sigmund Freud’s dream theory, put forward in The Interpretation of Dreams, distinguishes between dreams’ manifest content, which one is consciously able to remember, and their latent content, unconscious wishes denied gratification in waking life. The manifest content expresses latent desires symbolically; in dreams, Freud theorized, the inner censor can be circumvented by symbol. Freud thought what seems important in a dream may not be what is really important among repressed desires; this shifting of importance is called displacement. The motivating force for dreams Freud saw as wish fulfillment. In dreams that show fear and punishment, the wish fulfillment has failed. (Unless, of course, you like punishment.)

To interpret dreams, Freud used free association, repeating back different dream pieces to the dreamer to see what associations they elicited. Though Freud had some interest in telepathic dreams and admitted their possibility, they didn’t fit his theory.

Freud viewed most dream symbols as sexual: “All elongated objects, such as sticks, tree-trunks and umbrellas (the opening of the last being comparable to an erection) may stand for the male organ…. Boxes, cases, chests, cupboards and ovens represent the uterus, and also hollow objects, ships and vessels of all kinds. Rooms in dreams are usually women…. In men’s dreams a neck-tie often appears as a symbol for the penis…. Nor is there any doubt that all weapons and tools are used as symbols for the male organ…. Children in dreams often stand for the genitals…. The genitals can also be represented in dreams in other parts of the body: the male organ by a hand or a foot and the female genital orifice by the mouth or an ear or even an eye.”

Freud made dream interpretation scientifically presentable, even though his own work has none of the statistical and quantification methods associated with science. Later dream theorists criticized that he interpreted dream imagery as almost entirely sexual. He blasted through Victorian sexual hypocrisy, but his resulting theory was so tilted it denied nonsexual unconscious motivations much importance.

Later psychologists presented a more balanced view of dreams. Carl Jung interpreted dream content in many ways, not only sexual, and saw dreams’ own emphasized imagery as important. Jung did not propound a specific theory of dreams but, by his estimate, performed an average of 2000 dream interpretations a year.

Jung’s dream work relied on his concepts of the collective unconscious, mental remnants from the prehistory of the species, and archetypes, components of the collective unconscious that parallel physical organs and express themselves as symbols. An archetype works in life like a magnet, drawing experiences that fit its pattern; as the self works toward wholeness, Jung felt, archetypes appear in dreams to symbolize what parts of ourselves, or what integration of these parts, we’re working on.

Jung interpreted dreams by means of amplification, working toward a single core interpretation of each dream symbol. He saw dreams as both potentially objective, reflecting on someone the dreamer knows, and subjective, focusing on the dreamer. Jung encouraged subjects to work with dream images through active imagination, meditating on a dream image and noting how it changes. In contrast to Freud, Jung believed dreams could be telepathic.

Jung’s work with subjective dreams bears a strong resemblance to Fritz Perls’ Gestalt dream work. Gestalt, an intense short-term therapy, sees dreams as rejected or disowned parts of the personality. Gestalt dream work is not standardized, but some techniques are consistent: Each part of the dream is seen as part of the self of the dreamer. Nothing in the dream is exterior; every symbol relates back to the self. During therapy, the therapist encourages the dreamer to act out and engage in dialogue with different parts of the dream, and thereby to learn more about the unconscious motivations of the self.

Of these theories, my own probably most resembles Jung’s. I believe that dreams provide a unique form of divination. In dreams, your unconscious, rather than manipulating omens or Tarot cards handed to it, creates its own symbols for the things that currently concern it. Dreams are one of the most direct ways the unconscious has of communicating with the consciousness.

I am in the city in which I grew up, on the edge of a shopping district that straddles a wide creek. A flood has knocked out all the bridges. Buildings have fallen. I am with a young woman I have just met.

One bridge is in use, but dangerous. I cross the creek on it and on the other side clamber in a fallen building; in its basement, now exposed, lie great rusted steel beams, bricks showing through dirty plaster. A wall shakes and a metal pipe trembles, as if about to fall, but I extricate myself before it does.

The young woman I am with points out a formerly sleek tan pyramidal building, only three years old, that has fallen down. She sneers a little. It is a sunny, windy day, and the mood is holiday-like.

Another type of dream work, recognized as early as the fourth century, is lucid dreaming. In lucid dreaming, the dreamer recognizes that he or she is dreaming and attempts to influence the dream. Those who dream lucidly can make their dreams more coherent and pleasant and can plan their dreams, a process related to dream incubation, described later. Thus, lucid dreams can be used as a laboratory to work through troubles and fears. If in a lucid dream you meet an unacceptable or unrecognized part of yourself, you can enter a dialogue with it to reach better understanding. Some people have used lucid dreaming to overcome phobias.

Lucid dreamers often describe their dreams as “other-worldly,” and lucid dreams have often been associated with high spiritual attainment. Eighth century Tibetan monks considered lucid dreaming a prerequisite for attaining enlightenment; as dreamers recognized the illusory nature of dreams, so too would they recognize the illusory nature of reality. Lucid dreamers have made spiritual explorations, seeking and finding what they described as the divine. Lucid dreams have also been used as astral projection; the British parapsychologist Celia Green describes a mother and son who agreed to seek each other one night in lucid dreams and the next day agreed on what the mother had said when they met.

Dreamers can achieve greater lucidity in dreams over time. In 1867, according to Van de Castle, Marquis Hervey de Saint-Denys wrote that, over a span of 15 months, he was able to go from occasional to near-nightly lucidity. To achieve lucidity, dream researcher Stephen LaBerge created the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) technique. In this process, dreamers are awakened in the middle of their dreams, visualize themselves back in their dreams, see themselves dreaming lucidly and tell themselves that the next time they’re dreaming they want to recognize it. Users report the technique effective.

Lucid dreaming still deals mostly with the world of symbols, but there are other ways of looking at dreams. As mentioned above, the ancient Egyptians, and others since, have seen dreams as a form of astral projection.

At one point, reports Sylvana SilverWitch, an editor for this paper, her sister had disappeared. She set herself one night to astrally project in dream to seek her. Going to sleep, Sylvana dreamed she found her sister, miserable and poor, holed up in a tiny trailer; her sister, frightened at the apparition, saw her and recognized her. Next day, Sylvana reported to her mother her sister’s state, saying she thought her sister would soon make contact. Her sister called within a few days, telling of Sylvana’s astral visit.

“Astral projection is relatively easy,” says Sylvana, “at least in my experience.” To astrally project, she says, before going to sleep she meditates strongly on the place or person she wants to visit. “If you’re looking for a person, you don’t have to know where they are,” she says. If you have a strong emotional attachment to the person, that attachment will draw you to him or her; similarly, if you’re strongly attached to a place, that attachment will draw you there. “The attachment can be in this life or another,” she notes.

Meditating on the place or person, with her purpose of astral travel firmly in mind, she allows herself to drift to sleep. “I’m successful at astral travel 90 percent of the time or so,” she says. Things that tend to prevent success include being overly tired or not clearly focused on the goal.

Known psychic ability is not a prerequisite for astral projection. “Everybody is psychic,” Sylvana says. “I think anybody can accomplish astral travel if they can let go of their fear around it, which is mostly what gets in people’s way.” Fears surrounding astral travel include fear of the unknown, fear of loss of control, fear of not being able to return and fear of other worlds peopled with demons and devils. To circumvent such fears, she suggests working in meditation to create positive psychic structures. “Meditate so that you learn that you can create what is out there,” she says, “rather than other way around.”

Once people surmount their fears, she says, “my experience is that as long as people have a reasonable expectation, they’re generally successful. But a lot of people want to have the ultimate experience, see fireworks, hear waves crash, movie kinds of things.” Instead, astral travelers usually encounter everyday scenes, since, as Sylvana points out, “there are many more everyday things in life than spectacular ones.” Most people can tell an astral travel dream by just this lack of surrealism. “I usually tell people if they dream of their mother’s house, and it looks like their mother’s house, with the correct people in it, they’re probably astrally projecting.”

Another nonsymbolic form is precognitive dreams, of which hundreds have been recorded and confirmed. Before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln reported that he dreamed he saw his body lying in state in the White House. A former tutor of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Bishop Joseph Lanyi, wrote down a dream in which he foresaw the Archduke’s murder before the fact. In 1966, the Welsh mining village of Aberfan was engulfed by an accidentally released slide of coal. Van de Castle reports that two days beforehand, a young girl, Eryl Mai Jones, told her mother a dream in which she went to school but there was no school to be seen: “Something black has come down all over it.” She added, “I’m not afraid to die, Mommy. I’ll be with Peter and June.”

Sylvana has had precognitive dreams since early childhood. “I had a couple of precognitive dreams when I was really young, of people dying,” she says, “and then they died. That’s what made me start telling people about my dreams.”

When Sylvana was 11, she dreamed of a car accident. “The details of the accident were not really clear,” she says. “The feeling of it was what I remembered. I kept having this peculiar sensation. But I knew that there was an accident, that I was in the car and that somebody got hurt really badly.” She told her mother about the dream. “It was a really strong dream,” she says.

About three weeks later, her family took a camping trip. They drove an old-fashioned Jeep, hauling behind it a trailer with a small, home-made camper unit on it, which made the trailer top-heavy.

“On our way home,” Sylvana says, “somebody pulled out in front of my mother, and she slammed on the brakes, and the trailer jackknifed and flipped the Jeep, making it roll three times.

“I was sitting in the front seat, holding my brother in my lap; he was a little under a year old. Back then, nobody had seatbelts or car seats. I remember the feeling of going over and over. I felt as if the top of my head was being ground off, and there was this horrible noise.” The Jeep had a home-made cover of fabricated sheet metal, and her head kept landing on this cover.

The Jeep ended up half on its side, with its front in the air. Its steering wheel was bent, and tire chains that had been under her mother’s seat wrapped around her mother’s legs, trapping her. Sylvana, the eldest of six, says, “I got out and started running around trying to find my brothers and sisters. I remember tearing up diapers; a couple of my sisters had long cuts on their arms from the windows. Then it dawned on me I didn’t know where my brother was.

“He was lying in the road in his snowsuit. He had been thrown out of the window and run over by the trailer. When I picked him up, I saw the whole side of his head was caved in, and you could see his brain.” He lived, but required four brain operations and had to relearn to walk.

Each thing Sylvana’s dream predicted had thus come true: There was a bad car accident, she was in it and someone was badly hurt. Unfortunately, the dream sent Sylvana into a tailspin. “I’d already had the idea that I was somehow responsible for the things that I saw in my dreams, and the dream followed by the accident really freaked me out. I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on. I didn’t want to go to sleep. It seemed like my ability was a bad thing.” She had been having some form of dream precognition almost daily, “but it’s the bad things you really remember.”

After some counseling and her discovery of books on ESP, Sylvana says, “I finally came to terms with it. But I almost let my fears turn off my psychic abilities.”

Since then, Sylvana has had other precognitive dreams, including one in which she dreamed about the eruption of a string of volcanoes in the Northwest and Alaska, and related earthquakes. Several volcanoes she saw erupting have done so since the dream, including Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in Alaska, each in the order in which she saw them erupt. Her dream also seemed to predict the recent activity of Mount Rainier and that by Crater Lake in Oregon. Sylvana reports, however, “I did some trance work about the dream and was told that not all of what I saw has to happen.”

Sylvana finds her precognitive dreams not always crystal clear. “I don’t always get the exact details. And sometimes when I get specific details, some of them might be wrong.” She believes dreams are partly censored by ordinary consciousness, which filters out things it finds impossible.

All in all, Sylvana says, “It’s different than you think it would be. You think that if you have a dream about something, it’s telling you you can do something about it. But my experience is that there’s nothing you can do.

“Every time I’ve had a dream and told someone to be careful, it didn’t make any difference. It makes you wonder what is the point. But I keep telling people.

“Of course,” she says, “if something doesn’t happen, you don’t know whether telling your dream prevented it.”

My brother has turned into a black lion, and my family is chasing him around the house. He is more childlike than usual, frustrated and angry, but appealing. Still, he is dangerous. My father is helping, but I am the bait; we think he will come to me. I am getting frustrated no one will call a professional to help, but none of us can get away to call.

At the beginning of the chase, I hide in the basement, but then the lion, my brother, comes straight at me. Toward the end of the chase, a minister comes to help, but I don’t like him. When, later, the minister and I throw ourselves together onto the ground in exhaustion, I toss a glass of water meant for the lion in his face.

Most dreams can be classified as symbolic, images woven by our unconscious. The unconscious throws up these images to us, I believe, in an attempt to tell the conscious mind what goes on underneath.

To be understood, dream symbols must be interpreted. But before you can interpret dreams, you must remember them. If you don’t ordinarily remember your dreams, or if you remember them patchily, remembering takes some commitment and concentration.

The best way to fully remember a dream is to wake at its end and write it down. To enable this, NightOwl, a counselor and dream-worker, recommends keeping a notebook and penlight by your bed. Then, before you go to sleep, she suggests you sit up in bed a few minutes and meditate on this idea: “I will dream tonight, and when I dream, I will wake up and write my dream down. Then I will go easily back to sleep.” It may take a few nights to get results, but if you go to sleep night after night with this idea in mind, your unconscious should get the message.

If you find this practice doesn’t work for you, you can try more intrusive measures. Set your alarm for an hour and a half after you go to sleep, or if this doesn’t work, at random times during your sleep time. At some point, your alarm should wake you in the middle of a dream in progress. However, for most people, simply concentrating on waking at dream’s end gets results.

If you already find it easy to remember dreams, you may be able to dispense with waking in the middle of the night. Waking at a dream’s end, however, means you retrieve the most details. Balancing how much you want to remember versus how much you want to sleep through the night is up to you.

For the most thorough dream recall, as soon as you wake, go over the dream or dreams in your mind, trying to bring back all details. I find it’s usually easiest to remember the last dream images first; you tend to remember dreams backward, drawing each image from that chronologically following, pulling them toward you as if on a string. Often, having gotten to the beginning of a dream, you’ll be able to remember a previous dream, or several previous dreams.

Once, going backward, you’ve garnered all the dream pieces, write them down. Don’t skip any details nuances can be important. Be sure to write down the feeling or feelings in the dream; this is often some of the most significant information.

Having the dream written out, you’re ready to start interpreting.

First, if you have any dream dictionaries at hand throw them out. Their symbolism may work for you in the most general fashion, in that some symbols are common to our society: for example, we learn early the heart stands for emotions. (However, if you were an ancient Greek, it would be the liver.) Similarly, I was told a long time ago that a house symbolizes a person’s psychological being, the basement being the unconscious, the attic spiritual or mental regions and everything else between ordered accordingly.

This symbolism works for me. But dream symbols are very personal. If you’re a building contractor, houses may mean something very different to you. Your dream symbolism is very much your own. A railroad could have positive associations for me, negative for you, and either of our associations might be different from those of someone who works for the railroad, or whose parent did.

A few generalizations can be made about dream symbols. They are often visual or aural puns. If you’re having problems at work with a Mr. Brown, you might well have a dream suffused with a muddy brown fog that impedes your progress: Brown is standing in your way. Also, the feeling surrounding a symbol is very important. If you feel affection for a table, that links it to one set of associations, while if it troubles you, it’s linked to another set.

If any dream symbol seems opaque, or if you feel you might have more to draw from it, you might try Jung’s technique of active imagination. Meditate on the symbol, and see what it does or tells you. This process should help elucidate the symbol and may help connect it to the other symbols in the dream.

To interpret my own dreams, I write out all the pieces of a dream in a list. My list for the dream at the beginning of the article would go like this (I’ve juggled the list a little to aid in interpretation):

  • Traveling.
  • Late afternoon.
  • New restaurant: elegant, empty, fairylike, glamorous.
  • Grandmother.
  • Grandmother worries the restaurant is too expensive.
  • Grandmother fears she won’t know how to conduct herself.
  • I plan to talk her into it.
  • Entrancing crystal chandeliers, with delicate crystals: charming, welcoming, though expensive.
  • I notice one, then see a whole line.
  • My grandmother likes them too.
  • Waiting.

Once you have the list, take each item on it and see what associations each elicits. Aristotle wrote “The most skillful interpreter of dreams is he who has the faculty of observing resemblances,” and this remains true. As Jung did, I tend to strive for one central, core association, keeping in mind others that come up.

For the dream pieces listed, my associations are as follows. Traveling for me tends to be exciting: journeying, adventure, quest. The dream had an enchanted quality that jibes with this interpretation. Late afternoon is a mellow time of day for me: still daylight, but golden, tending toward nostalgia. I love going to new restaurants, and for me this one symbolizes treating myself, a pleasant indulgence. This restaurant has a fairylike feeling: a gift of the elves. For me, this fairylike glamour is associated with the unconscious itself. Desire and glamour are aspects of the unconscious: You cannot summon desire; it comes to you of its own choice, from the depths of your being. The restaurant would thus be a gift, a gift gratifying my desires, given to me by myself.

Grandmother is the elder female, the parental censor, perhaps (here I draw on psychology) the feminine superego. My grandmother worries the restaurant will be too expensive this gift from the subconscious will somehow cost me too much to accept. She is worried, too, she won’t know how to conduct herself; perhaps the gift involves going into unknown territory. She is merely worried, however, not censorious. I, my self or conscious or ego, plan to talk her into letting me accept the gift.

The crystal chandeliers are beautiful things, works of art: specific items that reflect the glamour that is part of the restaurant. Also, a crystal chandelier to me is precious and symbolizes richness, being rich. They are, in effect, gilding on the gift, or indicate the gift is one that includes wealth or is appropriate to the wealthy. I think in this context of supernatural glamour the wealth would be spiritual or psychic rather than material.

First there is one such symbol of richness; then I see many, stretching almost into infinity. The psychic richness offered is great and helps mollify the grandmother-censor.

At the end of the dream, we are still waiting for the hostess. The dream’s gift is a promise for the future.

So, by my interpretation, my unconscious is offering me a rich gift, which attracts me, but my superego is not sure whether to accept it. Still, the psychic wealth of the gift tempts even the superego. But I am waiting for it; it hasn’t come to me yet.

This dream, several years old, came to me at a time when I was intensely considering my love life and what sort of man I should date. Three months after this dream, I met my future husband. Ours is a relationship new in my experience, where at several points I’ve been at a loss how to conduct myself as the dream predicted.

One benefit of keeping a dream journal is that you can go back to your dreams. If you track your dreams over time, you’ll find themes emerging, which in retrospect can be linked to events in your life. The following dream I also dreamed around the same time as that about the restaurant. It also includes a restaurant, this time a diner, and it’s interesting to note it’s set at Christmas, a traditional time of gift-giving. The dream, it seems to me, is again about accepting or rejecting change. Note the aural pun.

It is Christmas, and I have three parties to go to, including one with my family. I start out from my family’s house, where everyone is getting along pretty well, joshing each other.

With some trouble, I make my way to a diner I like for dinner. It is very busy. I manage to get served, but I have a hard time getting the waitress to take my money. I pay her mostly in change; so I may do this, a harried older woman and I pass change back and forth. Finally, when the restaurant is nearly empty, with half the lights out and only three people left, I am able to pay and leave.

I go to one of the parties, a transvestite ball, in a hall around the corner from the diner. I walk in, down a ramp and up another; a man behind a podium seems to be taking tickets. I go up to him. Though I can see plenty of people dancing in the main room, past the shadowy front lobby, the man taking tickets tells me the ball is nearly over. I think this is ridiculous. But then I reflect perhaps he is right, and I don’t want to argue with him. I decide to go back home, to the family party, where I want to go at least as much.

If the divinations your dreams bring you unbidden don’t address the questions you’re concerned with consciously, you can incubate a dream.

Dream incubation has been practiced since the beginning of recorded history. According to Van de Castle, the people of Sumer and Akkad went to special temples to incubate dreams, offering a prayer to the god or goddess of the shrine to send a favorable and true dream. Those serving at the temple would interpret the dreamer’s dream, and if the dream seemed unclear, the dreamer could dream again, asking for more clarity. The Mesopotamians feared evil dreams, which they believed sent by demons; for disturbing dreams, they performed a ritual wherein the dreamer would rub a lump of clay over his or her body to infuse it with his or her essence, tell the clay the disturbing dream, then with ritual words cast it into water so the dream’s evil consequences would dissolve with the clay.

The Egyptians also practiced dream incubation; sometimes an Egyptian would even send a proxy to the temple to dream in his or her place. Egyptians seeking dreams would fast, pray, study drawings and perform rituals to draw the proper dream to them. The Greeks too practiced dream incubation, particularly in temples of the healing god Asklepios. Those who wanted healing would follow a specific regime, usually involving cold baths, a special diet and abstention from sex, then perform animal sacrifice and sleep on the skin of their offering. In their dreams, they would receive hints and symbols that the priests would interpret for the best means of healing.

To incubate a dream, you need only slightly modify the dream remembrance process described earlier. Before you go to sleep, NightOwl suggests you meditate on the question or issue about which you want to dream, saying to your unconscious, “I want to dream tonight about (the issue), and I will have a dream which will give me insight into it.” Again, you can instruct yourself to wake at the dream’s end, or wait till morning, though waiting till morning gives you more chance to lose or forget the important dream.

As with remembering other dreams, incubating a particular dream may take a few nights. However, if you give it a little time, you should find yourself dreaming an answer to your question.

Dreams are a great resource, images from the fertile land of the unconscious, whence come our hopes and desires. You may not spend all your time mining this fertility at this point in my life, I only record and interpret those dreams my unconscious makes a point of my remembering. But dreams have been for me a source of advice and boundless inspiration. If you have questions, or seek to know what deeply concerns you, go to your dreams.