Most human cultures before the modern era have valued dreams as a source of healing.
It was widely understood, for starters, that dreams can diagnose what’s going on inside the body. One of the ways to understand dreams is that they might be messages from inside the body – reports from the front on what’s going on there. The great Greek physician Galen always used to look at dreams with the idea that consciousness is traveling inside the body during sleep and brings back, through the vehicle of dream reports, accounts of what is right or wrong with it from which a sensitive physician may diagnose a complaint, or which the dreamer can simply use to stay well.
The connection between dreaming and healing goes far beyond diagnosing physical symptoms. Dreams give us a picture of our condition on all levels – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual – beyond the scope of any technology. So most cultures across most of human history have valued dreams as x-rays or pictures of the state of body, mind and spirit. Dreams can show whether you’re missing part of yourself because you lost vital soul energy somewhere on the roads of this life.
One of the ways I work with dreams is to look for clues as to where someone might have lost a part of their vital energy through pain, abuse, trauma, addiction, wrenching life choices, and for the right direction to follow to get missing soul parts back in the body. For example: you keep dreaming of a younger version of yourself or a place where you used to be with a former partner, a former house where you keep going back again and again and again. Maybe the dream is saying to you that part of you is still invested in that time and place and isn’t with you because it didn’t follow along the roads you subsequently took. Dreams answer the question, “Where’s the rest of me?” And they do more: they lay roads for us to recover our missing pieces and become whole.
Dreams also give us personal images that can be a source of healing. Research in sports psychology and later in immunology and neuroscience confirm that the body can’t distinguish between a strong image, thought or feeling and a physical event. So we want to learn to give our attention to images and stories that move the body in the direction of health. Where do we get the right image or story? Our dreams are a treasury of personal freshly manufactured spontaneous images and stories we can use to work on the body in the direction of health. This is ancient understanding, but we lost it for a while. It is time to get it back.
When people come to me in quest of healing, I tell them, “I’m more interested in the state of your soul than the state of your body.” This is the shaman’s way. I want to know the state of your soul and whether you’re following the soul’s purpose in your life, whether you’re in touch with your bigger story. If you live with the sense of a deeper drama, a larger story, you find courage and driving purpose to get through the stuff that might otherwise knock you down. Where do you recover your sense of what your life mission might be? Dreaming is one of the ways. Your larger self is hunting you in dreams, seeking to recall you to the memory of why you came here in the first place. Awaken to that, and your life will be different, I promise you.