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Dreams are like secret doors into our unconscious mind that can reveal our deepest needs, desires, feelings and fears. In some funny, bizarre and sometimes scary ways our dreams present to us symbols, metaphors and allegories that are significant in our waking lives. Our dreams can tell us a great deal about ourselves and give us insight on how to solve problems. It’s no wonder that we want to try and piece together what our dreams are trying to tell us.

Understand that the meaning of your dreams doesn’t have to be something cryptic or complex. Your dreams are reflections of yourself and belong to you. The real nitty gritty of understanding what a dream means will always come down to you, your personal circumstances and the context of the dream and your waking life.

There are ways to begin understanding your dreams and figuring out what they are trying to tell you. These easy steps are a great start in how to interpret your subconscious mind.

Write Your Dream Down

For many people, within the first few minutes of waking up the details of our dreams slip away, become fuzzy and are difficult to recall. Our waking mind soon begins to try and fill in the gaps and create a story, which could dampen the true meaning of the dream. Therefore, it’s essential that you record your dreams as soon as you wake up. Leave a notebook next to your bedside table that is easily accessible. Instead of trying to jot down the whole story, focus on any fragments or images that come to mind.

Analyze the Images

Examine each of the images in your dream and consider what your conscious mind associates with them. If you have been stressed out at a job lately, your dream might be located in an office to convey the feelings of stress. You will want to look at the setting of the dream (Where does the dream take place? Have you been there before? What does it make you think of?) and images and symbols (What did the objects mean to you? Were they significant?) and see if anything stands out.

Reflect on Relationships

People are not always people in dreams, and instead are representations of you. You are the writer, director, and all the actors in a dream. When examining people who appear in your dreams, you want to consider what your relationship with them is in real life and what part of you they could be representing. Do you associate positive feelings with the person? Do they have attributes that you admire or share? The less you share a significant, primary relationship with the person, the more likely that person symbolizes a part of your own psyche.

Consider Day Residue

Day residue refers to any objects, people or symbols that appear in your dreams simply because you came in contact with them during the day prior. These can be very small encounters – as simple as a photo you saw on social media as you were scrolling down your feed. These things don’t necessarily mean anything in your dream, so don’t harp on interpreting them if you are having trouble understanding how it would fit.

Examine Emotions

How did you feel in the dream, was it happy or sad? Did you feel overwhelmed or at peace? Was there a disconnect between what you think you should have been feeling and what you did feel in the dream? Examine the emotional tone like you would objects and symbols, and see how it would all fit into context.

Put it Together

Dreams are not under our conscious control much like other bodily functions, which serve to promote health and growth. We can then understand examining dreams with the perspective of “what is the dream trying to tell me?” and “what is it trying to balance or heal?” Once you have analyzed each part of the dream, you might begin to see a bigger picture or theme. Ask yourself how the dream would relate to what you are currently going through. It is giving you solutions to your problems.

A dream can rarely be fully understood and interpreted, but the process of trying to understand your dreams matters. With this process you won’t come up with any one answer or meaning, but rather with a serious of ideas and questions that you can examine further in your waking life.

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