"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." ― C.G. JungHumans have been trying to interpret their dreams since the dawn of time. Witches, medicine men, shamans, and everyday people with good imaginations were reading meaning into our dreams long before the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud and famed psychiatrist Carl Jung began using them to analyze our unconscious minds.
Dreams continue to fascinate us, and we keep trying to grasp their hidden meaning.
Nobody argues the power of the unconscious mind anymore. But how do we tap into its wisdom? How do we connect with it? And must we always listen and agree?
One way to access your subconscious is through your dreams.
Have you ever dreamed about falling, flying, losing something important, or being chased by an ugly troll?
Of course you have! We all dream, even when we don’t remember a thing the following morning. Some dreams are so vivid that they almost feel real. You remember every detail — sounds, colors, smells, and feelings that become imprinted in your memory forever.
Dreams can be a beautiful window into our unconscious mind and help us to overcome unresolved issues. Let me share some of my most meaningful dreams with you, and show you how they helped me to heal.
Meaningful Dreams: From Flying to Dying
Some dreams keep showing up until you pay attention to their message. Others appear once and dissolve like the morning haze. Meaningful dreams can appear as either.
Here are my most groundbreaking dreams.
I often dreamed of flying when I was little. You too?
I hover over the asphalt in my neighborhood, where I played hopscotch, jumped rope, or pretended to be a robber chased by fearsome Cossacks in my free time. Back then, kids played together outside, free spirits in a not-so-free world.
But it was another "flying" dream that led me to a certain realization.
I fly over a vast forest, feeling high on freedom and calm at the same time. I rest on the top of the tallest tree, absorbing the view around and below from an unusual perspective.
How could a girl with no experience of being on a plane or tree know what it is supposed to look like? I don't know, but it is pure joy.
When I got older, other messages emerged from the depths of my unconsciousness to pave their way into my conscious mind. They popped up every now and then like porcini mushrooms after the rain, the same dream over and over, to make sure I listened.
Here there are.
I walk in a house, from one room to another, then back again, with no goal and no purpose. There are other people in there, but we don't communicate. I'm lonely, anxious, and lost.
I dream of huge, filthy public toilets. Have you ever seen an adventure movie with characters walking in sewage, up to their knees in smelly sh..? Yep, that's disgusting, and all I want is to escape.
Death is a new beginning
This dream of being dead is my favorite, and although I had it only once, it forever changed me and my perception of life.
From above, I watch myself lying in a coffin. A small group of people are gathered around me, and they look sad. Some even cry. I see my mom, too. I don't understand what it means, so I start waving at them, saying that I'm fine. But no matter how much I turn and twirl, and how loud I get, not even a finger moves on my body below. No one can see or hear me.
Finally, it dawns on me: I'm dead. But I live, too! Except for a slight nudge of sadness because I can't comfort my grieving family, I'm at a higher level of inner peacefulness and love. I feel amazingly uplifted, ready for what's next.
How Dreams Can Help You Heal
"Dreams are a way of communicating and acquainting yourself with the unconscious. Dreams are not attempts to conceal your true feelings from the waking mind, but rather, they are a window to your unconscious. They serve to guide the waking self to achieve wholeness and offer a solution to a problem you are facing in your waking life." — Carl Jung
When you fall asleep, your brain keeps working. And while some parts rest, others step up, processing your feelings and thoughts, looking for solutions for unresolved issues. It works using what it has learned from your personal experience and, according to Carl Jung, from collective human experiences.
Let's be clear: comprehending your dreams won't heal you on its own, but it can help you better understand yourself and your life, and point out what needs to change.
Here's how dreams have helped me to heal myself and improve my life.
# 1 They offer a new perspective
You may be looking for a solution in the wrong place.
Take my dream about the house, where I was feeling frustrated and stuck. I felt trapped, confused, and unable to find my way out of misery in real life. Then, one night, I entered an attic, a symbol of a conscious mind where a person’s hopes, goals, and aspirations live.
The message was to stop running in circles, take a break, and think. To address my hopes, needs, and wishes instead of waiting for others to tell me what to do. The dream inspired me to view my life from a different, higher perspective.
I felt at ease because I knew that I would be fine. The dream didn't change me or my life overnight, but it gently redirected me to a new path.
Alternatively, I could explore a cellar, or my unconscious mind, to identify my fears, insecurities, and other deep feelings.
# 2 They bring a sense of freedom
Good things happen even when life sucks. I'm talking about those sparks of pleasure and gratitude that are noticeable only if you pay attention.
You see, your mind is wired to notice negative vibes first as potential danger—threats to your survival. But even in the darkest moments, you may meet someone who smiles at you for no reason. You may feel joy sipping your first cup of coffee in the morning, or feel thankful when a friend stops by to encourage you to hang on.
Sometimes you need to disconnect, take a step back, or survey your situation from a bird's-eye view. Things look different from up there.
Dreams of flying were a big source of pleasure and excitement for me. They called me to change my perspective and see the bigger picture. With that new overview, feeling free and adventurous, I could focus on what was important in my life, grow, and move on. Suddenly, life was so much bigger than the family drama.
# 3 They show me when my life needs cleaning up
What could a dream of the overflooded, grimy restrooms possibly mean? It didn't make sense, so, puzzled, I asked a colleague for help.
He said something along these lines: "Dear, unconsciously, you are appalled by something in your life. You must figure out what it is and take care of those issues." In other words, I had a substantial cleaning project ahead of me.
When we looked at the timing of these dreams, it became clear that I've been struggling with one relationship or another when they appear — mum, my teenage son, my husband, a colleague at work. I felt wronged, frustrated, and angry at times, but instead of acknowledging my feelings and taking care of them, I did everything to smooth things out and keep the peace. I suppressed my feelings and needs because I considered the happiness of others as more important than my own. Sh...
Right, that explains the mess!
The change took effort, but with my mentor's support, I gradually learned to pay attention to and prioritize my feelings and needs, set and protect new boundaries, define my values, and so much more. Years later, my dream changed. Now, I was in a cute little restroom, clean and tidy, with curtains and flowers on the windowsill. The air was fresh, and I was smiling.
#4 They are better than Sunday prayers
Dreaming of being dead was the best remedy against existential anxiety.
I was still just a little girl, maybe 11 or 12 years old, and I had no idea about the afterlife. I lived a hundred meters from a beautiful church, but never had been there. I was terrified of dead people, and I thought death was nothingness—the END.
Back then, death was taboo, and this dream helped me realize that the universe is more complicated than I’d thought. I'm forever grateful for that, and for not being scared of the inevitable anymore.
Tips to Help You with Your Dream Work
Tapping into the power of your dreams is easier than it sounds. Below are some strategies you can start to use right now to harness the wisdom of your dreams as a window into your unconscious mind.
- Go to sleep between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.
When I stay up late and fall asleep at two or three in the morning, I don’t even try to remember my dreams — I don’t have any. It must have to do with those phases of sleep. You see, dreams belong to the so-called REM phase of sleep, and if you don’t reach it, you won’t have any dreams. So, if you want them, make 11:00 p.m. work for you.
- Record your dreams.
Don’t trust your memory to always remember your dreams. Keep a notebook and a pencil beside your bed to quickly scribble the details down when you wake up. Or, record audio of yourself explaining them using the recording function on your phone.
- Draw your dreams.
Make drawings or doodle your dreams — it might help you to remember the details and come up with new ideas, especially if you are a visual person.
- Check out possible dream-killers.
Your bedtime is perfect, and you sleep tight, but you have no dreams — bummer! Check out possible culprits: sleeping pills, anti-depressants, and drugs for blood pressure or heart conditions can all suppress your dreams. This may explain things, but don’t stop taking your medicine because you want your dreams back! Your health is more important. Always consult a doctor before making any changes to your prescribed medication.
- Use creativity to understand your dreams. Educate yourself on the universal dream archetypes according to a Western or another tradition you prefer. Use them as guidelines but not an absolute. Follow your intuition and common sense. Remember, there is no right or wrong here, no mistakes.
Keep the Gate Open
Do I always understand and follow the messages from my dreams? Of course not. Not all dreams have groundbreaking lessons to teach. View them as the bridge between your unconscious and conscious minds that may or may not contain nuggets of wisdom for you to crack open.
In my experience, understanding dreams can help you ease anxiety and sadness, change unproductive habits, find alternative solutions to problems, see what needs adjustment, and learn how to tackle a challenge. They can make you stronger and better prepared.
But don't waste your time trying to interpret each and every one of them. Some dreams are just dreams. Use your intuition and common sense.
Most of all, have fun!
Disclaimer: I'm not a specialist in psychotherapeutic dreamwork, and this article is based mostly on my own experience and understanding of dreams.