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Tapping the Power of Your Dreams

colors_dreaming_by_mayoofkaDr. Judith Orloff

Strategies for Remembering and Interpreting Their Life-Changing Messages

As a psychiatrist, I believe that dreams provide extraordinary insights into improving your health, relationships and career. I consult my dreams for all important decisions using a technique that I describe in "Emotional Freedom" and below. You'd be surprised by the invaluable advice that your dreams give, either spontaneously or on request.

Science magazine reports that sleeping on a problem, which results in "unconscious thought," can lead to smarter decisions than over-thinking -- especially when it comes to important choices. For instance, if you're going crazy analyzing the pros and cons of a relationship, the Science study suggests that that won't get you very far; rather, it proposes that you think less and sleep on the dilemma, to give your subconscious an opportunity to solve the problem.

I subscribe to the "sleep on it" school of decision-making, which involves drawing on the wisdom of dreams. Why do we dream? To find answers, resolve emotional conflicts and discharge negativity, as well as to stabilize our biochemistry and mood. However, to me, another interesting question is why we wake up. Native American and Aboriginal cultures revere dream-time over waking life; they base tribal law on information obtained there. The Maoris believe that when we die, we return to the dream world. Kalahari Bushmen say, "There is a dream, and it is dreaming us." So, in your own life, your dreams can contain advice that goes beyond the Annals of Internal Medicine.

How To Remember And Interpret Your Dreams

I recommend the following 5 strategies to remember your dreams:

  1. Keep a dream journal and pen by your bed.
  2. Write a question (just one!) in the journal before sleep.
  3. Wake up slowly. In the morning, spend some quiet moments remembering your dream. Luxuriate in a peaceful feeling between sleep and waking, what's called the "hypnagogic state." Those initial moments provide a doorway.
  4. Record your dream immediately; otherwise it will evaporate. You may recall a face, object, color, scenario, feeling or emotion. It doesn't matter if it makes perfect sense. Do not censor anything. Nothing is too "strange" or "weird."
  5. See how the dream answers your question. Act on this answer and see if your life improves.

Try this every day for a week. Keep at it. You are programming your subconscious to remember. Soon it will become second nature to you.

How do you interpret dreams? One key is to notice the most highly charged emotion in the dream -- for instance, anger, fear or joy. Next, ask yourself, "Where in my life am I feeling these emotions?" Then, consider how you can heal the situation or else celebrate a success. In addition, here are some common dreams and their interpretations.

A Guide To Interpreting Common Psychological Dreams (From Emotional Freedom)

Dreams About Your Fears, Anxieties and Insecurities:

  • You're standing buck naked in front of a group of people who are pointing at you.

    Meaning:You feel exposed, vulnerable and unsafe about a situation.

  • You're taking a test and panic that you don't know the answers.

    Meaning: You feel unprepared to meet a challenge or solve an emotional dilemma.

  • You're being chased by a horrifying pursuer.

    Meaning: You're trying to escape a scary person or emotion (past or present) instead of facing it.

  • You lose your wallet and are stranded without credit cards or cash.

    Meaning: You're afraid that you're without the emotional resources to cope with one or more aspects of your life.

  • Your teeth fall out, crack or decay.

    Meaning: You feel that a source of power has been taken away in your life; you can't bite back or assert your needs in a situation. Also you may experience a lack of energy or nurturing from others. (Without strong teeth, it's hard to chew food and assimilate its nutrients necessary for vitality).

  • You're wandering around lost, unable to find your way home.

    Meaning: You lack a sense of inner or outer direction. You don't know how to get back on track with a situation or relationship and don't feel emotionally supported.

  • Dreams Affirming Your Strengths, Emotional Achievements and Largeness of Spirit:

  • You're able to fly, a natural, joyous feeling.

    Meaning: You're empowered, creative and unfettered by the drag of negativity.

  • You triumph over impossible odds; for example, there is a flood, landslide or a war and you survive.

    Meaning: You have the courage, strength and heart to overcome difficult emotional obstacles.

  • You give birth or watch someone give birth.

    Meaning: You're coming into your own, thriving. It's a time of new beginnings for relationships, career or revitalizing health and emotions.

  • You feel vibrant, eating (not overeating) a delicious meal in good company.

    Meaning: You're nourishing yourself emotionally, and others are nourishing you.

  • You're getting married or celebrating someone else's wedding.

    Meaning: You're becoming whole! Your physical, emotional and spiritual sides are becoming integrated. You're ready for more of an emotional commitment to yourself, your work or another person.

Dreams let you pinpoint an emotional conflict so that you can solve it. For instance, if you're standing naked before a group of jeering co-workers, ask yourself, "Might I have feelings of being exposed or berated at work?" Then take steps to feel more protected in that environment. Or if, in a dream, you're wandering aimlessly, consider, "Where am I lost in my life, and how can I find my way?" Also, it's crucial to honor the messages of encouragement that dreams send. Emotional freedom comes from removing blocks as well as acknowledging your own clarity and power.

Watch video "The Art of Remembering and Interpreting Dreams"


Judith Orloff MD is bestselling author of the new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011) upon which these tips and article are based. Her insights in Emotional Freedom create a new convergence of healing paths for our stressed out world. An assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Dr. Orloff's work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine and USA Today.

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