The Wisdom of Dreams

Every night you star in your dreams. From teeth falling out, flying and meeting dead relatives to appearing naked in public or nightmares of being chased by some dark force. Having recorded and worked with my own dreams for twenty years, I hold a profound respect for this night-time theatre.

My fascination with dreams began in childhood. As a family, we often talked about our dreams but didn’t read much into them. It was later in life, my spiritual awakening at thirty, that I realised my natural affinity with the dream world was so important. Consciously working with my dreams saved me. I discovered an inner source of guidance and wisdom that led my healing process and showed me how to create a completely different life and work in the world. Dreams are a direct path to your own inner wisdom.

So what’s the purpose of our dreams?

Dreams don’t come to tell us what we already know. The purpose of our dreams is to bring what is unconscious into consciousness. Dreams tell us the unvarnished truth about ourselves and our lives. Our dreams contain wisdom from the depths of the unconscious mind and are the most natural way of bringing balance, insight and creativity into your life.

Many of our problems are a result of losing contact with our deepest instincts, our inner voice. Dreams are there to guide and offer you emotional and psychological assistance to help you in your day to day life.

Dream recall and REM sleep.

Many people are convinced that they don’t dream. The identification of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in 1953, brought science to bear on exploring the physiology of dreaming. It was discovered that we all dream every night and mostly during REM sleep, the deepest level of the four stages of sleep. However, many people just don’t remember their dreams. It was discovered that waking people up during REM sleep significantly increased dream recall. I’ll say more about improving dream recall later in the podcast.

Ancient civilisations

These coded messages transmitted to us in our sleep where highly respected by ancient civilisations. In 2000BC, the Egyptians systemised dream interpretation and prized the Israelites as interpreters. The Greeks borrowed extensively from the Egyptians and built over 300 shrines to serve as dream oracles. Many of these shrines became famous centres for healing. The belief in the divinatory power of dreams was widespread and persisted during the early centuries of Christianity. However, by the Middles Ages, dreams were dismissed by the Church on the premise that communication with the divine could only be in and through the Church itself. A classic disempowerment of the masses. The belief that dreams could be divinely inspired was upheld by the Aboriginal people of Australia who spend two-thirds of their waking life in some form of inner work. They believe dreaming is fundamental to a healthy life.

Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud

psychiatrists and psychotherapists in the early 19th century, brought about a revolution in dream theory and contributed significantly to our modern understanding of the significance of dreams. Freud located our dreams in the unconscious where our repressed instincts, memories and desires dwell and coined the phrase ‘dreams are the royal road to the unconscious’. Jung’s ground-breaking theories around archetypes and the collective unconscious, including the concept of our shadow, took our understanding of levels of consciousness much further encompassing spirituality and mysticism.

They both likened the conscious mind to the tip of an iceberg that rises above the water. The unconscious, like 95% of the iceberg is out of sight, hidden beneath dark waters. They warned of the enormous power of the unconscious which could be as dangerous as a submerged iceberg, if not respected.

Our dreams are our connection with this vast unexposed or unconscious life. They are a conversation with the conscious and unconscious levels of our mind bringing revelations from a profound creative source within. They are not just the confused debris of thoughts and images left over from our waking life.

It was psychologist Robert Johnson who said, “Our isolation from the unconscious is synonymous with our isolation from our own souls.”

Decode and digest the wisdom of dreams

Your dreams contain powerful messages but how do you work out what they are trying to tell you? We are the authors and actors in our dreams and ultimately the best judge of their meaning. But it is not always simple or straightforward to understand them. I have kept a dream journal for twenty years and encourage my clients to use their dreams in our work together.

You need no more than a notebook and a pen for writing down your dreams, an alarm clock, some basic guidance on dream interpretation and the necessary levels of intention, motivation and perseverance. The single most important factor in increasing dream recall is deciding wholeheartedly that you want to remember your dreams. Have the intention before falling asleep, “I will remember my dreams”. On waking write down your dream before you start thinking or get out of bed. The dream will evaporate like mist if you don’t do it while its fresh in your mind. This applies to everyone, even experienced dreamers. The next best way of increasing dream recall is finding people to share your dreams with. Inevitably, my clients will see an increase in their dream recall when they begin working with me. The psyche knows there is a safe container to explore the material.

Working with dream material

Every symbol and every image that appears in your dreams has a certain relevance to your life. In other words, the dream is the dreamer. Images in our dreams are drawn from our own personal unconscious as well as the collective unconscious. We need to develop an understanding of our own personal dream language over time and the best way of doing that is by writing them down. I don’t advocate using dream dictionaries for that reason. Your dream language is personal to you. A horse in my dream will mean something completely different to a horse in your dream. The question to ask is what is your personal association with each of the images in the dream? What “clicks” for you or has the “aha” right feeling?

People and setting

People and places in dreams are often symbolic rather than real. It’s the characteristics of the person and the place that matter. What comes to mind when you think of their characteristics? What is missing or out of balance in your own personality? Why did the dream choose that setting?

There are times when the dream can be about the actual person in question, especially when we are being warned they may have dubious intentions. I have experienced this many times particularly in personal relationships and moved away from such people saving myself much emotional angst.


Emotions in dreams are very powerful indicators of the message behind the dream. What we may not be able to face or resolve in waking life, we can take on in our dreams. We can use dreams to help ‘heal’ emotional trauma and improve our capacity to deal with and face problems in life. Nightmares are a good example of issues that we need not only need to face but are reading to face. Dreams only present material we are ready to deal with.

We only gain psychic wholeness when we look at our imbalances and tend them rather than allowing them to fester deep underground, permeating our existence with neuroses, troubled relationships, poor decision making and even mental and physical illness.

Example: Here’s an example of a dream that showed I had made a breakthrough

The dream: Funky Car 13/8/20

Dreamt that I saw an old black industrial looking building blow up. No-one was hurt but it was a major incident. There’s another factory next to it and it is still functioning. Then, I’m driving a funky car and there’s another woman in the passenger seat. Notice the thick indigo blue steering wheel and white dashboard. I’m turning left out of a tight passageway.

The interpretation:

An old work identity or complex has blown up – industrial building. It had been a dark time symbolised by the colour black. But there was no damage – no-one was hurt. This was all internal. There was still a healthy factory next to it – so I am still effective and productive. My new funky car is driven by the feminine – me driving and another woman in the passenger seat. The robust steering wheel is indigo blue – the colour symbolising my third eye which I know is strong and the white dashboard, symbolising the spiritual- all of the instrumentation is there too. I turn left – again, the feminine out of a tight passageway – the birth canal. My association with an old way masculine way of being was over. The new feminine is in the driving seat with all her intuitive and spiritual gifts.

Footnote: Healing the feminine and putting her soul in the driving seat has been a 20-year, pain staking journey for me. As an intellectual, achieving father’s daughter, this little dream was a huge sign of progress and affirming of the emergence of a new female authority in a masculine world. There are no microwaves in heaven, this deep work takes patience.

Innovation and creativity

All dreams bring new insight and invite us to increase our creative response to the world. And in valuing our dreams, we therefore also nourish our creativity.

We can find solutions to problems and breakthroughs in innovation. Some famous examples in literature and science include:

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed the plot for his famous novel.
  • The scientist Friedrich August Kekulé discovered the seemingly impossible chemical structure of benzene (C6H6) when he had a dream of a group of snakes swallowing their tail. ”Let us learn to dream and then we may perhaps find the truth.”
  • Mendeleev's Periodic Table -Dmitri Mendeleev, who created the periodic table foundational to our understanding of chemistry, claimed to have envisioned the complete arrangement of the elements in a dream.
  • The sewing machine, Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845.

I’ve used dreams to seed new poems and create material for my programmes and workshops. Its all about being open to new creative energy, new ideas , new ways of seeing things.


Learning how to work with your dreams improves relationships, builds confidence, resolves inner conflicts, guides decisions, releases creativity, enhances health and connects you with your true Self.

As with every new skill, commitment to practice is the key to success. I invite you to explore your dream life and reach your own conclusions as to the value of dreams in your own life. In dreams, the layperson is just a proficient as the professional. Teach yourself the language of your dreams and marvel at the wisdom you have inside yourself.

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