This is the second in a three-part series on Unconscious Mental Processes.
Our dreams express unguarded emotional expression. Fear that backs up inside us may come popping out as nightmares while we sleep. Sleeping minds craft stories fueled by emotional truths. Thinking about the emotional themes and patterns of your dreams and nightmares can reveal a lot about your inner world, if you are open to seeing it.
Record: Put a notebook by your bed - it should look like a detective's notebook. Write down your dreams and nightmares, recording the date. Then start thinking about the emotional themes in your dreams. Each nightmare has a narrative, a story. Reflect on the story as if it were written by someone else. Imagine how you would feel if the dream were real, and then notice how you did feel while dreaming. Take note of how you felt when you woke up. Look for unusual responses or turns of events in your dreams and ponder their meaning. Once you get the emotional story of your dream straight, look for metaphors in the dream that pertain to your life. Think of things in your life that emotionally echo the drama of your dreams. If you have nightmares, think about what seems frightening and overwhelming to you, things you'd rather not think about. Then try to think of how these fears may be depicted in your dreams.
Take care of yourself: After you've had a nightmare, be sensitive to your inner world. Realize that you may feel a little shaken after a bad nightmare and be kind of vulnerable. Try to find ways to soothe yourself. Take it easy, be generous with yourself. Seek some down time: be with friends, indulge your hobbies, let yourself do what makes you feel better.
Learn from your nightmares: Once you get a better grasp on the source of your fears, then you can try to work with them. Try to shift your perspective about your fears. Gain some information about the things that scare you. Seek out some helpful skills or experience. Challenge yourself emotionally while avoiding danger. Stretch your emotional comfort zone, when it is safe.
Read about dreams: classic books by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are very interesting, but can be difficult. I recently picked up a little book at Urban Outfitters called Big Bad Ass Book of Dreams. It offers common meanings of dream symbols, many of which seem to be quite useful. It also offers suggestions about how to begin to understand your dreams. Be careful about taking their suggestions literally. If your associations are different from those suggested in the book, honor the personal meaning of your symbols - after all it is your dream.
I'll have a lot of information about dreams to share in future posts.