Q&A: Do all dreams have meaning? A ‘Sleepy Skeptic’ wants to know.
Q: I’ve heard you say that everything in a dream has meaning, but I’m not sure I believe it. Some of my dreams seem pretty random.
A: Sorry to have taken so long to reply to your question, Sleepy Skeptic, but I’ve been pretty tired myself. That’s because I recently finished moving from an apartment on one side of town to a house on the other. And do you know what moving entails? It entails picking up every single thing you own, and putting it someplace else. When I say everything, I mean every single solitary thing. Every table, chair, book case, dish, napkin ring, painting, piece of paper, twist-tie, and rubber band. It might sound like I’m avoiding your question. In fact, I’m answering it.
Have you ever noticed that when you move, it takes you hours to pack a small room, but when a friend comes in to help she fills and tapes those boxes in record time?
That’s because every object in your house is in some way meaningful to you: Those old brown shoes in the back of your closet? You were wearing those the day your daughter was born. That that chipped mug your friend is about to put in the Give-Away-Box, that’s the one your mom used to sip her coffee from, and which tucked into your pocketbook when you cleaned out her apartment after she died.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Just as we have meaningful objects in our home, so too our minds are furnished with images, memories, thoughts, and desires, and each one is there for a reason. The roiling ocean in your dream is there for a reason. So,too, the dilapidated cottage that you’ve never seen in waking life, but that appears in your dreams.
The little things count, too
But, you say skeptically, Sleepy one, what about those twist ties and rubber bands–both the literal ones, and the dreaming equivalent of the seemingly random objects that appear in the backgrounds of our dreams.
Carl Jung taught that everything in a dream is there for a purpose. So, too, my teacher Linda Metcalf often said, “There are no tourists in the mind.” Dreams, are after all, creations of the mind.
Our homes are filled with things we’ve made, borrowed, or bought.
But still, even those twist ties and rubber bands are there for a reason. That particular blue one held together the bunch of organic kale I picked up at the farmer’s market last summer, and the red rubber band circled the Sunday Times that was delivered last week. Is the painting painting my niece made and gave me for a long ago birthday more meaningful to me than an old roll of wrapping paper? Certainly, but each one is in my home (in my life) for some reason.That’s why handling each object when you move is so time consuming, because everything has some story behind it.
So too with the contents of your dreams. Now it’s your job to sort them out.
Good luck with that, my skeptical friend.
And let me know how you do.