In dream interpretation training, a major concept emphasized repeatedly is that dreams are symbolic. Too often we miss the meaning of a dream because we interpret it—or specific symbols in a dream—too literally. We may think our boss in our dream really represents our boss, rather than someone in authority over us that is ‘bossing’ us around. A good interpreter will ALWAYS first consider the symbolic possibilities of a dream. Is my dream literal or symbolic?
However, that doesn’t mean that dreams are never literal. Some of our ‘dreams’ are actually ‘visions’ of the night (a little different from a dream), and visions tend to communicate more literally. Some of our dreams are just plain, straightforward revelation about a crucial situation that needs unlocking.
How do we know whether we should interpret a dream symbolically or literally? Rule of thumb is to interpret symbolically first. This interpretation will even apply if the dream is more direct. We interpret, then apply the interpretation. Often the application is literal. Or literally symbolic.
Like the time I dreamed I had rats feeding in my basement. It was upsetting and I knew that I needed to look into my life to see what ‘garbage’ was hidden that was empowering a feeling of being ‘eaten’ up and defiled. I found some some attitudes and behaviors that needed to be cleaned up. But in the process, we realized we really did INDEED have rats living in our basement. They were coming in through the doggie door! There was an ‘open entry point’ that needed to be tended to. And rat eradication wasn’t as easy or as quick as we hoped. It was a slow, steady process that required patience and tenacity. Double dream meaning!
Don’t dismiss possible literal applications for dreams. For example:
* If you dream that you get a job promotion and will make a difficult but rewarding move to Philadelphia, you can keep your ears open for such a possibility at your job, but also keep in mind that your heart may need a ‘shift’ toward greater ‘brotherly love’ that will challenge you but increase your happiness.
* If you dream that your friend Alison drowns, your dream may be telling you that she is feeling overwhelmed in life and needs some help. But you might also pray for her physical safety. Or even call her and ask her to be extra careful at the lake house this weekend.
* If you dream your front rear tire is low on air, you might acknowledge that your spirit needs a ‘refilling’. But also, check that tire before you leave for work.
* During a sad time in our family, I dreamed we all rolled around in the floor playing with a little black and white puppy, laughing through waves and waves of deep belly heaves. I awoke with tears of healing from the laughter. A heavy weight lifted. The next day, we found out that our father-in-law had just spontaneously bought us a little Boston terrier puppy….a happy harbinger of joy sent into our lives after a season of grief.
It never hurts to cover all the bases that you can in applying a dream interpretation. Dreams are subjective, sometimes very clear, very often confusing. Amazingly often, if we are paying attention, we notice a correlation between internals and externals—what a dream says about what is happening within us is confirmed by natural events or conditions. We can always ask for further Divine information.
An amazing treasure about dreams is how they can speak to us on many different levels. Literal. Symbolic. Hidden. Somewhere in between. And all of the above. Dream interpretation does not fit in any kind of box. What a great gift we receive from the Dream Giver, who employs all sorts of creative ways to speak guidance into our lives.
Share: What dreams have you experienced that seemed to speak more literally to you? Or had several layers of meaning—symbolic as well as literal ‘real life’ stuff?
Is My Dream Literal or Symbolic?