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How to Interpret a Dream

Most dreamworkers agree, you need to be the authority on the meaning and value of your own dreams.

  • How then can one learn to interpret a dream? 

Well, O.K., we can give you some popular ways to interpret the meaning of a dream, but be sure to realize that different approaches and techniques produce different answers.  Test all the answers and interpretations out against your own sense of truth.

  • How do I test the truth of an interpretation? 

One way is to use a set of test questions and not rely on just one::  
1. Does the answer feel right?
2. Does the interpretation make sense?
3. Is there something useful I can do with this interpretation?
4. What would my mom or a truck driver have to say about this answer if I were to tell them? 

5. Learn more about dreamwork and truth in my article, Do Dreams Have Meaning? 

  • OK, so how do I interpret my dream? 

The two most popular techniques are to take the dream as being subjective (about yourself)  and that it is speaking metaphorically. What?

Say you have this dream: "I had a dream that I was with my sister on a bus going to church...she had a pet snake that I held and it squeezed my arm... "

Subjectively it would read:

I had a dream that I was with my sister(-part of me) on a bus(-part of me) going to church(-part of me)...she(-part of me) had a pet snake(-part of me) that I held and it squeezed my arm(-part of me)...

Now let's look at the parts metaphorically. In this example we can use a metaphorical technique I call functional generalization. Change those parts of your to something functional, what they DO such as :

sister = A girl or feminine part of myself that is closely related to me and helps in the family.
bus = A vehicle, one that holds lots of parts of myself, a collective part of myself.
going to church = Going to a religious or organized or mystical or meaningful part of myself.
pet snake = An unpredictable part of myself that has been tamed, a kids pet, an unusual part.
gave to me = gift, passed on to me for some reason.
arm = A way I have of extending my reach and holding large objects close to me.
squeezed my arm = acknowledging my reach in life, grasping or understanding my arm or reaching-out parts of me, becoming part of me or close to me.

Now re-write the whole dream using the translations and make a story out of the parts. Feel free to embellish and add new associations and thoughts that come to you.  Here is one re-write:

I had a dream that I was with the feminine part of myself that has been with me since childhood. We entered a part of myself that transports or moves me, often in routine ways, and often filled with lots of parts of me. I go with the feminine part of myself along this collective route to the place where I create meaning and value in life. The feminine part of me gave me a gift there in that place of meaning and value, an unpredictable part of myself, an early pre-animal, reptilian part of myself that my feminine side had tamed. This gift acknowledged the part of me that can extend itself to others in so many way, in holding, reaching out, giving power to other parts of myself. I in turn could lend direction and support for this unpredictable part of myself.

Obviously, your own re-write and associations may be quite different. If you have time, you can do two stories, one full of promise and potential, the other full of darkness and foreboding. Then use both these interpretations and ask:

1. How are these like my life? How can they change and make my life more productive and creative? You can test this by watching the reactions of your body. Get a whole felt sense of the dream. Notice where in your body your are feeling the most as you read and re-write the dream. After finding where you are feeling the most, ask "What is this feeling?" Don't go into it, just hang out at the edge and try out various handles or names, "Sad?" then listen and see if there is much of a reaction. "Happy?" Again, wait, listen to the place that feels the most. If you say something that resonates a little with the feeling place, it will move or shift.
Watch for shifts and the "Ah ha!" reactions. Once you find the right word, say it again, then listen to that place and note what happens. This is your feeling connection to the meaning and value of the dream.

2. How can I help the dream? What resources do I have that will allow me to help the parts of the dream to change, mutate and become what it most essentially is? What is the dream showing me that I don't already know?
We want to be careful that we don't just use the dream for our purposes and life. That would be like making friends so we can use them. Rather, make it a reciprocal interaction. Make a friend of your dreams. Like all friends, they have nice and ugly sides and moods, good and bad days, and needs that may not be our own. We many not be able to respond to all their needs, but we can be sensitive to them.

I know this sounds really silly to some, being sensitive to what your dream wants. But it is essential for a deep understanding and meaningful relationship to any part of life. Look at our ecological situation in the world. Our culture has gotten into trouble by using the earth for its own purposes and not listening to the earth. We thought the American Indians and other indigenous people childish and superstitious for talking about listening and responding to the Earth. But now we know that treating things we thought were OBJECTS as SUBJECTS, as others with their own call and needs beyond our own, is the way to go for living a meaningful life in a rational, sustainable ecology.

This sensitivity to objects can be practiced at the level of dream. See the dream as a subject to befriend, even if it holds up an mirror to yourself that is hard to look into. The more nightmarish the dream, the more it has to offer you and your relationship with the universe. Just like a friend who tells you that you have snot on your face or you zipper is down, accepting the willingness of the friend to tell you this is a benefit of friendship. Now there is no need to be bullied and mercilessly teased by the dream friend. The dream is not a bad parental figure dreamt up to scold you. If you feel the lesson of the dream for you is too harsh or critical, then the interpretation is simply wrong. Any interpretation that doesn't offer you a gift, a way of being more than yourself before encountering the dream, is simply diminishing both your and the dream. (note for example, in the feeling exercise above where you locate a handle or name for the feeling, that you will never come up with a word like "stupid" or "lazy". These are words that others apply to us or we apply to ourselves, never a feeling we have. )

Keep the dream and its interpretations & feeling sense with you throughout the day and notice where they apply in events during the day and what changes or different reactions and actions you can make with this new knowledge. ("Ah, my boss is just like car in my dream that didn't have brakes! In my dream when this happened, I run into the school. I think now I will be able to learn something from this and not smash the 'school'")

Stick with the dream image, which includes the felt sense of the dream. I think in a sense all dreams have a vision aspect to them. If there was a unique or special feeling to the dream, be sure to keep that alive however you can, telling the dream, drawing it, painting, sculpture, write a play or whatever you do to keep special feelings alive. From that point, the points of feeling expression, my guess is that something unknown will occur, a chance meeting, something you read, a conversation, that will further develop the feeling and allow the spirit of the dream to flow.

I am sure you will find that this place will become an endless source of wisdom for you throughout your life.


It is best that the dreamer him/herself interprets the dream, not someone else. There are many reasons for this, I think the best is that the dream can be seen not only as "about" things going on in your life, but also a doorway or window into a much better way of living in the future. That is, when the dream is viewed as a window into your highest potential, you will get much more from the dream than just "Oh, its about blah -de- blah". Dreams are never "just" about anything.
Be sure to read the Ethics Statement below and always ask an interpreter what their ethics are.

I have included some information and resources below so that you can expand and develop your skills with dreams.

Here is a website that helps you learn the techniques above:   The Fish Dream

- Richard

Richard Wilkerson
Editor, Electric Dreams

More on Dream Interpretation:

The number one question we get asked at Electric Dreams is "What does my dream mean?" We feel the answer is that there are many things that your dream means, and some are very profound and moving, while others may be simple and or humorous and funny.

So, what does this tell me about *my* dream? Nothing, really, except that you are about to enter the wonderful, magical and fascinating World of Dreamwork and Dream Sharing where you *can* find the answer to your questions. And you can do this without years of psychotherapy on one hand, or just looking up what others have to say on the other. Free!

You ~could~ look the answer up in a dream symbol dictionary. But we have found this leaves most people quite dissatisfied. Why? Well, who ~wrote~ the dream dictionary? Someone that knows or someone that is guessing? Hopefully they are trying to be helpful and give you ways of translating your dream that are useful, but usually its just someone *making up* fairly random meanings. The worst ones will say something like "A Yellow Flower means you are going to become pregnant." and are pretty much like fortune cookies. The better ones will change your dream symbols into something more useful, like "A Flower is something that blossoms, so look in your life for something that is about to blossom."

But heck, you can do this game yourself, right?

Dream: "I drive my blue car to Fred's house get a cold drink out of his refrigerator."

Just change everything in the dream to its function. A car = a vehicle to get places, a Refrigerator = someplace to keep things cool, Blue Color = sadness or like the sky, expansiveness or water, a friend = whatever they are know for (friendly, clever, easy to get along with). Now change all these to be part of YOUR personality:

"In my dream I an in a sad vehicle that gets me to a friendly place where I take something inside me to cool off"

Then ask yourself, "Does this ring a bell, does this relate to my life? Do I need to get to a friendly place and cool off? " If you do, then you have opened the door the to first level of your dream. If not, redo the dream again until you do get an "Ah Ha" feeling about the meaning.

Now if you still want to see what other's think about making images into symbols, that's fine. We learn through modeling as well as pushing our own creative limits.
Check out some quality sites on this such as:

Patricia Garfield's Universal Dream Key

About Dream Dictionaries

The Cyber-Dream Libraries Common Dreams:

Better Than the dictionary approach: Join a Dream Group! How? That's what we are all about.
The Electric Dreams community is a public service that teaches and provides information on dreams and dreaming.

As an editor for the Electric Dreams online dream sharing e-zine I am often asked : "So what's the Scoop on dreams & dreaming online?"

Its a very exciting time for everyone interested in dreamwork and dream research and dream inspired art and writing. As the new technologies proliferate across the Net, so do the ways of sharing and expressing dreams. There is an explosion of electronic dream journals, dreamwork and dream sharing groups, dream articles and libraries, dream inspired art galleries an so much more.

Where to start?

I have picked a few good places to jump in depending on your interests and background and have listed them below, but am now also including a "WHAT"S IT MEAN?" index. Some people just want a to know what a particularly interesting dream means while others may want a full course of study or a long term dream group. Some people want to conduct dream research online while others just want a good article on how be a lucid dreamer. Whatever your interest, the Electric Dreams community is available to guide you to the resources we have been using for years as well as new resources we discover every day.


I just want to know what my dream means!
We recommend you don't let anyone force their interpretation on YOUR dream.
But for viewpoints:

- answers in one month :
- answers in a day, but questionable: Usenet, alt.dreams
- answers in a week, but only a few answered:
- answers right away from dictionaries or comments on common themes such as tooth lose, boyfriends cheating, naked at school, flying, can't find your way home and such:
Common Dreams :
Universal Dreams:

About Dream Dictionaries, but then why you shouldn't use them for the final answer:

- answer right away : how to use metaphors to interpret your dream:

I have questions about dreaming, nightmares, lucidity.
~and ~
List of online dream FAQS :

Some suggestions regarding dream sharing online :

Join an email dream group. Post a dream anonymously to a public bulletin board. Ask a web site to post your art. Upload your own dream bibliography to the cyber-dream library. Start a fight about dream interpretation on the ASD Message Board or Usenet Newsgroup. Send in a dream to Electric Dreams, or an article you always wanted to write but thought was too controversial or weird. Read an article on lucid dreaming at the Lucidity Institute. Start your own Dream Web site or eList for discussions and dream sharing. Join ASD, find all the great educational materials online.

The Electric Dreams community is online to help you get out to the public your own dream vision. Plus we like to have a lot of fun. We have been doing this since 1994.


Electric Dreams



The Electric Dreams community has been exploring dream sharing online since 1994. It is a loosely knit network of people interested in dreams and in promoting dream education and exploration. Electric Dreams publishes an e-zine once a month, offers news services, dreamgroups, dream chat and other activities. It is all grassroots and free to the general public.

Electric Dreams monthly Dream sharing e-zine - If you are interested in how dream
sharing is working on the Net, and want the latest Net news on dreaming, and a forum for asking questions about dreams and dreaming or discussing you own views, I suggest a free subscription to the our community Magazine. Once a Month, approximately 80-120 pages.

Just send an email to

Also, if you get a chance, drop me a line an tell me a little bit about your interest in dreams and dreaming and I'll try to direct you to the proper resources.

Send dreams for (anonymous) comment and publication at

Yes, we see your dreams a valid literature worth publishing. And like all literature, we value literary criticism and publish comments on dreams as well. Are dreams psychological, spiritual, poetic, political or just plain nonsense? Tell us your thoughts.

Issues come about every month - dreams, news, projects, articles, ect.
If you have a web browser you can find us at:

Electric Dreams

or the latest issue is always available at

The articles from back-issues are collected at

GLOBAL DREAMING NEWS: This comes with an Electric Dreams Subscription, and is about workshops, conventions, Web pages, events and other news-worthy dream stuff. Director: Peggy Coats,

The News is in each issue of Electric Dreams and also posted independently around the Net. Get your projects and announcements in each month.

Think Global, Act Local

We would like everyone interested in becoming a local reporter or representative of your area, be that geographic or some part of cyberspace. We are always interested in what particular commercial online servers (like aol, compuserve, microsoft, ect) are offering and like to put reports out when we can - please help us out by sending local information or posting Electric Dreams or Global Dreaming News on yourServer/Host. Send to Peggy Coats

Visit the Mirror News site at:
Select News and Events


Dreams as literature we publish. People from around the world submit dreams to the dream flow. These dreams are distributed around on various lists, and they are published anonymously with comments once a month on Electric Dreams. Fill in the form at:

If you would like to submit dreams directly into the mail list DREAM-FLOW send an e-mail

All dreams are considered to be anonymous unless clearly indicated otherwise. That means we remove any last names and e-mail before publishing on the monthly E-zine, Electric Dreams.

For older archives dreamflow (called ed-core) go to


=* DREAMWHEEL: About every two weeks we begin a new groups. Usually 4-6 people per
group and they last about a couple weeks - usually email. We share 2 or 3 dreams, ask questions,
make comments and keep fairly close to the "If this were my dream..." style.

To join, send an e-mail to

or stop by and register first at:

You can sign up anonymously or not, as you wish.

MORE on the DreamWheel: Instructions come with every phase of the group from a group moderator. Dreams are send in to the moderator and put on the list. We go through the dreams as a group one by one. The first phase is the question phase, asking non-defensive clarification questions of the dreamer, who may or may not respond as they chose. Then in the comment phase each person in the group takes the dream as if it were their own. The process is non-defensive, fun and very revealing.

DreamWheel Information File

* Sign-up
* Question Phase
* Comment Phase
* New Dream

Instructions come with every phase of the group from a group moderator. Dreams are send in to the moderator and sorted. (you can send to Phyllis at <> who is moderating this Wheel) We go through the dreams as a group one by one. The first phase is the question phase, asking non-defensive clarification questions of the dreamer, who may or may not respond as they chose. Then in the comment phase each person in the group takes the dream as if it were their own. The process is non-defensive, fun and very revealing.

The process is modeled on the work of John Herbert, Richard Wilkerson and others. Each moderator may add their own style to the process. For sample sessions of the group see

Sample Session - Herbert

Sample Session - Electric Dreams Dream Wheel (Wilkerson & Hicks)

Sample Session - Electric Dreams Dream Wheel (Wilkerson -Coins of Life)

Sample Session - Electric Dreams DreamWheel (Wilkerson - Dreaming with Serbia)

To read John Herbert's research work (PDF) comparing face to face groups with online groups, go to

For a quick history and summary of this work, see:
Wilkerson, R. & Herbert, J. (1995). John Herbert and the Internet Group Dreamwork . Electric Dreams 2(6)


A Short History on the Rise of Dream Sharing in Cyberspace - Richard Wilkerson
Electric Dreams October 1998 Volume 5 Issue 9

The DreamWheel follows the guideline of ethical conduct set forth by the Association for the Study of Dreams.

"Dreamwork Ethics Statement"

The Electric Dreams community celebrates the many benefits of dreamwork, yet recognizes that there are potential risks. We agree with the ethical position taken by the Association for the Study of Dreams (, in that we support an approach to dreamwork and dream sharing that respects the dreamer's dignity and integrity, and which recognizes the dreamer as the decision-maker regarding the significance of the dream. Systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream's meanings to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand the dream.

Every dream may have multiple meanings, and different techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of significance. A dreamer's decision to share or discontinue sharing a dream should always be respected and honored. The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of the dreamwork. Information and mutual agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for dream sharing.

Dreamwork outside a clinical setting is not a substitute for psychotherapy, or other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.

We recognize and respect that there are many valid and time-honored dreamwork traditions. We invite and welcome the participation of dreamers from all cultures. There are social, cultural, and transpersonal aspects to dream experience. In this statement we do not mean to imply that the only valid approach to dreamwork focuses on the dreamer's personal life. Our purpose is to honor and respect the person of the dreamer as well as the dream itself, regardless of how the relationship between the two may be understood.

The Electric Dreams Community, March 2000

 (if you have already sent in a personal request, you don't need to re-subscribe)

To subscribe and unsubscribe from the Electric Dreams DreamWheel
send an email

You may get an email back requesting verification. Simply select the REPLY button and send it back.


Go to the YahooGroups website and register first. Its free, and only takes a minute. Then subscribe online to the dreamwheel and get all the benefits of archive access, changing your subscription to individual or digest formats and more.

DREAMCHATTERS - Victoria Quinton hosts a maillist about dreams and dreaming which has some of the most famous dreamworkers in the world visiting. Many Electric Dreamers on this list as well as ASD members. Subscribe:
Or Go to

DREAMSHARE - Host is quite responsive to dreams.
"Our basic principles are respect for many traditions, honoring creativity, and kindness. The original members met on-line in a dream discussion held as part of Jeremy Taylor's web site on dreams and sacred narrative ( and we strongly recommend becoming familiar with Jeremy Taylor's Basic Hints for Dream Work and other writings as a framework for understanding deams. "
Members vary greatly in age, lifestyle, affiliations, and ethnicity, and come from several continents. Respect and supportiveness are requirements for participation. Subscribe:
or register at:

More elists

NEW DREAM SHARING eLISTS - Many site now allow you to create your own Internet Mail Lists. We have given a summary of these in Electric Dreams March 1999, volume 6 issue 3 see
and see Wilkerson, Richard (2000). New Trends in Online Dream Sharing: Yahoo Dream Clubs and New Usenet Newsgroups.Electric Dreams

DREAMWORKERS ONLINE PROJECT - If you are already a dream worker, researcher, artist
or otherwise involved with dreams, we have a project designed to get you attention and
connection to the community of dreams. Contact Richard Wilkerson
and send your profile and contact addresses if possible.

CYBERDREAMS: This is an unmoderated forum, open to discussion on all aspects of dream theory and practice. This list is sponsored by the Intuition Network and DreamGate
Home Page INFO:

A discussion group on topics that often related to group dreamwork and moderating such groups. Host: Tom Goad.

These e-groups are for members only, please contact the Association for the Study of Dreams for membership details.
There are over a dozen groups, including dreams and spirituality, dream psi, dream education, lucid dreaming, dream research, clinical dream use and more. For details see the E-Study section of the ASD site. 


OTHER DREAM PROJECTS ON THE NET: Too many to list here, but we try to keep track of them via three main sources. The first is this Cyber-dream library
Cyber-Dream Library

We also have an 2001 Introduction to Dreamwork Online Special issue:
January 2001
See the backissue page at:

Or if you like annotated lists of links
we have a fabulous
Dream Resources Page

An online History of Dreams in Cyberspace site I submit to review once a year for the Association for the Study of Dreams, but is up all year long.
This year we coordinated with the Association for the Study of Dreams and many of the dream and dreaming pioneers online to produce:
Dreaming In Cyberspace - A special ASD Dream Time Magazine

The Cyberphile
Once a Quarter the Association for the Study of Dreams publishes Dream Time Magazine and the Internet column and back issue articles are available online at

I also recommend that you become a member of ASD, the Association for the Study of Dreams. Not only are there benefits and privileges for you, but you will be supporting the Dream Movement.
This international non-profit provides a fabulous conference each year, and you get substantial discounts as a member. Also, you will get the quarterly Dream Time Magazine and the peer reviewed scholastic Dreaming Journal. For more see

There are many articles online about dreams and dreaming from the peer reviewed journal Dreaming, as well as the more popular Dream Time magazine.

You can discuss dream topics (but NOT personal dreams or interpretations of personal dreams) on the ASD Bulletin Board anytime, members or non-members.

NEW: ASD presents two new online dream programs:

1. For Members: Dream Study Groups
Study topics in dreaming with the experts in the field by joining one of the many topic areas in dreams and dreaming. Lucid dreams, dream healing, dream science and research, nightmares and clinical work, dream psi and telepathy, spirituality and dreaming, and many, many more.

2. ASD Dream Time Live - Chat online with Dream Experts.
ASD brings members and non-members alike a monthly program of real time chat with the top dream experts in the field. You can get the latest update by sending to

MORE ASD: If you would like to be on the ASD news-letter via email, you can subscribe by sending an e-mail to:

Be sure to join this leader in the dream movment. Read more about membership at:


Course via E-mail $29.95

This delightful six weeks class gives you both e-mail essays on the history of dreams and dreaming, as well as interactive labs and online dream groups to teach you ways of exploring and understanding your dreams.

From Robert Van de Castle, author of OUR DREAMING MIND,
"...It is a GREAT course!"

From Rita Dwyer, President of the Association for the Study of Dreams,
" This is a wonderful course that all people interested in dreams would benefit from taking!"

From Roberta Ossana, editor of The Dream Network Journal
"Extraordinary and thorough coverage of dreaming from Day One and Multiple Perspectives.

To see the course outline or sign up for the class stop by
or e-mail Richard Wilkerson at and say
"Richard, put me on the class list and send me the registration information via e-mail"

What is started out as a project by Richard Wilkerson to begin moving dream related information and organizations online and has always retained this part of the organization. developed the Electric Dreams community , designed and now manages the website for the Association for the Study of Dreams , the dream scholar Kelly Bulkeley, Ph. D. , Dream titan Patricia Garfield, Ph.d.,, and many, many other dream related sites and projects.

SUMMARY of suggestions on plugging in to online dreaming:

1. Subscribe to Electric Dreams.
2. Send in dreams or articles on topics in dreaming to Electric Dreams.
3. Send in Dream News items to Peggy Coats
4. Sign up for an Electric Dreams/DreamGate sponsored dream groups.
5. Explore other sites online via the ED link page.
6. Send me a summary of your interests in dreaming so I can connect you with the folks who are
knowledgeable in that area.
7. Become a member of the Association for the Study of Dreams.


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