Before you begin to analyze your dreams, it is important to create a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere, and to approach the dream with an open mind, ready to receive assistance from your higher self—the part of you that is connected to a higher form of consciousness (i.e., God, Buddha-nature, Ātman). If you are an atheist or agnostic, think of your higher self as the part of you that is the most true or authentic part of your being. The key to effective dream interpretation, is to begin with an open mind and a willingness to discover new things about yourself.
1. Dreams Come in Service of Health and Wholeness
The idea that dreams come in service of health and wholeness was introduced to me in graduate school by one of my teachers, Jeremy Taylor (1992), a renowned expert on the subject of dreams. At first, I found the notion that dreams were linked to wholeness hard to believe. It took several years of working with my dreams—first learning to interpret them, then sharing them with others—before I understood their value.
Each of us is broken in one way or another. Some from years of abuse, others from physical or mental ailments, such as depression, ADD, insomnia, or any of the other 300 plus illnesses categorized by psychiatrists (see the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013). Some of us have learned to find happiness, despite our internal struggles, but deep inside, many of us long for wholeness and happiness.
Working with your dreams won't necessarily cure you of illness, however, it can help you to understand yourself and your life, better. I interpret my dreams immediately upon waking because doing so allows me to go about my day with greater awareness. I find that I'm less reactive to others, I'm more patient with myself, and more introspective. For example, I think before I speak and sometimes decide to remain silent rather than fill the space with words that don't necessarily add much value.
2. The dreamer is always right
This is my favorite dream rule. Who doesn't like to be right? Trust your intuition and your ability to know what's best for you. This does not mean that your ideas or perceptions won't change over time. You may see something one way now, then see it differently later, but the key is that you access your own inner source of wisdom. We often put our trust in external sources: "My doctor knows what's best." "Let me see what my partner thinks." "What would my mother, or father, want me to do?" "What does my pastor, or church, say about this matter?" It's fine to take in counsel, especially from those you trust, but it's important to not place another authority above your own. Accessing the voice of your higher self is essential to growth in consciousness and wholeness. If you need help in this area, try meditation, prayer, and/or working with a spiritual guide.
3. There’s no wrong way to interpret your dreams
We're so used to hearing that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Dream rule number three requires us to ditch this concept of right and wrong. If you'd like, go ahead and close your eyes and picture yourself walking over to a window, or standing on a tower, or bridge, and toss the idea of right and wrong out the window. Throw it out and let it go. Now take a deep breath and let dream rule three fully into your consciousness: "There is. No wrong way. To interpret. My dreams." Repeat: "There is NO WRONG WAY to interpret my dreams." Got it?
The methods of dream interpretation presented on this site are tools for your toolkit. Dreams are multifaceted so one method may help you understand one aspect of the dream, whereas another approach may draw out an alternate or deeper meaning. Again, there is no wrong way to work with your dreams. Keep what works. Throw out or ignore the rest.
4. Dream interpretation is fun
And, finally, have fun. Dream interpretation is not rocket science. Be playful and curious with yourself. Your life is not going to fall apart if you do it well or even if you don't do it at all.
And don't be afraid of your dreams. It's normal to have dreams that contain taboo or frightening events, but dreams use symbolic and metaphorical language. As you become more adept at dream interpretation, you will understand the deeper message of your dreams, even scary ones. Dream interpretation can feel intense at times so it's important to be gentle with yourself and to enjoy the process.