The purpose or function of dreaming has been hypothesized about for hundreds of years across cultural and religion, from Egypt to Aboriginal Australia, from folklore to psychology. Do dreams predict the future? Are they telling us what we are not paying attention to in our lives? Do they reveal secret wishes, repressed thoughts and feelings? Are they “digesting” the happenings of the day? Are they the voice of the unconscious? A guiding force?

I don’t dare attempt to conclude what the function of dreaming is, as I have developed a healthy respect for its mystery. What I can say is that through years of dream journaling, contemplation and analysis, I have found my dreams to be useful and wise, yet perplexing and illusive. The more time I spend with them, I have a paradoxical experience of increased clarity along with a sense of mystification. The bottom line is that despite its complexity, dreamwork has been a critical aspect of my personal development and growth.

Today, I consult dreams because I find them to help me know what is happening underneath the conscious attitude, mine or my patients. Sometimes as I work with a dream, I am flooded with a feeling, awareness or clarity that simply seems “true”. It is different than the experience of thinking or figuring something out. It is a different kind of knowing. It requires that I set aside the narrowing of preconceived ideas and rational thought and open my mind like a vast landscape, inviting the dream images to speak to me. The process of making these previously unknown symbols more conscious results in expanding our awareness, revealing previously unconscious attitudes that hinder or detour us in our lives. Yet, beware! This sort of work is not for the faint of heart. You may find yourself face to face with aspects of your shadow that you prefer to keep in the dark. But for the seeker of self knowledge, this kind of truth is required. And dreams can offer such truths from a unique and invaluable perspective.

To learn more about remembering dreams and dream interpretation, see other entries in this Dream Series.