Water Dreams

Now, here’s a dream from my mailbox and some general ideas for creative dreamers about what it might mean:

I dreamed there was a huge tidal wave and it was wiping things out miles and miles from the shoreline… I was running from the wave, trying to keep ahead of it. I was miles from the shoreline. Just when the wave would ebb back to the beach another big one would come and I would have to keep running…

Tidal waves dreams are actually pretty common, even amongst people who don’t live near the ocean! What do tidal waves mean? You could check your handy dream dictionary to find out. But, sadly, dream dictionaries are written by people who know little or nothing about dreams, and have just made up compelling meanings for various dream images.

Water is the only dream element all dream experts agree upon. It has represented the same thing across time and across cultures, and as such, it really does seem to be an archetypal symbol.  Water enables life and renewal, and psychologically, it symbolizes unconscious emotions, feelings we aren’t aware of. Creative people actually remember more dreams with water in them than those who are less creative. Creative people translate the unconscious as they create; this process seems to make its way into their dreams…

So, dreaming of a tidal wave suggests the dreamer is overwhelmed by feelings which come in “waves.” For this dreamer, just when one goes, another one comes crashing down, and they encroach far upon the “ground” (the foundation of the psyche). It seems to her like they are wiping everything out–and overwhelming emotional crises do that.

Action of dreamer. It might be helpful for the dreamer to consider what she does when feeling overwhelmed. Here, she runs. This makes sense; most of us would try to run in such a situation! But this is the dream world, and the dreamer created the situation in which she finds herself. She might explore what else could be done with waves of feeling.

Now, if you were threatened by an actual tidal wave, what could you do? List as many things as you can, as fast as you can, without editing any (creative brainstorming). Build a boat? Snorkle? Dive under the waves? Find a vehicle and move inland at a faster rate? Get behind a large wall? Get help? Trust your ability to swim?  In a tidal wave situation, you are safer at sea!

Dream coping and waking coping. Remember that water represents deep, unconscious emotion, so the way we interact with water in dreams may indicate how we cope with feelings when awake.  Each of the possibilities listed above requires a different kind of coping with feelings (diving into them, versus finding a way to quickly move away from them through distraction, versus staying on their surface),  and might be less exhausting than running.  Imagine yourself doing one or more of those as vividly as you can. See if you feel differently (calmer, more relaxed) after having done so.

Naturally, if this were a real situation, you’d have to act immediately to save yourself! But, since it’s a dream, and you gave it to yourself, consider it a gift, showing you something about the way you characteristically might cope with being overwhelmed.  Try exploring some new options. You might find something that works or feels better!

Next time, in honor of the season, I’ll write about scary dreams, what they might mean, and what to do about them.  For now, time to refresh my tea cup, build a fire, and listen to the rain…

May you have a lovely day, and sweet dreams!

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…Remembering More Dreams

Greetings, dreamers, and thank you to those who wrote such kind comments!

Autumn is in the air, with the leaves beginning their bright wave across the trees. Today, I am sipping some coconut creme tea as I write. Millions of people are dreaming at the moment, and hundreds of thousands will remember a dream when they awaken. Will you remember your next dream?

SITUATIONS AFFECTING DREAM RECALL. Some situations increase or decrease dreaming. Of course, you have to sleep to dream! Fevers often produce more vivid dreams, as do some medications; check with your physician if you are concerned about that.  Depressants like alcohol suppress REM sleep (the stage of sleep in which we most often dream), so when we stop using them, we have a REM rebound, and more vivid and scary dreams.   Apart from all that, what kinds of people remember their dreams?

CHARACTERISTICS OF DREAM REMEMBERERS. At Berkeley, when I was working on my PhD, I launched a large study to help figure out what kinds of people do and don’t remember their dreams. Up until then, psychologists thought that maybe people who were unstable, introspective, or anxious were those who remembered their dreams most often.  That idea got into popular awareness through films and articles, and people began expressing wariness about their dream life. They wondered if they had strange dreams, did that make them strange people? Maybe even mentally ill? If so, wouldn’t it be better not to remember dreams at all, and instead, just sweep those strange things under the bed and get on with the day?

In order to find out what kinds of people remember their dreams, I measured dreamers’ introspectiveness, introversion, gender, anxiety, creativity, emotional stability, intuitiveness and other things and compared all that with how frequently the dreamers in my study recalled their dreams.

Here is what I found. Because other researchers have since found the same results, we can be pretty confident that people who remember their dreams once per week (the average!) or more have a positive attitude toward their dreams, and, to a lesser extent, are creative, and were fantasy prone as children. It turns out that wanting to remember your dreams as a result of feeling good about dreaming is the most important personality factor in whether or not you will remember your dreams, and people who remember them are no more or less crazy than anyone else!

TIPS FOR REMEMBERING DREAMS. Want to remember more dreams? Since you’re reading this, you probably have a positive attitude toward your dreams, which means you remember more of them. Beyond that, the most effective method is to (drum roll…) set your alarm clock for a random time during the night. When it goes off, voila! Another, much kinder way to recall dreams is to place a dream journal and favorite writing implement beside your bed before you fall asleep, date it with tomorrow morning’s date, and say to yourself (or your sleeping partner) “I will remember my dreams tomorrow morning!” Three nights of this tends to work for almost everyone.

Some people hate to wake up enough to write their dream down. If that’s you, you could try speaking into your smartphone or another hand-held recorder, or get a light pen so you don’t have to turn on the light to write.

You could also remind yourself during the day of your intention to remember. In the elevator, every time you pass a mirror, whenever you find yourself feeling calm, you could say, “Tonight, I’m going to remember my dreams!” Making a commitment to share your dreams with your partner, friend, pet, or housemate creates motivation. Sticky notes placed in surprising locations also help.

Congratulations! You’re about to remember more dreams!  Next time… a tidal wave dream interpreted…

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Sleeping better…

Greetings, dreamers!  I’ve received a few dreams from you via email to drtonay@veronicatonay.com, and I’ll comment on one in the post after this one!

Since my last post, I’ve given another dream workshop at the enchanted Rancho La Puerta spa in Tecate, Mexico.   A week at The Ranch is renowned for rejuvenating all aspects of yourself; it was just named world’s best destination spa by the readers of Travel and Leisure magazine. Something magical happens each time I go there. This time, I was particularly struck by the barn owl resting for days in a palm tree just over the bridge to our casita.  We’d look up every time we crossed, and there she would be, a lovely blue, tan, and white, peacefully resting, and sometimes tilting her head at us. In a dream, she might represent wisdom at the threshold…

During the workshop, two questions people always want answered are “How do I sleep better?” and “How do I remember more dreams?” Here are my answers, in two parts and posts.

HURTING SLEEP. Many pesky substances interfere with sleep: caffeine (for 7 hours!), various prescription and over-the-counter medications (any ingredient with “phrine” at the end, particularly), antidepressants and other psych meds, alcohol (the biggest offender because it prevents REM sleep, hence the vivid, rebound nightmares many who abuse alcohol experience once they stop).  Watching TV or using your computer or exercising during the two hours before bed stimulates your brain and makes it hard to fall asleep.  Depression and anxiety both interfere with sleep. Hormonal changes women in midlife experience can make falling or staying asleep challenging, too. Taking sleeping pills regularly is risky, and actually interferes with the four stages of sleep we typically experience several times a night (and most people do not dream when taking them).

HELPING SLEEP. There are some substances that actually help with sleep.  Potatoes (a baked potato eaten an hour before bed is a natural sleeping pill), turkey, and warm milk all contain amino acids which prepare us to fall asleep.  There are lots of teas which help, too:  the Yogi brand makes Bedtime tea and Cold Season tea, both of which contain valerian and skullcap.  Some people react strongly to them, so start with half a cup first. Celestial’s Sleepytime tea is a classic, and it is much milder than the above. Warm epsom salt baths are very relaxing and sedating, due to the magnesium in them which is absorbed by the skin (magnesium supplements and calcium supplements have a similar effect; check with your doctor before taking those).  Baths which are too hot are likely to wake you up, though, so aim for comforting, but not hot tub, temperature.

Some actions that help invite sleep include cutting out all of the substances and situations which are likely to stimulate you from your nighttime ritual.  “What nighttime ritual?” you ask.  Ah. Imagine some small actions you can take before bed each night to calm you, that you could make into something you do every night:  light a special candle as darkness falls, pray or meditate or do your own equivalent (journal writing, dancing, singing, writing poetry, drawing…), have a special cup of non-caffeinated tea or warm milk, and reflect upon the day.  Of course, we can all come up with things that annoyed, irritated, upset, and disappointed us. Advertising encourages us to do so (and then to buy the things they say will make it “better”).  Bah! Avoid that tide, and instead, consider what you were grateful for that day. Maybe record it in your journal so you can refer to it later, when things aren’t so clear.

For more sleep help, please click on “My Dream Books” to your right, then scroll down, and on the left side of the page, you’ll see a Sleep Tips link!  Next up… how to remember more dreams!

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Welcome, Creative Dreamers!

I envision this as a place where people from all over can visit, have a cup of tea, and explore their dreams…

Feel free to submit a dream, and explore dreams by other visitors by clicking the section to the right, “Dreams, Interpreted.”  Comment upon posts or dreams by clicking on “comment” at the end of the list of links at the end of each post!

Over three decades, I’ve heard so many dreams, each one of them as unique as the dreamer, and each a potential door  into the unknown territory of the self. So many dreamers have emailed, asking questions, or just wanting to share a recent, troubling, funny, or perplexing dream, which  left me seeking a place to share what I’ve learned, in hopes of helping those from far and wide I can’t meet personally!

Dreams are the one unifying experience we all have, on average 5 times per night, no matter who we are or where we live, and whether we remember them or not. In our dreams, we are each creative — we create an entire world out of nothing but our minds, our memories, and our own creative spirit. We make movies, instantaneously–tens of thousands of them–throughout our lives. We make up the characters, create the setting, develop the plot; we are the director, the producer, the casting agent, and the set builder. Even when we dream of people we know or places we’ve been, they are never exactly as they are in real life. In dreams, we are always recreating our waking life experience, imposing ourselves on it, revealing our conceptions about the world, others, ourselves.

We are all creative in our dreams.

I’m glad you dropped by for a cup of your favorite beverage (Vosges’ Parisienne hot cocoa is what I’m drinking at the moment).  Have a lovely day, and sweet dreams…

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Hello world!

SONNETS TO ORPHEUS:  II, 12 (stanza 1)

Desire change. Be enthusiastic for that flame
in which a thing escapes your grasp
while it makes a glorious display of transformation.
That designing Spirit, the master mind of all things on earth
loves nothing so much in the sweeping movement of the dance
as the turning point.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Br. David Steindl-Rast, all rights reserved

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