Ask Lynn: What Do My Dreams Mean?

This week's Ask Lynn touches on a topic that I've been interested in for at least a decade. However, it wasn't until recently that I discovered a tool to help provide clarity.

Ask Lynn, a virtual advice column
Ask Lynn, a virtual advice column

Kathy writes:

Recently, I started falling asleep and then suddenly woke up and smelled nail polish. I did not have any nail polish on and there is no nail polish in my bedroom. I also dreamed about a long row of happy smiling babies and a white playful puppy but none of it is making any logical sense. How do you interpret the images and messages in your dreams to guide you on your right path?


I am so, so thrilled that you directed this question my way! I recently found a method of dream analysis that has yielded some really interesting insights, and I hope it does the same for you.

This method comes from famed psychiatrist Carl Jung by way of Martha Beck's Steering by Starlight(aff). Beck's book is focused on helping the reader tap into his or her inner consciousness using a variety of tools, including dream analysis based in Jungian theory.

Beck's interpretation of Jung's theory is quite simple: the dreamer (that's you!) identifies the symbols from his or her dream and, speaking on behalf of each symbol, asks a series of questions.

Beck posits that by asking these questions from the viewpoint of the symbol itself, the answers will surface without much interference from the conscious mind.

The Questions

1. What three words or phrases describe me (the symbol)?

2. What is my purpose?

3. How am I trying to help the dreamer?

4. What aspect of the dreamer's waking life am I?

If we were to examine the symbols from your dream, we would be looking at

  • nail polish
  • the long row of happy, smiling babies
  • the white puppy dog

By meditating on each question from the viewpoint of the symbol, answers that do make logical sense begin to surface.

Dream Analysis in Action

Taking an example from my own dreams, I recently had an interesting one with Amy Poehler and Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

On the surface, this dream was wackadoodle: Poehler was the female lead in a space opera that ended with a now-middle-aged TMNT Raphael leaping from the space ship (which looked like an old-timey pirate ship) and landing in the sewer with a pizza-and-beer belly.

If I hadn't had been introduced to Jung's method, I may have assumed that I visit College Humor and Buzzfeed too often, ate too much pizza before bed, and should probably give up on Amy Poehler ever getting back together with Will Arnett.

However, with Jung's method, I was able to come up with the following:

  1. I, Amy Poehler (the symbol), am funny, intelligent, and talented.
  2. My purpose is to entertain.
  3. I'm trying to help Lynn by empowering her.
  4. My aspect of her waking life is the Feminine.

In conjunction with the other symbols, the dream analysis reveals that in order to step into the imminent future, I must leave behind the old and unsupportive. Otherwise, I'll be following a fear-based path to nowhere I want to go.

Beck was kind enough to put this exercise, along with others from Steering by Starlight, onto a free PDF. It's available from her website here.

Of course, as with anything that plays with the fringes of hard sciences and the rational mind, there is room for interpretation and outright dismissal of the process. In Jung's own words:

I have no theory about dreams, I do not know how dreams arise. And I am not at all sure that my way of handling dreams even deserves the name of a "method." I share all your prejudices against dream-interpretation as the quintessence of uncertainty and arbitrariness. On the other hand, I know that if we meditate on a dream sufficiently long and thoroughly, if we carry it around with us and turn it over and over, something almost always comes of it. (Accessed 11/12/15 from DreamInterpretation Dictionary.)

Thank you again for bringing this question to Ask Lynn, Kathy, and good luck in your dream interpretations!


Further Reading:

  1. Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny, Martha Beck (aff)

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