Why don’t dreams just deliver a verbal message? Why don’t they just say what they mean? Sometimes they do as I have illustrated in some of my dreams, but more often we find symbols that must be interpreted to unlock the meaning of the dream. The reason for symbols is not strange if you think about how your conscious mind makes associations. If someone asks you about your mother or father, you are likely to immediately picture her or him. If you reflect on a hectic day at work, you don’t just list in your mind all the things you did. You might do that for someone who asks, because you can’t show the person the image that you have in your mind. We all know the power of an image to capture both an event and the emotional content associated with it. I can still recall some of the photographs that depict the horrors of war. An entire page in the newspaper could not capture what one image shows. So when a dream includes a symbol such as an automobile, house or animal, there is a tremendous economy associated with that image because it includes all associations etched in your memory. The subconscious has access to all of those memories and associations, and it selects the ones that best convey the message of the dream. If a dream wanted to tell me that I was worn out physically and near collapse, the words might not have the same impact as seeing my car heading to the junk yard.
There are other aspects of the use of symbols in dreams. We grow by making efforts to understand our lives and ourselves. If you have experience with children, you know that simply telling them that something is true is not always sufficient; they often have to experience it for themselves. And sometimes the lesson is a bitter one. The symbols in dreams cause you to apply yourself to understand your life and help you grow as you uncover associations that were not in your conscious awareness. Let’s suppose you behaved in a childish manner. If you have a dream about a badly behaved child you know, that symbolism is likely to get you attention more than a voice saying you behaved in a childish manner, particularly if you dislike the child.
Another aspect of symbols is the possibility that a direct message might be filtered by your mind before it reaches conscious awareness, particularly if you don’t like the message. You don’t retain the dream. The same message hidden in symbols will not be filtered because it is not yet understood.
I strongly believe, as did Edgar Cayce, that you are best qualified to interpret your own dreams. All of the relevant associations for the symbols are in your memory, and only you can know the special significance of some symbols. Two people may dream about an airplane, but the meanings could be different, particularly if one person had been in an accident or lost a loved one in an accident involving an airplane. In my first Edgar Cayce study group, one of the women was terrified of flying because her husband had been killed in an airplane crash.
In interpreting symbols in dreams, I recommend taking a practical approach. The symbols most likely deal with ongoing issues and events in your life. Don’t look for bizarre or esoteric interpretations; think about the events in your daily life, including your thoughts and emotions. Strong emotions can trigger dreams, and your daily concerns and worries are frequently shown in your dreams. However, for the clearest and most meaningful dreams, you have to want to improve your life and find approval from your spiritual self. That is why I recommend daily meditation for people seeking guidance through their dreams. If someone says my dreams are a meaningless jumble, this person is also saying something about his life.