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Do you ever wake up from a dream and wonder “What on earth did that mean?”

Our dreams can often contain profound insights & messages, but the language of our dreams can be challenging to decipher sometimes.

I’ve personally been having some powerful & insights dreams lately, so I decide to put together this simple guide for doing “dream work” - the process of analyzing & discovering personal meaning in our dreams.

This approach to dream work is based on a process developed by Robert A. Johnson in his book Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth. Johnson’s work is rooted in Jungian psychology and I highly recommend all of his books.

Introduction to Dream Work

Dreams are the language of our unconscious.

When we fall asleep, this deep dimension of our psyche weaves together patterns of symbols, characters, and events in an attempt to communicate with us & share important messages about our inner lives.

This form of communication can seem confusing and even bizarre at times, but there is a process we can follow to unlock the meaning of our dreams.

Step One: Write It Down

As soon as you wake up, write down the most significant details from the dream that you can remember.

These details can include images, characters, colors, events, speech, or anything else that feels important or meaningful.

Step Two: Associations

For each major detail in the dream, write down any associations that come up for you. Associations can include words, ideas, mental pictures, emotions, or memories that pop up in your mind in connection with that aspect of the dream.

Ask yourself: “What feeling do I have about this detail? What does it remind me of?

Step Three: Inner Dynamics

Next, ask yourself how the major elements of the dream are currently showing up in your inner life.

Ask yourself: “What part of me is that? Where have I seen this showing up in my life lately? What aspect of myself could this represent?”

It’s important to understand: every dream image is expressing an aspect of YOU. Even when you dream of a familiar person in your life, the dream is not about THEM.. it’s about an aspect of you & your psyche that this person represents within your inner life.

Step Four: Making Meaning

Based on the inner investigating you’ve done so far, you’re ready to discover the overall meaning of this dream for your life.

Ask yourself: “What is the central, most important message that this dream is trying to communicate to me? What is it advising me to do? What is the single most important insight that the dream is trying to get across to me?

Remember: this is YOUR dream. The same set of dream details might mean something totally different to another person, but it’s not their dream. You must trust in the feelings & messages that your dream invokes in you.

Step Five: Honor the Dream

The final step is to choose an action that honors & integrates the dream message in your conscious, waking life.

This could be a creative act, like drawing, singing, dancing, writing, or making any form of art based on your dream. It could be a very practical act, like making a decision or committing to a new goal. Or it can be a symbolic act - a ritual that brings home the meaning of the dream in a powerful way.

This doesn’t mean you need to act out the dream literally. This is an invitation to bring the message of the dream into waking life. Through this symbolic action, the wisdom of the dream is honored & integrated into your life.

I would love to hear about your dreams & any insights they reveal about your inner life from following this process. Feel free to send me an email at if you have any interesting dream insights to share.


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