How the crazy scientist uses dreams to navigate life challenges – in an empirical way

This is not a post about looking up dream symbols in encyclopaedias.

It’s about my 15+ years of engagement with intense, touching and puzzling dream symbols that have kept recurring, shifting, morphing, repeating again, progressing, regressing, throughout these years.

Yes, admittedly it started with reading C. G. Jung.

But the meat of it was unceasing bewilderment and curiosity leading to consistent, patient observation and the search for patterns: connecting the evolution of specific dream symbols with gradual and sudden shifts in specific aspects of my inner and outer life; in how my soul feels and how my vitality engages (or not) the outer world.

So here is what I found.


My research summary

Facts about dreams

From writing and editing research papers (all day, tfeh!), I have this annoying habit of presenting a summary of my results at the start. Anti-climactic, but it helps me organise my thoughts and you get the main points straight away. So here they are:

  • There actually is a specific language to (at least my) dreams
  • It doesn’t have much to do with Freud 😉
  • That language mostly speaks about felt qualities of my being – emotional energies that are more or less active in me, are impaired or struggling, or flourishing.
  • These emotional energies not only directly influence how I viscerally feel on a day to day basis (for example whether I’m depressed or balanced or buoyant), but also – somehow organically emerging from that – how I manage specific situations and relationships in my life (including with myself, and aspects of myself).


My recipe for understanding dream language

The key to understanding this language seems to be:

  1. Having a feeling and perhaps concepts and words, a system for noticing the felt qualities of my being (psyche; but this also encompasses the body and intellect) – I have to know the alphabet of these energies before I can read the words and sentences that dreams speak about it, so to speak.
  2. I have to find out which specific, recurrent (categories of) dream symbols “incarnate” or embody or flesh out specific emotional energies, in my own psyche. (I’m not sure in how far this varies from person to person – I assume it can.)
  3. The way to do this is to focus on a dream symbol that I vividly remember (for example because it just woke me up, or because the dream was so intense) and to … contemplate it; let its flavour and aroma sink in; and “read out” or observe what this does in my emotions and the felt sense of my body.
  4. Stewing in this feeling, felt sense, temperature, taste, sensory or emotional quality that lingers for a while, I ask myself where in my waking life – perhaps in specific encounters? specific activities? specific longings? specific repeating thought processes? specific relationships? specific situations? specific habits? specific recurring emotional states? – I can sniff out this aroma, too.
  5. When the symbol recurs, perhaps in a modified form, keep your eyes open about whether that similarly-smelling aspect of your emotional life or outer vitality has, perhaps, shifted, too.
  6. Repeat for years, and years. (Yes, you need a bothersome number of experimental trials. At least I did start out clueless like a child in the fog, as we say in Poland.)


My recipe for applying your findings

Once you have findings that have been consistently confirmed multiple times, the next time a specific realm of symbols resurfaces, try using it in one of the following ways:

  1. As an early warning device. If it’s a disturbing image, are you perhaps just about to mess up in this area of your life and psyche again? Can you perhaps take earlier counter-action this time?
  2. As a negative feedback signal. If it’s a very disturbing image, have you perhaps already messed this up – yesterday? And haven’t been paying attention, or are trying not to see it?
  3. As a confirmation you’re on the right track (for your soul). If it’s a beautiful, deeply peaceful, or satisfying image and feeling – have you finally started heading in the right direction about this? Have you initiated actions (or finally decided to abstain from them), made encounters, or formulated thoughts and feelings and insights (yesterday or the day before) that are setting you on a right course?
  4. As a positive feedback signal. Have you perhaps finally done this right for your soul, specifically yesterday? This dream is telling you, YES. If you want to put this to the greatest use, look at yesterday and sniff out what you did right. Perhaps you can build or expand on that.
  5. As an indicator of potential in the situation (bit like the I-Ching). This is perhaps the most fun part. My impression is that sometimes vibrant, exhilarating dreams (featuring my relevant symbols) are a bit like a visionary insight: they show me what could be. Where future development could take me. And perhaps they help my psyche, in a way, prepare for it – they lay the inner blueprint, or dig the inner irrigation channels, so to speak, for what is perhaps going to happen. A bit like daydreams (which research has shown have an important function for creativity.) These I just like to enjoy and ponder, let the sensations sink in – even if I don’t understand them yet – and be grateful for.


Examples: here comes the personal story part.

On frogs, dogs, and squashing beetles, and the reason I wrote this today – in the next post (for a change not making this endlessly long; I need to eat, too).

For now, there is a rather war-torn example (which inspired me to expand on dreams today) in the Appendix to my previous post Is depression a choice?


Please share

Do you have a system for interpreting your dreams?

What works, what doesn’t?

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