Most people are curious when they learn that I am a dream consultant. Many launch into telling me a recent dream, some ask questions about the meaning of dream symbols, and only a few have been dismissive. But the reaction that always puzzles me is when people seem afraid or worried about dreams.
Why do some people fear their dreams? I believe it is due to faulty notions of what dreams come to tell us. Here are four common fears:
1. For many people whose first exposure to dreams was through Freudian analysis, dreams are like psychological quicksand that threatens to suffocate them with negative meanings. Thanks to Freud, many people still believe that dreams mostly reveal perverse sexual longings and wish fulfillment fantasies.
2. Some self-help programs say that we should be in control of our lives and therefore if we suffer from mental or physical maladies it is our own fault. People with this outlook tend to distrust dreams, believing that they merely show a laundry list of behaviors and anxieties the dreamer must "fix."
3. Many people experience psychic phenomena in their dreams, seeing future events and things taking place across great distance. Without a way to understand these dreams, people may feel responsible when events occur that they "saw" in their dreams, ignoring or blocking out their dreams because they don't know how to answer the questions these powerful dreams raise.
4. Most deeply religious people I have met feel that dreams come from God, and are curious about the messages they might hold. But some fear that dreams may present scenes that test their faith or lead them astray. Not having a fuller understanding of the spiritual messages in dreams can cause observant people to fear their dreams.
When confronted with these deep-seated fears, I try to stress that the overwhelming purpose of dreams is to reveal to us our path in life, and to help us achieve greater wholeness. Dreams come from our unconscious, which contains everything in our being that we are not yet aware of. Jung called this unknown material our "shadow," and it is the source of our creativity as well as our connection with the Divine. While dreams sometimes reveal uncomfortable truths, it is important to remember that dreams are paradoxical, and can mean the exact opposite of what we think when we first wake up.
Dreaming is a basic human function, and goes on throughout our lives whether we remember our nightly dreams or not. When we shut them out, we are inhibiting our natural ability to sense danger, find opportunity, and take part more fully in the mystery of life. We may never fully understand dreams, but even a small increase in our understanding can help us unlock some of their huge promise and potential.