Your Dreams Are Sending You a Message; Listen to Them

Article excerpt

Byline: Hilary Shenfeld Daily Herald Staff Writer

Keeping track of your dreams

There's help for people who have trouble remembering their dreams. Counselors give these tips for remembering those nocturnal images:

- Keep a pen and paper by your bed. As soon as you wake up, keep your eyes closed and go over the dream in your mind in as much detail as possible. Then write down your thoughts as soon as your lids flutter open. Or use a tape recorder placed bedside to record your dream recollections.

- Have someone tell you just before going to sleep (or repeat the message to yourself) that you will remember your dreams.

- Share your dreams with someone each day.

- Get plenty of sleep. The longer you sleep, the more dreams you will have to remember.

- Set an alarm for a random time during the night for a week. When it goes off, write down your thoughts.

- Hilary Shenfeld

It's been years since you were in school, but suddenly you're in a long hallway with doors leading to rooms full of students. Searching frantically for the correct classroom proves futile: The place you're looking for isn't on any floor or down any corridor.

It's a common dream, one that's repeated nightly in bedrooms across the country along with variations like not being able to find your locker, being unprepared for the final exam or getting called on by a professor but not knowing the answer.

Is your subconscious trying to tell you to go back to school, dredging up a real-life episode from years ago or just trying to scare you?

Likely none of the above, says Ronald Rottschafer, an Oak Brook clinical psychologist who analyzes dreams as part of his counseling sessions.

"It has nothing to do with the past," he said. "That's got to do with, 'I feel inadequate' or 'Help. I feel unprepared.' "

Pinpoint the problem

Interpreting dreams is a time-honored technique for some analysts who say people may be able to pinpoint a subconscious problem by picking apart the meaning behind those nocturnal images.

"Dreams are another way of knowing about ourselves that is not subject to the same kind of conscious editing we do in waking life," says Veronica Tonay, one of roughly 20 dream researchers in the United States and a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The author of "The Art of Dreaming" (Celestial Arts, $11.95), Tonay says dreams can tell people more about their emotional life than they may have realized.

Not all professionals agree with the philosophy extolled by such psychoanalysis pioneers as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung that dreams are useful tools to unlocking the mysterious unconscious.

But Rottschafer and Tonay are believers.

"Dreams are a very useful tool in counseling," said Rottschafer, who has been employing them in his practice for more than 30 years. "The dream is a message. The mind does not waste time on unimportant things."

The common dreams

Not every lion chasing you through the forest or every fall from a cliff means the same thing to two different dreamers, however.

"The dream has to be interpreted in terms of their current lifestyle as well as their personality," he said. "Dreams are symbols that tell us something about what the person is going through or needs to work on."

Still, there are dreams common at all levels of society and across cultures:

- Falling from a great height can signify "I'm frightened," or "I'm in for a letdown," or "I may fear that I've come too far, too fast," Rottschafer said.

There also may be a physiological component: people just falling asleep experience a "paralyzed" sensation when the major muscle groups can't move. Falling in a dream, then, could be a natural result of the physical aspect, Tonay said.

Being rescued in the dream or waking up before hitting the bottom indicates some vulnerability, but "your own self-protection mechanism is still working," Rottschafer said. …