Thursday 14 November 2019
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What is a dream? – by Ian Wallace

What is a dream?

A dream is how you naturally make sense of all the information and experiences that you unconsciously absorb every day. This individual sense-making process provides you with meaningful insights into specific challenges that you are encountering in your day-to-day life. Your dreams are not just some random occurrence, they are actually a deliberate process that you use to draw on your past experience and help you understand how that can enable you make the most of future opportunities. Dreams don’t just happen to you, you happen to the dream and create everything that you experience in it.


Why do we dream?

The reason why we dream is to continually update our sense of self, so that we can understand who we actually are, what we really need and what we truly believe in our waking lives. The word dream has two meanings in our language. As well as describing the phenomena that we all create every night, it also means our deepest hopes and greatest aspirations in waking life. When we unconsciously create our dreams at night, we are engaging with the same processes that we use to imagine our ambitions in our day-to-day reality, by forming images of how our future might look. The imagery that you create in your dreams reflects how you see your self-image in waking life and helps you to imagine the person that you have the power to become.


What do my dreams mean?

Although your dreams may seem like a stream of random imagery that makes absolutely no sense, you are just expressing yourself in a different and far more creative way. To understand why you are dreaming a particular dream, all you have to do is work with the imagery and emotion that you have experienced in the dream. The images that you create in your dreams are your natural way of connecting what is happening in your inner world of imagination and ideas to your outer world of realities and facts. These connections from your inner world to your outer world are also known as symbols and identify where you can take meaningful action in waking life.


Why do people create similar dream themes?

We tend to create similar themes in our dreams, such as being chased, falling or flying, because they reflect natural aspects of human behaviour. Although we are all individual human beings, we also have generally similar behavioural patterns and so we create similar types of dreams as a way of exploring our waking life behaviours and how we can use them to identify opportunities and make the most of them. Understanding the meaning of a particular dream theme enables you to apply that awareness to a specific situation in your waking life.


Do we dream every night?

We tend to sleep in 90 minute cycles and we usually create dream episodes during each of these cycles. The first of these episodes will last for 10 to 15 minutes and the length of your dream episodes increases with each sleep cycle until the final episode before waking, which can be around 40 to 45 minutes long. On average, you will spend about two hours dreaming every night, so a twelfth of your life is experienced as a dream. You also create some dream imagery at the start of your sleep cycle as you begin to relax and drift off. This is known as the hypnagogic stage and it usually takes the form of apparently random flashes of imagery, most of it drawn from the previous day’s events.


How do I remember my dreams?

Some people say that they never dream but the reality is that they just don’t remember their dreams. Even though it may seem a challenge to remember your dreams, all you have to do is remember three words. These three words are WILL, STILL and FILL. When you lay your head on your pillow to go to sleep, say to yourself ‘Tonight I WILL remember my dreams’. When you wake up like completely STILL for a minute. Don’t move, don’t look at the time and don’t even wiggle your toes. By staying still, images and emotions that you have created in your dreams will emerge for you. Then all you have to do is fill in the gaps between the images from the dreams that you have created and your dream story will begin to appear.


Can I control my dreams?

There is a great deal of interest in the apparent possibility of controlling your dreams and everything you experience in them. This is also known as lucid dreaming and is simply the ability to realise that you are dreaming and then to consciously influence your dream without waking yourself up. The reality is that you cannot actually control your dreams but you can certainly make choices in them. Using the lucid dreaming to choose what you experience in your dreams can help you to work through particular challenges in your waking life. By realising that you have the power to make choices in your dreams, you often begin to realise that you have the power to make healthy choices in your day-to-day reality.


How can I use my dreams in everyday life?

The imagery and emotions that you create in your dreams are naturally identifying situations in your waking life where you have the chance to make a healthy difference. Part of this process often involves letting go of aspects of your life that are no longer fulfilling for you so that you can step into new opportunities and become the person that you really want to be. Using the Dream Connection Process, you can create powerful questions from the dream imagery that you create and then use the answers to engage with challenges and resolve dilemmas in your day-to-day life. Your dreams are provide you with a deeper awareness and wisdom that enables you to make the right choices. A dream is just a dream until you put into action.


Find out more about Dream Psychologist Ian Wallace and his work on his website at, follow him on Twitter @ianwallace, and like him on Facebook at

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