In my book The Shyness Guide, and in previous posts here, I’ve said that I think you should think twice before trying to ‘interpret’ your dreams.

I have long believed that most interpretations are either wrong or simply inadequate, only catching a minor part of what a dream is about.

In this, I thought I was parting company with psychologist Carl Jung, following instead his renegade pupil, James Hillman, who warned that interpreting dreams drains them of energy. But I was wrong about Jung.

Recently, re-reading his book, On the Nature of the Psyche, I came upon this stunning statement with respect to dreams :

Image and meaning are identical.

That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a bombshell. It says you don’t have to analyse a dream to find the meaning, because the meaning is in the images. Just pay attention to the images.

The language of dreams is far older than the language of speech, and it’s made up of images.

In the same book, Jung describes how he developed his early method, exploring the dreams and fantasies of patients. He says he took pains not to interpret them, “never stepping beyond the bounds of the picture lying before me.”

Do you want an example? Here is a real dream of my own, one I gave in full to character Chris Stone in my novel The Birdcatcher. I hardly had to change a word from the account in my journal:

Towards morning I dreamt that I was floating through a black void. There was nothing there at all until I heard music that I thought was Mozart’s. In that direction I detected a far off sphere of light and moved towards it. When I finally hovered above it, I saw two fish inside. They were olive green, but each was outlined with incandescent silver. The incandescence was the source of the light. They swam in a circle inside the sphere, in time with Mozart, following each other’s tail in a playful dance. As I watched them, something told me that the light coming from them was their love for one another, and I wished they could go on forever.

When I woke from that dream, it seemed to stand alone. There may have been a preceding dream, or scene, but I had no memory of one. It was one of the most satisfying dreams I have ever had.  It fit perfectly into Stone’s story.

For the record, all four of the dreams Chris Stone has in The Birdcatcher, each crucial to the story, are real dreams that I gave him.

But what do the fish mean, you may want to ask. Jung’s answer is that you are better off not asking that question – not trying to put the meaning into words. Let the image, the dream, speak directly to you.

That, in my experience, is how dreams work best.

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