You’ve Been Dreaming, Even If You Don’t Know It — And Those Dreams Want to Help You Solve Your Problems
I tossed a dart. Bull's eye! Again and again! Wow, I’m excellent.
I became aware that my dad placed the darts in the bull’s eye while I wasn’t looking. I’m mad at him.
Suddenly, he’s dying. I rush him to the hospital in my first car. Nissan Xterra.
I wake up.
What the hell does that mean?
It’s a weird fact of human brains that we have to enter the nonsense world of dreams to keep our sanity.
There are easy, practical steps you can take to begin to unlock the power of dreams and the unconscious mind.
If deprived of the chance to dream, we lose the ability to grasp the world. Our emotions lose all moderation, and our perceptions bend toward the unreliable and even psychedelic.
Most of us take dreaming for granted and don’t even remember most of them upon waking. When asked, only 10% percent of people report remembering a recent dream—some report not dreaming at all.
If the lack of dreams has the power to break our minds, then realizing the potential of our dreams might hold the key to writing something worth reading. Dreams can enhance our creative lives profoundly.
For most of us, dreams are a completely untapped area of potential. You spend so much of your time trying to improve your conscious mind. You learn the power of habit. You meditate. You work on new skills. What about the unconscious mind?
You can take easy, practical steps to begin to unlock the power of dreams and the unconscious mind.
The Power of Good Sleep
Sleep is fashionable. Thank god we are no longer competing to get the least shut-eye possible. Jeff Bezos refuses to get less than 8. Matthew McConaughey gets a full nine and a half. Thanks to the increased popularity of taking sleep seriously, more and more people understand that good sleep is the key to good wakefulness.
Good sleep is the first step toward the full power of dreams.
Without good sleep, there isn’t enough time for dreams to play out. Fewer hours means less time spent in REM (when dreams happen). Drinking, smoking weed, caffeine at the wrong time, or taking sleeping pills also take away our full ability to dream.
When we follow the well-established practice of good sleep hygiene, we also unlock the easiest way to gain access to a nightly drama of dreams.
Before taking on any of the following steps, make sure you are doing the best sleep hygiene practices. Give it some time to become a true habit before trying to enhance your dreams.
Set an Intention Before Bed
Dreams are direct access to our unconscious minds. Our unconscious minds can’t speak to us directly the way our conscious minds can. To balance our psyche, dreams boil out of the unconscious mind to show us what needs to change in our conscious lives.
It sounds incredibly simple and even silly, but it works. All you have to do is ask your unconscious mind to show you what you need to see before you go to sleep. Say it out loud, write it down, or think it clearly to yourself before you go to sleep.
The unconscious mind may not be able to speak, but it hears everything. When we ask for a vision to help with any underlying issues in our life, our dreams will show us a movie to help us know what to do.
Read Up on Mythology
If you want to tap into the power of your dreams, you have to trust that they are meaningful. I struggled with this for a while myself. I used to think that dreams were just random noise of a brain de-fragging my day. I changed my mind when I had a life-changing dream (covered in a little further down).
Remember, when you were a kid, and everything was meaningful? Bugs, dirt, and seeing a rainbow were reasons to scream with delight. That’s what dreams are like. When having a dream, the things you see aren’t literal interpretations of the objective world — they are images and experiences that hold some meaningful charge.
It’s worth reading up on dream interpretation. There are books plainly about the subject. I recommend gaining a passing familiarity with archetypes and mythology. What does it mean when you see your father at the bottom of the ocean? Not nothing.
Until recently, I thought that this sort of thing was bunk. But I can’t deny the life-changing dream interpretations that have come of it. I encourage all doubt because this sort of thing is not falsifiable— and thus not real science. But the personal experience can make you a believer even if you can’t prove it — and that’s exactly what happened to me.
I recommend The Origins and History of Consciousness. Warning: It’s a deep, dense book. When something I read blows my mind, I dog-ear the page and make underlines. Some books hit me a few times, while others may never hit me. This book hit me dozens and dozens of times, and the side of the book is thick with dog-ears.
The Practical Use of Dream Analysis is a more direct source on dreams. Carl Jung:
“The dream shows the inner truth and reality of the patient as it really is: not as I conjecture it to be, and not as he would like it to be, but as it is.”
My life-changing dream
I was a beast, running through the forest. I came upon something perfectly innocent — a white bunny. As the beast, it was difficult to restrain myself and not kill and eat the bunny. I managed it and tucked the bunny into my chest — something to protect from the world. As a reward, I ascended to an open field of pure light.
I saw my father. Not as he is now, but as he was when I was a kid. Back then, he wore big bifocal glasses (70s style). I took him into my arms. He died there. I wept like I haven’t wept since I was a little kid and had no sense of embarrassment about crying.
I let my dad go. He floated up into the pure light of the field. Before he went, I took the glasses and tucked them into my chest, along with the bunny.
I felt like my life had a new purpose: To protect the things in my chest. I woke up smiling.
This dream is more straightforward and more intelligible than almost any other dream that I’ve had. Don’t feel bad if your dreams are much less easy to understand — because most of mine are too. I use this one as an example because it requires very little expertise to interpret. The meaning is clear.
Since this dream, I have felt more purposeful in my life. I feel stronger and less likely to feel lost. I’ve had many other similar ones, all have helped me in little ways. That’s the transformative power of dreams — they keep most people from losing their minds, but if tapped into, they can bring extraordinary peace of mind and a more meaningful life.
Write Down the Dreams
I wrote down many half-remembered dreams before I had the previous one. I woke up and recalled them in patch-work. It doesn’t matter if you remember everything — just the act of trying to recall enough to write it down is enough to cement it in the conscious mind.
Make a habit out of it, and dreams are more willing to stay in your memory on their own. Keep repeating the process; you’ll soon be an expert dreamer.
Dreams keep us sane, as we know, even if we don’t remember them. But they offer much more than mere sanity if we are willing to go deeper. That’s why training ourselves to become more conscious of our dreams slowly is such a powerful practice — it’s like using the whole deer, bones and all, instead of wasting it.
Keep a dream journal by your bed. Make a habit out of writing down all you can remember when you wake up. Over time, you will be able to remember more and more.
Bonus tip: remain perfectly still when you first wake to remember more of your dream. Only move when you have recalled all that you can. Write it all down.
I’ve only had one, maybe two lucid dreams. While they are cool, I don’t think they are the purpose of mastering dreams. They probably indicate a high level of conscious and unconscious communication, which is an excellent thing.
All the above tips will help you achieve lucid dreams. Don’t get hung up on the idea, though. My lucid dreams were not the most important dreams of my life.
Unrelated to otherwise meaningful dreams, there are a few tips specifically for vivid dreams:
Dreams hold the power of our unconscious minds, whether we like it or not. If we are brave enough to tap into this realm, we stand to gain massively in our waking lives.
To recap, harness the power of your dreams by:
- Practice good sleep habits
- Set an intention to dream
- Read up on mythology and dream interpretations
- Write down dreams upon waking
- Practice lucid dreaming techniques
Dreams become a part of our lives through consistent practice and good habits. You can’t force yourself to be a good dreamer… overnight (sorry).
If you have any crazy dreams you want to share, please comment on them in detail below! We can try to interpret each other’s dreams.
(This is where you get first dibs and deeper dives.)