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7 Steps to Deciphering Your Dreams


With this short guide, anyone can learn to interpret dreams, the messages that always tell us something about ourselves.

For centuries, dreams have been codified as “messages.” In ancient times they were considered one of the ways that the gods came in direct contact with humankind. In “The Secret Miracle,” Borges reminded us that:

Maimonides wrote that the words of a dream are divine, when they are all separate and clear and are spoken by someone invisible.

Legend has it that Scipio the younger, the general who later razed Carthage and conquered Numancia, a few years prior to starting his brilliant martial career, had dreamt he was visited by Fortune and Constancy, two deities who took him beyond the circles of the world so that, in the end, he had to choose the favors of either one or the other.

Likewise, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, dreamt of an effigy made of different materials, the symbolism of which could only be interpreted by the prophet Daniel, and heralded a succession of empires to come.

Eventually belief in the gods waned, but curiously, dreams didn’t lose their quality as messages. The deities may have stopped visiting men and revealing their futures but dreams promised to reveal something about ourselves that we don’t know from our ordinary lives.

This is the point at which we find ourselves. In general, we believe that dreams have a message for us: our pasts, our unconscious, our desires and fears. We dream and upon awakening, if we remember anything, what survives is the vague feeling that the dream wanted to show us some problem that was causing distress, perhaps an option we hadn’t considered. Or we might be left feeling that we shouldn’t worry so much. After all, a solution is within reach.

To that end, below we share seven qualities that should be paid attention to if you want to know what your dreams are talking about.



Whenever you’re remembering a dream, heed the associations that come up as you’re remembering it. In general, dreams come across in an encrypted language that needs to be unraveled. Your dream of a friend may not by your friend in and of him or herself, but what that friend represents in your life. The same goes for places, objects, and so on.



Following up on the preceding point, amplification follows association. Symbols in dreams function as a metonymy: one can follow one term to eventually reach the meaning there. A house could refer to a family, family security and safety and on to something new that has come into your life, and so on.



Like any language, the language of dreams depends on the context in which they’re presented. The same symbol – a dog, a life partner, a car – can mean quite different things not only in the context of dreams themselves but, above all, in the context of the time of life of the dreamer.


Pay attention to setting…

The setting of any dream will have a special relevance. Your job, your house, the streets where you normally walk, a country you visited, etc. What does that place mean for you?


And also to structure.

What was your dream like? Could you return to a point of origin? Did it take place in linear sequence? Were there unexpected jumps? Did other intermediate dreams interrupt the sequence? How did the story unfold? Was it a recurring dream? What was the climax? How and why did it end?


Study the characters

Dreams are like theater plays: some characters are more important, some others are merely incidental, some return unexpectedly. They can also be like the movies: fantastic creatures, animals, or enemies can appear. Take note of the qualities of each.


Codify the emotional atmosphere

Finally, it’s important to recognize the emotions that came up during your sleep. Was it a pleasant or a nightmarish episode? Was it distressing or rather cheerful? This will also help you to understand all the other elements involved in the dream.

Walter Benjamin suggested a specific time of day to remember dreams. Accompanied with this short list, we just may have what it takes to understand the messages we receive during our sleep.

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