Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Mirrored image of hand holding lightbulb with catfish inside.

How to Use Dreams for Practical Purposes

Enchant, Inspire

Dreams, by manifesting our subconscious, are a powerful and overlooked source of knowledge and creativity.

Though there are some who to believe that dreams are a gateway to a sort of magical realm, there are few who successfully use them to change their daily life. As depositary of residual memories of the day or absurd narratives, for most people the dream realm is anecdotic at best. And yet, as many artists and scientists have discovered, there is great creative potential to be mined from dreams.

Examples of creative inspiration found in dreams abound. The novel Frankenstein, for instance, was inspired Mary Shelley’s own dreams. It’s also said that the song “Yesterday,” one of the most popular songs in the history of rock, is the product of one of Paul McCartney’s dreams. Even more striking is the dream that Samuel Taylor Coleridge says to have had, in which he found the verses of his poem “Kubla Kahn” which, upon waking, he quickly transcribed. Even the discovery of the periodic table seems to be linked to a dream that the Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev had while on morphine, and in which he perfectly envisioned the intervals between each element.

Over the course of history, great traditions have seen a fountain of divine and extrasensory knowledge in dreams. Prophecies, for instance, tend to appear also in dreams. Homer, the great patriarch of Western culture, uses his character Penelope to explain that two types of dreams exist: “Two are the dark doors to dreams, one is forged in ivory and the other with horn.” According to the Homeric vision, dreams behind the ivory door are deceitful and are never realized; those behind the door of horn are ominous and end up materializing.

An alternative explanation to dreams can be found in the individual and collective subconscious. If Carl Jung is right, the human mind is not only a deposit of everything that has happened to one person—memories that are sometimes repressed—but also of everything that has happened to the human species. Neuroscience knows that when we are asleep, regions of the brain light up which we usually don’t have access to in our waking life. It’s possible that our dreams allow us to have a sort of cinematographic dialogue with the images of the world, with the archetypes, with transpersonal information.

The language of dreams, says Jung, is the language of symbols. Part of the creative power of dreams is our ability to find symbolism in their images, giving them greater richness in meaning. The symbol is always something else, that’s to say, something more. Put simply, this means that there’s more information in our dreams than we typically realize. Our subconscious reveals information to us we don’t usually have access to. Symbols, like myths, develop with a logic we’re not accustomed to in our daily lives, and so exhibit to us new realities. ––Observing the flow of this alternative reality stimulates our creativity by showing us the potential to be and do things in new ways.

To be able to harness this symbolic richness, which is greater (and perhaps richer) than the symbols of our daily life, it is necessary to be disciplined about doing exercises that practice some kind of discipline that enhances our memory of dreams, and even to learn how to control them—that is to say, to have lucid dreams. The first recommendation is to keep a diary and, ideally, to write down your dreams first thing in the morning. Meditating before sleeping or throughout the day is also helpful, as well as reading books about dreams or lucid dreaming, like The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda.

Human beings spend about a third of their life sleeping. Every time you sleep there is the possibility of dreaming and tapping into a hidden and fruitful part of your memory. Not taking advantage of this time, not accessing the “database” where perhaps all lives are stored, where the very information so vital for daily life is stored, would be a great waste indeed.

Related Articles