Soul Sessions by CreativeMind

Why Dream Interpretation is Important for Your Life

November 28, 2023 Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado PhD Life Coach Training and Personal Transformation Experts Season 7 Episode 189
Soul Sessions by CreativeMind
Why Dream Interpretation is Important for Your Life
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode explores the world of dreams and why dream interpretation is important in our lives. From Freud bringing dreams into the social science scene to Jung exploring the mystical side of dreams and the unconscious, we discuss:

  • Jung's vision of the psyche
  • The symbolic language of the unconscious
  • How to begin interpreting dreams


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INTRO  00:00

Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin. 

Debra Maldonado  00:27 

Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I'm Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re really excited to introduce a new series on dreams. For the next few episodes, we're going to talk about Jungian dream interpretation. Get your notebooks out, it's going to be an interesting topic and understanding in a new way of what your dreams are telling you. But before we begin, I want to invite you to subscribe to our episodes, because we'd love for you to continue to listen. Every week, we're bringing you great content. I'm so excited about dream interpretation, it’s really fun. Before we start, can we give a shoutout to our December cohort, those students who have already signed up for our December Jungian life coach training cohort. It starts December 6, we have a great group of people, I'm so amazed at the level and quality of our students who are so into Carl Jung and his work and want to bring it into coaching. If you're interested in finding out more, you can click on the link in the show notes to find out more about the program. It starts December 6, so we're still taking applications as we speak. My commercial’s over, let's talk about dreams.

Robert Maldonado  01:46

One of our favorite topics, primarily because it's such a rich and deep topic. We could essentially do our whole podcast on dreams. But it’s also a difficult topic. It requires us to shift our thinking. You can’t use a rational mind in approaching the Jungian unconscious mind because it’s the opposite, it’s irrational, the intuitive, non-linear, mythological, symbolic. It's difficult for us as human beings to let go of our rationality because it serves us so well. It gives structure and meaning to our life. But in approaching the unconscious and working with dreams, we have to learn this other language. It's another dimension of our nature, our being.

Debra Maldonado  02:48

When we're kids, we do think in mythology. We watch cartoons, we're very imaginative. I just saw something, there was some study on kids being really creative. Then every year, or a couple of years of school that creativity gets taken away, because the schools are designed to have you build up the rational mind, the logical mind, it doesn't really serve that creativity. We all have it within us. Basically, we’ve forgotten that gift. Dreams isn’t about cultivating it like a fresh new concept. Within us we do have the creativity that's just dormant. We're basically reawakening it with dreams. When people get into dream interpretation, they feel this incredible sense of magic. When that happens, it feels almost childlike. Again, you become playful with them. Don't you agree?

Robert Maldonado  03:45

Jung says that the dream to the individual is like the myth to the collective. It puts us in touch with that mythological aspect of the psyche. That is so precious, it's something we need as human beings. If we forget that, we’re losing something really important, not only for creativity, but this connection to nature, to the cosmos, to the world, to each other also. As we'll see through the series, we should talk about a little bit of the structure, the big picture, first of all.

Debra Maldonado  04:30

That’s what today is about, giving you an overview, dispelling some of the myths — no pun intended — around dream interpretation, and just the different types.

Robert Maldonado  04:42

Later through the series, we can talk more about how to interpret these incredible dreams we have in the night. Almost 124 years ago, this guy named Sigmund Freud wrote his book called The Interpretation of Dreams. Of course, it was a big turning point in psychology, in the study of the mind. In the West, especially, dreams weren’t taken that seriously. They were seen more as belonging to poetry, literature, mythology, religion, but not taken as valid science, or a topic of scientific study. Freud changed that with his book. He presented a thesis, which stated that dreams were speaking to us in symbolic language and had something important to tell us about the nature of our unconscious mind.

Debra Maldonado 05:50

At that time, I don't know if that came later or not, would the scientists say “That's just your brain taking the memories of the day and re-shuffling.” Or did that happen afterwards?

Robert Maldonado  06:03

People have had varying ideas on what the dreams are. That's always been around, this idea that they are nonsense, your brain is just blowing off steam or rearranging the daily experiences and putting things in the right place. Then you have these artifacts that the brain just generates these images because of all that shuffling that's going on during the night. But there's also been traditions that say there's something important going on in dreams beyond that biological function.

Debra Maldonado 06:48

For probably tens of thousands of years indigenous humans had a sacredness to them, they honored them. The shaman and the group would help with the interpretation or would have a dream, we’d be able to use them. It's not a new thing, Freud didn't invent it. But he was noticing from a psychological standpoint that there's something really important here.

Robert Maldonado  07:10

Jung contributed to the scientific study of dreams in a really important, very distinct way than Freud. Freud put it on the map, he said “Let’s study dreams in a serious way, so that we can figure out what they mean.” But Jung, because he was interested in the mind in a different way, he saw the mind not only as an individual entity contained in the individual, he had this idea that, first of all, the unconscious is alive, it's a deeper reality in us.

Debra Maldonado  07:59

Freud saw it as just a repressed, almost compartmentalized file system, in a way. Like a repressed energy that is static in a way. It's just closer to us than the mysticism that Jung thought they were.

Robert Maldonado  08:16

Yes and no. If you read Freud's work, you get a sense that he saw it very much as a natural living system that is in the psyche, but he always shied away from acknowledging those bigger truths, primarily because he was interested in putting psychology on the right track as a social science.

Debra Maldonado  08:48

It's easier to just say it's repressed and compartmentalized.

Robert Maldonado  08:53

If you read some of his work, you get the sense that he’s talking about very deep concepts as well. Of course, then Jung had the audacity, some would say to his own detriment, he dared to state in a much more obvious way that in dreams, we're talking about religious, mythological, spiritual content in the psyche, that should be paid attention to. That's what created the split in psychology. He’s often accused of being a mystic and crossing the line into mysticism, away from the scientific approach of the psyche. But those of us that don't have a problem with that benefit from his work because it gives us a much richer understanding of the psyche and a much broader field in which to play in the study of the mind.

Debra Maldonado 09:58

From a practical standpoint, I always like to bring it down to practicality, if you think about your life, most people live on a conscious level. We have these milestones in our journey of life. You're born, you go to school, you have to fit in, your junior high years, your high school years, your achievements, you go to college, you get married, you have all these career advancements, maybe you have a hobby you do, and everything's pretty much lived externally. Our journey of life for most people is defined by external experiences, conscious experiences. But what's happening with dreams and our unconscious mind is like a journey of our soul. There's a deeper, wiser aspect of us that's also going on a journey. While we are up here, distracted by life, there's another journey going on internally. What we want to do with Jung's work and individuation is merge the inner and outer world, and dreams are really a great way because how do you see what's unconscious? When you think of unconscious, many people think it's dormant until we bring it conscious, it's just hanging out in a bland, neutral state. But what's happening unconsciously is that it has its own life within us. There's a part of us that is living within us that we’re not conscious of. That soulful, beyond your personal experience, a universal experience we're having. If you think about the world, we're all having a collective experience internally, and then we're only seeing the external in little pieces. But as we're raised, we think the external is everything. With dreams, I find is the easiest way to merge those worlds and invite this wiser self in and go on a deeper journey in life. That's what individuation is, it's about inner journey, the hero's journey, as Campbell would say, or the heroine’s journey, this other part of ourselves that is beyond the ego, that is having an experience. We want to be a part of it, we want to be co-creators with it. 


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Robert Maldonado  13:05

That's a good place to start. Jung's vision of the psyche is very unique. He does include the personal unconscious in relationship to our ego, our waking everyday experience or daily life. The ego is the center of that experience of our conscious mind. He says there is a personal unconscious, very similar to Freud's idea of a space in our psyche that stores a lot of our repressed memories, repressed wishes, forgotten desires, things that we don't have a need for anymore, perhaps we want to push them away, we want to forget them, but they don't go anywhere, they go into a personal unconscious where they reside. Then they come out occasionally, or through dreams pop up in our awareness again. But Jung also had this idea of the collective unconscious, which is controversial still, but now there seems to be more and more evidence that this is perhaps the way it is, that there's a collective unconscious psychic structure that we all share.

Debra Maldonado 14:31

They're all like the ocean, we're on the top of the ocean, the wave. We're all connected on this ocean of consciousness. That's why we're so alike. We go to another culture, we meet other people, we have common needs, common fears. Where did all those things come from? Why did they build pyramids in Mexico and Egypt? Did they meet each other or was there something happening? There is scientific discoveries happening to places across the globe at the same time. That's the collective unconscious.

Robert Maldonado  15:07

Just like the individual, personal unconscious, it stores human experience, but throughout time and throughout all human cultures, so you can imagine how rich this collective unconscious is. We have access to this collective unconscious through dreams. That's an important distinction, because Freud wouldn’t go there, he didn’t see it that way. He considered pretty much the individual experience to be the sole way of working with dreams and psychoanalysis, whereas Jung opened it up to this richer, universal mythological reservoir of images.

Debra Maldonado  15:59

Many people make a mistake of taking dreams literally, thinking of them as telling something literal about the future. We do have pre-cognitive dreams, but they're not always about that person or an event that's going to happen. For example, if someone said “I dreamed I started a new job, then the walls caved in”, it may not mean that the job is going to fall apart. It could, but it also could mean that maybe it’s your fear. You want to look deeper into what that is. Maybe your persona will be transformed through that career. But it comes in the form of a weird event in a dream. If you don't know what you're looking at, you can quickly assume that it means something and then make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. So when you look at your dreams and do dream interpretation, it's always good to have someone who knows what they're doing to help you because if you do it on your own, you can interpret it, I don’t want to say in the wrong way, but misinterpret it in a literal way that could actually keep you going in some direction that the dream or the wiser part of yourself didn't mean to take you.

Robert Maldonado  17:19

The symbolic nature of the language of the unconscious is important. It's almost impossible to learn without a guide system or methodology. That's one of the usefulness of Jung's work, he gives us at least a way of approaching this vast knowledge that is in the collective unconscious through his understanding of symbols and what he called archetypes. A symbol and an archetype aren’t the same thing. Often people use these different words and concepts interchangeably.

Debra Maldonado  18:08

Let's say, the archetype of a mother. There’d be a universal archetype of that, we all have a mother. But the symbol is Mother Mary, your mother, your grandmother, they're all different symbols.

Robert Maldonado  18:23

An archetype contains many symbols, that’d be another way of putting it. The archetype of mother, for example, or the Great Mother archetype, can be expressed in many symbolic ways, in many symbols, in many symbolic forms. That's why you see the mother archetype throughout all cultures expressed in unique and different ways. It can vary all the way from the Virgin Mary to the Wicked Witch of the West. All are pointing to the same archetype but different components or different aspects.

Debra Maldonado  19:04

A dragon is the mother archetype. The church is the mother archetypes. I think a lot of people — I don't want to keep seeing “other people”, because this is where I’d get confused too with the different personalities, like the hero, the victim, the villain. Those are symbols, they're not only just personalities, like a persona, they're more like a process. There’s something deeper than just identification as your persona, “I'm going to be the hero this time.” Those are great, that's part of it, but that's not where it stops. It's more like “What does this mother mean?” It's my relationship with matter. It's my relationship with the world. The world is our mother. It has a deeper, rich meaning. We don't want to just stop at “I'm going to have this new persona that's more of a warrior now” and using that archetype in that way just to build up your persona.

Robert Maldonado  20:03

Some of the most important archetypes we'll be talking about in the series are certainly the persona, as you mentioned, which is the masks we wear as social beings. What Jung meant by the persona is more the social function we play in society, what role we play. He said that's a mask, it's not the real us.

Debra Maldonado  20:35

We have a lot of personas, it's not just one. We have a persona at work, we have a persona with our relationship, our partner, we have a persona with our work, our work friends that we like, our boss is a different persona, our parents is a different persona, our siblings, friends. We have all these different personas. We show up different ways. But when we think “Who am I really?”, we're lost in that idea. It's a great function, because it's a way for us to navigate the world. But many people get caught up and think that's their identity. Especially a boss who has a title, then they get laid off, they're no longer the vice president of marketing. They’re now back at home, just being a wife or a husband, they don't have the big job anymore. They're questioning who they are. That is really attaching yourself to that persona.

Robert Maldonado  21:34

There are different ways of conceptualizing what Jung meant by persona. But the way we work with it is more as a function, just like the ego is a function, the persona is a function of playing a role, like an actor taking on a role. It's one function of being a persona, or expressing a persona.

Debra Maldonado  22:02

A celebrity, getting what other people think of them, this famous person, they could get caught up in it. That's that inflated ego that we attach ourselves to that persona, we think that's who we are and what people are projecting on us. Because of a circumstance, we have this identity in the world, we have to live by it and live up to it and always be successful. That's the persona as well.

Robert Maldonado  22:30

The nemesis of the persona is a shadow. In literature, it's often the hero and the villain. It is a simplified way of explaining it. But it's that idea that the hero will often have a shadow character who is opposing the hero's journey. That's the shadow in the psyche, according to Jung. Whatever doesn't fit into the role we're playing goes into the shadow. But it doesn't go anywhere. It's in the personal unconscious.

Debra Maldonado  23:12

You see people like a priest they had in Colorado, who was anti-gay, anti-sex, he was preaching from the pulpit of righteousness. Unconsciously, he was hiding his shadow, which was gay cross dressing. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but he was verbally talking against it. It was that projection of the shadow that he didn't want to accept about himself. There's like a shame around it.

Robert Maldonado  23:46

Often, the shadow will sabotage individuals. Why these people that have a very strong persona presence in the public have not dealt with their shadow. The shadow will sabotage their doings and destroy what they build up as persona. That's an important function in dreams. Often, dreamwork will help defuse that bomb, that split in the psyche between persona and shadow. It's an important function that we see in Jungian dreamwork. Some of the other archetypes you have are the self, which is, if we're not the persona, if we’re not the role we play in society, who are we? Jung came up with this idea of a true self, or a self that encompasses all aspects of our psyche, both conscious and unconscious.

Debra Maldonado  24:56

The persona is an aspect of the self, a tiny little aspect. Like a bubble on the top of a wave on top of an ocean, but it's still part of it. It's just that if we over identify with it, we miss out on the ocean and all of who we are.

Robert Maldonado  25:11

We'll be talking about some of these aspects of the psyche, in particular, how they relate to dreamwork. The process of individuation is really important to help us understand that process of growth. How does an individual go from believing they are this persona and this ego, identifying at the conscious level, to experiencing the totality of their psyche? What is that movement like? That's what Jung called the individuation process. Dreamwork is almost essential for that process, you have to engage with the unconscious mind, because the symbols that are going to come from the unconscious mind and transform the psyche are often revealed in dreams.

Debra Maldonado  26:12

All of you that do personal development work, you hear the term ‘transformation’, what does it mean? You can transform the persona and make yourself from insecure to a confident persona and think that's transformation. It is in a way. But what we're talking about is a complete, deeper transformation. The greatest example of this is someone who is identified as a corporate person, has the corporate handcuffs, they have the fancy job, they're in the corner office, and they're miserable. They're like “This isn't what I signed up for. I did what my parents expected, me becoming a lawyer, or an accountant, or a business person in the corporate world. This society tells me I need to have a job and I need to be associated with a bigger company to make money”, then they leave and become an entrepreneur all of a sudden. You have to, first of all, transform externally, you have to grow into something else or someone else to be a success outside of that old pattern. How do we do that? How do we navigate that? We have to ask ourselves, this persona that we've carried about, this corporate person having a job, it's like we're stripped away of that. We have to replace it with something. Sometimes I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I can be running a company. Especially service based people, I don't know if I have the skills yet to do this. You're evolving through this idea of becoming this very limited person with limited choices where everyone else was telling you when to show up at work, how much money you're going to make and what your job is, to someone who has complete freedom, but no guardrails. That's what individuation is. It feels like an upheaval in a lot of ways. But it's about dropping all those parts of yourself that no longer serve you and basically re-imagining who you are. But how do you know what to drop away? What's valuable? What's the next step? Why are you stuck certain places? For me, dreams have been like no other power, because you're using your own inner wisdom, you're not going to someone else for advice, or a psychic telling you your future, or even someone else assessing you. You look at yourself and you're like “This is interesting. This dream is showing me something I didn't know. I thought I worked on that issue with money, or I thought I worked on that issue of belonging or needing to feel accepted.” Then it shows up in a dream and you're like “This is still here.” There's the amazing mystical part of the journey of connecting with your wisdom and all those things. But from a practical standpoint, it's like “Where do I need to grow in order to step into this dream that I set up for myself? Where do I need to change? What do I need to let go of?” That's what the dream is showing you. It's always laying it out there raw and unfiltered. If you have a really good guide, they can help you interpret. Also, guides don't do the interpretation all for you. They give you suggestions, but it's really up to you to learn the skill of understanding your own unconscious symbolic language.

Robert Maldonado  29:32

The main idea is that dreams do guide the individuation process, the process of growth, of going from over identification as persona to the integration of the conscious and the unconscious mind, which is another way of explaining what individuation is. You're no longer split between your conscious experience of life and the power of the unconscious. They start to integrate, to communicate, it's a two way communication that starts to take place, transforms the inner psyche, the dynamics of the psyche.

Debra Maldonado  30:15

If you don't pay attention to the unconscious, you’re, just like I said in the beginning, living by those external milestones, let's say, you become an entrepreneur, you have a goal or a dream, you're very focused on those milestones externally, ignoring your inner world. What I've seen in 20 years being in the coaching industry, people have what they call a dark night of the soul. They build up this great, amazing success. Then something happens that tumbles them down and basically humbles them because they get so identified with that success externally that they ignore the unconscious. They have a shake up in their life, something happening that feels like a crisis. But it's actually like a crisis of the soul. It's like you're missing out on an even bigger world. When that happens, if that happened to you, it means you're ready for something bigger. It's not a bad thing that just happened. It's like a wake up call in a way to help you re-orient yourself internally, not just live on the surface, not just live externally, facing out. The ego loves to look out there. But actually the mystical marriage of the conscious and unconscious, be a partner with this greater wise force that's within you, that you can work and direct. Otherwise, it's like two parts of yourself working at odds. There’s a lot of conflict in your life if you don't understand what's going on internally.

Robert Maldonado  31:42

We'll be talking about some of these concepts throughout the series, giving you some examples of dreams from Jung's work, from our own personal experiences, from some of the dreams our clients and students have had and shared with us, as far as your own personal journey with dreams.

Debra Maldonado  32:05

I have an idea. I think for a good first step, I read this probably 10 years ago in one of Jung’s works, I think it was Man and His Symbols, don't quote me on that, though. He said that if you're just starting out and don't know anything about dream interpretation, this is what you do. Write down your dreams, pay attention to them, write them down, keep a journal, and read them out loud. You don't need to know what they mean but you're reading them out loud. You don't have to do it in front of people, you can read it out loud in your own privacy. But you're taking that unconscious content and making it in the physical world. That itself, by just reading it, will change your psyche. That's a really quick way you could start doing that. What if someone can't remember their dreams?

Robert Maldonado  32:59

That’s the first step. You have to remember them, work to improve recall. Dream recall is really important, because it allows us to do the work. The way you can start is by keeping a notebook by your bedside. Try writing down anything, any sensation. If you don't remember any of the dreams, just write that down, write “I don't remember, but I had a restful sleep” or “I had a rough night”, whatever it is. That way you're giving the suggestion to the unconscious mind that you're ready to pay attention, you're interested in what's going on.

Debra Maldonado  33:40

Usually, in a couple of days, our clients have told us they start recalling the dream just by setting the intention. Another thing you can do too, this is my favorite part of dream interpretation. If you have a problem in your life, or you feel stuck in something and want to have a solution, you're gonna check in with your inner wisdom, ask the dream for the answer. Why can’t I reach this goal? Your dream will show you in symbols and in a mythological story what is happening. I can't imagine anyone not having access to this. It's gold that many people forget there's this wealth of knowledge and wisdom within us that the dream can give us. I also think that one thing about dreams is that they're unfiltered. Your ego’s not involved. Sometimes, when people have intuitive “I feel this, I hear voices” on a conscious level, “My ego is telling me it's not the right time for something”, it's probably your ego. But the dream is going to tell you the raw truth and without your ego involved. Your ego is slightly involved, from the identity standpoint, but most of it steps back, it's like “This is just a dream. I don’t have to worry about it being real.” That's really the beauty of it, getting that unfiltered wisdom into your mind, breaking unconscious.

Robert Maldonado  35:02

There are so many different types of dreams too. We'll talk a little bit about that. It's like the conscious mind. Some people use their mind to watch football or think about cars or something, while others come up with incredible inventions and ideas. That whole spectrum of ideas that the conscious mind is capable of. It's the same process in the unconscious mind. Sometimes dreams will be about work or something you experienced during the day. Other times, they’ll take you to places you've never seen before and haven't even imagined.

Debra Maldonado  35:44

Sometimes you have a dream, when you start doing dream interpretation, we have these dreams from 20 years ago, maybe 30 years, depending on how old you are, maybe 40 years ago, that you're like “That dream stuck with me. I always remember that dream, but I never knew what it meant.” When you started doing your work, getting into dream interpretation, it’s like “I see what that dream was pointing to at that point in my life”, it all starts to make sense. You can use old dreams too, be like “I wonder what was happening around that time, how can I look at it in a non-linear, non-logical way, but more of a symbolic way?” Of course, get someone to help you that has experience, because it's just more useful. But if you can't right now, that would be a great first step, just start reading it, start paying attention to it, writing it down.

Robert Maldonado  36:31

Then, of course, we’ll suggest books and literature also. There is at the higher end of the work is dream yoga, which is just like waking yoga. It's a mental discipline paying attention to dreams and using them for the development of higher consciousness. That work goes into what the nature of consciousness is, what is possible in dreamwork. It leads us into lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences. But those are some of the more advanced concepts that we'll touch upon and mentioned them and where they fall on the spectrum of dream work. But definitely, if you're interested in dreams, take some notes.

Debra Maldonado 37:24

We're excited for the series, hoping to get you through the holidays, especially in the winter people cuddle up, it's more of a dreamy time. Perfect time for us to explore dreams and think about your goals for 2024, where you want to go in life and where you're holding yourself back. Ask your dreams “What's stopping me from taking my step to live my purpose? What's stopping me from getting into that ideal relationship? What's stopping me from making more money so I can do more with my life or do more for my family? What’s holding me back from being healthy or from losing weight?” Everything is psychological, the psyche is always working and contributing to the experience of life. The inner world is always what the outer world is reflecting. We want to look within. Again, have a great rest of your day. I hope you enjoyed this episode and look forward to more series. Don't forget, if you want to hear the whole series, subscribe. You don't want to miss these series on dreams. Have a great day. 

OUTRO 38:31 

Thank you for joining us. Don't forget to subscribe to CreativeMinds Soul Sessions. Join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with CreativeMind Soul Session. See you next time.

Jung’s vision of the psyche
The symbolic nature of the language of the unconscious
The process of individuation
How to begin the dream interpretation process