I remember in grad school I had this eureka moment in the middle of a dream analysis workshop with expert Jeremy Taylor. It was one of those aha experiences that happen when something big shifts inside – kinda like what solving a hard math proof feels like. He offered up a way of approaching dream analysis that was so eye-opening and powerful, it has since forced me to use this approach with ALL interpretations I make.
Now hold up, you may be thinking, “Dream analysis?? Blah. I don’t want to read about that. Too hocus pocus for me.” Got it. But never fear, this post is not a deep dive into analyzing our subconscious. Instead I share a fabulous trick derived from coaching and dream analysis principles on how to most powerfully and effectively communicate interpretations. Interested?
So let’s talk dream analysis for a second…
How many times have you shared an awkward, strange, or upsetting dream with someone and they respond with:“Oh wow, I bet I know what that means. Because you’re sitting naked in the middle of a classroom on a toilet with everyone pointing and laughing at you, while remembering that you forgot to do your homework, it means you are struggling with inadequacy and you have issues with your father… “
Or something like that.
Without fail people offer up their interpretations of your dream as: “It means you are… “
It feels declarative, definitive, and – don’t deny it friends – offensive. I don’t want someone telling me what I am, what I’m not, or what’s swirling around in my unconscious. Especially if they’re going to tell me my dream means I’m inadequate or issue-ridden.
Ok, now switching gears – coaching is a lot about revealing the underlying interpretations someone is holding that prevents said person from achieving what they want. And so we’re frequently asking, “What does it mean?”
and why you should care
You might not be conducting dream analysis regularly and you might not be in a coaching relationship with someone, but interpretations arise regularly in conversation. It’s just how meaningful dialogue goes. If you want to be more powerful in all interactions that involve interpretations, below is an explanation of a significant and subtle approach that could change everything.
In any interpretation you make of someone else’s dream, it’s your own personal interpretation because it’s filtered through the lens of your own personal experience. Your interpretation of their dream is really about yourself. Whatever meaning you derive inevitably arises out of everything you’ve experienced that makes you YOU. Everything you make sense of is due to all the conditioning, beliefs, and interpretations you’ve accumulated. So in response to interpreting someone’s dream it’s never an accurate statement to say: “It means you are…”
Instead, as Jeremy Taylor instructs us to do, we begin with, “In my imagined version of the dream, I….” and then you proceed to interpret as if it’s you and your dream. In the interpretation, all forms of “you” are replaced with “I.”
The brilliance in this is two fold.
By owning the interpretation as if it’s my dream, I can go a little deeper because I’m not trying to figure someone else out. And most powerfully, by acknowledging this is mine and mine alone, I keep the dreamer wide open and reflective by not putting them on the defense.
Overlay this on all reflective conversations and situations (not just dreams) and there’s an entirely powerful way to approach interpretations. By owning them as my own experience, I access more possibility and am in the highest integrity.
I share this because in coaching there are lots of questions centered around meaning. Many times I’ll have to tease out interpretations just below the surface. Rather than offer what I think may be going on (which I don’t really want to do anyway), I own my perspective and might offer instead:
“In my imagined version of the scenario, I…. (my interpretation of me imagined in the scenario inserted here).”
Sharing my perspective in this way allows then a possibility, not a definition, and keeps the other person inquisitive and introspective. It’s a magical experience for us both because both our wheels are turning, and all in a very productive direction.
If this idea piques your interest and you’d like to be a more powerful friend, spouse, colleague, leader, parent, boss, sibling, employee, etc. try it out. When contributing your interpretations, own it and offer it up as such. “In my imagined version of the (situation / scenario / conversation / etc.), I… ” See what magic you can create and delight me by sharing below in the comments. Thanks for being courageous! 🙂
Are you always on purpose? Sign up here for my newsletter and receive these sorts of tips on purposeful living every other week.
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.