By Nara Schoenberg
Do you dream about chasing after your first love?
Embracing a bearded stranger?
Getting intimate with a movie star, a presidential candidate or even, gasp, some random guy at work?
Best-selling author Kelly Sullivan Walden is here to tell you what it all means in her new book, “The Love, Sex and Relationship Dream Dictionary: Your Guide to Interpreting 1,000 Common Dreams and Symbols about your Romantic Life.”
Walden, a life coach and certified hypnotherapist, offers a multifaceted approach, in which you identify symbols in your dreams, consider the associations they hold for you, look them up in her dictionary and weigh them against your life experience.
There are no one-size-fits-all answers, but there are lots of helpful suggestions from a seasoned dream interpreter.
“Most of us miss the brilliance of our dreams because they don’t make sense to the logical part of our brain,” Walden says.
“A dream dictionary like this is kind of a crutch, it’s a step to being able to say, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I can start to see symbolically what this could mean.’ Hopefully there will be some ahas. And just like learning a language, at some point you won’t need the dictionary anymore, but until then, it’s nice to have a guide.”
Here’s how Walden broke down two real-life dreams.
DREAM NO. 1
You’re lying in bed, paying the bills. You’re not wearing any makeup; you haven’t taken a shower. You’re vaguely aware that you, and your room, are kind of a mess, but you don’t particularly care. You’re focused on the task at hand when suddenly, completely out of nowhere, a very handsome co-worker appears. He lies down next to you and presses his stubbly cheek against your smooth one.
A wave of intense desire sweeps over you. You feel totally loved, accepted and understood by that random guy from accounting.
Walden focuses on the feeling that accompanies a dream, in this case, one of joy and satisfaction, as well as the life circumstance that accompanies it. (The dreamer was happily married and not looking for a new romance.)
Walden also looks at symbols: The bed is a very intimate, vulnerable place. And bill-paying suggests real-world competence.
Then she brings in two powerful ideas from her book: Be open to the idea that everyone in your dream is you, or at least part of you, and consider Carl Jung’s concept of anima and animus: that there is a masculine soul and a feminine soul within all of us, and we have to be in touch with both in order to reach our full potential.
“To me this feels like the ultimate animus dream,” she says. “If it were my dream, it would be the ultimate masculine energy, where there’s giving of love, and receiving of love. It shows me that there’s a beautiful state of balance taking place, that there are masculine and feminine energy that are finding each other, what a miracle!”
As for the appearance by the guy from accounting, Walden says dreamers shouldn’t worry too much about these disconcerting cameos. Typically the co-workers, movie stars and politicians we desire in our dreams are interesting symbols, not actual objects of affection.
DREAM NO. 2
You have recurring dreams about your first love, who dumped you and broke your heart. You’re at parties, all dressed up, and he’s ignoring you. You’re chasing him, and he’s one step ahead of you. He’s aloof. He’s just out of reach. You feel just like you did back in the day: rejected and miserable, but also emotionally open and crazy in love.
Walden, who had these dreams for years, says the parties might stand for the different parts of the self coming together. The alcohol could stand for loss of control, being “drunk in love.” Getting dressed up in this context might be trying impress others by being different from who you really are.
But more than anything, she says, her interpretation was guided by the underlying emotion in these scenes.
“Dreams can take us right back, even pictures and/or a video can’t take us back in that exact same way,” she says. “I was like, wow! That openness, that quality under where I got hurt, that place is still intact. There was a way this dream was kind of connecting me back in time to when it was like magic; I can remember running around like a crazy person, feeling so in love.”
Over time, she worked to regain that joyous, vulnerable part of herself, and she thinks she was pretty successful: “People are like, ‘Wow! You’re a big dork and you don’t seem to mind.’ And, yeah, I think dorkiness is next to godliness.”
The dream changed, too; a few years ago, Walden dreamed that it was actually her ex who was pursuing her.
“I was like, ‘Oh! finally!'” she says. “I found a place of healing that core wound that came at such an innocent time. I got my reward. And I haven’t, knock on wood, had another dream about him.”
From “The Love, Sex and Relationship Dream Dictionary”
Beard: A beard can symbolize masculine power and authority, or a desire to appear more powerful or manly than you feel.
Sex: Sex in a dream symbolizes a merging with the qualities the other person represents to you: maybe power, glamour or strength.
Snake: A snake might mean you want to slither away, or you feel like you’re being seduced or deceived. Also an ancient symbol of healing.