Personal Growth

Is a Dream Dictionary Useless or Useful?

You will find many dream dictionaries and guidebooks on the Internet or on bookstore shelves, meant to help you interpret your dreams but also analyze them and find their meaning.

Indeed, if you want to understand your dreams on your own, without assistance from a therapist or a dream interpretation expert, you can buy and refer to a dream dictionary to translate your dreams.

There is however an important question: “Is a dream dictionary useless or useful?” Indeed, the interpretation of your dreams must face an apparent contradiction: each of us is unique, while dream guides often provide standard translations.

Dream Interpretation

The interpretation of your dreams is a wonderful path of personal development, as it allows you to become your own shrink.

Indeed, you are the best suited to know what is right for you, what you need, your passions, your aspirations, and your goals in life.

The core of the matter, when you want to interpret your dreams, is that once you have learned how to remember them, you need to analyze your dreams in order to find their meaning, just like any other kind of dream at your disposal (see my last article: The 5 Main Types of Dreams).

Dreams: a forest of symbols and metaphors

Usually, when you can perfectly remember one or several dreams, you can remember the last one you had just before waking up, or the most striking one during the night!

This is where it becomes difficult, because even if you have a clear vision of the dream you are remembering, and even if you have written the entire scenario with as many details as you could recall, most of your dreams have a symbolic meaning. Most of the time, it is hard to understand the actual meaning.

You will not only live through extraordinary situations but also some strange ones that can be even harder to interpret. You will often end up with people that you do not know, in strange unfamiliar environments (landscapes, houses, rooms…) where you have never set foot in a waking state!

There, you were speaking with animals, strange beings, plants… and I assume you do not have such skills in real life!

Long story short, you experience strange scenes full of symbols and metaphors, that is to say, they use words and expressions with vivid imagery. Indeed, a metaphor is a linguistic process describing a situation with words out of their core context, like saying “I have goosebumps” to mean you are afraid!

In your dreams, a metaphor can also be applied to any scene you experience, representing symbols over and over, something different from what you can see, with a hidden meaning that needs to be discovered.

And if some sequences or words are obvious to interpret, in several cases it is hard to grasp their meaning on your first try.

In this case, the most common reflex would be to turn to a dream dictionary or guidebook, a book meant to help you interpret your dreams!

But is it really useful when you know that everyone is unique, with their own history, whereas dream interpretations often provide stereotypical definitions that may even depend on the guide or be interpreted differently depending on your core culture!

Everyone is unique and has a unique history

You can find two exactly identical people on earth. Even genetic twins might share a genome but end up being different in some ways.

Even when they are very close (or even live under the same roof), in most cases twins have different characters and ways to express their own emotions and, even more basically, have a different life and job, and their friends, passions, and hobbies might differ too.

As such, you experience your own story, on your own path that you have been following since you were a child, with a unique romantic life, and preoccupations that differ from other people, even those you feel particularly close too, or those who are sharing your life or have been living with for a long time!

Accordingly, you have dreams that are your own, you create them and receive them personally, and they are custom fit for you.

Under these conditions, it seems hard to believe that by referring to standardized meanings taken from a dream dictionary, you will be able to analyze, interpret, and understand them precisely!

Indeed, a dream dictionary does not work like a cookbook with ready-made recipes that you need to follow in order to cook a successful meal, no matter who uses it.

This has nothing to do with psychic interpretation, but with physical laws that you cannot break, like water boiling at 212°F, or the fact that any dish left cooking too long will be burnt!

The world of dreams is much more complicated than this and follows a few rules that have nothing to do with those you are following in your everyday life, and with the laws of physics even less!

Stereotypical, flexible, and culturally appropriate interpretations!

The other obstacle commonly encountered during dream interpretation is that the uniformity of interpretation seems to directly oppose the wide diversity observed in human beings, their history, their problems, or their desires…

Indeed, regardless of your ethnicity, culture, life, intelligence, level of evolution or spiritual growth… if you open a dream dictionary at the word “accident”, it will provide you with the same definition that does not take any of the above elements into account, those that made you who you are today!

The interpretation of your dreams might even turn into a genuine puzzle if you compare various guidebooks because their definitions can vary widely. As such, if you dream about the “abyss”, one might explain that this symbol means you are about to encounter a new obstacle, while another might tell you that it represents the unconscious part of your mind. Which should you believe?

If you are dreaming about an accident, it might also mean that you are about to be in one (straight meaning), that you have a problem that needs to be solved, or even that you feel unconsciously guilty about something you have done and are punishing yourself within your dreams! And these are merely the first three interpretations I found in the first three books I consulted while writing this article!

In the same vein, symbols can have widely different meanings depending on your core culture, and may even mean contradictory things.

Wolves or dragons, for instance, can have diametrically opposed meanings depending on your ethnicity or where in the world you are living.

Depending on your country or cultural family, a dragon or a snake might have different meanings. In Western countries, they tend to be negative symbols while they are mostly positive throughout Asia.

Under these conditions, it seems hard to interpret your dreams using a dream dictionary… and yet…

When is using a dream interpretation book useful?

And yet it can be useful to consult a dream dictionary because the definitions you can find within are often broad enough to adapt them to your own existence. You should, however, favor interpretation guides that are widely renowned, because this is where you will have a chance to find some meaning that fits your particular case.

So what should you do when you find different meanings for a single symbol? This is usually not so hard, just refer to the books or online dictionaries that are considered authoritative.

Whenever you find a sign or symbol that you cannot seem to interpret, consult several guidebooks or interpretation books for dreams and pick the explanation that seems most likely for your particular case!

If you want a book, put your trust in those that are best-sellers or that have positive reviews and opinions from readers. You can also find this kind of information in most online stores.

Likewise, you should do an organic search, which means inputting your keyword in a search engine, and you will get a list of the best websites providing dream dictionaries.

This should disregard most online ads but focus on genuine search results because website results are ranked in order of reliability (depending on how serious they are and how cohesive their content is) by search engines.

For instance, if you have dreamt about a deer, look for the meaning attached to this animal in the three most reliable dictionaries and pick the definition that seems most suited to your personal situation.

Conclusion: Elaborate your own dream dictionary

In truth, over time you will be able to write down your own dream dictionary that relies on authoritative interpretation guidebooks and dictionaries but adapted to your own situation and history.

Your personal dream interpretation dictionary will be an adaptation of existing interpretations that are the core of the explanations you will draw up for your own dreams and nightmares.

Indeed, as indicated in the second article “The Five Main Types of Dreams”, you need to learn how to get away from the frightening aspect of nightmares because you can also find some fundamental meaning about your own personality within, even if it is about your dark side.

This is something genuine, whether you like it or not. It is useful and can also help you forward on your personal path, just as much as any lesson drawn from your ordinary positive dreams!

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Philippe Kerforne

Personal growth and hypnosis coach, writer and columnist

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