How to Interpret Your Dreams for Deeper Wisdom
By Natalie Eve Marquis, RMT, CH, Intuitive Healer & Coach
I am captivated by dreams, symbols and repeating patterns. Why? Because I believe this is one of the ways our higher self tries to communicate with us. It’s not a language of words and sentences but rather of feeling and imagery. And way more often then we realize, there is deep wisdom bubbling up from within and all around us. It comes in our nighttime dreams and in repeating signs and synchronicities all around us. If you want a heads-up on what your psyche and soul is trying to help you with, simply start paying greater attention to your dreams and the patterns that occur in your daily life.
While most of us are pretty good at accessing a dream for its general meaning, this just skims the surface. If we stop at the surface of the dream, it often leaves us in fear or confusion. After a troubling dream, we might fear an ex is haunting our dreams or that something bad is about to happen. This type of generalization is disempowering because it puts the meaning of the dream on someone or something outside of us.
The vividness and intensity of our nighttime dreams makes them hard to dismiss, while we often overlook the signs and repeating patterns that occur in our daily life. We might ponder a dream for days, while other events, such as a pattern of breaking dishes or a series of minor car accidents, are often dismissed as random weird coincidences. When we dismiss these events and patterns we are missing an opportunity to discover the meaning and message early on, well before we’re hit with a spiritual 2x4 or a much more drastic event occurs to get us to pay attention.
It’s like having a pile of gems in front of you, taking only the one on top, and leaving the rest of the gems on the table. Or, it’s like thinking you know a person simply by how they look. Yet, once you get to know that person, they take on greater dimension and complexity, and you learn many surprising things about them. It is the same with our dreams, repeating patterns, and signs. It behooves us to spend a little more time with them and delve deeper. There is a wealth of information and insight to be gleaned when we do.
About Dreams, Signs, and Repeating Patterns
I tend to be the go-to person for analyzing and interpreting dreams amongst my family and friends. This is most likely because they know I am fascinated by dreams and messages from the universe, which I call “Sacred Messengers.” I like to think that it’s also because they benefit from the approach I take in helping them unpack their dream. It is what inspired me to write this article. However, I share this as an enthusiast, not an expert. That said; let’s review a little terminology before we dig in.
Dreams – Are either nighttime dreams or lucid dreams.
Lucid Dream - A lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming.
Signs – A sign is a repeating or synchronistic appearance of animals, numbers, symbols, etc. Examples: Repeatedly seeing the number 11:11 (444 or 777); having several close encounters with or repeatedly seeing a raven or other animal that you don’t normally; finding a feather, etc. I call these Sacred Messengers because it's the way our soul communicates with us. Although not every encounter is hugely significant or life changing, I believe every encounter is sacred and meaningful, and unique to the person receiving it.
Patterns – Any event that you are suddenly experiencing repeatedly, such as a series of minor accidents, breaking cups and dishes, several missed appointments or several appointments that are suddenly cancelled by others.
Interpreting Dreams in 7 Steps
Hint, Steps 3-5 are Super Powerful!
The benefit of the following Five Steps is that it helps us to see the dream, sign or pattern from several distinct angles. Each step or angle provides a different viewpoint or insight, that when added together, form a richer and much more comprehensive understanding of the dream, sign or pattern. I’ve also found that these steps invite additional deeper inner wisdom to bubble to the surface, wisdom that was not readily apparent on the surface.
1. Document the details of the dream
Begin by recording the dream and the feelings the dream evoked as soon as you wake up. It’s important to document the dream, sign or pattern as soon as we wake up or as soon as it happens, in order to capture as much detail as possible. Dreams, and especially the details and feelings in the dream, quickly fade with time.
Note: Wherever you see dream used as an example below, know that you can substitute the same process for signs and repeating patterns.
2. What is your first impression of the dream?
Write your initial impression of what the dream seems to be telling you or what you think it means. Don’t look up the meaning online or in a book just yet. Just write down your first impressions. I purposely save looking up metaphysical meanings until the very end. I do this because I don’t want to color the initial discovery process with outside interpretations.
3. How did you feel in the dream?
A. Next write down how you felt in the dream. If it’s a sign or repeating pattern, record how you were feeling when you saw the sign or as the event happened, be aware of both how you were feeling as the sign appeared or as the pattern/event happened, as well as how you felt after it appeared/happened. What predominate emotions were you feeling?
B. Then ask yourself, “Where else in my waking life do I feel this way?” Write down whatever association comes to mind.
A friend of mine had a dream in which a co-worker was violently choking her and she was telling the co-worker, “Don’t you f-ing touch me. Get your hands off me!” I suggested she ask herself, “Where else in my life do I feel like I’m being strangled?” This brought her to back to experiences at work in which co-workers were repeatedly texting and calling with non-critical questions and issues on nights and weekends. This made her feel like her personal time was being strangled and that she needed to “fight off” her co-workers. She quickly realized she needed to set establish clear boundaries around her personal time, an action which she quickly implemented with co-workers.
My friend’s first impression of the dream was that the co-worker was too demanding. While that could be true, this sole interpretation is very limited, and in this case disempowering because it places the blame or power outside the dreamer. When we trace the feeling of the dream to a similar waking life feeling, we often come to more empowering conclusions and insights, as in the case of needing to set clearer boundaries between home and work life.
Trace your feelings back when repeating patterns occur
When I was in my thirties, I backed into, not one, but two Mercedes Benzes within two days! Unfortunately, I hadn’t learned how to analyze repeating patterns; in fact, I didn’t come to understand this pattern until twenty years later. In 2016, I was moving out of a home that I loved, to a new rental home just a few miles north in the Village of Oak Creek. A friend of mine was helping me move my belongings into my new place. My SUV was loaded up with boxes and small furniture items. It was packed full; so much so that the trunk hatch was almost wide open, bungee corded down to hold in a recliner chair. While I was backing the SUV into my “new” garage, I was very aware of my history of backing into things, so I was moving very slowly and paying attention to what I could see in each of my side mirrors. All of sudden, I heard crunch! I had completely forgotten that my hatch was up and backed into the upper part of the open garage door. My SUV received only minor damage but I had to pay about $1,100 to repair the garage door and casing.
This was the third time I backed into something. By now, though, I had learned a few things about signs and repeating patterns. As I hashed out this occurrence with my sister over the phone, I discovered that although it appeared easy breezy for me to move and/or leave places or people behind, on the inside I was overwhelmed by feelings of loss and grieving. I kept backing into things because I was too overwhelmed with feeling to look back and acknowledge that I deeply cared about what I was leaving behind
This was something that had never before felt safe to acknowledge or admit to myself. Instead, I had stuffed my feelings deep down inside, where I could safely ignore them and convince myself that, not only didn’t it bother me, but that I was excited by change and moving forward!
Now that I was aware of the pattern’s cause, I used it as an opportunity to trace the feelings of ‘not wanting to look back’, and the corresponding feelings of grief and loss, to their root cause to do some deeper healing.
Tracking the feeling back through my history brought me to age four or five, when my mother took me, left my baby brother with his father, and moved to New Hampshire. Back then we didn’t talk about divorce and family breakups. We acted strong and just pushed forward. Inside though, pushed deep down below my awareness, I still grieved the loss of my baby brother. Fifty years later I gave myself the space to finally grieve that loss, as well as the other losses between then and now that I hadn’t fully held space for and processed.
As you can see from the above example, when I was willing to take the time to work with this repeating patterns, a much deeper healing occurred.
4. You are every aspect in the dream.
If you followed step one, then you can go back over what you wrote and circle each major aspect of the dream, and then write a few words about how each major aspect might be expressing a part of you.
For example, I recently had a dream in which I was in my sister home holding a baby. A windstorm was moving through our area, gusting wind through tall towering pine trees that surrounded the home. Suddenly one of the tall pines was falling straight over the house. I yelled, “Watch out!” The huge pine landed on the house. The wreckage of the house and tree were around us, but I was safely holding the baby in my arms. I had the impression other trees fell as well, as there were now “empty areas” in the forest. For this dream, I circled the words: sister, home, baby, windstorm, tall pines, falling tree, and empty areas in the forest:
Sister – This is my space; I feel at home where I am at in life.
Home – I feel solid, safe and I protect what is within.
Baby – I am fresh and new.
Windstorm – I am strong and gusty. Sometimes I feel too “much” for those around me; I blow them over energetically.
Towering pines – I am way bigger than the house (myself), rooted, reaching
Falling Tree – I am letting go, surrendering
Empty Areas in the Forest – I’ve made space for new growth
All of the above accurately reflects this particular juncture in my life. It’s also interesting to note that later that day I went on a hike with a potential romantic prospect. This dream, it turns out, was also foretelling how I’d feel about myself after the hike! While I thoroughly enjoyed the man’s good looks, company and personality, I felt like my energy and personality might be too strong and exuberant for him. I had joked to my sister, “I’m like a hurricane (gusting wind) and he’s a tropical breeze.” In addition to giving me a heads up, the dream was also letting me know not to worry when it didn’t work out because “I’ve made space in my life for new growth.” Pretty cool, huh?
5. Shape-shift and become each aspect of the dream.
I discovered this process on page 112 of Steering By Starlight by Martha Beck (If you're undergoing a major transition, I highly recommend this book). In order to obtain deeper and richer insight to each major aspect of the dream, we must BECOME each aspect and look through that aspect’s “eyes.”
Here’s how to do this:
Begin by closing your eyes and call to mind one aspect, for example: “Baby”. Imagine a baby in front of you. Once you have the baby clearly in mind, allow yourself to meld or shape-shift into the baby, become the baby, be the baby, see through the baby’s eyes. It sometimes helps to repeat, “I am baby. I am baby. I am baby.” Do this several times until you feel yourself inside the baby looking out at the world through baby’s eyes.
Next as baby (aspect of the dream), write down three adjectives or phrases that describe you. So for example, once you have fully embodied “baby” then write three adjectives to describe yourself (as baby):
What is your purpose as the symbol? I am baby, my purpose is to be loved.
As the symbol, how are you trying to help the dreamer? I am baby I am helping Natalie learn to trust she is loved and protected.
Complete the above three steps for each major aspect of the dream.
I am baby….
I am fresh.
I am nurtured
I am held
My purpose is to receive love.
I’m here to help Natalie remember she is loved and protected.
I am windstorm…
I am strong
I am powerful
I am a force to be reckoned with
My purpose is to exuberantly express all that I am.
I’m here to help Natalie embrace her power and personality.
I am towering pines…
I am tall
I am grounded
I reach for the heavens
My purpose is to connect earth to heaven.
I’m here to help Natalie be grounded yet connected.
I am falling tree…
I am surrendering
I am letting go
I am clearing a path
My purpose is to make way for new growth.
I’m here to help Natalie surrender.
I am “Empty Areas in Forest”…
I am open.
I am allowing more sun in.
I am spacious.
My purpose is to nurture new growth.
I am here to help Natalie open to new growth.
If you’d like to work this step more, here is a link where you can download a copy of the Dream Analysis Worksheet.
Rather than rush to look up the meaning in a book or online, I love to use this same process for signs and symbols that repeatedly appear. For example:
I am 11:11…
I am vertical.
I am like pillars.
I hold what’s above me up.
My purpose is to keep the pathway open.
I am here to help Natalie see the pathway.
I am Raven…
I am resourceful
I am knowing
I am connected.
My purpose is to connect people to their knowing.
I’m here to help Natalie access deeper knowing.
It’s also important to note that this process is worth repeating. In other words, the meanings that bubble up today might be quite different then those if you repeat this process with the same symbol or sign at a later date. This is because you have grown or things may have shifted in your psyche, so new insights may rise to the surface.
6. Look up the meaning in reference book or online.
While it can be fascinating to Google the meaning of a dream or look it up in a reference book, it is my least favorite way to interpret the meaning of a dream, sign or pattern, and therefore it is the very last step I use. I am a big believer and advocate that all the answers we seek can be found within us. In fact, when we mine our dreams, signs and repeating patterns using the steps 1-5 above, we find not only a deeper meaning, but a much more personal meaning. When we look up a symbol in a reference book or online, we are using someone else’s intellectual or intuitive understanding of the symbol. As a last step, I do include the look up in the overall process because I like the rich and deep view I get when interpreting dreams from many angles and processes.
One of my go-to references is The Pretty Big Book of Symbols: A Handy Quick Reference Guide with Keyword Meanings for Over 1400 Psychic Symbols, Animals, Plants, Gemstones, etc. When I look up “baby” it says, “New starts, new ideas, potentials, possibilities, start of a creative project, innocence, joy, vulnerability, dependence on others, something needs immediate attention, need to feel loved, need for attention, need for care, need to explore something from childhood, time to pickup or revitalize an old interest.” As you can see the metaphysical meaning is quite broad and generalized, so I suggest only recording the meanings that resonate for your dream. In other words I don’t record all fifteen meanings, I only record the meanings that feel applicable to my dream. In this instance, I chose: “new, vulnerable, dependence on others, innocent, and need for care.”
7. Summarize your new understanding of the dream.
Take all of the insight that you gained from steps 1-6 and summarize your interpretation of the dream.
If you give these seven steps a try, you’ll find that your final interpretation is way different and much more meaningful than the initial first impression you wrote down in step two. This process is also more personalized and empowering than ready-made interpretations, which places the meaning or significance on something or someone outside of us. Using the seven steps, we often discover areas we might need to do more healing work, set clearer boundaries, prepare ourselves, or take more affirmative action. Working with dreams, signs and repeating patterns in this fashion can become a road map to personal growth and living a more empowered life.
Dream Interpretation Sessions: If you like support with interpreting your dreams, schedule a Coaching Session with Natalie Eve Marquis, RMT, CH by calling Gateway Cottage Wellness Center at 928.325.1820.
The Pretty Big Book of Symbols: A Handy Quick Reference Guide with Keyword Meanings for Over 1400 Psychic Symbols, Animals, Plants, Gemstones, etc. by Clare McNaul
* This is no longer available on Amazon but you can purchase it online through Barnes & Nobles. I have a digital version. https://nook.barnesandnoble.com/products/2940151955096/sample?sourceEan=2940151955096
Animal Spirit Guides: An Easy-to-Use Handbook for Identifying and Understanding Your Power Animals and Animal Spirit Helpers Paperback by Steven D. Farmer
My favorite resource for numbers is http://sacredscribesangelnumbers.blogspot.com/p/index-numbers.html
About the Author - Natalie Eve Marquis, RMT, CH
Natalie is a heart-centered intuitive healer & teacher. She is the founder of the Reiki Release® Emotional Healing Method, a process that pinpoints and releases the root cause of emotional wounds and negative beliefs. She also provides traditional, Crystal and Shamanic Reiki, chakra balancing sessions, intuitive readings, hypnotherapy, past life regressions, and classes.
Learn more about Natalie Eve Marquis, RMT, CH