A man walked up to me screaming in rage. I ran as fast as I could, but he chased me. I realized he had an axe and wanted to swing it at me. He was running faster than I was, and I knew he would catch me. The screaming wouldn’t stop. It happens to every one of us each time we sleep. We dream — hopefully not a nightmare. Some dreams are wonderful adventures; others are frightening. Some dreams reach our most primal emotions, while others are just plain weird. Many people believe our dreams have deeper meaning relating to our personal lives and the world around us.
For thousands of years, people have been interpreting dreams for themselves and others. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Genesis 41:15, Joseph interprets the dream of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Joseph claims that it is God who is doing the interpreting through him, but still, it’s Joseph who is ultimately speaking to the Pharaoh. Perhaps this passage implies that dream interpreting is a divine gift?
Dream interpretation has been done for as long as we have been dreaming. Layne Dalfen, author of Dreams Do Come True, has been interpreting her own dreams and those of her friends for 30 years. In 1997, she began doing dream interpretation for clients through her Dream Interpretation Center in Montreal. She is also a regular guest on more than 75 radio programs across America. I spoke to Dalfen from her office in Montreal. She’ll tell you dream interpretation is definitely not a divine gift. "Anybody can use their dreams to propel their problem-solving skills and to get better in touch with their whole self."
To understand our dreams, we first need to understand what dreaming is. Dalfen said, "Dreaming is really just another way of thinking, except it’s thinking without the filter. You’re always thinking in pictures, moods, and metaphors. Your unconscious — even right now as we speak — isn’t only operating with words and language."
We know that during R.E.M. sleep, our brains are incredibly active. It’s during this state of sleep that we dream. It happens every time for all of us; however, we don’t always remember our dreams. According to Dalfen, while we dream we are actually problem-solving events that are happening in our own lives and the world around us in a specific order. Dalfen said, "The same way as when you get to work in the morning and you prioritize your day, your unconscious operates exactly the same way. Except if 500 things happen to you today, when you go to sleep tonight, your unconscious is going to prioritize what bugged you the most — or what made the biggest impression on you. And all of your dreams that night, although they may seem different, are you testing out different possible solutions and reactions to the same issue that’s uppermost in your mind."
Dalfen’s approach to dream interpretation is not so much supernatural as it is a psychological approach. That’s not to say that supernatural events can’t take place in your dreams, but her first priority is to help a dreamer solve problems. Dalfen said, "I help people attach the dream to a very specific current issue that’s going on in their lives. Once I’ve helped the dreamer attach the dream to a very specific issue that it’s mirroring, then we’ll go back in the dream and look for the solution."
I told Dalfen of a dream I had the morning of our conversation. In my dream, I was digging out the small, brick patio in my backyard to make room for expanding our deck. While digging, I unearthed a human skeleton. I remember that I was not scared but mainly curious. I also remember thinking I should call the police, though I didn’t think the police in my town would know what to do with it either.
There are a couple of important parts of the back-story to the dream that you should know. I really did dig out our old patio this past summer, and we do intend to expand the deck, though probably not until the spring. Secondly, human skeletons may have been on my mind because I was in the Catacombs of Paris about a month ago, and I confronted millions of them. I told Dalfen this as well.
Dalfen explored the language I used. She made note of the fact that I wasn’t scared of something that really should be scary. And she made note that as a child, I used to be scared of skeletons. Dalfen remarked that I was in the middle of a construction project, which represents an event or issue that I may be in the middle of right now, and the skeleton represents something that used to scare me but that I have overcome. She also noticed in my dream that I called the police, though I didn’t think they could do anything. This implies that in my present situation, I may not have anyone I feel can help me. The end result is that I shouldn’t be scared, and stay the course.
There are many themes in dreams that we have all experienced. Water, death, birth, your teeth — these are all things that you may dream about. There are many dream dictionaries out there; however, Dalfen doesn’t put much stock in them. She said, "I don’t subscribe to that because my neighbor next door is a brain surgeon. I’m sure that her metaphors about human skulls and skeletons are completely different than yours. That’s why those dictionaries don’t help.
"You might come to me with a nightmare about this screaming maniac in your dream that’s scaring the heck out of you, and that screaming maniac may turn out to be the solution to your issue. Maybe something is going on [in your life], and you’re keeping silent about something, and you might need to become more verbal. And because you’re so far over on one side of the spectrum, your unconscious is bringing you this screaming maniac, hopefully to pull you somewhere in the middle where you can say something."
"You’re going to think I’m weird when I tell you this dream…" Dalfen has heard many of her clients say this. Her approach is to teach dreamers there are different rules for the unconscious world. We shouldn’t judge our dreams — just analyze the information presented and use that information for solving problems in our lives.
Dalfen, now 50 years old, first started analyzing her own dreams when she was 21. After the birth of her first daughter, who had Down Syndrome, she became very depressed and sought psychoanalysis with a Freudian analyst. "I wasn’t able to articulate my feelings in my early twenties, but I’ve always been a person who remembers my dreams," Dalfen said. "Almost every session started with a dream, and that’s where I first learned that we’re always problem-solving in our dreams."
Dalfen has studied a slew of counseling and dream experts since she was 30. She said, "What I did was I took Freud, Jung, Adler, and Pearl and a little bit of Edgar Cayce and took everything they said and turned it into plain old English so that everybody can do it — it has to be you that understands your dream."
With all of those years of research into analytical study, you would think Dalfen would be a skeptic when it comes to supernatural phenomena in the dream state — not necessarily so. What about spirit communication in our dreams?
Dalfen lost her mother to cancer just six weeks ago. She believes that both she and her daughter, Chelsea, have been visited by her mother in their dreams. Dalfen said, "Chelsea has been having a series of dreams about my mother — seven of them." She went on to describe a series of dreams where Chelsea witnessed her grandmother trying to stay awake on the hospital bead, then death, then seeing her alive again wearing her favorite blue dress and driving a fancy sports car. Dalfen said, "I think she has been company for my mum through this journey that she’s having on the other side. She’s a vessel to get the message to me and to everybody else that she’s fine. And I’m so sure of it because I can just feel it in my bones."
Dalfen is certainly not the only one who feels communication with the other side is possible in her dreams. She said, "I just got an email from a person in Pennsylvania. It says: ‘I have had many visitation dreams. It’s awesome in my opinion. My favorite uncle just passed over, and I’m hoping to hear from him soon in a dream.’"
Dreams offer our unconscious a chance to spread its wings and explore not only our daily lives but also another astral plane. Dreams are messages from our unconscious trying to give us imagery, ideas, and sometimes direct messages from those who have passed on. To try and understand dreams is to try and understand ourselves and our very supernatural world. Sweet dreams.