Dream Decoding -- Leon Nacson-- 01/29/04
By Leon Nacson
Dreams are fascinating and mysterious events. Do they really reveal our inner selves? How do we interpret the sometimes strange plots of our nighttime narratives? We discussed dream decoding with Leon Nacson, author of A Stream of Dreams.
The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.
Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live, Leon. Sorry to disturb your dreams in Australia, where it's 5:00 a.m. on Friday! Tell us a little about your book.
Nacson: It's unusual, because I wanted to make sure that I didn't write another dream dictionary. The world does not need another dream dictionary. I wanted to write a coach's manual. It's no different than if you wanted to learn to play the guitar or play football. You would go to a coach and the music coach would show the chords and the notes and you would go and play your own music. The football coach would show you the plays but you'd score your own tries or touchdowns. This is the beauty of this book. We work together, we think about the symbols, we think about the emotion, we think about the puns or commonly used phrases that apply to that symbol and then you draw your own personal conclusion. Even if the symbol has not been covered in the book, you use the blueprint of the thousands that have and before you know it, you are the world's best dream interpreter.
Moderator: What about these modern symbols you refer too, such as DVDs, etc. How has modern life influenced our dreams since the days of Freud?
Nacson: Well, it used to be common to dream that you were racing along on horseback or perhaps going very, very quickly in a chariot. But these days, not many people get to work that way. It's more common to drive around in a car and fly across the oceans. So therefore a dream dictionary that has horse and buggy and straw hats, isn't as useful as one that has Ferrari and jumbo jet. When astronauts go into space, their dreams are surrounded by floating objects, because they dream in the context of their environment. We do the same. Our dreams are very modern. We dream of computers, DVD players, and cellular phones so it's important to have a modern dream dictionary, not something that was written at the turn of the century.
Here is a perfect example: At the turn of the century, if an individual dreamt of a spider, they would look up a dream dictionary and it would say fear, danger, creepy crawling. Today when a teenager or an individual asks me about a spider, I would say, has it got anything to do with the Internet? As a spider lives its whole life on a worldwide web, do you want to spend more time on a worldwide web, or are you frustrated that you can't use the Internet? At the turn of the century they didn't have the web so they couldn't possibly make the relationship work.
Member question: My mom died about two years ago and since then any dream I have always has her in it, whether she is just standing there or actually taking part in the dream. It's starting to bother me because she never says anything either. Most dreams she just stands there watching me.
Nacson: Firstly, count your blessings, as it's so special when our dearly departed connect with us in our dream state. Secondly, light a candle in memory of their effort that they've made to join you while you're dreaming And thirdly, start to accept the fact that she is always looking after you and that's the message she wants to get through to you. She may not be able to talk to you in this other world she's in, but she's always looking after you. The moment you accept that, then she won't need to come to you every night.
Member: Wow, just like I looked after her right up until she died. I was with her when she died also. Thanks so much.
Member question: What causes frequent nightmares that occur (generally) in my childhood home?
Nacson: A nightmare is an interruption, a disturbance that leaves you feeling unsettled when you wake up. It comes from the word "meras" a medieval term for night demons. Rather than thinking that there's something wrong there's actually something right. You are processing an uncomfortable situation from your childhood and dealing with it over and over while you're asleep until you have solved the problem, handled the uncomfortable situation, or faced whatever it was that scared you. The best way to deal with this is to experience it until you can overcome it.
Member question: Is that why I have frequent dreams about junior high school, with girls who I did not get along with?
Nacson: Yes, but what you are doing is learning skills so you can get along with girls right now. You see, when we fall asleep, our mind does not just switch off, it continues to problem solve and repair any situations, both physical and emotional. So go back into each and every one of those situations at school while you're awake that you feel uncomfortable about and see what you learned from that situation, how you grew spiritually and emotionally because of what happened, and realize that because of all those situations, you are where you are right now.
Member question: Why do we dream about our past insecure personal relationships when under stress?
Nacson: We're developing life skills, and so if you wanted to make yourself an apple pie, you wouldn't look up a seafood cookbook. You would look up a dessert cookbook. So therefore, when you're under stress, you would go back to a situation that was stressful in the dreams while you are dreaming you would see yourself in the dream handling that situation and then when you woke, you would feel that you had the resources, the capabilities to handle the situation when you're awake.
Member: Thank you, so true.
Member question: Is dreaming about sex anything more than just dreaming about sex?
Nacson: Yes. The first thing to remember is there's no such thing as thought crime. Never feel guilty after a sexual relation in your dreams. But when you are having sex with the individual, one, look to see if it's plain wish fulfillment. You're alone, they are cute, famous, a celebrity, and your imagination goes wild. That's wish fulfillment.
On a deeper level, you look at the individual you're making love to and you ask, are those character traits that that individual represents to you, is that what I would like to develop in my own character or persona? For example, if I'm making love to Madonna, do I want to be outrageous, smart, and also a good mother? If I'm making love to Arnold Schwarzenegger, would I love to be strong, multitalented, strong, and able to reinvent myself? He went from a weightlifter to movie star to Governor of California. If I'm making love to Danny DeVito, do I have a desire not to be judged by my looks? Danny is a screen icon, a movie producer, and a very desirable person to know but to look at him, he doesn't fit the mold, does he, of a sex symbol? So you don't want to be judged by your looks, but by who you really are under your skin.
The point I'm trying to make is, ask yourself, what does this person have, that I want to make love to, and also become more of because that person reminds me of that particular thing?
Member question: That's so interesting that you said that, because I have once had a dream that I had sex with someone who, awake, I found repulsive (Steve-O from the TV show, Jackass ), who does really disgusting things -- but maybe I desire his uninhibitedness?
Nacson: That's correct. If you're trapped in suburbia and you are repeating over and over your life like Groundhog Day, then you would dream of a symbol such as the one you did to help you break out of that mold. You will find that the day after you may go to work a different way, wear something more outrageous than you normally do, and that makes you feel better.
Member: Well, I never get to have sex with anyone in my dreams. I just always catch my husband having sex ... and it isn't with me!
Nacson: It is so common that it is one of the top five dreams that people have. The first thing is, you are living out your worst fears in your dreams. The second thing is, look at the individuals he's making love to and see if you think he's attracted to that character trait look, and that's what you would like to show him, because you know you have the same ability or desirability. For example, if he's making love to his accountant, do you want him to appreciate the fact that you are also a good bookkeeper? Or do you want to learn how to be a bookkeeper so you'll be more attractive to him? The important thing is, look at the meaning of the individual that is being made love to. Is it an athlete, celebrity, someone very strong-minded, or someone a bit more flamboyant?
Member: That is one thing I can never see, is who it is with him.
Nacson: The myth in these situations, the mystery person is always you. It sounds like you are trying to develop better lovemaking skills for yourself and your husband. It's better than going out and buying a manual.
Member question: So why does it freak me out so badly?
Nacson: Well, one, you're living out your worst fears, but then, if you let your ego relax, you will realize that it's you he's making love to. The important word here is trust. Not just trusting him, but trust that you are enough, you are desirable, you are intelligent, you are supportive, you are enough. Trust that you are everything that he ever needs, and the fear will dissipate.
Member question: Why do we dream of people we have never met or seen before. I do this often.
Nacson: One, they could be past life dreams. Two, they could be your way of disguising the symbol. We speak in metaphors. I am so hungry, I could eat a horse. It doesn't mean you're going to actually eat one of those lovely creatures, it means you're very, very hungry. We dream in symbols. So the strangers are symbols of concepts, ideas that you want to deal with.
Member question: Do you actually believe that my son who died suddenly six years ago may participate in my dreams?
Nacson: I'll guarantee that he will come back in your dreams at the appropriate moment. While we are sleeping, we have a different kind of antennae up that allows spiritual connections I have worked with and still do work closely with John Edward, Sylvia Brown, Gordon Smith, some of the world's greatest psychics and they all put high value on the dream state.
Member question: How do you make a dream that you had the day before come back when you sleep? I had this really great dream and I wanted to have the same dream again.
Nacson: As you fall asleep, become the dream, and see yourself in the same surroundings and in the same scenario, and drift off. You will complete the dream, but the unfortunate part of it is that you may not remember it. It's like wanting to see a movie that's on in the middle of the night. It's scheduled to be there, you know it's on the program, it's going to happen, but you may have been asleep on the couch so you missed it. It doesn't mean it didn't happen, just that you were unconscious at the time.
Member question: Are we working things through more in dreams that we are aware of and remember rather than those we do not recall?
Nacson: Every single night we process the day. We manufacture memory, we learn survival techniques, we practice life skills, and we repair our minds -- all during the dream state. The very fact that we dream is the reason why we humans have consciousness. We are able to analyze ourselves and interpret our surroundings, even though we are getting a well-earned rest. In laboratories, they have monitored zebra finches and they have shown, by tests, that the little bird practices its song during the time it's supposed to be asleep. Laboratory mice practice running through out the maze to find the bit of cheese when they're asleep, and when they wake up, the cheese is even closer. So we humans have an even greater capacity to solve any problem when we're asleep.
Member question: I have a recurring dream about having a baby son. At times I have dreamed of being in labor and the son being born. In one dream it seemed that the child was so ugly that I could barely stand to look at him. I cried during that dream. The kicker is I am not married and have never been pregnant. Please give me some insight into what this dream is all about.
Nacson: If you dream of giving birth and there is no opportunity at the moment for that to happen, the birth is a symbol of an idea, a career, a project that you want to give birth to. Ask yourself if there's something I want to do with my life. Am I having trouble manifesting that? And if I do manifest it, is it going to be so hard to maintain, look after, that it's going to be unsatisfying to me?
Let me give you an example. If you've always wanted to get into business for yourself and you would love to open a pie shop, you start to think of the labor that you'll have to go through getting up at 3:00 a.m., working with the ingredients, opening the doors at 7:00 a.m., dealing with customers until 6:00 at night, going home tired, a lot more abundant but still tired, and needing to do it all over again. So that would be the labor, the fulfillment of the birth, but also the realization of the responsibility that goes along with it.
Member question: I had recurring nightmares as a child. I still remember a couple from when I was very young -- 3 and 4 years old. Is that typical -- to remember vivid nightmares from so far back?
Nacson: It is quite normal, as they were profound. But the beautiful thing about it is, your wonderful mind dealt with them before you became a teenager or adult, and therefore, you don't have to re-live whatever the situation was that you dealt with. You remember them now, so that if another situation does come, you know that you have the resources to handle the situation.
Member question: Do we dream more or less as we age?
Nacson: We dream the same amount of dreams, but we tend to remember less because as we get older, our sleep is shorter, more interrupted, and not as comfortable as it was when we were younger.
Member question: My apologies for this bizarre and gross question, but I've had a reoccurring dream since early childhood where I would be forced to eat human muscle or be killed. I've been repulsed by meat, fish, or poultry since I was very young. The dreams come in a dizzying array of disgusting scenarios, and contributed to me becoming vegetarian in my teens. I am now in my late 30s, and the dreams thankfully occur only a couple times a year now, rather than weekly. Background: at age 4 I did visit a farm and saw blood left over from a slaughter (and assumed humans had been killed since the blood looked like my own). I also had a father with a violent temper who forcibly fed me when I didn't eat my meat. Might you have any insights?
Nacson: What you resist will persist. The dream is there to remind you not to be so fanatical about any belief. The dream is reminding you that as a vegetarian, and a human being, not to forget to eat enough protein to keep you going. Biologically we can't survive without protein. If you dismiss that from your diet altogether you will be in danger. So the dream is asking you not to forget protein also.
Member question: I am happily married, but have been having dreams of sleeping with one of my friends. Could you give me insight as to why I am having these dreams?
Nacson: Number one, it could be wish fulfillment. It's inappropriate to do it while you're awake, because there are enormous consequences attached to sleeping with a friend. The next level is that you would like to be more intimate with your friend. You may be good friends, but you have a desire to be the best and most intimate friend. And that's your way to achieving it, by being more intimate.
Moderator: We are almost out of time. Do you have any final words for us, Leon?
Nacson: I would like everyone to put more value on the dream state, and realize that it is as much a part of you as your waking time. Once you invest time in interpreting, working with your dreams, you will discover what adds meaning to your life. If you have any questions for me, please visit dreamcoach.com.au.
Moderator: We are out of time. Thanks to Lean Nacson for being with us today. For more information on interpreting your dreams, pick up a copy of his book, A Stream of Dreams: The Ultimate Dream Decoder for the 21st Century . For a wider array of sleep issues visit our message boards.
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