I don’t know what it is, but lately I have been having really vivid dreams. I seem to have several turning points going in my life at once. Of course, there is this big Pandemic thing that is affecting all of us. In addition, I have had job changes and upheavals to my personal life. Anyway, at this point I will take guidance any way I can get it.
More than once, I have found myself googling something strange that I dreamed about to try to uncover its symbolic meaning, but either I can’t find exactly what I dreamed, or by the time I do, the meaning is so general, I feel like I’m reading my horoscope: whether you believe in astrology or not, we all know the random readings we find online, based just on our birth months, are too general to mean anything. Also, it’s too complicated to figure out the qualifications of random web sites, especially when I’m trying to access them on my phone.
When I want to know something, I want to figure out what are the good books on the subject and who are the good authorities. Then I go from there.
On the subject of dreams, I personally don’t question for a second that dreams mean something. I think most people do, right? Whether we believe they come from God or are messages from our subconscious…or both or something else entirely, we know they mean something, but what? And what if our interpretation steers us awry?
I started by doing what everyone does, which is Googling “Best Dream Books”. Then I took a look at my libraries to see what they have. I narrow down and then start reading.
If you look for dream books, what will you find?
There seem to be several different categories of “dream books”. There are theories about dreams and dreaming, there are guides to dream symbolism, and then there is a whole category exploring “lucid dreaming”. For my purposes, and therefore the purpose of this article, I’m not so interested in lucid dreaming, which focuses on remembering and controlling your dreams. I’m interested in the dreams that just come to me.
I admit what I really thought I was looking for when I started was a good dictionary of dream symbols, but once I started, I found the theory as helpful as the general symbols.
I’m going to start this series by discussing good examples of two kinds of books. The first is a general guide to interpreting dreams using a framework, and the second is a “dictionary” of dream symbols.
As always, I also pay attention to the credentials of the author and the validity of the work based on notes and citations.
What your Dreams are Telling You, by Cindy McGill
What Your Dreams Are Telling You is a system for understanding dreams. According to McGill, dreams can tell you a lot, but you have to understand which type of dream you are having…be warned, one of them is a “lie dream”…and then what to do about it.
I really liked this book because McGill has a wholistic approach that resonates with me. You also are not going to find her advising you to go buy some crystals or do anything weird. You’re just supposed to analyze the dream using her basic framework, and then go from there.
On the flip side, I will warn you, or anyway inform you, that this book is from a Christian publisher and McGill uses a Christian perspective. Even if you don’t believe in the Bible at all, you will find a lot of useful information in this book. If you follow Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, you will find more that is of interest. Most of the Biblical examples are from the Old Testament. There is also a section on the dreams surrounding the Nativity story; McGill quite correctly points out that the Biblical account of the Nativity is more about dreams than the actual birth scene, which is meaningless without the dream stories. Now that I think about it, an account of the Birth of Christ focusing on the backstory would be a lot more interesting than what we usually see.
If you can accept that the accounts from the Holy Books of these faiths at least have some basis in history, you will find her interpretation interesting. If you don’t, skip those chapters. There’s still a lot of helpful information here.
In fairness to McGill, she explains her point of view as a Christian, but she leaves room for any view of a higher power, or not.
The point is that this book offers a well developed and understandable framework for figuring out our dreams as messages to our everyday selves with no “hocus pocus.”
12,000 Dreams Interpreted by Gustavus Hindman Miller, revised and updated by Linda Shields and Lenore Skomal
I thought that I was going to love this book. I was wrong. So very wrong.
First of all, the dictionary style does nothing for me. The dreams that I have that I remember are usually pretty complicated, number one, and, number two, many many things that appear in my dreams are not in this book in any usable form. For example, two different times I dreamed I was on the set of television shows. But nothing I could find in 12,000 Dreams addressed that. I found entries for actor and television, but neither entry fit me. Why? Well, I’m not a dream expert I did realize that there is a pattern in my dreams in which I don’t know how I fit in. I never would have figured that out from reading this book.
I am also really confused about the background for this book. The late Linda Shields is The Jersey Shore Psychic. Lenore Skomal is basically an author so my guess is that her role was more of a ghost writer.
The Wikipedia entry for Gustavus Hindman Miller is the most bizarre Wikipedia entry I’ve ever read. I don’t know if it was copied from somewhere or what…the style seems very anachronistic. And also focuses on his career as a merchant.
I don’t know what to tell you, except that I wouldn’t take this book seriously at all. I found it on several different lists of “top dream books,” and my local public library has it. These are both usually pretty reliable signals that I’m on to a good book.
Maybe the topic is just too weird. I don’t know.
The good news is that Miller’s original book is in the public domain. That fact means that Shields and Skomal didn’t have to get anyone’s permission to revise his book, which in this case is a bad thing, but the good news is that if you want to read this book, you can download the original for free: Ten Thousand Dreams Interpreted.
Keep an eye out for upcoming installments to this series. Next up: Carl Jung.