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Dreamwork: The 5 Important Lessons of Dreams & How to Learn Them

Dr. Peter Reznik is a new contributing editor whose insightful articles, like the one below, will appear routinely in the free e-newsletter. Dr. Reznik is a staff member of the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine, and a faculty member of the American Institute of Mental Imagery. A former director of the Petrie Institute of Hypnosis, and consultant to the American Health Foundation, he has practiced psychotherapy and conducted wellness seminars for twenty-five years in the former USSR, Israel, France and the United States. You can read more about Dr. Reznik following his article below.

Dr. Reznik's highly recommended CD, Staying Healthy in a Stressful World: a Complete Manual for Self-Mastery and Freedom from Stress, provides listeners his widely recognized expertise in mind/body integrative therapy, behavior modification, mental imagery, dream work, clinical hypnosis, and holistic counseling, enabling them to do exactly as the title indicates: dramatically reduce stress and achieve health and wellness in a high-stress world.

Part 3

In the first two parts of this article you learned the five important lessons our dreams can teach us, and the three key questions to ask about the dreams you remember.

Now we'll approach how to recognize physical and emotional challenges that you face in your life, and how to understand the condition of your body at the time of the dream.

As you begin working on your dreams always bear in mind that nothing in the dream is accidental and everything and everyone is first and foremost a quality of you. After you answered the first three questions (see the previous article) you may have a good idea of the message of the dream.

The dream may reflect the changes occurring in your inner and/or outer life, or it may reveal conflicts that you are facing. In the first case, recognize the changes and see if they correspond with what you want in your life. In the second case, the conflicts must not only be understood but also "corrected" by going back into the dream, and then anchored with specific actions in the waking reality (read about making corrections in the next article.)


Dominant colors in a dream can have strong meanings, as discussed below.

As you look for analogies between the events of the dream and your waking life, remember that the dream usually reflects something that happened in your waking life within 1 to 72 hours around the time of the dream. The theme of the dream may also be reflective of the totality of your life.

Watch the Red Flags!

Pay particular attention to red flags, which usually come with a purpose of attracting your attention to the most important aspect of the dream. A red flag means that something in the dream is out of place.

For example, you are your age, an adult, and you find yourself in your elementary school. You feel embarrassed because you are a grown person and have to study with children. This dream may be calling your attention to discomfort about having to learn something that feel you should already know.

Another example: you receive your monthly electric bill that is usually under a hundred dollars and it is $1100. You are shocked and outraged. This dream may be showing that you are overspending your energy without realizing the price that you must pay and also the conflicting feelings you may have about working so hard (for the meaning of numbers see below.)

If you find yourself in a dream speaking on the phone with a friend (who you know to be a very rational person) and you just can not hear him. The dream may be informing you that you started having a hearing problem but do not yet have conscious awareness of it. It may also be telling you that you are not capable to hear the rational quality of yourself. As you look at what is happening in your waking life around the time of the dream you may easily figure out whether the first, second, or both interpretations are applicable.

B., a 28 year-old newly married patient of mine had a dream in which a rodent made a house in her basement and started killing little kittens that lived there. Responding to a question "What is the first thought that comes to you when you think about kittens?" B. shared with her fantasy-image of her two children playing in the garden with little kittens. After considering a possible message of the dream B. decided to see her physician. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Often in a dream we encounter quantities and numbers. They are of great significance.

A patient, C. after proposing to his girlfriend had a dream in which he was picking seven roses for his fiancée and two men in a store were giving him advice. Understanding the numbers (2 men, 7 roses) helped C. to realize and address the ambivalence he felt about marriage.

The Importance of Numbers

Here are some general meanings of numbers:

  1. Unity, oneness
  2. Conflict, divided mind
  3. Synthesis after having been divided
  4. Construction, home, marriage
  5. Creativity, love, sexuality
  6. Reunion, health, construction at higher level
  7. Ambivalence, possibility of growth and contraction or distraction
  8. Something from past that hasn't being resolved
  9. Completion, it's 3 on higher level
  10. Perfection in everyday life
  11. Conflict
  12. Wisdom
  13. Coming to oneness after being separated
  14. Connectedness with others
  15. Fulfilling all the possibilities
  16. Death, rebirth
  17. Difficulties finding a way
  18. Life
  19. Grace
  20. Trouble in marriage or relationship

Larger numbers are simply to be reduced to one digital number by addition.

Part 4

This part will focus on the meaning of colors, how the dream reveals one's belief system, and how to make "corrections" in the dream if change is necessary.

Akin to images, numbers and quantities, colors are an innate language of all human beings. Colors appearing in dreams may be reflective of one's physical and emotional functioning.

When there is "too much" of one particular color, it might be an indication of an imbalance in a particular physiological system. For example, a person dreaming of a bright red sky may be receiving a message that there is a problem with his/her cardiovascular system. And yet, it may also be a sign of him/her being very angry. Only the dreamer can intuit which interpretation is right. It depends upon the context of the dreamer's life.

Colors Associated with Bodily Functions and Emotions:

Red: cardiovascular system, sexual energy, fury
Yellow: urinary system, energy, fear
Blue: thyroid, spiritual energy, detachment
Orange: liver, female strength
Green: gallbladder, growth, envy
Gray: brain, guilt
Violet: emotional life
White: lymphatic system, purity
Dark Black: death
Shiny Black: rebirth, life

A patient, A., dreamt of visiting his mother's grave. Everything in the dream was just like in his waking life except that he was dressed in all gray, a color that he never wore. His work on this dream helped him to identify and address tremendous guilt about his relationship with his mother, which he had carried for years.

Dreams often reveals unconscious beliefs that govern one's life. A patient, D. who was a chronic procrastinator, described a dream in which he found his friend, a talented inventor, crying out: "It just doesn't work, I am a looser, I tried it eight times." (Remember the meaning of 8-an unresolved issue).

D. recognized that the friend in the dream represented his unconscious belief: "No matter how hard I work, I will fail." D. finally understood that his procrastination was only a symptom of his fear of failure.

L., a 28-year old woman who sabotaged any relationship with potential for marriage and/or children, reported a dream in which she was a young musketeer walking proudly on the streets of Paris. On one of the corners she encountered a prostitute who was pleading for money in order to feed her children.. The young musketeer dropped a few coins in the woman's hand and walked away in disgust.

L. recognized the young musketeer as the independent, proud, adventurous, and generous quality of herself. She identified the poor prostitute as being a reflection of her belief: "Once you are a mother, you are no longer free. You do anything for your children at any costs to yourself." This realization helped L. to understand the reasons for her behavior in relationships.

So far I have discussed understanding the dream as it relates to your waking life. But understanding the dream is only the first step. The next step is making change.


Our night dreams are reflective of our waking life.

If the dream clearly indicates that there is a physical problem, the best is to have a physical check up. If the dream shows emotional conflict, the conflict needs to be addressed.

Our night dreams are reflective of waking life. As waking life changes so do the dreams. By "correcting" a problem in the dream we can stimulate the change in our waking life. To make a correction in the dream you do not need to go back to sleep. The "correction" can be successfully made as an imagery exercise.

To make a correction, sit quietly in an upright position, close your eyes, and manually state your intention for the exercise. For example, if in the dream you were captured by enemies, you state: "I am doing this exercise with the intention to find freedom." Then, go back into the dream to the moment of greatest distress and use your will to make a resolution to your liking.

In the example above you can kill your captors, you can bring police and put them in jail, or you can make piece with them. Never preplan how you will act before the beginning of the exercise. Do what feels right in the moment. Remember, in the world of imagination everything is possible.

Part 5

The following is a complete case illustration of "working the dream."

Case Illustration:

A., a 36-year old clinical psychologist who had been studying imagery and dream work with me reported a dream and a subsequent correction of the dream that he did.

In the dream A. found himself working in a laboratory on a project of creating some sort of special food to end the word's hunger. He knew that the pressure was on to quickly finish the work. The experiments were done on human subjects, and more and more subjects were required.

Suddenly A. found himself strapped in a chair with electrodes attached to his head. His head hurt. A. started pleading with the chief researcher explaining how immoral their actions were. At first the chief did not want to listen, but then A.'s uncle appeared, a few researchers sided with A. and his uncle and the debate started. Debating was permitted in the laboratory. The two "camps" were equal in the art of debating. No solution was in sight and A. woke up.

In his waking life three months before the reported dream A. got engaged to a woman he had dated for two years and with whom he was "very much in love." Shortly after the engagement A. started having light but frequent headaches. A. said that though consciously very happy, he could be unconsciously fearful about marriage, which was "a headache to consider". A. was instructed to write down a question every night before going to sleep: "What do these headaches tell me about me?"

A few nights later A. had the night dream presented above. Upon awakening A. started "working the dream."

He asked himself the first question, "How do I feel after awakening?" The answer was: "Concerned, unsettled. The debate was not resolved."

The second question was: "What is the theme of the experience?" And he answered to himself: "It was about food, and the means of providing food to the world I dwell in."

The third question A. asked himself was: "What is the setting?" The answer was: "Laboratory. A place for learning, for experimentation. Experimentation with human subjects who are in demand."

The fourth question was: "Is there any connection between what I just experienced in the dream and my waking life?" At that point A. had an intuition about the connection between providing food, the pressure that everyone in the laboratory was under, the need for more subjects and his waking life.

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A. realized that though happy about his upcoming marriage he was "secretly" worrying about how he would provide for the couple, since his fiancé was a student and did not have an income. He was thinking about the ways to expand his practice, was more reluctant to see patients with low income at a reduced fee, and generally was more concerned about how much he earned and getting more "subjects" rather than how much he was helping his patients.

The "two camps" (2-conflict), A. realized were: the chief's camp-- a quality of himself that is demanding, unscrupulous, and hungry for success; the uncle's camp--(A. said that for him his uncle was always a symbol of uncompromising dignity and honor) a quality of himself which has faith and always knows what is right.

A. recognized that he was making an error of predicting the future that "it won't be enough," and another error of responding to the "Pavlov's bell" of social conditioning that he must provide for his wife. A. realized that he was facing two conflicting and equally strong pulls; one toward living in the moment, having faith, and being true to his love and the other toward fear of "what if" and the desire to protect himself from possible danger/hunger at all costs.

After his insights A. decided to make a correction. He sat in an upright position, closed his eyes, breathed out three times, and mentally stated the intention of doing the exercise: "I am doing this exercise with the intention to be true to my love, and to live in the present."

A. entered his dream at the point where correction was needed. A. found himself strapped in a chair while the "camps" were debating. Using his will A. freed himself from the straps by kicking those who attempted to stop him. More people joined him and his uncle in subduing and arresting the chief and a few of his loyalists. Then the laboratory was blown up and the researchers decided to teach people of the Earth how to provide for themselves. Then A. exhaled once slowly and walking out of the mirror opened his eyes. The whole exercise lasted no longer than 30 seconds.

As a result of working with the dream and making a correction A. "knew in his heart" that he did not doubt his desire to marry the woman he loved, but that he was challenged by fear. He made a decision to "witness" his thoughts and to use his will to dismiss any concerns about the future as lies. A. also decided to discuss his financial concerns with his fiancé. Within a week the frequency of A.'s headaches diminished and disappeared.

Read the Final Installment of This Article Now!

Dr. Peter Reznik Biography

Dr. Peter ReznikDr. Peter Reznik is a new contributing editor whose insightful articles, like the one below, will appear routinely in the free e-newsletter. Dr. Reznik is a staff member of the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine, and a faculty member of the American Institute of Mental Imagery. A former director of the Petrie Institute of Hypnosis, and consultant to the American Health Foundation, he has practiced psychotherapy and conducted wellness seminars for twenty-five years in the former USSR, Israel, France and the United States.

Dr. Reznik is a recognized specialist in the fields of mind/body integrative therapy, behavior modification, mental imagery, dream work, clinical hypnosis, and holistic counseling.

He holds Master degrees in linguistics and social work and a
Doctorate in health and human services. He received his post-graduate training at the American Institute of Mental Imagery.

Dr. Reznik has conducted wellness programs for such corporations as Conde Nast Publications, Lilco, Smith Barney, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Con Edison, Gray Advertising, and Estee Lauder. He has been interviewed by such popular magazines as "New York", "El", "Mirabella", "Sassy", "B.E.", "Style", "Detail", "Organic Style", and "Harper's Bazaar". Most recently, he appeared as a guest on National Public Radio, on Fox Five News and BBC, and on WBAI's "Natural Living with Gary Null."
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