Understanding Dreams

What we can learn from one woman's coronavirus dream.

Posted Jul 18, 2020

Everybody dreams. Theories of dreams come and go, but in the final analysis, your dreams come from your own mind. Your brain creates images and strings them together into a story, and those images and stories have personal meaning for you based on people you’ve known, feelings you’ve had, and incidents from your life. 

Examining your dreams, I believe, can help you access emotions, meanings, and connections inside your mind. This in turn can help you recognize solutions to your problems and approach your life from a deeper perspective.

Because people share so many kinds of life experiences, symbols created by some often resonate for others. Especially in times of crisis like the one Americans are living now, looking at other people’s dreams and seeing how they use their personal symbols to address their feelings and life problems can suggest ways of applying such learning to your own life. Dream interpretation is important right now.

Each post will examine someone’s dream and show how the dreamer addressed a life situation through their unique symbols and stories. The techniques of dream interpretation will be explained, along with how the interpretation helped the dreamer understand their feelings and their approach to life challenges. You will find ways to learn from the experience of the dreamer.

Here’s Sarah, whose boyfriend contracted the coronavirus early in the pandemic. She had to quarantine alone without him. A social person to begin with, 10 weeks of being alone had Sarah feeling truly unnerved. 

The Dream

Sarah is on the telephone with her grandmother. She explained, “I haven’t seen or spoken to her in a month. We can’t speak over the phone because she is deaf, and because of the virus I haven’t been able to see her. In the dream, I am on the phone with her.” Suddenly, Sarah realizes her late grandfather is there! As he moves to embrace her, Sarah abruptly ends the call, saying she must go. Sarah says, “She was upset, but I was saying something like, ’Too bad. I can’t do this right now.’ I had to let her go."

While Sarah wakes feeling bad about hanging up on her grandmother, she feels right about her choice. Sarah simply knew she had to embrace her grandfather while she had the chance. 

The Discussion

The interpretation of a dream starts by connecting it to a situation in waking life. There are generally six points of entry to a dream: the feelings, the action, play on words or puns, the symbols, repetition, and the plot. 

Describing how she felt in the dream, Sarah said she had mixed emotions about putting her grandmother aside. "The thing is," she said, "that he came running at me and gave me a huge hug. There was no question which direction my attention needed to be, even though I felt torn."

When asked, “Can you connect to feeling mixed emotions? Is there anything you are conflicted about which way you’re going to go?” Suddenly, Sarah understood. “I’m like a rollercoaster. Which way am I going with the quarantine? Am I going to stay the course alone? I’ve been seriously considering breaking the rules to connect with my boyfriend.”

Just as Sarah felt torn between two options, the grandmother and grandfather clearly represented the two different directions that were pulling her. So I asked,  “What can you say about your grandmother and grandfather’s personalities, or a memory you might have about each of them?” 

Sarah answered, “My grandmother is a very social person. She loves being in the mix with people, the action, and especially knowing who and what’s going on in all aspects of family matters.”

“My grandfather was her opposite! He was calm, steady, and stayed more to himself. Nothing overwhelmed him, and everyone said he was able to wash a wave of calm over the family.”

For Sarah, her grandmother and grandfather symbolize two different ways of dealing with a social situation. This dream is asking, “How am I going to respond to my current situation? Will I be like my grandmother, very social and involved in the action? Or can I try to embrace an approach more like my grandfather, keeping to myself and bringing calm to my situation?”    

Typically more like her grandmother, Sarah places herself on the phone or “connected to” her grandmother, and she has to get up to “move” towards a less familiar approach.

Many dream analysts would say that Sarah’s grandmother and grandfather represent different parts of herself, and she needs to embrace the calmer, “disconnected” part of her personality at this time. Regardless of whether you believe that dream symbols represent parts of your own psyche, it is clear Sarah’s grandmother and grandfather represent two different types of people for her. The dream reveals a choice of how to approach her current dilemma. 

What We Can Learn

Sarah is living through a period of loneliness that many are experiencing. Everyone is dealing with difficult emotions and facing choices in how to approach relationships. 

Look at the people in your own dreams. When you describe these people, do they reveal a different way of handling situations than the approach you usually take? This might inspire you to examine and try on new reactions, and try to create balance by moving away from your own extremes.