Resisting the Urge to Interpret Someone’s Dream

Difficulty in Understanding Dreams

Understanding Dreams Image via Pinterest

When we hear someone, especially someone we know well, describe a dream they’ve had, it’s tempting to think we might know what the dream means. We may get a strong urge to interpret it for them. This is particularly true for me since people know I work with dreams and therefore assume I interpret them. Often, I even get asked to interpret their dreams!

The truth is no one can interpret another person’s dream – no matter how tempting or certain we may be about that dream. I readily tell people I don’t interpret dreams. Instead, I give people the tools to interpret their own dreams and tools to listen to dreams in a truly helpful and supportive manner that doesn’t interpret dreams for someone else. The following is an example of a dream and tips of how to listen to it, minus interpretation.

Dream Being Described:
I leave my house and walk into a strange building next door. I walk in to see many people standing in the dark. Some people seem to be stuck where they are standing.

How to Listen to a Dream
  1. When someone else is describing their dream it is important to hear everything being said. Let them finish without interrupting unless there is a need to clarify something. In this case, the listener might ask if “my house” refers to a real house the dreamer has lived in or is living in, or is it a house in dreamtime?
  2. At the end of the dream narration, the listener may ask the dreamer to describe in more detail anything that needs fleshing out. For example, the “strange building” is a symbol loaded with potential feeling. The listener could ask what feelings are associated with the dream and/or the building: fear, fascination, repulsion, etc., and then ask the dreamer to describe the feelings and why the dreamer might have those feelings. Another listener may ask what the “stuck people” might mean to the dreamer. These kinds of helpful questions will get the dreamer closer to the dream so that deep insight might arise. In no case should the listener say something like, “The stuck people stand for people in your life who are going nowhere and are holding you back.” This makes a huge assumption about the dreamer which may be wrong. The listener may indeed be projecting a problem of his or her own onto the dreamer.
  3. However, the listener may say, “If it were my dream, the stuck people make me think of how my relationships often feel stuck, not going anywhere,” or “The stuck people make me realize I have many parts of myself that feel stuck, not going anywhere.” Giving a statement like this allows the dreamer to digest the listener’s point of view without feeling threatened or judged. The statement may indeed be true for the dreamer, and if it is, may be insightful to the dreamer in a non-threatening manner. For one thing, the honesty of the listener may free up the dreamer to be honest about a meaning if it is hard to take— should it be the true meaning for the dreamer. If the dream has another meaning for the dreamer, the comment may hold true for other persons listening to the dream, and give them added insight into themselves.

To learn more about dreams, visit my website:

2 thoughts on “Resisting the Urge to Interpret Someone’s Dream

  1. Fran,

    Interesting reading . . . I have a friend that asks me from time-to-time to interpret a dream she had. It can be really obvious sometimes what the meaning is but most of the time its a mobo-jumbo! More than anything, I believe a person really needs to be honest and ready to receive their dreams message.

    If I don’t understand the meaning of a dream I had, I just let it stew for a few days, and the meaning will eventually emerge with its true message. Sometimes dreams can be very complicated!

    Fran, the most important thing that you taught me about dreamwork is to keep a dream journal – it helped me to remember my dreams word-for-word. Apart from just writing the dream – I also drew pictures of the images I saw. After all these years, I can go back and reflect on my real-life experience and have a clearer understanding of the dreams I had at the time. The very first dream I wrote down was on December 1, 1994 (20+ years ago). I remember it well – being chased by 3 lions and a baby elephant. The child within certainly surfaced quick enough for me. Dreamwork is a lot of hard work, but it really paid off in the end. The more honest I was about myself, the more present I became in my life. After many years of dreamwork, self-reflection, and sometimes even research at the library, I finally understand my own dreams with ease. Also, keeping a journal of my dreams taught me how to write a good story. That is what dreams are – the story of your life! Your dreams know you better than your own mother does.

    I just now finished writing and illustrating a children’s book. And, I don’t think I would have accomplished this if I hadn’t studied or journaled my dreams.

    Fran, thanks for always being a great friend and dream coach!

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