How to Listen and Ask Questions When Someone Tells You Their Dream

Marks of a good listener

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When someone tells you about a dream they’ve had, you can consider it a compliment. In most cases you are being entrusted with something special, no matter if it is a nightmare or a grand adventure. Dreamers have their reasons for telling someone about a dream, but they might not necessarily tell you why. Is it for validation? For interpretation? Or do they just want a listening ear to process their own understanding of the dream? If they don’t come out and tell you why they are telling you the dream, and it is a bit awkward to ask, try to intuit the reason and act accordingly. It is important to get a sense of why someone wants to tell you the dream because then you can better help them understand it.

From listening to people’s dreams over many years, I find that most people will readily share a dream when it is something they feel is positive—such as a dream giving them great insight, encouragement or feeling. People tend not to share nightmares and problematic dreams so readily. No matter what kind of dream the dreamer has it is important to be a good listener and supportive questioner.

Listen and Then Ask Questions

The best way to listen to dreams is, of course, to listen and then ask questions that will lead the dreamer to reflect more deeply—and thereby gain deeper appreciation and understanding of the dream. Genuine, non-judgmental listening encourages the person to feel accepted and open to exploring hidden and sometimes scary meanings in dreams.   Questions may be asked that shed more light on the color, feeling, nuance of an object or person in a dream. One of the best questions to ask is to have the dreamer describe every object in the dream as representing some form of energy within himself or herself.  Asking such questions can help the dreamer find insight by considering the dream from different angles and perspectives, opening more possibilities for discovering the many levels of meaning that dreams often have.

Some people want validation for a dream because they really want to believe the dream is special. Asking questions that make them realize why the dream is special will do that. Also by saying something affirming like, “If it were my dream and I dreamed that, I would feel like things were going well.”  Using the words, “If it were my dream…” clearly indicates that this is your personal opinion and may perhaps be totally different from the dreamer’s. This is important for the free exploration of another person’s dream.

Don’t Attempt an Interpretation

Quite often people will ask you to interpret their dreams. Remind them that you can’t.  Since the dream is all about the dreamer, it is really not possible to interpret another person’s dream, as much as you want to.  As much as you think you know the meaning of the dream, try to refrain from giving a specific interpretation like, “Your dream means you don’t have a chance to get the job.”  If your interpretation happens to be right on, it might feel threatening if the person isn’t ready to deal with it. If it is wrong, the person will feel misunderstood. However, it is helpful to suggest common interpretations to a dream image, such as driving a car may represent how the dreamer is getting along in life—and then ask them to consider if this interpretation is a possibility. Or you may suggest that they look at a good dream dictionary which gives various meanings to a symbol, rather than one pat answer. By listening and asking questions, you will go far in helping the dreamer unlock the dream’s secrets. You will know when they blurt out something like “A-hah!” that they have discovered a significant meaning.

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Working with Dream Themes: Dreams of My Father

Dreams of the Father

Dreaming of One’s Father

The appearance of the father in a dream is one that is loaded with significance because of the rich and deep associations, perhaps very negative or very positive, with our experience of having a father. My own long relationship with my father was one of the richest (full of ups and downs) and best and most supportive in my life so this week when I had the unusual occurrence of two dreams about him around the 8th anniversary of his death I decided to take a closer than usual look at this powerful dream symbol.

Look for Personal Associations

I first looked at my personal association the father symbol. Reflecting on this symbol made me realize first and foremost the supportive and caring association I had with my father. So his image in the dream represents for me caring and supportive energy that is near me now, even though he has passed.

Look for Conventional Associations

I next perused various dream dictionaries for the usual explanations of the symbol of the father. Depending on the dream dictionary, there were often many and varied meanings ranging from the father being a symbol of power, authority, and the law to being a harbinger indicating difficult times were coming and that one should seek wise advice.

Reflect More Deeply

When I research various meanings like this, I consider it a form of brainstorming. I am not ready to accept the answers I find at face value. I just want to see all the general associations with the father out there, perhaps coming across some I haven’t seen before. While doing this, I look for any of these to have a meaning that resonates with me, an association that might feel like it has a meaning tailored for me in my specific dream. I ran across one such meaning I hadn’t seen before and it resonated. A dream about the father, in Arabic and Islamic traditions, and found at means help for a waking issue will come from sources one doesn’t anticipate.

Stick to the Feelings in and Generated by the Dream

This meaning was valid specifically for me because it connected the feelings in the dream and those generated by the dream with what has been going on in my life. In both dreams, my father was feeling confident and happy. He wasn’t trying to warn or help me, which means that part of me in the dream that is represented by my father is apparently happy and satisfied! This is odd because recently I have made a risky career choice my father wouldn’t necessarily have approved of when he was living, which is resulting in a situation where I need help but from sources I can’t imagine. I have tried all the usual solutions and sources I know of and none have yet worked; however, other dreams of mine indicated that help will come—even though the source was not revealed. When I read this last interpretation of help coming from unexpected sources, it tied all the meanings and feelings together and comforted me.