The significance of dreams

Susan M - September 23, 2006

Have you ever had a dream you felt was trying to tell you something?

I rarely remember my dreams. Unless I’m woken up in the middle of one or just at the end of one, then I can sometimes retain it in memory. Usually, I can only remember a dream for the first few moments of wakefulness, unless for some reason I keep thinking about it.

My husband and I have both had dreams in which our dead grandfathers gave us messages. One my husband had while napping on the couch in our living room. I was pregnant at the time, and we were planning on naming the child after his dead grandfather (if it was a boy). In the dream, his grandfather told him we would have a boy and we were to name him Elijah—his grandfather was very specific about both the spelling and how it should be pronounced. I guess he didn’t want our kid to be cursed with his name (which was Ray). We had a boy, and we named him Elijah.

My dreams are often very symbolic, and people in them are often symbolic representations of someone or something else. Once, a long time ago, my husband and I were having a rough spot in our marriage, mainly due to him being (at the time) a nearly impossible person to be married to. I had this really disturbing dream in which I was married to my brother and in love with an old boyfriend. Disturbing because—what the heck? Married to my brother? Having a dream about being in love with an old boyfriend was bad enough, but that took the cake.

So I kept thinking about this dream. And I realized that it was telling me something very important. My brother didn’t represent my brother, instead he represented someone who I got along with fine, but didn’t have any fireworks with. No big passion. Just someone I would feel brotherly affection for. But my old boyfriend was a guy who, when I’d dated him, had a 6-inch neon pink mohawk, carried a giant hunting knife, and while being a really sweet guy, had a lot of problems. He actually represented my husband—someone difficult, but that I was very much in love with. And I was able to recognize that I wouldn’t have been happy with someone who was easy to be married to. I needed a challenge.

The other night I had a dream that has stuck with me. I’m not sure yet what it’s trying to tell me, if anything. Often my symbolic dreams will be telling me something I don’t really want to hear. This may be one of those.

In it I was going to see a couple bands play—something I do often. They were playing at a venue with an open floor and a small balcony with seats. Since I’m short (and too old and worn out to stand the whole night), I got there early in able to get a good balcony seat. But when I got to the balcony, the seat I chose didn’t have a good view of the stage. So I moved over, looking for a better seat. I sat in one only to find that it was turned almost sideways, and I’d have to sit with my body twisted one direction for the whole show to see anything. I got up and noticed that the seats near it were also turned away from the stage, and a few were actually facing completely backwards.

I moved further along the balcony and found a seat that was facing the stage, in the front row, and sat in it. After a few moments, it struck me that I was there on the wrong night. The bands I wanted to see were actually playing the next weekend. So I asked the woman next to me if she knew who was playing. She named the bands I had come to see. When I told her I thought they were playing the next weekend instead, she told me they were doing two shows, one this weekend and one the next. I was happy, because that meant I could see them both times.

But as the show got near to starting, I looked out toward the stage and realized I could barely see anything. Either the height of the balcony or the angle of it made it hard to see the stage, or something was in the way—my view was almost entirely obstructed.

And that was it, end of dream.

So let’s say the show represents life in general. I’m trying to find my way, and I want to be able to see what’s coming next. I manage to avoid the seats that turn me in the wrong direction. I narrowly miss being at the wrong concert altogether (something my real-life absent-mindedness makes entirely possible). But when I finally find a seat that I think is a good one, it turns out I still can’t see anything.

This interpretation fits well, because there are things in my life I wish were different, and I want to know if they will be any time soon. Maybe it’s telling me that I’m going to have to wait for the second show before things become clear.

But let’s say the show represents living the gospel. I’m trying to do my best, and I’m avoiding the seats that face the wrong way, but I’m still sitting in a seat that doesn’t cut it. I’m so distracted that I’m not even sure at first if I’m at the right show. Unfortunately, in some ways this interpretation fits, too. At least there’s a second chance (a show the next weekend). I tend to think this is the meaning of the dream—I need to get my butt in gear.

Or maybe it means something completely different. Or maybe it’s just a dream with no meaning at all.

Have you ever had a significant dream?

Feel free to comment on how dreams fit into LDS theology, I’m interested in hearing takes on that as well.

14 Comments »

  1. Fascinating post, Susan:) Maybe I should start writing down my dreams again.

    I’ve always wanted to be a Joseph but I can’t say I have ever had one. I’ve wondered about that. Have I had one but didn’t recognize it as such? I always figured those types of dreams made you feel different (or left a specific impression) when you wake up. Is that true, or is there just some way we need to look at them and/or target them?

    Comment by Bret — September 23, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  2. Strangely enough, I had a dream two nights ago that I was married to my sister. I felt so embarassed the whole dream. We were visiting my mom and she kept reminding me that we couldn’t sleep together because we were siblings, but she didn’t mind that we were married. Then I realized that we had already slept together before and I was even more embarassed. Then I saw a daytime talk show on TV on which Candice Cameron from Full House was announcing to her husband Benji Schwimmer from So You Think You Can Dance? that she wanted a divorce and I wished so bad that my sister would ask me for a divorce so I could have a normal marriage. But I couldn’t ask for a divorce because I had already been married to and divorced my (male) childhood best friend and two divorces is too many. When I finally woke up I was still way stressed out about my marital situation, but after a few seconds I realized that my wife wasn’t my sister and I was incredibly relieved. It was a great feeling. It almost made the stress of the nightmare worth it.

    I don’t know what that one might mean, if anything.

    I think that the vast majority of dreams are random—they don’t come because God wants to tell us something. But like the random things that befall us in our life, we can learn from them. For example, every so often I have dreams—nightmares, really—where I’m back on my mission with, like 8 months to go. Every time I have one of those I remember that my heart isn’t fully converted to service. If it was, I wouldn’t dread having to go out and make contacts and knock doors and I wouldn’t be so relieved when I wake up.

    Comment by Tom — September 23, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  3. That’s really funny, Tom.

    Many of my dreams I feel like are random. And I usually don’t remember them past a few minutes of waking up. But if a dream sticks with me (and is so obviously symbolic), I tend to start thinking it’s trying to tell me something. (I don’t necessarily assume it’s a message a from God, maybe it’s just my subsconscious.)

    I do feel like the dream about the concert is trying to tell me something, and I know what it is—something I don’t really want to acknowledge. Which is usually the case with these sorts of dreams, for me.

    Comment by Susan M — September 23, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

  4. Awesome post Susan. I don’t ever remember my dreams so I can’t say I’ve had a single one that was trying to tell me anything. However, Guatemalan’s (and I think a large portion of Hispanics) readily consider dreams to be just another way God speaks to you. We’d often try to play down the significance of dreams but now when I look back on it I think I should have embraced it instead.

    Comment by Rusty — September 23, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

  5. Nice post. Nothing to add, but I’ll stay tuned tonight and maybe I’ll have something interesting to share tomorrow, who knows?

    Comment by Jacob — September 23, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

  6. If God has something to tell me in a dream, He’d better be clear and to the point. Otherwise, I don’t consider myself accountable for the information.

    Dreams are bizarre, random, meanderings of the mind. I can’t be expected to sift through that stuff to find messages.

    Comment by John Cline — September 24, 2006 @ 11:07 am

  7. Unless it’s your dead grandfather telling you what to name your unborn child? :)

    Comment by Susan M — September 24, 2006 @ 12:18 pm

  8. Most of my memorable dreams involve random imagery from old 1970s Star Trek episodes.

    My mom was/is a huge fan.

    Thanks mom!

    Comment by Seth R. — September 24, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  9. I had a dream once that was so powerful that when I awoke, I sat straight up in bed andburst in uncontrollable tears.

    My then boyfriend (who is now my husband) was with another close friend (a guy who I have always really liked and been good friends with to this day, but never my boyfriend). They were both in a small dingy apartment in Germany. A bare lightbulb hung in the room and the floors were wooden slats. The furniture was old and beat up. I was in San Francisco. I could see them at this party in that little German apartment. They were carrying on and partying and I was unable to get to them. I could see them through a crystal ball, kind of foggy like. They were hanging themselves – committing suicide, and therewasnothingI could do to stop them. I couldn’t get there in time, but I could feel the depths of their soon to be torment as they would be cast down to hell.

    This dream meant that my boyfriend would feel the depths of hell if I didn’t keep him close to me and share the gospel with him. It was my job to “save” him. Sooo, I’ve kept him close to me for almost 20 years now, but he still hasn’t let me fully share the gospel with him. I’m still tryin’ though!

    Comment by meems — September 25, 2006 @ 1:13 am

  10. P.S. – I don’t think I am just making up the interpretation. A very very clear impression in my mind of what that dream was about came to me after awakening. It was incredibly disturbing!

    Comment by meems — September 25, 2006 @ 1:16 am

  11. Wow, Meems, that’s a helluva dream. I hope it works out :)

    Comment by Rusty — September 25, 2006 @ 6:51 am

  12. I freely admit that I’ve had a spiritual experience while dreaming. In fact, it was arguably the most spiritual experience I’ve ever had. As such, I’m not going to share it on an blog, but I will say that when I woke I had an incredibly clear memory of it which has persisted till this day (12.5 years later) and I was crying like a baby, evidently even before I woke up.

    Comment by a random John — September 25, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  13. Very interesting stories. I tend not to remember my dreams for much longer than a day or two. but one that has stayed with me for years was one I had only days after my ex-wife bailed on our marriage after finally admitting to me that she had had an extramartial affair.

    I dreamed that she had up and disappeared. I was frantically searching for her in a variety of places–football stadiums, malls, etc.–but couldn’t find her. Finally, after days of my searching for her, she turned up, but the odd thing was that she had a completely different face. She didn’t look at all like herself. The ironic things was that in the dream I behaved as thought this made no difference.

    When I woke up the next morning I really puzzled over this, as well as all the stuff that had happened to me (that went on for months, as you can probably imagine). What I finally concluded was that my subconscious (or some other agent) was trying to tell me that the person I though I knew was completely foreign to me. She coudln’t have been more foreign to me than if she had had a different face.

    Comment by Brandon — September 25, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  14. I dreamt that my father came to my bedside, all dressed in white, apologizing for what he’d done (he was a terrible man) and tellig me that he loved me and that he would never leave me alone.

    I took it to be a visitation.

    Comment by annegb — September 25, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

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