To amplify means to increase, to magnify, to crank it up, and for our purpose it means:
- Bring forward parts of a dream you might overlook or fail to recognize for their importance.
- A storytelling device, used especially to counterbalance minimization.
Counterbalancing in the psyche is known as compensation. It’s related to amplifying because dreams amplify when you minimize, such as when you minimize a problem then a stunning and powerful dream points out the error. A dream amplifies to compensate. Think of it as turning up the volume when you don’t hear something. The more you don’t hear or listen, the louder your dreams crank the volume. When the volume reaches max:
Check out that link, then explore further if you like: Carl Jung’s theory of compensation applied to dream interpretation.
“Hello,” says an amplified dream, “we have work to do.”
This sort of amplification in dreams is your inner storyteller’s way of foreshadowing future growth and healing, showing what stands in the way — especially parts of yourself that work against you, such as a touchy ego or bad attitude — and potential that can be actualized.
The dream storyteller can only do so much, though, so pay close attention when your dreams amplify.
Why dreams amplify
Dream amplify when necessary. You aren’t listening, noticing, or getting the message.
Or you are in new personal territory. A page of the book of your life is turning and new information is only starting to come forward that will shape the next chapter of your life. It’s an important time in your personal growth.
When dreams amplify, they emphasize the truth, especially when you minimize and it causes issues, such as when stress eats at you and you say it’s just the price to be paid, or you fail to recognize how your behaviors and attitudes affect people in your life. You then dream about a tornado tearing through your home, an amplified portrayal of the effects of stress, or about seeing a loved one bleeding head to toe, portraying an emotional or psychological wound, perhaps one inflicted by you.
Elsewhere, I call this storytelling device exaggerate. You amplify when you analyze why dreams exaggerate (explained below; see: “Amplification Method vs. Free Association”).
Exaggeration and amplification are almost interchangeable. The core idea is the same. The difference is found in the purpose. The purpose of exaggeration in dreams is to create memorable symbolism that captures underlying dynamics — the dream imagery dramatically summarizes the situation and your related thoughts, emotions, and perceptions. The purpose of amplification is to convey urgency or importance, or capture a feeling raw and uncut.
Dreams amplify to express feelings and emotions that are especially important to notice, and it shows in how you react to the dream imagery. See “Gender-Switching Sex Dream” at the bottom of this page for a dream with urgency and strong reaction. It’ll be obvious why the dream amplifies to get across the message about how powerfully the dreamer really feels.
In my 25 years of interpreting and studying dreams I’ve trained myself to notice subtle differences in how dreams tell stories. Every detail is purposeful. Next, we’ll explore how to spot those subtle differences and understand the purpose.
How dreams amplify
Screaming in a dream is one of the more common ways to amplify. It begs for attention. Dreams scream at you when necessary — it can mean you aren’t listening, or you aren’t being heard physically or personally, such as when an important person in your life doesn’t “get it.” Otherwise, dreams use normal tones.
Disproportion is another way to amplify. Something is shown as exceptionally big or small. If it’s exceptionally big it can symbolize ideas such as “huge amount of respect” or “too big to handle.” If it’s exceptionally small it can mean “overlooked” or “undervalued.” Depictions as big or small exaggerate the dreamer’s perceptions and it’s just how dreams tell stories, expressing ideas and concepts through symbolism. Dreams amplify these details because they want you to pay close attention. For example, you might overlook a mouse in a dream, but not if it’s big as a house. The mouse could symbolize a big feeling that something’s overlooked. You can bet there are good reasons to notice that feeling. Your health, wealth, or an important relationship might hang in the balance.
Exceptional speed and distance: Imagine that you are involved in a new romantic relationship and it takes off like a rocket. How can dreams amplify to tell the story? By showing you riding a rocket! The symbolism of the imagery has positive ways of looking at it, but consider also that it could mean you feel like the relationship is progressing too quickly, impossible to control, or likely to end in a big explosion. It could be exaggerated to create memorable symbolism, or amplified as a warning. Or you feel distant from your significant other and dream that the person lives on another continent. It’s a way of saying you are far apart figuratively and it’s time to do something about it, in which case you know there’s a warning. It’s amplified.
Heat: The expression “the heat is on” means close scrutiny. A dream can show the situation as a fire. It can exaggerate the heat into a raging fire to describe intense scrutiny. But what if the dreamer doesn’t notice the scrutiny or recognize the potential for personal danger? Then the dream amplifies, and it’ll show in the imagery the dream chooses to get across the message. It’s not just a fire; it’s your house burning down. It’s a blast furnace or the surface of the sun. Get the message before it’s too late, says the dream.
I use many possibilities for negative outcomes in the above examples. Consider also that dreams amplify to to draw your attention to the potential for positive outcomes. It means that the decisions and actions you take now are important for the future.
Here’s a great example: dream about an encounter with the Grim Reaper. That dream amplifies the dangers of drinking and driving. The dreamer minimizes the risk and his dream responds powerfully.
Amplification helps you notice the small voices in your head and little-but-important things in your life. In my Dream Interpretation Dictionary, I explore a dream about a guy working at Walmart who witnesses a human sacrifice (see the entry for Walmart). The man who had that dream sees himself portrayed as the character who is sacrificed. The character is a projection of himself. He truly feels like he is sacrificing himself for his job, but he minimizes by saying to himself that he needs the income. Which is true. He can’t just quit and live on the streets. But he can recognize the need to work in a better environment. He can decide to work toward a better future. Until he recognizes what the job is taking from him, he won’t change the situation. That’s the underlying message the man needs to take away and why the dream amplifies it.
Amplification Method vs. Free Association: Magnifying Important Dream Details
Psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung used what’s known as amplification method to focus on a detail from a dream and draw out its significance. It appears similar to association method at first glance, but is more focused. Instead of freely associating, you could say that amplification method directly associates.
Say that you dream about building a fence. You could start with the association with private property then move on to your desire to own a home. Sure, it’s possible the subject behind the dream somehow connects with the desire to own a home, but when you make the leap away from the symbolism of the fence you could miss the true meaning. Instead, amplify by focusing on what a fence does. How would you describe a fence to someone who lives in the deep jungle and has never seen one?
You might say that a fence is a divider between what’s yours and mine. Or it creates privacy. Or it keeps or protects something within it, such as pets, livestock, or children. These direct associations are then applied to the dream. Does constructing a fence in a dream connect symbolically with creating personal boundaries, space, or privacy? Does it mean you are marking your territory or protecting something you value? Or does it mean “fenced in,” meaning lacking options or choices, or “walled off” from the world? Perhaps. You will know when you hit upon the right idea because it gives you a snap of recognition.
You can go further by exploring ways you protect yourself personally or physically. You can find a clue in the fact that you build the fence, it’s not already there, implying a recent or new development. The person from the jungle might wonder why someone would need a fence in the first place, and even that’s a potential clue because it raises the question of why, to begin with, you build it.
Personal Narratives in Dreams
Amplification helps you recognize the personal narratives that define your possibilities, limits, and boundaries. The person you are is largely constructed around narratives in your head. You are this, you are that, you are from whatever place and are a product of what’s happened so far in your life and what you believe to be true. Dreams are, simply, narratives, and in them you see both the narratives you construct for yourself, and those constructed for you through external scripting and programming — especially through your beliefs and attitudes. Dreams help you see yourself from different perspectives by amplifying your personal narratives.
Dreams amplify your narratives so you can more clearly see the scripts you follow. You then have a conscious choice to continue following them, reshape them, or completely rewrite them. Change the script. That’s the first step to changing your life.
For example, a man dreams about standing around a hole in the ice of a frozen lake and realizing someone must sacrifice himself to save everyone else. He says he’ll do it, and jumps into the icy water expecting to die, and when that doesn’t happen he figures he might as well swim back to the surface. If he follows the script he’s always followed, he’ll always sacrifice himself. It’s part of who he is. But he’s at a turning point in his life and rethinking the roles he plays in his relationships. He doesn’t have to always sacrifice himself. If he does do it, he can make the decision consciously, instead of unconsciously following the script.
Your dreams provide everything needed to change the script. The symbols in your dreams are potential energy — set it in motion! You don’t have to know exactly what the symbols mean, just follow your feelings and work with them in your imagination. Working with your dreams activates and energizes subconscious processes, and the energy feeds back into itself like a loop or vortex.
Your dreams are dramatizations. You aren’t just alive, you’re having an experience of life. In your dreams, you’re no longer just a person, you’re an important character in an important story. You are a living myth, and the story is written a day and a night at a time.
For further exploration of the roles played in dreams and personal narratives, see:
Power of Imagination
Directed daydreaming is a potent way of working with your dream symbols and amplifying them. Carl Jung calls it “Active Imagination,” and it’s known by other names such as “Creative Visualization.”
You can amplify a dream by stepping into the roles of the other characters and seeing the story through their eyes. You can question how characters are used in the story, and even talk with them directly in your mind. Dream characters are products of your imagination, and it’s not like you must be dreaming to use your imagination.
When, for example, the wolf leads you into a wilderness in a dream, you can ask, while dreaming or awake, where it’s leading you. Ask what its role is in the story, its feelings and thoughts, what it thinks of you. Ask what it can do for you, and what you can do for it. It’s there to help you, and your willingness to accept that help and offer it in return sends a very positive message to your unconscious mind. You can even question and encourage inanimate objects to speak from their perspective.
Psychologist Robert A. Johnson says that the unconscious mind has two ways of communicating with its counterpart the conscious mind: dreams and imagination. With your imagination, you can continue where a dream leaves off and reap what it sows. It’s a powerful method to amplify your dream content and tease out the meaning and significance.
Follow Your Feelings to the Meaning of a Dream
When you amplify content from a dream, you focus on feelings that could be overlooked or minimized. We cover examples of that in the discussion above. Now I’m going to let you in on a secret known to most dream interpreters:
Feelings can tell you more about a dream than anything else.
A professional analyst who guides you through interpreting a dream will often ask feeling-based, open-ended questions. They pull a detail from the dream and ask how do you feel about that? It works. Oftentimes, getting a person to open up about their feelings in relation to a dream leads to talking their way to the meaning. Voila! That’ll be $250 per hour, thank you.
Or do it yourself. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
- Dreams create scenarios that trigger feelings you have recently experienced. The feelings are in response to what’s happened in your outer life or inner life, to something that happened or something expected.
I like to use the example of dreams about cheating because they can be powerfully emotional, easily misinterpreted, and connected with a variety of feelings associated with statements such as “I feel cheated,” or “you’re being unfair,” or “I sense trouble coming.” The dream shows the scenario as cheating in the context of a relationship, but means it in the context of how you feel. Here, read this: cheating dreams explained.
Dreams about teeth cracking and falling out are also instructive for understanding how dream imagery and scenarios connect with feelings.
- If a dream expresses feelings for you, it’s likely to be amplified. Very difficult feelings to handle (here meant as synonymous with emotions) are fodder for your most powerful dreams where feelings are greatly amplified and felt with full force and effect. Thinking-oriented people tend to try to reason with their feelings, but that might be the source of a problem. The feelings are minimized by the rational mind, which means they are maximized by the feeling mind and amplified in dreams where the rational filters are turned off. See what I’ve written about nightmares (link below).
- Describe your dreams in terms of how you feel about everything that happens.
- Use what your body says in response to your dreams. Jean Campbell is a foremost expert in dream-body work. The best I can find online is her paper: DreamWork / BodyWork. An excerpt:
A client came in for her regular session, saying she had a dream she wanted to work. In the dream, she’d been looking for her purse.
“That’s about sexuality, of course,” she told me confidently. “Everyone knows that. Freud said so, right?”
I declined to comment, but led her through an hour of work with becoming the major figures in the dream, feeling how they felt, becoming them by assuming their physical attitudes.
Finally, at the end of the session, I asked her to become the purse. She sat, folded over her bent knees. “I’m so heavy,” she moaned as the purse. Then her head jerked up. “This is my depression,” she said with certainty. By then she was paying attention to her body and the information it was giving her, not just to her mind.
The Story of Your Life
Traditionally, amplification technique is used to connect your dreams with literature and myth to understand how it all connects with your life. Anytime a dream reminds you of a story — novel, motion picture, biography, comic book, legend — refer to it for clues to the meaning. There’s no rule in dreamland against building atop the work of other stories.
See this great example, a dream with parallels to the classic novel Crime and Punishment:
An amplified dream:
And the other articles mentioned above: