Dream Reactions | Narrative Components


Dream Reactions: Revealing How You REALLY Feel

Dreams- Choose Your Adventure

Dreams are like a Choose Your Own Adventure

The action of a dream tells the story. Your reactions reveal how you feel about it and gives clues to the meaning of the underlying symbolism. It can also determine what happens next in the story, like a Choose Your Own Adventure. The stories direction depends on your reactions. Sometimes the story itself is told through reactions.

When you act or react out of character in a dream, it’s a sign of symbolism. When you react strongly to what happens, especially when it’s relatively minor, it’s a sign that you feel strongly about the subjects addressed by the dream.

Reactions in dreams are largely based on feelings and emotions. You subconsciously know what the symbolism means and react to that, not to the overt story, so strong reactions are often tied to strong feelings. Strong feelings narrow down the possibilities for the subject of a dream to things you feel strongly about.

An example to show what I mean:

I’m female, but have a dream that I’m a guy in bed with a hot chick, really giving her the business. I stop to put on a condom. As I’m putting it on, the girl spills some of her drink on the sheets. It makes me furious and I kick her out of my bedroom.

Spilling some drink on the sheets is no big deal, especially during hot sex, yet the dreamer reacts furiously. It is a sign of symbolism—and that she feels strongly about whatever the symbolism represents.

With that clue in mind ask yourself what spilling a drink on the sheets represents. It’s tied in with sex and condoms. Why do people use condoms during sex? Mainly to prevent pregnancy or the contraction of a disease. Now zero in further. What else can spill on sheets during sex? Think about the dreamer’s strong reaction.

Condoms can break. They can slip off. Stuff can spill out of them that causes pregnancy, and that’s the last thing this sexually active female wants. Her reaction shows she is worried about accidentally getting pregnant. Her reaction is the key to interpreting the dream. It eliminates other possibilities. Accidentally getting pregnant is something a woman is likely to feel strongly about.

On a side note, switching gender roles can be a way of seeing what it’s like on the other side, or to explore aspects of oneself related to the other gender. In this dream, however, I think gender switching is used to give the dreamer some distance from a subject she feels strongly about. My guess is her dreaming mind knew that showing her as the male in that scene would have more impact. Or perhaps showing her as the female might disrupt the telling of the story.

Acting or Reacting ‘Out of Character’

Acting or reacting out of character is a strong indication of symbolism. It can be a big clue to the meaning of a dream.

Take the following example provided by two dreams. In dream #1 the dreamer spots a fire in a big venue and makes his way to the exit before warning anyone.

In dream #2, a big guy with a peg led stomps to death someone he knows but hasn’t seen in a long time. Rather than try to intervene he runs away until the guy is finished. The dreamer said “it’s out of character for me to dream this way.”

Your reactions in dreams don’t say anything about your character. Remember, you react to the underlying symbolism. In the last two dreams the dreamer’s reactions show he is tired of coming to the rescue of people in his life, not that he’s a heartless bastard. Quite the opposite. He is too responsive to the needs of others and should learn to say no.

Reactions Reveal

Reactions in dreams help reveal the underlying subject and define the symbolism, as in the next example. [Note: this is a summary of a long dream description. Read the original.]

I’m outside a store when two people approach me, a man and a woman. They check out my boots—boots I wear occasionally in real life. The man asks me if I want to sell them. “They’re kind of worn,” he says. “I’ll give you eight euro.” I’m a bit offended by the low offer and tell him they’re not for sale.

The dreamer reacts by refusing the offer to sell his boots and is a bit offended by the low offer. This is a big clue to what the boots symbolize. Boots can symbolize preparation for a task, something that moves your life forward, or protection. But the essence of the dream is the dreamer is being asked to give up something symbolized by the boots. To help figure out what it is, I asked him about the circumstances in which he wears those boots. What are his associations with those boots?

He said the last time he wore the boots was the last time he performed on stage with a band. The band broke up and he was considering giving up on the idea of joining another band. He thought he might be too old, and was tired of the hassles. Knowing what the boots mean to him gives away the meaning of the dream.dream reactions

Basically, the dreamer is at a crossroads, and the dream is trying to tell him how he really feels so he can make the best decision—find another band, or give up. It presents the dilemma to him as a story about someone wanting his boots. If he sells the boots, he is basically making a decision to give up on what they symbolize—playing in a band. But instead he reacts by rejecting the offer, a sign that he’s not ready to give up. The low offer for the boots symbolizes that he’s not recognizing the value of what playing in a band means to him. It’s more important than he consciously recognizes.

Now imagine if the dreamer had decided to sell his boots instead of keep them, or haggled for a better price. It would indicate he didn’t have the desire to continue playing in band and was ready to put away those shoes, er, boots.

Another example of a reaction giving away the meaning is found in a dream about walking down the street alongside a giant banana with legs. The dreamer passes by a man who asks him, “Are you sure that’s the way you want to go?” He responds by answering, “No, it’s not it,” and turning around. He reacts based on the subconscious knowledge of what the dream is actually asking him.

Using association, the dreamer figured out that the banana’s symbolism hinges on its yellow color. Yellow is a slang reference for Asians. He had many Asian friends, and had possibilities for romance with Asian girls. When the man asks him if that’s the way he wants to go, the dream is really asking him if he wants to get involved romantically with Asian girls, knowing the heavy expectations that come with it. His response shows what he really thinks. No, it’s not the direction he wants to go with his love life. As much as the idea is enticing and it disappoints him to acknowledge the downside, deep inside he knows better.

Here is another dream where the dreamer’s reaction defines the underlying subject of the dream. As you read the description, look for the reactions.

I appear on live television on Rachel Maddows show. Rachel asks me to marry her. To avoid embarrassing her I say yes, I’ll marry her. After the show I tell her I can’t marry her, I’m a straight female.

There are two reactions here to analyze. One, following the marriage proposal, and two, following the show.

The first reaction is part of the dream story. It’s about a social cause the dreamer has been asked to commit to. Marriage is a commitment, so in dreams marriage can symbolize anything that requires a commitment. The social cause is symbolized by Rachel Maddow because she is a television host known for being a social crusader. Marrying Rachel means marrying the cause, in a sense. In her waking life, the dreamer is initially asked to make the commitment in a public setting. That is symbolized by the live television show. She agrees in order to avoid creating embarrassment. But when she has a chance to think about it, she realizes she doesn’t want to make the commitment. That is symbolized by the dreamer’s second reaction, when she tells Rachel she won’t marry her. The dreamer has a decision to make about sticking to a commitment she doesn’t want to make, or backing out. Her decision is to back out.\

The Shock Factor

When a shocking action takes place in a dream and the dreamer reacts nonchalantly, look for symbolism. Sometimes a lack of normal reaction is a clue that whatever is being symbolized is okay with the dreamer. It might even be beneficial.

For example, a college student dreams she is forced at gunpoint to fly a see-through plane. She doubts at first that she can do it, but figures it out. She lands the plane on an alien planet. Outside the plane, she walks through a scene of carnage. Aliens blast people to death, and dead bodies stack up. Gore and blood is everywhere. But the dreamer is nonplussed. She doesn’t react to the carnage the way you’d expect. Instead, she walks among the bodies like it’s no big deal.

Her reaction is the key to understanding the dream. It tells me that whatever death represents in the dream is something good for the dreamer, or is at least not as bad as it appears.

That narrows down the possibilities and provides a point of departure for interpreting the dream. The dead bodies symbolize parts of the dreamer that are dying off in the figurative sense. She used to be a couch potato, unmotivated and lazy. Then one day she decides things have to change. She gets off the couch and starts exercising. She takes a second job and applies herself to her college classes.

With that information, the rest of the dream ties together. Flying a plane symbolizes taking her life to a new place. The plane is see-through because the changes in the dreamer are obvious from the outside, something other people can see. The way she is forced to fly it symbolizes how she motivates herself. She figuratively points a gun at herself and makes herself get moving, do or die. Aliens in this dream symbolize “foreign” in the sense that the new, motivated version of the dreamer is foreign to her. It’s this new person in her who is “killing off” her couch potato traits.

Reactions Reveal the Source

Reactions can show the source of something that isn’t depicted in the dream. For example, a young male dreams that he finds a dead rat in his bed. Then, oddly, he screams at his parents, who aren’t actually in the room. Nowhere in the dream are they shown doing anything that deserves his ire. That’s a clue to the meaning. Rats in dreams can symbolize betrayal. The dreamer felt betrayed by something his parents recently did (he wouldn’t tell me what it was). They put the rat in his bed, figuratively. He screams at them in the dream because he’s angry about their betrayal.

His reaction of screaming at his parents helps to define the symbolism of the rat in the bed. Other interpretations of rat symbolism are possible—guilt, repulsion, decay, dirtiness—but his reaction tells me that he is angry with them. Which leads naturally to questioning why he is angry with them. Betrayal is the most likely candidate because a rat is involved. The bed also helps to define the symbolism because it indicates something close and personal to him, and parents are close and personal!

Reacting Illogically

Reacting illogically or irrationally is a clue to the underlying symbolism. These reactions stick out from the dream-story. They say, “look here, look at this!” For example, a man dreams that he is scheduled to have his leg amputated. He doesn’t ask why. He doesn’t object. He goes along with it.

That raises the question why he would go along with something that in waking life would spark a strong reaction. It’s because he knows subconsciously what the symbolism represents.

To interpret the dream, I began with the symbolism of the leg. Legs are used to move. Movement in a dream can symbolize movement in life, as in “going places in life.” It means moving toward goals and aspirations. With that in mind I figure that amputating the leg symbolizes something related to doing harm to the dreamer’s ability to move his life toward his goals.

dream reactions

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The morning after the dream, the dreamer intended to drop a college course. He had gone back to school to study a new subject. While in school his wife supported both of them. Dropping the class would be a real setback because it would mean he would have to go to school for an extra semester. The class wasn’t offered again until the next year. Dropping the class was akin to amputating a leg.

The symbolic connections go deeper. The class he planned to drop was anatomy. That morning a test was scheduled. The test was about leg anatomy.

The dreamer’s illogical reaction stems from subconsciously knowing that he is voluntarily doing something that will hinder his school plans. Cutting off a leg has other possible interpretations. The dreamer has diabetes, and amputations are sometimes necessary when the disease runs rampant. But I didn’t think the dreamer would react by agreeing to have his leg amputated if the dream was related to his diabetes. He gives up too easily. If the dream is literal in the sense of deciding to really have his leg amputated, his reaction would be stronger, not nonchalant.

Cutting off a body part is a pretty common theme that has many possibilities for symbolism. In one dream I interpreted the dreamer cut off his head. It enacted symbolism related to “losing your head,” meaning not thinking clearly or rationally. In another dream, a female was forced to cut off her hand. It symbolized her inability to take actions on her own, instead of depending too much on her parents to make her decisions and fight her battles.

In both cases the dreamer’s reactions stuck out to me as irrational. Granted, dreams aren’t rational. They don’t follow waking life logic. But the incongruity sticks out. It raises the question why someone would agree to have a leg amputated without exploring alternatives, or why someone would cut off their own head or hand. It’s because the dreamers are enacting symbolism, and their reactions reveal what the symbolism means.

The same idea applies when a person you know is in your dream and acts out of character. The symbolism can play out as a caring parent that ignores or harms you in a dream, or the usually calm and gentle boys that turns abusive. Here is an example in a dream about a boyfriend that acts out of character in a dream. His actions are a projection of the dreamer’s feelings.

Reactions Determine Where the Dream-Story Goes

The story of a dream can hinge on the dreamer’s reaction. Sometimes reactions are programmed in the sense that the dreamers are acting out symbolism. There really isn’t a choice. But sometimes a dream is like a Choose Your Own Adventure. At points in the story your choices determine what happens next in the dream. Here is an example, summarized for brevity.

An adult woman dreams that when she was a child she used to go to a summer camp, which never actually happened in her waking life. While away at camp, a man broke into her room and stole some items from her. She found out about it and followed the man back to his home. When he left the house she broke in and took her items back. Then she went home and told her dad about it. He reacted by telling her she could get in trouble and should consider returning the items.

This dream has two reactions to analyze, one from the dreamer when she decides to take back the items stolen from her, and one from the father character when she tells him about it. These reactions reveal the meaning of the dream. The dreamer’s reaction determines the course of it.

To understand how the dreamer’s reaction determines the course of the dream, ask yourself what her options are. Instead of taking back the items, she could decide it isn’t worth the risk. She could call the police. She could grab a weapon and confronted the man. She has a decision to make. That decision determines what happens next in the dream.

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You will understand the father character’s reaction after I explain what the dream means. His reaction is not autonomous like the dreamer’s is. It is part of the story. Let’s begin with what having something stolen from you in a dream can symbolize in relation to your waking life. Expand on the idea. You can have your heart stolen. You can have your self-worth stolen. And you can have your freedom and independence stolen.

The dreamer had her independence stolen. Her parents control everything about her life when she was a child, and as an adult her decisions were still made for her. When she takes back the stolen items, she’s really deciding that she wants back her independence. The summer camp setting alluded to at the beginning of the dream is a clue to the meaning because summer camp is where children experience some freedom from their parents. The dreamer never went to a summer camp, but she has an impression of it that the dream uses to tell the story.

Now look at her father character’s reaction. He says she could get in trouble and should consider returning the items. That’s a way of saying that she should remain like a dependent child, remain under his control. The man who stole her items is actually a surrogate character for her father. Of course he’s going to tell her to return them! The items stolen represent freedom, independence, and the ability to make her own choices.

The dream was sparked by a specific situation. Her life was at a crossroads. She had a job offer to teach English in China, but her parents didn’t want her to go. She was leaning toward following their wishes, but realized deep inside that if she did so she would be passing up an opportunity to have something she wanted more than anything else. By analyzing the dream and its implications, the dreamer was able to make the best decision for herself, not for her parents as she’d always done. She decided to take the job.

Pay close attention to your reactions in your dreams. They are a major component of the narrative and act as clues to the meaning.