Acting on Your Dreams
Resolution brings a dream full circle. It’s the primary purpose for why you dream: to learn and grow, to solve and resolve. Resolution is often the most difficult part of a dream to identify and interpret because it’s either hidden in the dream-story, or referred to through implication and left up to you to figure out for yourself.
Resolution is your opportunity to respond and take action. It’s how you benefit from all the effort you put into remembering your dreams and understanding them. The resolution is the most important part of a dream. Otherwise, interpreting your dreams is like a game show with no prize.
Resolution gives you the opportunity to live your dreams and make them come true by paying attention, taking to heart their messages, and applying their lessons.
- If a dream makes a suggestion, run with it.
- If it raises a question, answer it.
- If it points out a problem, solve it.
- If it mentions a subject, explore it.
- If it shows a fear, confront it.
- If it opens a new road, travel it.
An important benefit of dreams is they give you another way of looking at yourself and your life. They offer perspective by breaking down complex personal situations into stories. People learn better through stories rather than lectures. Like when Jesus of Nazareth replied with parables instead of lectures when asked complex questions. Stories open your mind. They entice you to follow along. When you “get it,” you really get it. The lesson sinks in.
Your dreams are like a life coach living in your head. This coach knows you inside and out — knows what makes you tick. Your dream coach shows you where you can grow, improve, realize potential, fulfill wishes and desires and achieve goals and ambitions. Coach knows what’s hindering you and why, and what’s helping. Nothing is hidden from your dream coach. It knows everything, including whether or not you are paying attention.
The resolution of a dream comes into play with your personal dream coach because you are given the opportunity to apply what it teaches you. Coach is patient and understanding, but there are limits. If you think you know it all, there’s probably no telling you otherwise. If you break promises to yourself, your coach knows better than to set you up for more disappointment, but is still going to serve up ideas about living the life you really want. Coach will always encourage you to try and try again. If you are too busy to listen, coach can wait. If you fail to follow through or act apathetically, a point will come when coach steps back and waits for you to come around. Coach will always meet you at least halfway.
But if you do follow through, if you listen, if you apply what you learn, your dream coach will take special interest. You become a star player. You live your dreams and make them come true in the realest sense.
Everything you need to have the life you want is already inside you. Dreams help you to tap into that natural wisdom and ability.
In the following post about lottery dreams, I’m the author mentioned in paragraph six, and dream coach taught me the lesson about taking every opportunity to promote and share my work.
Resolution of Recurring Dreams
Recurring dreams invite scrutiny with an eye out for resolution because part of the nature of some types of recurring dreams is to address resolution, to bring something in your life full circle or advance it ahead. Your dreaming mind could be waiting for you to respond in a way that allows you — and the story told in your dreams — to move forward. “Groundhog Day” recurring dreams, that return to the beginning of the story and repeat, are especially likely to connect with something that needs to be learned. Once it’s learned, the story can progress to the next scene or chapter.
The progression can be shown over the course of two or more dreams as the story continues. Progressions can span years and sometimes decades as major themes in life play out. I’ve noticed a roughly 90-day cycle of repeating themes to my dreams, returning to visit familiar times and places in dreamland and picking up where the story left off. These serial recurring dreams connect with major areas of life such as family, school, and career, with parts of the psyche such your ego, self-image and persona, and with the evolution of your roles in life and your skills and abilities.
The resolution you create while awake can carry over into the dreams in ways that influence their content and progression. For example, a woman dreams about finding a white horse while struggling in a blizzard, but before she can ride it, a shadowy man pulls it away from her. She analyzes the dream and gets the message that the horse symbolizes a source of hidden strength she can tap to get through a time of personal difficulty and depression symbolized as the blizzard, but she’s being prevented by her shadow self. Soon afterward. she dreams she’s back in the blizzard and comes across the horse and the man, and she jumps onto the horse and rides away before the man can stop her. By actively finding the resolution to the first dream, she creates the resolution in the second dream. As soon as she’s the horse she knows what it represents, and her reaction while dreaming shows the strength of her desire to claim her inner strength.
The Biggest Secret to Dream Work
It’s great to analyze and interpret dreams, but it’s even better to feel them, to dive into the story and play with it in your mind. Work with dreams at a story level to bring about the resolution. That means play along. It’s a story and you’re searching for the resolution. That information is either suggested in the dream, or you play out the story and find the resolution you want. How can you make things end well?
It’s a dream and you can do whatever you want with it in your imagination, but its best to work within the story framework the dream presents, at least initially. Working with dreams in your imagination can subconsciously create the conditions to find resolution. You don’t have to fully understand everything about a dream to grasp the story.
Imagine that you have a dream about trying to open a locked door. In the dream, you know something important is behind that door but it won’t open. Now you are awake and wondering how to move forward. The interpretation of the dreams appears obvious enough — you are on the verge of opening up something new about yourself and your life, or learning something that’s hidden or locked away. How do you resolve the dream?
Start by seeing yourself getting through that door. Feel if there’s resistance inside you — perhaps you fear leaving something important behind, or you have some other sort of internal or external resistance — and that’s why you can’t push ahead. Imagine the door opening at your command. Imagine picking the lock, or the key appears magically in your hand — whatever feels right. By doing so you create movement in the subconscious part of your mind that brings you closer to resolving whatever is preventing you from getting through that door. See yourself go through it. Or see yourself waiting for it to open on its own — you don’t have to force anything.
Use Your Limitless Imagination
Your imagination and dreams share the same brain space. They work almost identically, so just go along with whatever you imagine in response to a dream without judging it. By engaging with the dream at a story level and using your imagination to open channels between your conscious mind and the unconscious mind, you help along the process of remembering what you already know deep inside — namely, the meaning of the dream (see: Three Simple Facts about Dreams). Answers then come to you when you are ready. As you practice this technique you open and strengthen direct lines of communication with your dreaming mind, and the more effort and care you put into it — same as any relationship — the more readily information flows.
Your extra effort proves that you have the desire, and your dream coach will reward your initiative.
We all know the metaphor about doors of opportunity. Imagine that’s what the door in a dream symbolizes and it’s locked because you can’t find the opportunity you want. How do you resolve the situation? One way is, you can attract opportunity. You can be ready. You can act as if the door of opportunity is already open and it’s only a matter of time before reality catches up. Or you can find other doors that readily open. First, you create the right conditions inside you. Your dream coach excels at helping you to create the right internal conditions so that doors open for you.
This layer of working with dreams taps your subconscious mind to affect conditions behind the scenes. You don’t have to know everything about your dreams to reap this benefit. Just work with them at a story level.
Throughout this site are examples of how dreams use stories to help you understand yourself and your life. In this chapter we drill down and explore the subject, but keep in mind that resolution is part of every fully formed dream, no matter if it’s presented in the dream-story, or left up to you to figure out. Let’s take a closer look at what resolution is and how dreams offer it.
First, my friends at innerself.com (great resource for material related to personal growth and discovery, by the way) reprinted an excerpt from my book Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams. It gives more ideas for using your imagination with your dreams to find resolution and benefit in them:
Resolution: Chased in a Dream
When interpreting a dream about being chased or pursued, simplify it. Something is chasing you and it’s seen or known. Or, it’s pursuing you and is unseen or unknown. That simple. Now, what’s really chasing or pursuing you? Think of that scenario as a physical representation of a personal situation. The physical appearance and actions of something in a dream are based on your thoughts, feelings and perceptions, so if it’s scary and dark, you know there’s a metaphorical truth to it. It feels scary and dark or is perceived that way. It’s a mirror image of something about your inner or outer world. In dreamland, those two worlds can blend, so differentiating them can be tricky. However, differentiating is important for tracing the dream back to its source.
A good friend of mine had recurring dreams about a monstrous shadowy thing pursuing him like a hunter after its prey. My friend knows very well how to protect himself both physically and psychologically, so we quickly determine that the shadowy thing that chases him is not likely to symbolize a threat like that because he’d react differently to it — he’d take it on! He’s in good health so it’s not likely to represent illness or fear of death. We boil down the dream to a question. What do you fear the most and it feels like it’s getting a little too close to becoming real?
And the answer is, he fears being unable to provide financially for his family. At the time of the dream his job situation is iffy and he knows things can end badly if he doesn’t straighten it out. His biggest priority is to take care of his family, and failing them as a provider is the one fear in life he can’t conquer at that time. So to resolve the dream, he focuses on securing his job situation and income. Dreams of being pursued go away.
After a dream like that, first step back and consider that whatever chases you is likely to represent something intangible: guilt, regret, the truth, unfulfilled desire, unrealized potential. The more you avoid it, the more it is likely to pursue you.
- Resolution for chase dreams: Identify what is really pursuing you. Make connections with other parts of the dream. Fully understand it. Make a decision. Do something about it.
More about how to step back and see the story in the dream:
Pursued by a Serial Killer
It’s possible that whatever chases you in a dream could represent a person in your life and the situation is truly dangerous. People who are being secretly watched or stalked can get warnings in their dreams. However, usually the danger represented by something in a dream is not physically real. Instead, like in my friend’s dream I discuss above, the danger is intangible. Now we’re going to add a new layer of complexity with the following dream:
A business owner dreams that he’s in his company’s warehouse when he gets a text message telling him to beware the serial killer stalking him. He ignores the message and continues with his work, then gets another message, more urgent:
The serial killer is in the warehouse.
Uh oh. When dreams express urgency like that, take heed. Since the setting is the dreamer’s company — specifically the warehouse — and it’s not imaginary but instead is the actual warehouse he owns — we can form a hypothesis that the danger is to his business from an external factor. Or, something could be brewing inside him. Perhaps he’s getting really sick of the business he’s in, or pessimism is about to overtake him. Dreams are known for warning about what’s about to surface from within you. It’s possible that this person perceives it as a threat because it really is a threat to his business.
We don’t really have enough detail in the overt content of the dream to tell for sure. Instead, we have clues to follow. A detail that invites scrutiny is the fact that he gets the messages via text. Information delivered in dreams as text messages, emails, letters, conversation or just a voice speaking tends to come from the subconscious or unconscious mind. In other words, we can hypothesize that there’s something the dreamer knows subconsciously and the dream is trying to bring it to his attention.
The dream provides another detail by representing the danger as a serial killer. The dream deliberately chooses to present the danger this way. You begin decoding the symbolism by associating. What comes to mind associated with serial killers? They’re methodical. Calculating. Cold. Ruthless. And they kill!
Now we have three clues: the setting, the message, and the serial killer. We have associations. We note that the setting is from the dreamer’s waking life; it’s not imaginary (in which case it’s more likely to connect with his inner life). We have a sense of urgency. We have the dreamer’s reaction of ignoring the message, a way of saying he could be ignoring a little voice warning him of danger. Now what?
I hand this information over to the dreamer and ask him to ponder. He already knows subconsciously what the dream means, and it’s my hope that by giving him my perspective, it’ll jog his memory.
A day or two later he comes back to Reddit Dreams, the online forum where we met and discussed his dream, and tells me he figured it out … just in time. One of his suppliers is also a business rival. The rival acts friendly enough and gives no indicators of being the sort of cutthroat competitor who would try to destroy the dreamer’s business. But he is, and he’s plotting behind the scenes to deliver the death blow. He’s the serial killer stalking the dreamer, and the dreamer knows it intuitively but ignores it. The dream gels together everything he needs to understand the warning and react before the (business) killer can strike. This piece of information pulls in everything we observe about the dream:
- The warehouse: It’s where the dreamer stores what he receives from his supplier, the serial killer.
- The message: Yeah, it’s urgent. Thank you subconscious mind.
- The serial killer: Serial killers smile to your face before stabbing you in the back. The business rival shows nothing outward to make the dreamer aware of the potential for danger.
- One other clue to note: the dreamer plays a direct role in the story, not the role of observer or witness. That implies his direct involvement in the central subject or idea of the dream.
- Resolution: recognize the danger and act accordingly. In this case, the first action to take is find another supplier.
Make Connections Between a Dream and Your Life
Consider situations where people are said to pursue or be pursued, to chase or be chased. You pursue a job opportunity. You chase a dream or a lead. You pursue someone when you want information from them. You chase money. You pursue romantic or sexual interests. Situations like these are likely to be turned into physical representations of chases and pursuits. The dream acts out the idea.
It might be too obvious, but imagine a clown pursuing you with a bouquet of flowers and you react by accepting the flowers. Now imagine that someone who cracks a lot of jokes is pursuing you romantically. What does your reaction say? It probably shows that you are interested in the person. You might not realize it consciously. I’ve seen this scenario play out a thousand different ways in dreams that all boil down to deciding whether to a). accept someone’s romantic interest, or b). pursue someone romantically. The clown and the flowers connect the dream with your life.
Or let’s say that a hideous monster chases you. The first step is to figure out what it symbolizes. Oftentimes dreams exaggerate to get your attention and illustrate the dynamics of a situation. You know that a monster isn’t really chasing you in your waking life so it must be symbolism. Maybe it symbolizes a bully at school, or a supervisor or other authority figure making your life miserable. Maybe it’s a fear, a bad marriage, a stalled ambition, an uncomfortable truth, a rejected part of yourself, a feeling of intense guilt or shame. Once you identify the symbolism and how it connects with your life, the next step is to make a decision. Perhaps you are being chased because you won’t stick up for yourself, or can’t work up the courage to leave the job that’s making you miserable, or won’t face your fear, or can’t save a bad marriage, or can’t achieve an ambition.
On the other hand, maybe you aren’t really trying.
To repeat myself, the dream itself might offer a resolution, or you might have to figure it out for yourself. Or both.
Resolution: The Loose End
After going through the steps of DREAMS 1-2-3 to analyze and interpret a dream and uncover its connections with you and your life, you might find that you get to the end and there’s one detail, maybe more, you can’t figure out. Your interpretation could be off-track; your hypothesis for the meaning is incorrect. Dr. Carl Jung and other great dream interpreters advise us to watch out for these loose ends in dream interpretation. Everything in the dream has to fit together into a big picture for you to be confident that your interpretation is correct.
A loose end might be the resolution embedded in the dream-story and presented as a detail, one that you can’t fit into the picture any other way than as the resolution. Resolution is often the oddly shaped piece of the puzzle, the detail that balks at being categorized or fit into the story. It can present itself as a story element — setting, character, symbol — or narrative component — action or reaction — but can’t be interpreted the same as other dream details that fall into those categories.
Let’s dive into an example.
Working for the Family Business
A woman dreams that she’s working behind the counter at her family’s business. A commotion breaks out in the lobby and she dreads having to deal with it. No one else is around though, so the responsibility falls on her. Then she notices the character Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the lobby, and Faith has no legs. Near the exit door she sees a young boy who appears to want to leave the scene.
[To my longtime readers, please excuse my prior attempts to disguise the source of this dream. Years ago, I presented this dream with Bruce Lee substituted for Faith, and the boy dressed in a baseball uniform. The dream is very personal for the dreamer and goes to the heart of her family situation at the time, so I protected her identity by changing some details. Now I’m free to tell the story.]
This is a fun dream to work with and a favorite example of how dreams offer suggestions for resolution in the story. Here’s the break down:
- The family business symbolizes business the dreamer does for her family. The meaning is found in the alternative definition of the term. She works for her family in the sense of planning holidays, preparing, arranging, cleaning up. She handles finances and takes care of the family home. Her family doesn’t actually have a business, so we focus on the symbolism of it.
- The commotion in the lobby has two-fold meaning. One, family occasions tend to be full of little dramas. Full of commotion is a good way to describe them. Two, the dreamer’s inner life is in commotion because she’s tired of the responsibility for everything always falling on her. Extended members of the family get to enjoy the benefits without pitching in much to help. It’s a pattern that’s persisted for a long time and the dreamer is sick of it. That’s why, in the dream, she dreads being the only one to deal with the commotion in the lobby. Her reaction in the dream reveals her feelings.
- Faith is another multilayered symbol. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the character is an ass-kicking, takes-no-shit gal. The dreamer really wants to start kicking the asses of family members who are all take and no give. But she can’t — the time isn’t right. You can’t kick ass without legs, right? View that modifier of the dream symbol as symbolism for the dreamer’s feeling that she can’t kick asses in her family despite her desire to do so.
- And there’s more. Faith is a wordplay for faith meaning “belief or trust.” On one level, she’s losing faith in some members of her family. On another level, she has no faith in a higher power that sees and aids her in her endeavors to care for her family. That’s the sort of work she expects to get help with from above.
The young boy near the door is the final detail to fit into the picture. He doesn’t play a role in the story other than to be in the scene. We know the dream puts him into the story for a reason because dreams have reasons for every detail. The boy, though, doesn’t appear to connect the dots with anything else in the dream. He’s just there.
Now view him as the dream’s resolution. What’s it really saying? Within the context of the dream-story, he’s placed near the exit door. Ah-ha! That’s a clue. You have to know the dreamer for it to be obvious, but if you observe how she goes about the family business you’d know her gritty resolve to do it right. Family occasions are beautifully prepared. She runs the family home like a dedicated employee, with close attention to detail and deep care. What no one sees are the times when she retreats to quietly have a nervous breakdown. She really turns the screws hard to do everything right and make everyone happy. It’s a source of her inner commotion, though, when she feels alone in that endeavor. However, her habit is to plow ahead no matter what personal cost is incurred.
With that in mind, we see a suggestion in the presence of the young boy character to walk away when she needs to. In the Faith character we see that she doesn’t feel empowered to walk away — the character can’t walk with no legs, right? And besides, that’s not who the dreamer is — she’d never walk away from her family nor do anything that even hints at giving up. No, what the dream is really saying is, “take a break before too much pressure builds within you.” Some people can’t walk away, even temporarily. They have to learn to give themselves permission. And indeed, after the dreamer applies this advice she is better able to handle her family business. It’s not a Fairy Godmother solution where the problem is solved with a wave of a magic wand, but it’s the beginning of the dreamer feeling empowered. Later, she even starts kicking ass by speaking up when family members fall back into old patterns of raising a fuss and slacking off.
My beautiful wife Lisa is the person who had this dream.
Take Matters Into Your Hands
Sometimes a dream won’t offer a resolution until you become proactive. You have to do something about the situation or take steps that allow the dream to respond. Decide to turn around and face the thing chasing you, stop running, stand your ground, or at least find a safe place to hide. The dynamics of the situation have to change or you will continue to be pursued. Once you take action, the dream can respond. This is especially true of recurring dreams. They have a few reasons for recurring, and one is, they continue a story, but you have to make the right decisions at critical times or it can’t continue. Your dreams will then tell you the same story another way and see if that helps you get to the resolution.
As you dream, you walk through the story. When it needs a resolution or is naturally working toward it, you find it by playing along. And the funny thing is, by making the right decisions while dreaming, you see the response in your life. Doors open. Opportunities knock. Fears go away. Answers come.
Let’s say that you have a recurring dream about a monster chasing you. You can’t identify what it symbolizes. Night after night you are chased and it’s disturbing your sleep. Finally you get fed up and confront the monster. You scream at the top of your lungs, “STOP CHASING ME!!!” Then the monster shrinks down to a small child holding a blanket. You feel silly when you realize you’ve actually been running from a harmless child. Your action gives the dream an opportunity to respond. The response helps you identify the dream symbolism, and by identifying the symbolism, you can find resolution.
A small child holding a blanket can symbolize feeling insecure. So the question is, what are you insecure about? Or, in what way do you need comforted? What basic needs are escaping your attention?
Imagine the person who plays fast and loose with their money and somewhere deep inside they know they’re courting disaster. It manifests in their dreams as a monster chasing them. The inner child is at the core of the story because it feels the most vulnerable. It can’t manage your money for you!
- Resolution: better handle finances. Give the inner child the security it needs.
The same imagery could symbolize feeling too insecure to pursue a romantic interest. The desire has been pursuing you but you’ve been ignoring it, and anything ignored or repressed is going to be the subject of dreams, even nightmares. This general dream scenario can apply to a variety of situations in life.
- Resolution: figure out the source of the insecurity and take steps to address it.
More Common Dreams and Their Resolutions
Three more common dream scenarios and possibilities for resolutions:
- Intruders around your house
- Something stolen
Intruders in or around your house can symbolize privacy issues, boundary issues, or anything that’s intrusive. That includes external factors such as someone intruding into your life, or internal factors such as intrusive thoughts or feelings.
- Resolution: think through the situation and take action. Give yourself more privacy. Set and enforce boundaries. Identify the intruders in your life and keep them at a comfortable distance.
For example, a woman dreams that an unwelcome stranger is at her front door, which is unlocked. She desperately wants to lock the door and keep out the stranger. In her waking life, she had recently been contacted by her father, a stranger in her life whom she had previously welcomed back and regretted it. The dream is sending a message that she doesn’t want to give him another chance. She had debated with herself — it’s her father, after all, and she wants to give him the benefit of the doubt — and the dream shows how she really feels.
- Resolution: keep her estranged father out of her life.
Murder in a dream can indicate something needs to change. You are frustrated or angry and need to vent. A bad situation has gone on too long, or you are stuck in a place or situation in your life that you want to leave. Something is “killing you” in the figurative sense, such as in the phrase “the stress is killing me.”
- Resolution: make the needed changes; deal with your anger; find an outlet for your feelings and emotions; relieve stress.
Something stolen from you can represent that an important part of your life is missing. Most likely, whatever’s stolen is not material or physical. The thing taken could be decision-making ability, freedom, independence, confidence, opportunity, or self-esteem. Or perhaps you feel taken advantage of or treated unfairly. Perhaps someone stole your heart, or something stole your confidence. The source might be an external factor, such as a person or situation, or an internal factor, something about you that is like a thief in the night.
- Resolution: identify what’s been taken, or how you are being taken advantage of, and decide what to do about it.
Explore Further: Dreams that offer resolution: