Introduction/ What Are Dreams?/ Understanding Symbols/ Next The Unconscious/ Discovering the Inner Self
Interpreting the Dream/ Resources & Guides for the Dreamer

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The Importance of Dreams


Symbols and Metaphor
The Language of Dreams

What Are Symbols?

Communication element intended to represent or stand for a person, object, group, process, or idea. Symbols may be presented graphically (e.g., the cross for Christianity, or the light/dark halved circle for yin-yang) or representational (e.g., Uncle Sam standing for the U.S., or a lion standing for courage). They may involve associated letters (e.g., C for the chemical element carbon), or they may be assigned arbitrarily (e.g., the mathematical symbol for infinity or the dollar symbol). Symbols are not a language of and by themselves; rather they are devices by which ideas often too complex or highly charged to articulate in ordinary language are transmitted between people sharing a common culture. Every society has evolved a symbol system that reflects a specific cultural logic; and every symbolism functions to communicate information between members of the culture in much the same way as, but more subtly than, conventional language. Though a symbol may take the discrete form of a wedding ring or a totem pole, symbols tend to appear in clusters and depend on one another for their accretion of meaning and value.

What Is Metaphor?

Metaphor, from the Greek for "transference," is the use of language that designates one thing to designate another in order to characterize the latter in terms of the former. Nominal metaphors use nouns in this way, as in "My daughter is an angel." Predicative metaphors use verbs, as in "The dog flew across the back yard." In addition to single words being used metaphorically, phrases, sentences, and more extended texts can also function as metaphors, as in the assertion "Bravely the troops carried on" to refer to telephone operators who continued to work during a natural disaster. Sometimes a metaphor can be recognized because it is literally false. When a proud father says, "My daughter is an angel," no one believes that she has wings. But a metaphor need not be literally false. The opposite assertion -- that one's daughter is no angel -- is literally true; she does not have wings. Yet this is not likely to be the speaker's intended meaning, nor is it likely to be a hearer's interpretation. In each of these two cases, hearers must go beyond the literal meaning to arrive at the speaker's intention -- what the hearer is intended to understand.

Symbols As Metaphor
Understanding symbols within the dream requires a knowledge of metaphor. The interpreter is at a complete loss if there is not an awareness of metaphor and it's relationship of symbol to dreamer. Dream symbols represent an aspect, sometimes more than just one aspect, of the dreamer's psyche {the total condition; physical, psychological, spiritual}. Metaphor is the translation of the symbol to a descriptive condition of the dreamer, using images from the psyche, some personal, others collective, that illuminates an emotion which has acquired psychic energy. When the emotion is strong enough to cause conflict within the dreamer's sub-conscious, and this is due to the psychic state of being of the dreamer, images within the dream appear as metaphorical references to the causation to the disturbance. The mechanism of repression can keep these conflicts hidden from conscious view but they still exist just below the surface of the conscious mind {sub-conscious}. Often there is a stimulus that causes the hidden conflict{s} to re-appear, first within the dream and eventually into conscious light where the dreamer comes face to face with the dilemma. Sometimes the inner conflict is projected onto someone else. As long as the dreamer refuses to acknowledge the conflict within, the waking life will demonstrate the conflict in some form or projection. Life will not find harmony, can not achieve happiness desired and often causes outward conflict with family and friends.

The house on fire within a dream is a symbolic metaphorical reference to the condition of the dreamer, at the time of the dream. As discussed earlier a house is a symbol for the dreamer. It is a metaphorical reference, using the language of symbols to describe an aspect{s} of the dreamer's psyche. Metaphor means 'same as' and the house is the 'same as' symbol representing the dreamer. The fire may symbolize greed, love, anger, passion and so on. But it too is a metaphorical reference to the dreamer's condition. Determining which possibilities fit the dreamer {is the dreamer angry at something, is that passion within the dreamer's life, has greed overcome the senses of the dreamer?} is a process that must be worked through. Comparing the waking life of the dreamer and the know conditions which form that ego life to the symbolic references in the dream provides clues to what the dream message might be. The conflict in image form within the dream is a metaphor {same as} the true condition of the dreamer's life. The conflict may be unconscious, repressed, ignored or has never been properly acknowledged. If it has enough psychic energy it will remain in the unconscious until it is acknowledged.

Myth and Metaphor

The imagery of mythology is metaphor for the spiritual powers within the psyche. Myths are formed out of the human psyche and their reference is to experiences of the human life, inner life as well as the outward ego life. Just as in the dream, images in mythology are formed that represent the human condition. These images are displayed in the rituals of the tribe {cultures, societies}. Religious rituals are representations of the images often acquired from dream imagery. Too often the imagery is taken as a literal fact and the significance of the symbol is lost. As in the dream the imagery of myth has to be metaphorically interpreted to arrive at a correct interpretation. Death and resurrection is symbolic of the human condition undergoing a 'change', death to the old condition and a resurrection to a new life. Changing jobs, a divorce, moving to a new home, are examples of the causation of dreams that may picture a death image in a dream. It is metaphor for what is taking place in the dreamer's life, as seen from a third person, without bias and prejudices. Christ on the cross is a mythological reference to the human life, metaphor for a death and resurrection of the psychic {symbolic}. Understanding the metaphor let's us understand the reference to the symbol and not get lost in a literal translation that leads nowhere. Misinterpreting the symbols, whether it be in the dream or the myth can distort the true value of the symbolic reference.

Introduction/ What Are Dreams?/ Understanding Symbols/ The Unconscious/ Discovering the Inner Self
Interpreting the Dream/ Resources & Guides for the Dreamer

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