Dream mapping reveals what’s in your mind

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Ever wake up from a dream so bizarre that you’re questioning how your mind came up with that scenario? Chances are, that figment of your subconscious is holding powerful revelations about your inner self that you haven’t had the opportunity to process in your waking moments. Discover how to use the powerful techniques of dream mapping to understand what your dreams are trying to tell you.

A woman in pajamas is lying down and sleeping on a cloud against a blue sky.
Discover the hidden truths behind your dreams through dream mapping. Use these revelations to become more self-aware. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

The science behind dreams

The brain is capable of amazing things, including the ability to conjure dreams that replicate reality. So, how does this phenomenon occur from a neurological standpoint?

The brain contains billions of neurons that create electrical activity. These patterns of electrical activity are categorized into five states of brainwaves. When you start to fall asleep, your brainwaves progress through these states, each leading to deeper levels of sleep. Most dreams occur during the rapid eye movement or REM stage of sleep. This is when your brain produces beta waves, which is interestingly similar to when you’re awake. 

Dreams often reflect your lived experiences and emotions that have been pieced together in a bizarre scenario. That’s because, during sleep, your brain is processing new memories, stabilizing them into more permanent long-term storage in the brain and pulling together related memories, according to Dheeraj Roy, a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT McGovern Institute

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How to create a dream map

If you’re interested in figuring out the deeper underlying meaning behind your bizarre dreams, it’s worth digging into your subconscious. Creating a dream map by recording and interpreting your dreams is one way to unlock those hidden insights.

Suppose a specific scenario of you eating chicken pot pie casserole at Christmas keeps reappearing. In that case, chances are, there’s more to it than the dream implying you really enjoy the dish. Perhaps something significant occurred during one of those Christmas dinners, or you miss quality family time. Analyzing dreams — no matter how random they are — can tell you a lot about emotions you haven’t had time to process in real life.

To dream map, you must record your dreams as soon as you wake up and with as much detail as possible. Keep a dream journal by your bedside to make this easier — this journal will slowly map out your dream world. Write down every detail, from the setting to people, dialogue, smells, sounds and emotions, even if it seems minute. What you thought was unimportant usually ends up symbolizing something significant in the bigger picture as you dive into the analysis.

Interpreting your dreams

After you’ve written down your dreams, it’s time to find out what it means. Use this popular four-step dream analysis framework by Jungian psychotherapist, Robert Johnson, to interpret your dreams.

Step 1: Associations

The first step is to make associations with each dream detail you’ve recorded. To help provoke thought, ask yourself what feelings you have about the dream image or if any words or ideas pop up when you think about it. 

These associations are personal to you, so fight the urge to look at a dream dictionary for inspiration. It may feel silly to think deeply about those Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets that appeared in your dream, but maybe those were a rare treat your parents gave you on special occasions. Feelings of nostalgia or thoughts about childhood can be associations you give to this dream image.

Step 2: Dynamics

Here, you make connections to how those associations relate to your inner self. Taking your dreams literally is an easy fallback, but it’s often not an accurate representation of the underlying meaning your subconscious is trying to hint at. 

To dig deeper, ask yourself where you have seen each association play an active part in your life recently, what part of you is in that or what traits you have in common with the dream image. Dreams often reflect what’s going on internally, so this step helps you identify which parts of your inner self your dreams are speaking to.

Step 3: Interpretations

You’ve set the stage with the first two steps, and now it’s time to put it all together and find the central message of the dream. It’s a bit like working with pieces of a puzzle and fitting them until it makes sense. It’s not going to be an immediate a-ha moment, but there are a few guidelines to make sure you’re on the right path and not just self-validating on a whim.

The interpretation should tell you something you don’t know. You should also avoid going for interpretations that are ego-inflating or ones that put the blame on others.

Step 4: Rituals

This last step recommended by Robert Johnson’s framework is to perform a small physical act that honors your dream’s message, like lighting a candle or other forms of aromatherapy. This allows you to integrate the dream and its learnings into your conscious mind and acknowledge to your subconscious that you’ve received the message.

The benefits of dream mapping

Doing this inner reflection can feel uncomfortable, but dream analysis can provide new perspectives into the thoughts and emotions you’re experiencing during your waking moments. As dreams are a manifestation of your current state of mind, they hold powerful insights that can inform your daily life. 

Once you dive into the practice of dream interpretation, you’ll realize that even the most random dreams hold truth to them that can inspire self-growth and reflection. Repetitive dreams about standing in a motionless line to order Panda Express teriyaki chicken for lunch aren’t just a reflection of your cravings — they represent feeling stuck in life. This awareness can encourage you to start taking control and directing your own path.

Gain insight into your inner world

Dreams may seem insignificant, especially as you have them every night and wake up often forgetting about the events that your subconscious transpired. However, its contents reflect your current state of mind and contain symbolic meanings that can help you come to revelations. By dream mapping and using Robert Johnson’s analysis framework, you can pull back the curtains and gain insight into your inner world.

Mandy Applegate is the creator behind Splash of Taste and three other high-profile food blogs. She’s also co-founder of Food Drink Life Inc, the unique and highly rewarding collaborative blogger project. Her articles appear frequently on major online news sites and she always has her eyes open to spot the next big trend.

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