Understanding Dreams Can Help Solve Problems

Dreams are the way the subconscious mind gives solutions to conflicts, says Layne Dalfen, a Montreal dream analyst.
The trick, she believes, is to translate the metaphors in a dream in order to identify what each person or thing in it represents and what message is being given by the dream as a whole.

Dalfen has just published a book on the subject, Have a Great Dream, (Adams Media Corporation, 2002). While she is a Gestalt counselor with training in dream analysis in the traditions of Alfred Adler and Carl Jung, her book is for lay people. “I synthesized the information I have gained into plain English.”

Dalfen is a member of the C.G. Jung society and the association for the Study of Dreams.
She will be in Toronto to promote her book the week of Sept. 22, when she will appear on CTV’s Canada AM and CITY-TV, on CFRB radio and in Chapters bookstore throughout the city.

In a telephone interview, Dalfen stressed that “you are the only person who can really understand your dreams. Your own past, your own history, your own experiences are expressed in them.”

Dalfen’s job is to help her clients understand what a dream is all about.
As an example, a client she calls Melanie dreamed about carrying a huge laundry basket up some stairs. She was having a lot of trouble because there were so many people in her way. At the top, there was a huge, terrifying man, who nevertheless made the people move so she could get up the stairs.

Using the insight that “all the characters in a dream are you; you give the metaphors,” Dalfen discovered that Melanie was going to school, holding down a job and was pregnant – a heavy load for anyone.

The man at the top of the stairs was frightening to Melanie even though he helped her, because Melanie was basically not an assertive person. However, “that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have it in her to be more aggressive,” Dalfen said.

She had the strength to say that the job was too much for her and that her husband would have to carry the financial load, Dalfen said. In effect, “she has to become that big guy.”

The wonderful aspect of the human condition, Dalfen said, is that “you are born with all the characteristics you will have. Your parents teach you it is better to be one way or another.”

Somewhere along the line, Dalfen said, Melanie had learned that it is not OK to say “no” to people. “She was over invested in being accommodating, and underinvested in being selfish.”

Dalfen stressed that she is not implying that change is simply a matter of understanding the messages in your dreams. In fact, you may have several different dreams that all suggest ways to solve whatever problem is bothering you at the moment.

The dreams indicate your subconscious wants you to pay attention to that problem, she said. However, she added, the priorities of the subconscious mind may be different then those you are aware of when you are awake.

Although some dream metaphors are fairly universal, such as being chased, others may be more individual. For instance, dalfen said that for her, a cat in a dream signifies arrogant independence and a lack of affection and need for others, characteristics she does not like. “I would have to ask myself, is another person behaving like that? Am I?”

Her Daughter, on the other hand, loves cats but can’t have one because of allergies. To her, a relationship that is not good for her.
Dalfen said that while a dream may point to an ongoing problem, “at the first level, it addresses something very current.”

For example, dreaming about being chased is a common metaphor for being overwhelmed or afraid. The point, she said, is to work out “why you are being chased this week.”

A nightmare is somewhat different from a regular dream, she said. “It grabs your attention. Your (subconscious) wants you to do something right away.”

Listening to the message, she said, “frees the energy that is wrapped up in conflict.”

Dalfen emphasized that interpreting dreams “Isn’t rocket science.” If someone has a serious psychological or psychiatric problem, she sends then to the appropriate therapist.

Her dream interpretation center – founded in 1997 in Montreal as the first such institute in Canada – aims to discover how problems or issues are addressed in dreams, to learn how dreams can reveal what prevents people from dealing with problems, to recognize what is going on in waking life and to learn how to identify and work with dream symbols.


by Leila Speisman