How to explore a dream symbol? Let’s start with a common dream image – a house. A house in a dream may be a grand castle or a simple hut. The dream house can appear as a spacious urban loft, a cozy country cottage or an intriguing igloo. A house in a dream may be totally unfamiliar to you or one as easy to recognize as your childhood home or grandmother’s house. The setting of the dream is very important. Any storyteller of literature or film knows the importance of setting and a house appearing in a dream is an important part of its setting.
When pondering the meaning of a dream image you can begin by reflecting upon your actual life experience. In the case of a house, contemplate your actual experience of home – isn’t it an extension of you? In this sense the house in a dream can reflect your current state of being both psychologically and physically. A house is your very own personal and intimate space. It is your inside, private and personal space that is separate from the outside, public space. It is a protected space that reflects who you currently are. This reflection on both the universal nature of a dream image and on your personal experience reveals the meaning of the symbol in your dream.
To get down to the basics, it can be helpful for the dreamer to imagine they’re describing what the dream image is to an individual who is from another planet and who has no familiarity with life on earth. This technique is useful because it helps break through preconceived notions about dream symbols, particularly those we would consider familiar, like a house. A dreamer may associate a house with a place of security, comfort, protection, familiarity or belonging. But whatever words the dreamer chooses – it’s the dreamer’s own words that reveal the meaning of the dream image for them.
If a dreamer explored an unfamiliar house in their dream it may indicate they are in a time ripe for new possibilities they have yet to explore in waking life. In this case the dream is encouraging the dreamer to be open to new life experiences that their conscious mind might dismiss.
A house is a complex and personal dream symbol. The different areas of a house in a dream may represent different realms of the dreamer’s psychological world. Unfamiliar rooms may indicate there are unexplored areas within, new internal potentials to experience. If the dreamer did not explore a room or area due to anxiety while dreaming, they can explore that space by re-imagining themselves there. At My Dream Life we call this Dream Re-Living because it brings the dream to life in the present moment. Another option is to use the dream incubation method on subsequent nights to Re-Live the dream again while sleeping and explore that space (as described in the DREAM LIFE BLOG “Creative Dream Problem Solving”).
Here at MY DREAM LIFE we support the dreamer in exploring options, even anxiety producing ones, rather than avoiding them since the same fears will likely return in another dream and may be limiting the dreamer in daily life. Dreamers can have confidence in exploring the unknown in a dream since their psyche is leading them there to experience something yet revealed, resolved or realized – a new chapter in life.
As a reflection of who you are, a house in a dream that is familiar to you can be a marker of time. It is fairly common to dream of returning to a house you knew in childhood. A dream of a house from the past may reflect a wish to return to a time of childhood openness. However a familiar house can also signify a recurrence in the dreamer’s life of concerns or issues from a past era and it can be helpful to consciously make that association. For example, one dreamer had several dreams in the setting of her childhood home from ages 11-16. When engaged in dream discovery she remembered that era in her life as clearly marked by her parent’s divorce. In her current waking life she was once again experiencing similar feelings of insecurity in her relationships and had been surprised by some of her behavior. The dream clearly communicated that the childhood experience of her parent’s divorce was being stimulated by her current situation. The dreamer’s waking mind did not have this insight. It needed the help of her dreaming mind. Understanding that her current behavior was linked to a past experience gave this dreamer enough perspective to feel more free in the situation since she could now make choices more consciously. And, as is often the case, the dream gave the dreamer more guidance for being successful in her situation.
Here are some questions to guide dreamers in continuing to discover the meaning of a house in a dream – similar questions can be used for any dream symbol
How does it feel to experience this particular house? It should be emphasized that the dreamer’s own words reveal the meaning of the experience for them. Does the house feel inviting? Interesting? Foreboding? Sad?
Does it seem familiar? Has the dreamer ever experienced a similar environment? If the house is familiar, explore any associations to this particular house and the time period the dreamer recalls when they think about this house.
Is the space small or large? How does the dreamer experience the smallness or spaciousness? Does it feel confining or cozy? Overwhelming or welcoming with possibility?
What is the lighting like? How does it feel? Does it provoke a mood? What are the colors? What feelings do the colors invite?
Is the house new and modern? Or is it old? Does it seem to need repairs?
Cliff House, San Francisco, 1894
What is unique or interesting about this particular house? Since dream symbols can be viewed as reflecting an aspect of the dreamer is there anything about this house that seems like the dreamer’s personality or current circumstances? Is there anything about it the dreamer wishes they experienced more in waking life? In the case of a house image an example might be a feeling of spaciousness or security in life. If the dreamer gave the house a voice, what might this dream house have to say?
The dreamer’s own experience and insight reveals the meaning of the dream for them.
In a nutshell, what is happening in or around this house? Does the situation seem to reflect current concerns, challenges, dilemmas or perhaps desires in the dreamer’s waking life? In the dream, who lives in the house? How does the dreamer feel about the inhabitants? Are they familiar? What are the contents of this house? Do any objects seem significant? Familiar?
Is the house on a single floor or are there various levels? What is the setting, is it urban or rural? Is it located in an upscale enclave or a destitute hinterland? Is it on a dead end street or in the middle of a freeway? Surrounded by water? Perched on a perilous cliff? Anything is possible in a dream!
The different areas of a house in a dream may represent different realms of the dreamer’s psychological world. If the dream activity takes place in a particular part of the house is it the kitchen, attic, bedroom or bathroom? Different rooms suggest different activities and meaning. For example, the attic and the basement are typically where things from the past are stored.
If the dream activity takes place in the kitchen what does the dreamer associate with a kitchen? To get down to the basics, how would they imagine describing a kitchen to someone from another planet? Generally, a kitchen is a place of change and transformation. The raw becomes the cooked and provides nourishment. The kitchen is also involved with the preservation of health. What are the specifics of this particular kitchen in the dream?
The bathroom is a also a place associated with the preservation of health through activities related to cleanness, release and elimination. It is a very private space and can also be associated with feelings of shame. Does the dreamer have more specific associations? The bedroom is the other private space and where we rest, experience sex and surrender to sleep (and dreams!).
Conversely the porch, portico or gateway is a threshold or place of transition between the outer, public world and the inner, private life. This is the space where both guests and strangers may first appear and be invited in or may intrude into our private space.
As a reflection of the dreamer’s state of being, the house in a dream can reflect not only the dreamer’s current psychological state but also their physical well-being. If the house is in need of repair or is otherwise in disarray, the dreamer might consider getting a medical check especially if they have been ignoring what they think is an insignificant symptom.
If the house has missing or broken windows, the dreamer’s associations to windows can offer insight. Does the dreamer describe windows as keeping warmth inside or as a protection from the elements? Or do they focus on windows as a place of transparency where others can view the dreamer’s inner dwelling space and the dreamer can keep abreast of what lies beyond their inner sanctum? Among other things, missing or broken windows can suggest personal boundaries in relationships may be broken and need attention.
Finally, in what way are the specifics of the dream image relevant to the dreamer’s life experience right now? This is always an important question since, even though dreams can sometimes refer to previous times, they tend to reveal something we may not be paying attention to now or need to sort out in our current life.
Discovering Other Dream Symbols
Dreamers can use the questions offered here as a reference for beginning to explore other dream symbols. You might first try it with another common dream symbol such as a vehicle that can express how you’re experiencing your current capacity for navigating through life. Dreamers gain fluency in symbolic language by contemplating the various meanings for dream symbols and considering the parallels between these associations and what is happening in daily life.
Keeping a dream journal offers the opportunity to explore dream images over time. The Dream Discovery Workbook is a guided dream journal produced by My Dream Life and available here. Participation in a dream group supports dreamers in learning the language of symbols and reflecting upon the multiple levels of meaning of dream images. You’re most welcome to Join Us at My Dream Life in a DREAM CIRCLE.
A dream dictionary cannot reveal the depth of your dream experience. Dream dictionaries that give a specific meaning for a dream symbol are helpful only as a starting point for becoming familiar with symbolic language. Some people interested in dreams theorize that there are typical meanings associated with symbols that persist across diverse cultures and times and these can be cataloged for general reference in a dream dictionary. There is an element of truth in this however the personal feelings and associations of the dreamer reveal much more about the dream’s specific meaning and message for them than a dream dictionary ever will. For example, a tiger in a dream can mean one thing to someone whose favorite childhood toy was a stuffed tiger and something quite different to a person who goes on safari. As mythologist Joseph Campbell cautioned, “Don’t lose the message in the symbol. When the symbol is considered a fact, you’ve mistaken the message.”
It is important to remember that the dreamer’s own experience and insight reveals the meaning of their dream symbol that is personal to them. The philosophy at MY DREAM LIFE is that a single dream image can have multiple meanings for an individual and those meanings can evolve over time as the person continues to reflect upon the image. An extraordinary depth of self-awareness and wisdom can be inspired from discovery of your dreams.
Dream symbols are like multi-faceted diamonds. When we appreciate a dream symbol from different points of view, the light of consciousness illuminates each facet in all its uniqueness revealing multiple meanings for all dreamers.
Part of the value of a dream group is that the wisdom of your dream will speak to everyone in the group and other dreamers’ responses will enrich your own experience of your dream.
MY DREAM LIFE Dream Circles offer fun and accessible opportunities to learn about dreams through live interactive experiences with the synergy and support of a small group of dreamers like yourself and a professional mentor. You’re most welcome to JOIN US in a DREAM CIRCLE or CONTACT for a DREAM CONSULTATION.
Got your Dream Discovery Workbook? It’s a guided dream journal. Find out more – DREAM DISCOVERY WORKBOOK: A GUIDED DREAM JOURNAL.
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Salvador Dali painting: The Persistence of Memory
Thumbnail photo: Bodiam Castle, 1385