How To Have A Clarifying Dream

For generations, dream analysis teachers have suggested asking for a clarifying dream when you don’t understand the meaning of a dream. How do you do this?

Now and then, a dream journaler will encounter a symbol or two in their dream he or she doesn’t quite understand even after they’ve employed the 3-step dream interpretation process. 

When they do, they’ll often dismiss or ignore the symbols. They give up trying to understand them, perhaps assuming they were experiencing a bit of temporary craziness or jumbled thoughts. Maybe thinking of them as so much extraneous noise.

Or, perhaps, as nothing more than an oddity.

Don’t be too quick to do this. Consider it could only be that your subconscious mind chose some symbols your conscious mind didn’t understand.

Your subconscious is you, of course. Just as your subconscious is you, too. Yet they can miscommunicate. For whatever reason, your subconscious mind might not have communicated its perceptions well.

Or your conscious mind isn’t trying very hard to understand or is being too obtuse to understand the obvious.

It happens a lot in real life among people, like when you write a note to yourself and you don’t remember what it wholly refers to because you scribbled it or used an abbreviation that didn’t make sense.

Whatever the reason, it happens when we’re dreaming, too.

Messages have three components 

Any message has three components: a sender, a message, and a receiver. That’s true even within the human mind. A failure in any one of those three areas means the message won’t get through. 

It’s funny to think about how miscommunication can occur even within one’s mind! 

If it happens within one mind, do we have a chance of communicating with anyone else? 

When it does, dream experts like Edgar Cayce and Ann Faraday say you can request a clarifying dream from your subconscious.  

Often you will get it. 

What is a clarifying dream?

A clarifying dream is a dream that’s requested of the subconscious with the intent to understand what a previous dream’s meaning is.

How do you request a clarifying dream?

The process works pretty much like you telling yourself you’re going to remember your dreams when you go to sleep. Instead, think, “I didn’t understand what you meant by ____ in my dream last night. Please try to make it clearer, and I’ll do my best to understand.”  

Sometimes your subconscious mind responds with another dream that means much the same thing. 

Sometimes the subconscious will respond with a dream expressing impatience with the conscious mind. 

When I did this, my subconscious responded with a very vulgar dream. It expressed no small degree of impatience that my conscious mind couldn’t understand everything it was trying to communicate. 

The week before, I had requested another clarifying dream, and my subconscious complied. I understood on the second go around.  

Faraday states it’s like asking a performer who puts on five shows a night to repeat one of them. They wouldn’t necessarily be happy to do that.

Essay dreams

Sometimes the subconscious responds with a dream Cayce called an essay dream. 

The essay dream is a series of pictures accompanied by a verbal narration by a voice Cayce referred to as the interpreter or interviewer. 

That’s a lot different than the usual pictures and symbols. 

In The Dream Game, Faraday writes, “I always advise students to be satisfied when they have obtained a useful message from the dream — the fruit of the tree — which moves them to take constructive action in their lives. … There’s no need to push the river in trying to make every single dream item meaningful.” 

The image of the mind as having different parts is understandably uncomfortable for some people. Thinking deeper, however, why should the mind be any different than the body?  

“I always advise students to be satisfied when they have obtained a useful message from the dream—the fruit of the tree—which moves them to take constructive action in their lives. … There’s no need to push the river in trying to make every single dream item meaningful.”Ann Faraday

We worry about Multiple Personality Disorder, now known as Disassociative Identity Disorder. The subconscious expressing frustration via internal communication is no different than someone calling themselves “Dummy!” when they forget something. You wouldn’t worry about someone deriding themselves for some imperfection as having a mental illness. Neither should the realization your mind has different parts, and they communicate. By requesting a clarifying dream, you’re taking an active hand it the communication.

In both instances, the subconscious should patiently explain what it means, and nobody should call themselves “dummy” for forgetting something. 

Either way, Cayce recommends asking for clarifying dreams as soon as possible after having the perplexing dream, even within the same night. Most dream journalers don’t analyze their dreams on the same night, however, preferring to wait until the next morning when things tend to be more apparent.

For additional reading:

How to solve 16 types of problems with dream interpretation.

So, you had a stupid dream? What to do now.

How to talk to others about your psychic experiences.

Old dream journals may have the answer to your “Why?”


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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