The Symbol Language Of Dreams Parallels Verbal and Sign Language

Too bad there’s no Duolingo or Babbel to help you speak and understand the symbolic language of dreams.

Does this mean that you’re going to have to learn some other way to interpret your dreams?

Not hardly.

The adage says, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

That becomes a whole lot of words when you consider all of the images your average dream has!

Images in a dream can be packed with meaning

Probably not a thousand words, but images in a dream can be packed with meaning. Meanings are conveyed simply with pictures that would otherwise take a whole lot of writing or speaking to get across. It can be a struggle to remember all of the components of a dream.

If you want to get the most out of your dreams, be sure to use a mnemonic like PACTREPS. It can be hard to remember details from your dreams as thoughts from the waking world start to fill your mind.

Unfortunately, meanings can be misunderstood. Your subconscious shows you a car when it wants to tell you about your dog. It shows you a cup of coffee when it wants to make a point about your sleep. Then, to finish, it shows you a lake when it wants to tell you something about your girlfriend.

It can be hard to make sense of it all.

It’s like when somebody starts yammering away at you in a foreign language you don’t speak. You’re not always going to understand.

However, if that person starts making motions as if they’re eating, you’ll get an idea that they’re asking about food. Symbols work like that.

All languages are made up of words the fulfill different roles in sentences. These roles have terms like noun, adjective, and adverb. Altogether these parts of language make sentences that convey ideas, even in one of the variations of sign language.

Verbal language has parts of speech

For example: “Joe runs to the store.”

Let review.

“Joe” is a noun.

“Runs” is a verb.

“The store” is the object of the sentence.

Going from language to language, the words may change but the parts of speech they serve when expressing the idea don’t.

In Spanish: Joe corre a la tienda.

In French: Joe court au magasin.

Considering the symbolic language of dreams, the symbols may change from person to person, and even from dream to dream with the same person.

You don’t have a picture appear in your mind of the store running to Joe.

Just as grammar governs verbal speech, the symbolic language of dreams operates with rules too.

The parts of the subconscious’ symbol language

In the symbol language of the subconscious, the parts are object, meaning, and modifying.

The object refers to the particular object in the dream. There often is more than one object in a dream. Consider them individually unless there they are replicas of each other.

In a dream, objects have a meaning. The meaning is up to you to determine. The best way to do this is to reflect on what the particular object means to you.

Modifying refers to how one object interacts with another, often changing the meaning.

Example #1

Say you dream about a coffee shop in the shape of a coffee pot that’s set inside a hill. Let’s say the coffee shop represents business to you. It’s modified by the unique shape of the building on the environment and further modified on the hill by how its dug into the side.

Example #2

Say you have a dream where there is a machine in an office break room that dispenses hot coffee. The machine is broken. You’re busy fixing it while a dozen people wait. Finally, you think you’ve got it working. The machine discharges a stream of hot coffee into a garbage can. It might be fixed. You believe that next time you can release the coffee into a cup and these people can be ready to go.

As you reflect on the dream, you ask yourself what the coffee is symbolizing. You determine that it’s a symbol for sleep.

On the surface, that doesn’t make any sense. Coffee has caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant.

That’s when you have to look at the context of the dream, consider the parts of the dream as if they were parts of speech.

They are. Instead of speech, they’re parts of the dream language of the subconscious.

Object = coffee

Meaning = sleep

Modifying = what is affected by the coffee in the dream?

One component of the dream modifies the other.

Understand what the object is modifying requires noting the other items present in the dream.

People are waiting for coffee. The coffee machine is being fixed. The garbage can is affected by the coffee machine.

The people need coffee just like they need their sleep. Without coffee, they won’t be able to work for the day. Coffee is consumed as a replacement for rest.

By fixing the coffee machine, you’re fixing sleep.

The coffee also modifies the machine because it dispenses the coffee. Considered in this light, the coffee machine is a symbol of the sleep process.

The garbage can that receives the stream of coffee that’s expressed is the day. The dreamer is trying to get the sleep process right. It’s a process of trial and error.

Considered by itself, the meaning behind the objects in the dream would never be clear.

Considered as parts of speech in a symbolic dream language, it all becomes more clear.

Each object in the dream has a meaning and modifies one of the other items in the dream.

Often, when a dream doesn’t make sense, it’s because parts of the dream are forgotten.

That’s why to have the best chance of making use of the power of your dreams calls for you to use the full Dream Recovery System.

Beyond that, sometimes a clarifying dream can help.

More dreams to interpret: Stevie Nicks; Candy Jane; OKC

For further reading:

Not every dream has symbols. See: A Slice Of Life: Dreams Without Symbols.


Updated on April 21, 2021


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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