Why Do We Dream In Symbols?

The human brain and mind have been compared to a computer. Understanding why we dream in symbols is easier when you consider computers.

First, there are the parts of the computer you interact with. These include the keyboard, the monitor, and the mouse.

In addition, there are the programs you interact with.

This would include the graphical user interface (GUI), the information about the computer that you see displayed on a screen. Microsoft Windows is an example of a GUI. Ubuntu is another example of a GUI for a Linux system.

The language you speak is like a graphical user interface. You’re probably reading this in English unless it’s been translated. That means you speak and think in English. You put your thoughts into the way the English language is ordered. That means describing words (called adjectives) come before the person, place, or thing (called noun). Red book. Green car. Etc.

Not every language is ordered that way. In some, like Spanish, it’s the opposite.

Libro rojo. Carro verde.

And so on.

This programming, whether it’s a graphical user interface or a language, exists on the surface. Underneath, is the programming language.

The subconscious is like the computer program that runs the GUI.

Symbols, objects, and the meanings they assume to people become part of the programming language that runs our actions. We learn from our dreams, after all, both consciously and unconsciously.

When a computer program doesn’t run right, it sometimes must be fixed at the level of the programming language. So it is when it comes to ourselves.

It’s helpful to understand how the programming language is structured when the computer doesn’t work as well as it could. So it is when it comes to us, ourselves.


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse, sleep and dream expert, 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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