What’s Up With the ‘What-If?’ Dream?

In your dreams, you can and will explore alternate scenarios—even if you rarely do so when you’re awake.

It’s a good idea to be ready for it.

Otherwise, when it happens, it can throw you for a loop.

You/I can’t think that. It’s wrong.

It doesn’t work that way. That’s stupid.

You’ve got to hurry. There’s no time to mess around with thinking like that.

Those are some of the phrases your conscious mind might tell itself when it thinks about your particular “what-if” dream.

Paying too much attention to what your conscious mind says about it will impact creativity. Follow though on dream journaling and interpretation.

You’re never going to try to do something differently if you think that way all the time.

If you don’t do anything different, you’re never going to create anything.

The conscious and subconscious play by different rules

Your subconscious mind isn’t under the same prohibitions the conscious mind is. When your subconscious thinks something, you can keep it to yourself. You don’t have to share with anyone else. It’s a good thing that it works like that, too. What a narrow life it would be, otherwise!

You’re laying there in bed for hours each day. You’ve got no place to go, for a while anyway. You’ve got the freedom to consider alternatives and other scenarios.

The fact your subconscious will do this when you sleep can lead you to creativity if you let it, especially if you take a few minutes to remember your dreams, write them down, and understand them.

Creativity = Happiness

It feels so good, so free, to have the freedom to create.

Not everyone has it.

Sometimes it’s because of the world around them. There’s not the luxury of being free to create. Life, for them, is more about keeping the nose to the grindstone, getting the job done no matter what.

It doesn’t matter whether it is or isn’t true, whether they do or don’t have to be that way. What matters is how they feel about it.

Sometimes the barrier is of the person’s own making. They’re too afraid to fail. The thought of failing is intolerable.

That attitude is incompatible with creating. If you’re truly creating, you’re going to fail. Making something great is a process of trial and error.

In dreams, however, everyone can create. There’s time to do it. There’s the freedom. You can explore “what ifs” to your heart’s content.

Even if you don’t have the freedom or ability to create in real life, you can do it in your dreams.

“What if” dreams in a nutshell

These dreams can be tricky to understand.

They can present ideas that plainly aren’t true.

Some will be silly.

Some of their ideas will even be offensive to the waking mind.

When you have a dream like this, consider whether it’s just an alternate scenario your subconscious is considering.

It’s asking, “If this was (or wasn’t) true, what would it be like?”

Change of perceptions

When you realize you’ve had a “what if” dream, your perceptions may change about yourself.

You may have been strategizing about something that you didn’t know you thought much about.

You may have felt like you were always reacting as if you were on a trigger, sometimes being manipulated.

In this case, dream journaling is revealing a different part of yourself to yourself improving your ego integrity, your sense of self.


James Cobb, RN, MSN is the founder of the Dream Recovery System, one of the top sleep and dreaming sites on the Internet. Know your dreams, know yourself!

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