Can a dream dictionary help you understand your dream symbols?

Dream dictionaries would have you believe you can simply look up a book and it will tell you exactly what your dreams mean. Oh, if only understanding your own dream symbols were that simple!

Dreams speak to us in our own secret code.

A symbol in my dream might look exactly like yours, but have a profoundly different meaning. This is especially true when we come from different cultures and speak different languages. For example, a bear in a dream may be a spiritual guide to a shamanic person, a symbol of the stock market to a financier, a trophy symbol of success to a hunter, a fearsome predator to someone else, a reminder of childhood comfort via a teddy bear to another, and so on.

There are however some dream symbols that have common meanings, based on our shared human experience. The more we have in common with another person – shared language, culture, value systems, experiences and so on, the more likely symbols in dreams will also have some common meanings. Some symbols are so universal that they may appear with similar meaning in dreams across the globe. Elements such as water and fire, natural items such as rocks and plants, basic requirements such as food and shelter can all have some common meanings that you may get useful insights when “looking up” their meaning.

There are many wonderful resources to help you understand your dream symbols, and there are some not so good ones as well. Because of the mystery that dreams and the subconscious have been shrouded in for many generations, dream interpretation has fallen victim to superstition and misunderstanding. When using a book, guide or online resource to understand your dreams, keep in mind:

A good resource will give you more than one suggestion as to what a symbol may mean. There is no definitive rule that one symbol means the same thing to all people.
A good resource will take more than a few words to explore the possible meanings of a symbol. Symbols communicate beyond words, and may contain contradictory elements. By their very nature they are complex and subtle, if they could be distilled to just one or two words, then symbols would have no purpose.
Be wary of guides or dictionaries that indicate your dream is about something that will happen in the future, or that foretell doom, disaster or bad luck. Any dream you may have about the future will be extremely personal to you. Bad luck symbols in dreams are as superstitious as bad luck symbols in real life. The power they do have is if you believe in them and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You must always remain critical when reading other people’s suggestions for your own dream meanings – if it doesn’t seem right for you, discard it. No one knows your own personal circumstances better than you do!