The dream world is a rich and symbolic place, full of imagination, adventure, and fulfillment. Your dreams arise from within you and, therefore, are a manifestation of your own psychology.
Your personal dream world is a projection of who you are, communicated to your conscious mind through the language of symbols.
But where do dreams come from and how to do we create them?
Although the language of dreams is symbolic, the symbols that appear are part of each person’s own unique experiences and associations. Thus, the dream world is created using the images we see in our waking lives.
But it is not quite so straightforward. Yes, our minds use the images seen in our waking life, but those images do not always have the same straightforward meanings. Our subconscious mind works in symbols, so it uses the images from our waking lives as metaphors. On the physical level, a house is structure where you live. On the metaphorical level, a house could represent family, financial security, love and belonging – or lack thereof.
When a symbols shows up in our dream world, the meaning is interpreted on the metaphorical level, rather than the literal level.
How You Create Your Dreams
Schemas – How you learn from past experience
In psychology, the term schema refers to something you have preprogramed in your mind so that when you see something similar, you already have an idea about what to expect. Think of it like a mental shortcut so that you don’t have to relearn the same information over and over again – each time you encounter a similar object.
You have schemas for everything. Yes, everything. And they are based on your past experiences.
Say for example, you’ve never drunk a cup of coffee before. As you approach the experience of drinking coffee for the first time, you notice a dark liquid in a handleless paper cup with a plastic lid on top and a small hole.
The first time you saw this new object, you might not even know that it was something to drink. Then you might not understand that you are supposed to drink the coffee from the small hole in the lid. Although these experiences seem obvious to you now – at one time this was something you learned.
When it’s time to have your first sip of coffee, if you didn’t know the coffee was hot you might take a big gulp and burn your tongue. This, of course, would not be a pleasant experience.
Your brain records the information that coffee is hot and stores it for the next time you encounter coffee. The next time you see a cup of coffee, your brain activates your “coffee schema.” You remember that coffee is hot and this time you approach the drink with more care.
Schemas help you save time so that you don’t have to relearn everything every time you come across something. Instead, you just activate the place in your memory that corresponds to a previous experience and activate that schema.
Coffee Shop Exercise
To get a better understanding of how schemas work, read the following story and then answer the two questions below:
You walk into a coffee shop and the barista asks you what you’d like. You say you’d like a small cappuccino. You pay and take your coffee.
First write down everything you know for sure about the story. For example we know that you walked into a coffee shop, there’s a barista, and you order a small cappuccino.
Next, make a list of everything you can infer from the story, but is not explicitly stated in the story.
Coffee Shop Exercise Discussion
Your second list will probably be much longer than the first one and it should be. We naturally fill in the gaps of information that is not explicitly stated. You might have inferred that you are a male and barista is a female. Since you ordered a “small” instead of a “tall” cappuccino you can infer that you are not at Starbucks, or that you don’t know the Starbucks lingo yet. You might infer that you are inside, rather than outside. You paid with money. Your coffee comes in a cup. You entered through a door. There is a floor, walls, and a ceiling. You are not the only patron on the shop.
Further, we naturally assume that the laws of physics apply. There is air in the room. We are on Earth.
None of this information was stated in the story, but your mind will automatically fill in these gaps.
Schemas and the Dream World
So how do schemas relate to the creation of the dream world?
Your brain goes through the same process of association when you are dreaming as it does in your waking life. When you encounter a situation or an object in your dream, your mind activates that particular schema. Whatever associations you have with the situation, the information you have previously learned and recorded will get activated in your dream as well.
When you walk into a coffee shop in your dream it will, more or less, follow a similar schema as what you follow in your waking life.
However, as you have probably noticed – dreams have a much different feel than the waking world. Dream schemas tend to be looser and freer associations. We do not necessarily stick to the same schemas that we have in our waking lives.
We might find that the coffee in our otherwise normal coffee cup is blue. We might take a sip and discover that it tastes like cherries.
These associations are symbolic and depict a deeper part of ourselves that goes beyond the material aspects of physical life. So when you interpret your dreams, look for meaning on the symbolic and metaphorical levels, rather than simply on the physical level.
On a metaphorical level, the symbol “coffee” might represent hanging out with a good friend at your favorite coffee shop and chatting for hours. Your experience with coffee might include laughter and fun. In such a case, seeing coffee appear in the dream world brings all that experience and memory with it. Because your associations are looser in your dreams, “coffee” could symbolize friendship – if that’s what you associate it with.
Dreams Arise from Within
You literally create everything in your dreams. Every scene, every object, every character, every association is a product of your own mind. It is your own world.
If something shows up in the dream world, it’s important to understand that you created it. Fully. Since you are asleep, there is no outside stimuli. There is nothing outside of you that created the dream. It is completely a product of who you are.
This can be an empowering realization when you fully understand that you are the creator of your own dream world. If something happens in a dream that you don’t like – you are not a victim of circumstances. You have the power to change it, to create something you would prefer.
Conscious Dream World Creation
The next step in creating the dream world is to do it consciously. Lucid dreaming is when you become aware that you in the midst of a dream and consciously control the events, surroundings, and outcomes.
We are the creators of our own dreams anyway, but lucid dreaming takes it a step further. Rather than unconsciously creating your dream world, lucid dreaming allows you to consciously create your dream world. And consciously control your dream world as well.
Waking Life as a Dream
Now, here’s where it gets fun. Suspend everything you think you know about life on Earth for a moment. Think of your waking life as a dream.
We’ve already seen that everything you dream is created out of your own mind. What if the same were true about your waking life? What if everything that showed up in your waking life was nothing more than a projection of your mind?
Imagine if everything that happened in your life was symbolic of your own inner state of mind, your own inner psychology.
If you’ve heard of the Law of Attraction, you’ll understand that this is how the Law of Attraction works. Take money for example. When you believe that you are abundant and wealthy, the opportunities for abundance and wealth show up in your life in numerous and synchronistic ways.
The Universe conspires with you to create in your outside world exactly what you are experiencing in your inner world. Just like your dreaming mind conspires to create symbols and associations, so too does your waking mind conspire to project your exact, unique state of mind in your waking life.
So, what you see in your waking life, is what you’ve created – it’s your own internal creation, projected outward onto the physical world.
I will write more on Lucid Dreaming and Waking Life as a Dream in other sections of this website. But for now, just play with the idea that just as you create everything in your dream world, you also create everything in your waking world.
It’s a different way of looking at the world. We’ve been taught to believe since we were infants, that everything in the waking world is outside of us. We are taught that we are at the mercy of others, of our surroundings, our genetics. Everything starts from outside of us and affects us.
But… just pretend for a moment, that the opposite is true.
Everything starts from within. You are the primary creator and nothing exists until you decide it does. Everything that shows up in your life was previously created by you – and now you are experiencing that creation. Just like in the dream world. Only it happens in your waking life.
If you spend a week living from this new perspective, it will change the way you experience your life.
You are a creator – not a victim. Don’t like something in your life? You created it, you can change it…