Interpreting Dreams (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Interpreting Dreams

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:12:06
Okay. So the jury is not yet in on where dreams come from, but how about what they mean?

MR. ROB SACHS

13:12:12
Well, Rebecca, as you surely know, there's no shortage of literature out there trying to explain what our dreams mean. Now, I picked up this book today...

SHEIR

13:12:22
Oh, no.

SACHS

13:12:22
Yes. It's called, "A Thousand Dreams Explained"...

SHEIR

13:12:26
..."Ten Thousand Dreams Explained"...

SACHS

13:12:26
Oh, yeah, "Ten Thousand --" yeah, so I was thinking, why don't you tell me one of your recent dreams and we'll look it up and I'll tell you what it was all about.

SHEIR

13:12:36
Okay. One of my recent dreams that I can talk about on the radio.

SACHS

13:12:40
Yeah, keep it cool here.

SHEIR

13:12:40
Okay. A beach, I'm pretty sure one of my dreams took place or there was -- somehow there was a beach involved.

SACHS

13:12:46
All right. Let's look up beaches.

SHEIR

13:12:52
For the folks at home, this is an enormous book Rob is paging through here.

SACHS

13:12:56
I'm seeing beads, beach...

SHEIR

13:12:58
Beach.

SACHS

13:12:58
Okay.

SHEIR

13:13:00
Okay. What does it mean?

SACHS

13:13:00
The potential for emotional clarity is present particularly if the beach is deserted. Was it a deserted beach? The sea signifies emotion and the land security or the everyday. To be on a beach shows our awareness of the boundary between emotion and reality, our ability to be in touch with the elements and the capacity we have for combining perception and feeling in a relaxed manner.

SHEIR

13:13:25
I didn't understand much of that, but I heard the word relaxed. I like that. I'll go with it, but I don't know if it's true. But I'll go with it.

SACHS

13:13:30
Okay. So that's what "Ten Thousand Dreams Explained" says, but books like this one and others aren't necessarily the most accurate source for explaining your dreams. Now, if you ask University of Maryland psychology professor Clara Hill, this is what she would say.

PROFESSOR CLARA HILL

13:13:45
Oh, I think all those books are just not useful at all.

SACHS

13:13:51
Well, that's what a psychologist says about dreams, but what about an ethnographer, someone who looks at dreams from the spiritual side?

MR. JOSE BARREIRO

13:14:00
The dream itself, by itself is kind of meaningless.

SACHS

13:14:03
That's Jose Barreiro. He works as an assistant director for research at the National Museum of the American Indian here in D.C.

BARREIRO

13:14:10
Each people, each culture, will have its own particular way of interpreting and a lot of it has to do with sequence of the dream. You don't break it up. You don't break it down as one would categorize in Western science. The important element, the most important element, is the sequencing and what appears when.

SACHS

13:14:30
Barreiro says not all dreams have meaning, but when they're intensely vivid, pay attention.

BARREIRO

13:14:36
Those are the dreams that relate a message from the elders, the ancestors, family members, spirits of humans and also, more importantly, spirits of nature.

SACHS

13:14:50
While Professor Hill leaves it up to the individual to determine where his or her dreams come from, she agrees that certain dreams carry greater weight.

HILL

13:14:58
The most important dreams are the ones that you can't forget so you wake up and the dream is really powerful. That's a dream that's important to remember, not every single dream that you have.

SACHS

13:15:09
But what can you do with that? Hill says talking through these dreams can lead to a deeper understanding of your own psyche.

HILL

13:15:16
Looking at dreams can help us get to things that we're not aware of on a regular basis. So by looking at our dreams, our dreams do seem to be giving us some information about things that we're worried about, things that we're trying to process and things that we're trying to understand that we're not able to get to.

BARREIRO

13:15:35
Dreams create agency. Dreams create action in the world. In the indigenous world, they're taken very seriously in traditional context.

SACHS

13:15:43
Barreiro says in many Indian traditions, dreams are part of the fabric that connects individuals and a community together. So for instance, in Mayan culture, a shaman might practice coordinating dreams.

BARREIRO

13:15:54
There's a tradition where the elder grandfather in the morning, sometimes a grandmother, depending, will call for dreams as people begin their daily activities. What he will do is ask the young people first and then everyone to relate dreams, any dreams of interest, anything that he might be able to interpret for them and get a sense of what messages are coming.

SACHS

13:16:20
Additionally, the dreams of one may be a message for the group as a whole. Barreiro told me a story from his own people, the Taino Indians from Cuba. A few years ago, a shaman received instructions in a dream to give up modern practices and return to traditional farming techniques.

BARREIRO

13:16:37
This dream he brought back to his community and it has been the driving force for the last several years now, about five years.

SACHS

13:16:48
No matter what you believe, your dreams instruct you what to do. Maryland's Professor Hill says the very fact that a person is paying attention to them makes a difference.

HILL

13:16:56
Because I think the key to life is insight and understanding yourself so I think dreams are one method for understanding yourself.

SACHS

13:17:04
But if you have a hard time recalling your dreams, do not worry. Professor Hill says most people only remember about two dreams a week, other people, none at all.

HILL

13:17:13
If you don't remember your dreams, I don't think you should try to make yourself remember your dreams or you should not think you're worse than other people. You can do plenty of other things besides dreams to look at yourself.

SACHS

13:17:22
Jose Barreiro agrees. Dreams are just one tool for achieving a greater understanding of one's self.

BARREIRO

13:17:28
If the individual is sincere and follows a track, they'll find their answer. It's that way. If the need is deep enough, something in that individual guy, whether it's his own psychology or knowledge of the world or whether there's a spiritual context to it, you see it again and again, people do find their way in it.

SACHS

13:17:45
Both Barreiro and Hill say it often takes real work to find these answers so the best thing you can do is leave those dream interpreting books alone and try to get a good night's rest.
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