Did you know you could understand your child’s inner world through their dreams? Yes, you can! I have talked with Shiri Hergass who is a mother, clinical social worker and dream therapist who knows how a child’s inner world could be interpreted through their dreams. The following is an example of a child’s dream and how Shiri has been able to understand the child’s inner world through that dream.
“Mummy!!! I had a wonderful dream tonight!” Doron cried beside my bed. “It was just so beautiful” she smiled before recounting her dream. “We were together looking for a new father and brother and we found some beautiful ones with blond hair and blue eyes, and then we were put in jail but we ran away and found a beautiful new home, and the police didn’t even know we ran away so they didn’t look for us so we could live in our new house.”
Was this a beautiful, happy dream? Ordinarily I would assume that this dream signaled dissatisfaction with her family members, given that she seemed to be seeking a new father and brother. However I know from past experience not to judge Doron’s dreams at face value, but to question her thoughts on their significance.
“What would you name your dream?” I asked.
“Moving countries”, she answered cheerfully.
“And what does this dream teach you?”
She thought about this and then answered confidently “that you can do things that seem very scary and then they end up being fun and beautiful.”
“Oh” I answered smiling to myself. We immigrated to Australia eight month ago, and throughout this time I have been aided by Doron’s dreams to know what she is feeling and how she is coping with the big change. Dreams are an amazing window that can give us access to, and understanding of, our children’s inner world.
Doron is not a verbal child and has trouble expressing herself. She finds it difficult to tell a story and share her day or feelings. When asked, “how was school” she rarely comes up with a longer answer than “fine” or “boring”. This is the same reply we get to questions such as “why are you sad?” Or “You look worried?” I can see she wants to speak but words get in her way.
Dreams however come in pictures and describing them seems to be easier than describing thoughts, feelings and impressions of the world. It’s also easier for children to talk about a dream rather than themselves. This, in professional terms is called ‘projection’- whereby one ‘projects’ one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires and feelings onto someone or something else. Dreams may arise from something your child was doing just before going to bed or earlier in the day, or it may symbolize your child’s feelings towards an ongoing issue that he/she is wrestling with on a deeper level of consciousness. It may also evolve out of a memory that holds special meaning for them.
Children use their dreams to overcome barriers in their waking life. They experience a scenario from a different perspective, often with a confidence they don’t possess in waking life. The dream is an alternative space in which anything is possible and children can manifest experiences and abilities that they may think are unattainable in reality. It can be a very empowering, therapeutic experience for them, aiding in positive emotional development. Children who feel incapable and lack self-esteem and self-confidence can experience in their dream the counter experience.
Doron felt very insecure about moving to Australia. She knew it would be a different country with a different language – to which she had expressed dread at learning.
Before we immigrated Doron dreamed that she wrote ‘I love you’ in English and she did it so beautifully that she received a medal for it. She also had many dreams in which she spoke English. “I understood everything and everyone understood what I said”. Or “I went to a new playground and met many friends who really liked me”.
I was confident Doron would settle down after she told me the following dream: “I have these special stones that can turn into balloons. When I release my balloons they fly into the air and it is beautiful to see the colorful balloons flying. Everyone wants my stones. I agree to share them with my friends that want them”. In this dream Doron has the ability to turn obstacles into light balloons that can fly and disappear. She turns her fear into strength and by sharing her special and different stone balloons she gains a sense of belonging and her problems are lightened.
After we had been in Australia for three months I was sure that Doron had settled down and was happy at school since the answer I received to “how was school?” was “fun!” However one night Doron woke up crying. She recalled her dream saying that she went to the next-door neighbor whom she liked and wanted to play with but after she entered her house she was grabbed and forced into a chair and then the neighbor’s parents examined her mouth. The examination was so painful that she woke up crying. During the next couple of weeks she had a few dreams where she was forced to have a mouth examination.
The mouth represents the organ that speaks. Doron had been fearful of learning English and this dream was her way of expressing helplessness, low self-esteem and the fear of not being accepted in her new environment.
As a solution to Doron’s fears of not being accepted in her new country, we invited some friends to play with Doron. After this Doron had another dream in which the neighbors again checked her mouth, however in this dream I appeared just as the examination began and shouted at the neighbor that Doron is perfect the way she is and she does not need to be examined. The neighbor stopped examining Doron and let her play with her friend.
Children use dreams to process situations in their waking life that need further emotional processing. Their dream mirrors the state of their developing personality. If the dream is full of happy and creative events and feelings it shows they are developing emotionally, socially and cognitively without any problems. If their dreams contain disturbing images or emotions, they may be encountering some sort of problem in their personal development. Careful exploration of the dream can determine which aspect is causing them problems. Paying attention to our children’s dreams gives us the opportunity to understand a child’s emotional state and uncover issues they are experiencing but are otherwise unable to verbalize. This understanding allows us to assist the child to deal with the issue and create positive change and development.
For more information about dream interpretation you can contact Shiri Hergass at her website http://www.shiri.com.au/index.htm.
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