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What Can Our Dreams Tell Us about Our Lives? Therapist and Dream Analyst Carder Stout Opens Our Eyes

What Can Our Dreams Tell Us about Our Lives? Therapist and Dream Analyst Carder Stout Opens Our Eyes

By Carder Stout, PhD, MFT
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Twenty years ago, I had a dream that changed the course of my life. The Dalai Lama sat with me in a cave deep inside a great mountain. He told me that he loved me and always would, but more importantly, he told me I needed to love myself. He took my hand and led me to a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley covered in snow. “You are now a keeper of the wolves,” he said as I heard a pack of wolves howl in the distance. I cried with relief and joy as I was certain at that moment that my life would be filled with purpose.

When I woke from the dream, I knew that I must go back to school to study psychology.

I am a depth psychologist who has interpreted dreams for many years. Every image that you see in your dreams is created by your soul. Make no mistake about it: your dreams are on purpose.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), one of the most prominent figures in modern-day psychology, analyzed over 20,000 dreams in his career. He believed that dreams were a vital component in determining a patient's mental health and that the images in dreams were filled with valuable information. Jungian psychology, also known as Depth Psychology, hinges on the premise that human beings have a soul and that this conscious entity that resides within is our most authentic self. The soul is our essence, our most divine iteration, our most loving part. The soul is compensatory and aims to heal the suffering of the human experience. It is the pure spirit that governs the unconscious part of our psyche and attempts to bring us into balance when we are burdened with the negative emotions of depression, anxiety, resentment, and shame. The soul speaks to us in a language of images and is the gatekeeper of our dreams.

I believe, as Jung did, that dreams are intentional and laden with hidden significance and meaning. So, if the emotional relevance of dreams is not a new idea, why has it been dismissed, or even forgotten, in recent years? In many cases, our parents told us that dreams weren’t real as we awoke from a nightmare and asked if we could sleep in their bed. They assured us it was only a dream as they coaxed us back to sleep. So, the stories in our dreams remained largely obscured as children. Our imagination drifted towards them from time to time, but only for a momentary glimpse.

Certainly, we never took our dreams seriously, as we were conditioned to dismiss them as irrelevant. Now, as adults, it is helpful to revisit the dream space to uncover the intentions of the soul. All you need is a bit of belief and imagination and to pay attention to your dreams.

We often wake up with dream images fresh in our minds, but they soon fade into the background and disappear from our memory. There is an easy way around our forgetful nature. Buy a journal and place it on the nightstand next to your bed. When you wake up, jot down the pertinent aspects of your dream:

Who were the people involved?

What places did you visit?

When did the dream take place?

 What was the action of the dream?

Are you happy, sad, scared, or disappointed?

Be sure to write down the details, however small they may seem. Everything means something.

For example, you were driving in a green Volkswagen Beetle from the 1980s and speaking to your sister about a birthday cake. You felt sad and realized she had eaten the whole cake, and there was none left for you. Everything in a dream is symbolic, not literal. The language of the dream is expressed in symbols, colors, feelings, and metaphors. In this case, the soul is asking you to focus on an incident from your past that needs to be healed in the present. The soul is bringing what is unconscious into your consciousness so you may release the negative emotion associated with it. This dream represents the sadness and resentment that you feel about your sister, who was perhaps favored as a child by your parents—or at least, this is your perception.   

If you are a woman and dream about a handsome, mysterious, familiar man, you are dreaming about your soul. If you are a man and dream about an attractive, captivating, and dynamic woman, this is your soul. Most of the people we dream about (other than those representing our soul) are referencing parts of ourselves. So, if you dream about an architect, you are dreaming about the part of yourself that likes to design and build things. If you dream about a rock star, you are dreaming about your own musical talent and passion. If you dream about intimacy, you are referring to your most loving and caring self.

When you think about your dreams, use this as a template and remember that you have many personality traits and unique aspects that are depicted in every dream. When we have a nightmare or dream that something is trying to harm us, this is about a negative part of yourself, perhaps your anger or insecurity, shown as a frightening figure in an atmosphere of danger. The soul shows us these images so we may heal the parts that impede our happiness and emotional evolution. 

Many of us have ‘big dreams” that we know are important. These are the dreams that give us clues that may alter the trajectory of our lives. My dream about the Dalai Lama and the wolves certainly did. Whether they are big or small, your dreams matter. I believe that the colorful voice of the soul creates them, and they contain wisdom and direction.

I encourage you to take a pause from your busy life, pay attention to your dreams, and consider that the questions you have may already be answered.

Carder Stout, PhD, MFT, is a Los Angeles-based depth psychologist, dream analyst, and author. He specializes in treating anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma. Learn more at

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