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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

In Your Dreams - Symbols for Self Understanding

Feb 28, 2010 11:27PM
By Lisa Moore

For 25 years Shirley Ratchford would periodically wake up at night frantically searching for her wedding ring that was lost. She would wander all over her house trying to locate it. “My husband would have to calm me down as sometimes I would be crying,” said Ratchford, a certified reflexologist. “He would get me back into bed and calm me down so I could go back to sleep. “

But Ratchford never found her ring because she was actually experiencing a recurring dream that had bothered her since 1974.  Sometimes she would actually sleepwalk throughout her house, determined to locate her elusive ring.

Throughout history, people have debated the significance of dreams.

Sigmund Freud said dreams were attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of either something recent or from the past, while Carl Jung believed that dreams compensate for one-sided attitudes held in waking consciousness. Some argue that dreams have so significant meaning.

In a dream state, we are liberated and can behave in ways we won’t allow ourselves to in our waking life. Dreams can be a medium to deal with the conflicts and concerns of everyday life and research indicates they may contain hidden meaning. They may reveal subconscious feelings and secret desires and serve as an outlet for the impulses and thoughts we repress during the day.

Mary Ellen Shuntich, of Charlotte, has conducted dream interpretation workshops and coached individuals for 20 years. She believes nighttime is when our computers "download" all our experiences and put them in their designated spots that have meaning for us with our individual past life experiences.

“Some events, feelings or issues may not be ready to be filed away and need to be sorted out in order to allow us to be in harmony internally and spiritually,” says Shuntich, who holds a degree in psychology. “These often come out in bits and pieces of recognizable scenarios in our dreams that might help us to sort through them in order to file them away somewhere comfortably.”

In an average lifetime, we spend around six years dreaming with most people having 3-5 dreams per night. Studies indicate that everyone dreams, but not everyone recalls their dreams due to use of medications, lack of sleep, stress or unconscious fears about the content of their dreams.

We cycle through four stages of sleep four to seven times per night. The majority of dreams take place in the fourth stage known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM). This stage, the most restorative part of sleep, occurs about 30-90 minutes after the onset of sleep. Blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, respiration becomes erratic and brain activity increases. The mind is being revitalized and emotions fine-tuned. If awakened during this stage of sleep, we are more likely to remember our dreams.

Studying our dreams may help us express and confront our feelings and guide us through relationship issues, difficult decisions, health concerns, career questions or life struggles.

“Dreams show us feelings, experiences, questions, concerns or simply happinesses that are happening in the deepest parts of our inner self,” notes Shuntich.

She says understanding the meaning of an especially bothersome dream can show us where we might be stuck, or an issue we haven't resolved or a new direction calling us to take action. Shuntich often teaches people how to lucid dream so they may complete a bothersome dream and make it end just the way they want. When the dreamer is lucid, she or he can actively participate in and often manipulate the imaginary experiences in the dream.

Shuntich also has clients create their own “dream dictionary” to place meanings on the symbols in their dreams that have meaning for them. These “definitions” of their dream words, actions or feelings tell a story - a very personal story that only the dreamer could know the importance of.

Dreams that recur indicate that an issue is not being confronted or resolved. Shuntich was able to assist Ratchford in interpreting her longstanding dream so she could release it.

“My interpretation of this dream had to do with my childhood,” says Ratchford. “My father was an alcoholic and beat me as a child. I had a lot of insecurity issues with my husband and wondered how anyone would love me without beating me. He made me feel loved and the ring symbolizes the binding love that I didn't have as a child. After I faced the insecurities, I quit having the dreams.”

Shuntich says that typically when people bring a dream to her, it is a dream that is asking to be known. “It’s very rewarding to help someone realize an important insight that helps them move ahead or face issues they have kept buried,” she concludes.

Mary Ellen Shuntich will hold a workshop entitled "Unlock the Secrets of Your Dreams” on March 27 from 1:30-4pm. For further information he can be reached at [email protected].

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