The First Rule of Dream Interpretation: Consider the Obvious

The first rule of dream interpretation

Some dreams are full of archetypal imagery and themes that offer a view into the deepest reaches of the inner world of the dreamer. They are windows to the soul. Analyzing these dreams using techniques such as those offered by depth psychology can lead to astute, sometimes life-changing insights.

However, as the lead moderator at Reddit Dreams, a popular online dreams forum, I have observed that most of the dreams submitted to the site have more to do with daily life than with life of the soul. They reflect the dreamers’ thoughts, concerns, and feelings and tell stories about recent events in their lives. They can be interpreted with no special training or techniques simply by looking for the obvious meaning.

I will give you some examples and explain how I interpreted them, with the hope that you will better understand the everyday dreams that make up the bulk of your dream life. For the sake of brevity, I chose dreams with short descriptions (edited for brevity and clarity).

keyinlockI’ve been dating this girl for six weeks and things are going great. But last night I dreamed she was at my house, in my bedroom, and wouldn’t allow me in. She said it was “too risky.”

When I interpret dreams I look for symbolism in the settings. The symbolism is often related to the function a setting has in daily life. A bedroom is for sleeping. It can be a place of privacy. It is also a setting where people have sex.

The young man who had this dream is ready to have sex with his girlfriend, but she is putting it off because it’s “too risky.” Combine the idea of “too risky” with the function of a bedroom as a place for having sex, and the meaning is obvious.

Now look at the next dream, also with a bedroom setting, and try to figure out what it relates to. The dreamer has a roommate; the roommate referred to in the dream is a person he lives with, not a fictional character the dream invented.

In my dream a gorilla jumps around my room being violent. I tell my roommate to lock him up. Then the gorilla comes to me and I am sweet with him, but in the back of my mind I’m afraid he could get violent again.

The reference to the roommate in this dream indicates that the gorilla is a symbol for him. Otherwise, why would the dreamer ask him to lock up the gorilla? The dream clearly connects together the roommate and the gorilla. The dreamer said his roommate would invade his privacy by entering his bedroom uninvited and messing with his computer. He also said that his roommate’s behavior could be described as acting like a gorilla, and he handled him delicately, leery of his unpredictability. (Read the original post if you like.)

Just for fun, let’s look at other possible interpretations for these dreams. The dream about the girlfriend could be interpreted as the dreamer denying his feminine side, because the girlfriend character shuts him out of his bedroom, a way of saying he is cut off from a feminine-oriented part of himself. We could spend hours talking about getting in touch with his “inner woman,” when really he just wants to physically get in touch with his girlfriend!

The dream about the gorilla could be interpreted as symbolizing the dreamer’s inner nature. We could end up talking about following instincts and getting to know his animal side, when actually the dream is describing his roommate.

dream interpretation dictionary

Want to know more about dream interpretation?

My point is, keep it simple. The most obvious answer is often the correct one. When obvious answers don’t apply, we break out the tools Carl Jung and his contemporaries in depth psychology gave us to interpret dreams. With most dreams I don’t find it necessary, though.

This is another dream for which the obvious interpretation is the best one:

I dream that my fiance is completely blind. As we sit on the couch together I forget that he can no longer see my face and it makes me cry.

A reference to seeing someone in a dream can mean to see the person they are, to see the inside of them, not the outside. By portraying her fiance as blind, the dream is saying that the dreamer feels like he doesn’t really “see” her. There are other possible interpretations, but I zeroed in on this one because of the dreamer’s reaction. It hurts to know she is engaged to someone who doesn’t really see her for the person she is.

In comparison, check out the next dream, about processing perceptions related to the person the dreamer is about to marry. The dreamer is engaged and her wedding day is right around the corner.

I dream that it’s my wedding day and I’m about to say my vows in a big church full of people I know. Suddenly my ex-boyfriend barges through the doors and says he is there to rescue day dream

The meaning of this dream seems obvious to me. She needs someone to rescue her from marrying the wrong person. She knows that marrying the person she is engaged to is a bad decision, but is blind to the obvious. She can’t figure it out for herself so her dream makes it unmistakable.

Dreams show us what we don’t realize consciously. They amplify the small voices in our head that are sometimes ignored or overlooked. They teach us what we need to know to make good decisions and live our lives better.

jm debord author photoDepth psychology provided my introduction to dream interpretation, and I am forever grateful for how it expanded my mind and opened my life to new possibilities. It is invaluable for understanding those occasional dreams that have no obvious connection to daily life and ordinary concerns. The deep dreams about life of the soul. But before breaking out those dream interpretation tools, follow the first rule of dream interpretation and consider the obvious first.


I'm the author of "Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams," and "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary: Symbols, Sign and Meanings." At I'm known as RadOwl. I began studying dreams in the early 1990s and delved into all major schools of thought, especially the writings of Carl Jung.

You may also like...

As Dr. Frasier Crane says, I'm listening. Leave a comment.