JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Dreams in the Time of COVID
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
In the new reality of COVID-19 our conscious and unconscious worlds merge in living color in our dreams. People are reporting more vivid dreams, remembering dreams more frequently (one French study suggests a thirty-five percent increase in dream recall), and having more fearful or anxiety dreams.
Our dreams serve the function of helping us process our waking state reality, do problem solving, memory consolidation, and give us ways to express thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that are stored in the unconscious. During this time, when schedules may be less demanding, it is possible that you are waking up naturally. You awaken remembering your most recent dream which is often most vivid. Since the dream state is part of the natural rhythm of the brain occurring every 90-120 minutes while you sleep, you may also remember the preceding three to four dreams.
Dreams can be understood on three levels; literal, symbolic/metaphoric, and global/universal. Many people turn immediately to the literal interpretation of the dream. If I dream I am driving my car down the street, and my brakes don’t work, it means I better get my brakes checked, or I will have an accident. A deeper look at the dream takes you to the level of symbol or metaphor. Each dream symbol/element may represent some aspect of your life. You tell the dream like this: “The part of me that is driving/in charge is trying to stop an out-of- control,/no brakes part of myself. I may be endangering myself and others as I speed out of control.” Could this dream have a global or universal meaning? Perhaps you are part of a group or system that is out of control; that may need stopping, slowing, or re-directing. The collective “drivers” can change the direction by finding a way to steer the vehicle safely.
Another very simple way to begin understanding your dreams is to make a list of all the parts of the dream, e.g., the driver, the vehicle, the brakes, the road, etc. By each word, make a list of associations, definitions or connections that come immediately to mind. Now re-tell the dream using the association words or phrases. Try different combinations. You may be amazed, as you understand the connection to your current situation and problems that may be presenting themselves to you.
The Senoi, a tribe living in the upper Malaysian Peninsula, gather each morning for a dream group. Children are guided to remember and share their dreams. They are given some very powerful guidelines to help them in their dream world.
You can call on whatever help you need.
You can always take all the time you need.
You can always protect yourself.
You can enjoy positive and pleasurable experiences in the dream.
You can always achieve a positive outcome or solution in the dream.
You can do this several different ways. You can imagine yourself in the dream and, as the director, you can change the dream in more positive direction and finish the dream. You can write the dream and re-do the dream, using the guidelines, finding new ways to understand and solve any problems or resolve any fears.
This would be a good time to check your sleep hygiene. Make sure you are not drinking caffeine after mid-afternoon. Try to keep screen time down. Definitely give yourself about thirty minutes before bed to do something relaxing and stress-reducing, avoiding screens/blue light. Get exercise and some time outdoors in sunlight!
Because we have fewer experiences during the day to draw upon, are more isolated, and have fewer distractions, it is possible that you are digging deeper into the unconscious. I am finding that people are connecting with traumatic memories and experiences during this time. It is a time to work through and release these traumas. Some people are doing amazing inner work now.
Practice using your fear and anxiety to be more aware, practice stress reduction, and be kinder and more nurturing toward yourself. This will help you do this for others as well. Hopefully, we can all use the challenges of this time to grow internally and in relationship to others and the world.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to