Do Dreams Have Meaning?

Dreams can contain valuable information, as is made evident by many examples from history. Albert Einstein’s dreams helped him formulate the theory of relativity. August Kekulé dreamed the circular structure of the Benzene molecule and advanced the science of chemistry in 1865. Niels Bohr, the father of quantum physics, saw the nucleus of the atom with electrons spinning around it in a dream. Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 dreamed The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and wrote down the text in the ensuing three days. Mary Shelley, in 1816, was inspired to write her novel Frankenstein after awakening from a nightmare. Paul McCartney wrote down the song “Yesterday” after it came to him in a dream.

In the above examples, the dream image or text is literally brought into waking life. Other dreams seem absurd and difficult to understand. Nevertheless, they come in the service of health and wholeness. They don’t come to tell us what we already know, but to break new ground. To have remembered a dream, to write it down and to share it with another person can be signs that it is about an issue which we are now ready to face in our waking life. Dreams speak a language of metaphor which can be intuitively understood by others, and their input can lead us to an “aha” of recognition.

Many dreams seem so elusive and melt away as soon as we open our eyes. Nevertheless, we can remember our dreams better by keeping a journal and writing tool beside the bed and making a heartfelt declaration or affirmation to ourselves before sleep such as, “I want to remember my dream,” or, “I will remember my dream.”

Having a place to bring dreams—such as belonging to a dream group—also helps dream recall. Dream work in groups can bring out different layers of meaning, using various techniques. We may be blind to the meaning of our own dream, but when we share it with another person and receive their projections, we can come to realize what it is about and how it is helping us.

By mining the gold in our dreams, we can learn about our self and our health, and improve intuition and creativity.

Helen Landerman has 30 years of experience in dream groups. She has a Harvard Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures, and has been certified by Jeremy Taylor’s Marin Institute for Projective Dreamwork. The Caritas Center for Healing dream group meets Wednesdays, from noon to 2 p.m. Connect at or visit Caritas Healing Center’s website at

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