Ever since ancient times, the meanings of our dreams have been the subject of much pondering. In some of the classical texts of Chinese medicine, specific images appearing in the context of dreams indicate health imbalances. For instance, from the Huang Di Nei Jing (220AD): “People’s dreams will often reflect their state of energy. When the Lung is out of balance, one will dream of white objects, or battles in action. When the Kidney is out of balance, one will dream of drowning, or hiding underwater in fear. When the Liver is out of balance, one will dream of flowers, or hiding behind a large tree. When the Heart is out of balance, one will dream of fire. When the Spleen is out of balance, one will dream of starvation, or construction of a wall. These dreams can be useful as diagnostic clues.”
Every dream has many layers of meaning. We seem to be most familiar with trying to interpret the psychological or emotional content of our dreams. However, there is very often a layer of meaning in the dream which reports on the physical condition and health of the dreamer at the time of the dream.
When a house or a building appears in your dream, it may be interpreted as the physicality of your body. The upper floors reflect the upper part of your body, including the head and the chest, while the middle floors reflect the middle part, or the abdomen. The lower floors or basement can be a reflection of the lower abdomen, pelvic region, and legs. Jeremy Taylor, in his book The Wisdom of Your Dreams, tells a story of a woman who recalls a nightmare where she opened up her purse in her basement, and was horrified to find that her purse was full of rotting meat.
Later that week in real life, her oncologist found a recurrence of a metastasizing (spreading) cancer in her uterus. In this case, the basement represents the lower part of the body, or the pelvic region, and the rotting meat represents the cancer. This is not to say that rotting meat in any dream represents cancer, because everyone’s subconscious expresses differently. Understanding the basic idea of the building or house can help to guide you towards unlocking some of the hidden meaning, especially as it relates to your health. Recurrent dreams, and nightmares, often are the most important dreams to try to decipher. The fact that they stay with us, or that they shake us emotionally, are the subconscious trying to tell us that “This is important! Pay attention!”
If you have a recurrent or puzzling dream you wish to share with your acupuncturist, he or she may be able to work with you to decipher some of the health concerns which may be buried in the dream content. Reporting colors, emotions within the dream, images relating to wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, may be a good place to start. These types of images point us toward specific imbalances in the body.
For more information about dream work, I would recommend reading Jeremy Taylor’s book. While he does not include the layer of Chinese medicine, what he has written will inspire you to examine your dreams more deeply, to make waking life more insightful and deliberate. One last point – if you wish to examine your dreams, I would recommend writing them down as soon as you wake up, even if it is in the middle of the night. Details will be much easier to remember, and it is often the details which point us towards specific meanings.