It is not uncommon to talk about dreams. Ancient civilizations like Greece and Egypt placed primary importance to dreams as communication systems of the divine. The sick are brought to Greek temples to be cured. The priests summon the gods who communicate through dreams. Scriptures have famous episodes of dreamers and dream interpreters. Joseph rose to power in Egypt by interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream. Daniel in the first reading also interpreted the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. St. Joseph saved the life of Jesus by following the angel’s advice to take Mary as his wife and to flee to Egypt. Science affirms the validity of dreams: psychoanalysis uses dreams for therapy. It is said that our dreams contain hidden meanings that indicate our fears, our wishes, and our present state.
Nevertheless, dreams are important to us. First, dreams can give us a better understanding of ourselves. When Joseph decided to quietly divorce Mary, the angel said to him in a dream, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife” (Matthew 1, 20-21). The first thing that the angel indicated is Joseph’s present state: he was afraid.
Psychology has it that every single character and situation in our dreams is symbolical. If you dream that you are running in fear, you are probably fleeing from something like a responsibility or a situation like a stressful meeting. We can interpret our dreams. What do you feel when you wake up, or what associations can you attribute to each of the events or characters in your dreams?
Second, dreams can give us some ideas about the future. What we imagine ourselves to be in the future indicates our passions and our goals. We would dream of becoming a popular singer in the future, thus we choose what would lead us there. We join singing competitions and hone our talents through vocal training.
Dreams can give us direction because they become indicators. When we are not in the right track, we dream negatively. For example, when we dream about losing an object or a person, we might be afraid of losing something or someone. You are having doubts about your commitment to someone, or you are questioning the sincerity of another person’s commitment to you. Or, when you experience flying in a dream, you might have experienced something freeing: you have been unburdened from work, you have just passed the bar or board exam.
And so today, as we end the liturgical year, we can do some soul searching. In the light of dreams, what is your present state? Are there things whose acceptance is inevitable? Or in the light of dreams as goals: How close are you to achieving your dream in life. Or, perhaps look at our major choices and decisions. As Jesus points out in the Gospel, we should not be deceived by false prophets. Dreams allow us to look at ourselves truthfully. There is something about the night that makes us face ourselves.