With the recent release of the movie Inception, a film by the brilliant writer and director Christopher Nolan, many people are again begging the question, “How meaningful or important are my dreams?” Though we know little about why sleep is important, we do know the effects that a good or poor night’s sleep can have on us physically and mentally. We also know that dreams (and nightmares) are intimately connected to emotional health. Dreams can either be a symptom or a cause of both emotional distress or wellbeing. For example, people with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will complain of terrible nightmares in which they relive some form of the trauma they experienced. Some will avoid sleep altogether because of the nightmares. Others feel depressed, overwhelmed or troubled by their dreams. Conversely, dreams can bring to mind positive memories and relationships from your past, stimulate pleasurable drives for sex or food, and even foster creativity.

The real question is, “Can dreams have meaning or give insight to our lives?” The dream world has been explored by many famous theorists including Freud, Jung, and Adler. The Bible gives multiple examples of spiritual truths being revealed to dreamers. So how much emphasis should we place on people’s dreams today? Here are a few important points to consider:

1. The Word of God is supreme. Many people believe they have had special revelations from their dreams that are in direct contrast to the truths in scripture. You can be sure that you are misintepreting the dream if this is the case. God used dreams to reveal spiritual truths during a time when Scripture was incomplete. Now that we have His complete letter to us, we can rely on His Word fully for spiritual guidance.

2. Accuracy vs. Effect. In exploring someone’s dreams, the accuracy of your interpretation is nothing. The importance lies in the actual effect that a dream has on an individual or the meaning they ascribe to it. By allowing someone to dig into the meaning of their dream, we can gain insight into their emotions and thoughts on various subjects. For example, if a client dreams about a monster chasing him, we may find little to it. However, if the client tells you that the monster looks just like his ex-wife and he feels doomed to be consumed by her, well then it might be worth your time to consider the significance of such a nightmare.

3. Stay in the present, not in the past. Memories and dreams are important only when they remain in our conscious awareness. That being said, if you have a dream about your 3rd grade teacher or an aquaintance you knew years ago, it may simply be your brain processing old memories. However, if this memory or dream effects your present reality, then exploring why is important. I do believe that God brings people or events from our past to our minds for a reason, even if just to pray for them. I also believe that unresolved conflicts can manifest themselves in our dreams if we are currently wrestling with them, consciously or unconsciously. Using our memories or dreams from the past as well as our imaginings of the future can help us understand our current struggles and empower us to overcome them.

Question: What about you? Do you think dreams are important? Why or why not?