V. Functions and Categories of Dreams

A list of dream categories based on their function or purpose in guiding you. Sometimes determining the function of a dream can speed you toward discovering its message. Dreams can deal with your personal life, or larger concerns, such as the lives of friends or family; political, social, global, or even universal issues. Furthermore, dreams can illuminate problems in the physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual realms.

If we make a chart listing the categories mentioned in the previous paragraph, we would have a more or less complete picture of what dreams may be about. Each box in the chart represents a type of dream:

Emotional Intellectual Spiritual

This section gives some idea of the range of information available in dreams. I've personally experienced dreams on every topic mentioned below. But to provide examples of each subject could easily fill a whole volume. On the other hand, not giving examples may make the categories I've listed seem less useful.

I recommend that you view these categories as a checklist whose purpose is to help you determine the form and function of your dreams. Ask your dreams to provide examples of these categories as they pertain to your life. For example, you could ask for information pertaining to any abandoned growth processes you may need to complete. Over time, the responses to such suggestions should make clear the characteristics with which each category of dreams tends to manifest itself in your own life.

PRESENT SELF. Most of your dreams will deal with your own life. They can be about tendencies or specific problems, in any stage of development. Not only that, dreams will often contain information about who you are now--where you are in some growth process. Such a dream may not always provide insights into or solutions for a problem. Instead, it may offer a detailed view of that problem, as seen from the soul's perspective, helping you define the problem's shape more clearly. Later dreams may lead you toward a solution.

PAST SELF. Dreams can also be about who you used to be. They can show you how much you've grown since a certain period in your life. They can also help you release inappropriate beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors that belong to an old self.

FUTURE SELF. Sometimes dreams will be about who you are becoming: new directions for your growth, or how you'll end up if you continue to operate under the current system of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Dreams can help you make decisions by portraying the advantages or disadvantages of every alternative, or by placing you in some aspect of the reality you would experience through making a certain decision. Thus you have a chance to try that reality on for size.

INTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS. Many dreams concern your relationships with aspects of yourself, such as the soul or the body. In the former case, you may experience dreams having to do with psychological or emotional healing. In the latter, you may receive information about physical symptoms--what they mean and how to heal them. Dreams can also be about your relationship with the part of you that dreams. This will be especially true after a hiatus of not remembering your dreams. Look for images of television or movies as indicators of this type of dream.

EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS. The past, present, and future of your relationships with others will often become the subject of your dreams, including those with father, mother, sisters, brothers, spouse, lover, children, friends, acquaintances, business associates, and coworkers.

PHYSICAL AND NONPHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS. Some aspect of your physical environment--or physical reality in general--can become the subject of your dreams. The same thing is true of nonphysical reality. The environment in which dreams takes place is nonphysical--the so-called astral plane. You may have lucid dreams, for example, in which you explore the attributes of this environment--dreams in which the skills you are learning, such as direct manipulation of aspects of the dream, are more important than symbolic messages.

EVENTS. Dreams can be about events of the past, present, or future, including past lives and precognitive or clairvoyant dreams.

THE SOUL'S PERSPECTIVE. Dreams can help you perceive things from the soul's perspective: how and where you're stuck, and what to do to move beyond this stuckness. Dreams can confirm the appropriateness of any thought or action, from the soul's perspective, before or after it has occurred--allowing you to cut through illusion and create your reality more effectively.

LIFE-FORCE FLOW. The soul regulates the amount of life force flowing through the body, increasing it when you’re learning the lessons it requires, and decreasing it when you’re avoiding those lessons. Your dreams can help you identify reasons for an increase or decrease in life-force availability and point out the physical or emotional symptoms connected to such changes. According to Charles, all negative emotions are messages from the soul about how you’re misappropriating your life force.

ENERGY LEAKAGES. Some dreams will point out the presence of an energy leakage. An energy leakage is a belief, attitude, or behavior that’s inappropriate, from the soul's perspective. Its inappropriateness causes a diminishment in the availability of life force. Dreams will bring up old energy leakages only if the leak is still open, in order to help make the connection that will close it off. This connection involves recognizing which beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors may have been inappropriate in a given situation--no matter how long ago the situation occurred or the beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors were apparently left behind. The realization of this inappropriateness closes the energy leakage.

GROWTH PROCESSES. Dreams can pinpoint the stage you're at in any growth process and indicate the most appropriate next step. They can also help you identify postponed, abandoned, or dormant growth processes. A postponed process is one that has been temporarily put off, often through procrastination--a lesson you have every intention of getting around to, but which from the soul's perspective would better be pursued now. An abandoned process is one that you resist, talk yourself out of, or intentionally ignore. A dormant process is one that, from the soul's perspective, can't be continued for the time being, until certain lessons have been learned or certain awarenesses have been made available. If your dreams point out that a process has been abandoned, they'll often indicate how it can be completed. Sometimes a correct interpretation of the dream is all that's necessary to complete the process. Other times some kind of action may be required.

EMOTIONS. Dreams can help you identify the source of any negative emotion--as a message from the soul about how you're misappropriating your life force. They can help you recognize, confront, and release fear (which indicate that a process has been abandoned by your refusing to begin it). Dreams can point out how to release yourself from frustration (which indicates that a process has been abandoned by your pursuing an inappropriate set of steps), or guilt (which indicates that a process has been abandoned by your refusing to complete it). Dreams can also indicate the difference between grieving (a process of purging the sense of loss of a person, relationship, pet, etc.) and nostalgia (which indicates that you've abandoned a growth process by refusing to let go of it, after completion, in order to move on to others), or self-pity (nonaction based on feeling sorry for yourself because of undesired or unexpected outcomes); and between shame (which indicates that a process has been abandoned by refusing to acknowledge and use the lessons learned from it) and remorse (the recognition that actions taken have gone against the intentions of the soul) or regret (awareness of an opportunity that was somehow missed). Furthermore, dreams can enable you to purge a buildup of negative emotion such as anxiety (nightmares), anger (dreams of fighting or killing people), and lust (sexual dreams).

SHADOW LOGIC. Dreams can identify areas of infection by or susceptibility to shadow logic, the set of arguments the ego puts forward to talk you out of learning the lessons required by the soul. A series of such arguments that have been linked together is called a shadow-logic tangle. Dreams can trace any shadow-logic tangle back to its source, point out a new shadow-logic tangle in the process of formation, or indicate how an apparently innocent thought based in shadow logic will look months or years down the road--as part of a new tangle. Shadow logic takes thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, facts, potential actions that are valid in themselves and links them in inappropriate ways. Thus, deciding that someone has said something in order to hurt you is a form of shadow logic. The fact that he spoke is incontestable. But his intention may not have been to hurt. Even if it was, you are responsible for your reaction to what he says. Dreams will often point out mistaken interpretations of other people's actions by encouraging you to see how you were responsible for your reactions to them.

REFLECTIONS. Dreams can help you perceive what people and events are reflecting back to you about your beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. They’re especially useful in dealing with anger, which Charles defines as the refusal to acknowledge what someone is reflecting back to you about yourself. People can reflect past, present, or future selves, or can represent an extreme of belief, attitude or behavior in which you are engaged. In the latter case, such people will often manifest themselves, both in real life and in dreams, by reflecting the equally inappropriate opposite extreme. Charles calls this a reversed reflection. Reversed reflections appear wherever there are heated discussions or arguments. An example on the global scale would be the opposition of environmentalists and industrialists. The former are too restrictive in their solutions to the problems created by the latter, who themselves need to change their extremes of wasteful and ecologically irresponsible behavior. The purpose of reversed reflections is for each side to recognize in the other a reflection of their extreme position and to modify that position until an effective compromise has been reached. Dreams can often provide insight into how to effect such compromises. Wayward reflections may also appear in dreams. Their purpose is to show you the results of pursuing what the soul perceives as an inappropriate path to achieve some goal.

LIFE PURPOSE. Dreams can help you recognize and fulfill any or all aspects of your life purpose--the lessons and types of service required by the soul. The seven aspects of life purpose are as follows:
  • service to the body (eating healthy food, exercise)
  • service to the soul (maintaining an awareness of the soul's intentions for your growth and carrying them through--by learning to interpret your dreams, for example)
  • service to the Creator (developing your own creative abilities)
  • service to the personality (absorbing into your personality as many characteristics of what it means to be human as possible)
  • service to family (raising a family, and/or being responsive to the needs of your immediate family and to those of the spiritual family of your closest friends)
  • service to humanity (bettering the conditions of life on the planet for other people)
  • service to all life (bettering the conditions of life for all beings that inhabit the planet)

WILLINGNESS TO BE HERE. The soul requires not only that you fulfill the various components of your life purpose, but also that you counterbalance such work with activities that increase your willingness to be present in the body and on the planet. Dreams can point out when you're being over-virtuous in fulfilling your life purpose and should take some time out for play. That way you'll never resent the soul's requirements for your growth. Dreams can also suggest activities that you would enjoy as a means of increasing your willingness to be here.

ESSENTIAL SELVES. Dreams can help you identify and develop your essential selves--the roles your life requires you to play. If you play the piano, then you have a pianist essential self, whose modes of being, including a specialized vocabulary, differ from those that prevail in your role as father, husband, or gardener. Dreams can allow you to rehearse the skills or roles necessary to develop your essential selves. Such dream rehearsals can help you to perform more effectively in waking life. Dreams can also lead you toward the creation of a fully integrated personality, in which all of your essential selves participate harmoniously.

IMPULSES. Dreams can confirm or deny the validity of impulses. Impulses are messages from the soul that indicate new directions for your growth to take. Crucial to the recognition of impulses is the ability to differentiate between wants and needs. A need is sanctioned by the soul. Once satisfied, it leaves your awareness. A want is not sanctioned by the soul. Usually, it arises from shadow logic, which uses it to convince you that happiness lies in directions other than the soul's requirements for your growth. Dreams can point out when impulses are being blocked and why this is so. They can help you prevent a backlog of ignored impulses from developing in order to avoid the overload state, a feeling of mental paralysis that prevents you from making decisions or taking action. Not only that, but dreams can help you develop a strategy for release from overload. Ignored impulses may have accumulated from every period of your life like strata in an archaeological site. Dreams can help you strip away these layers by indicating which impulses are still valid and how you can create space for them in your present life.

In Menus for Impulsive Living, Charles describes seven basic types of impulses:
  • purely physical impulses, such as eating and sleeping, that create a natural schedule (Menu A)
  • impulses that indicate a need for exercise (Menu B)
  • impulses toward self-awareness-related activities (Menu C)
  • impulses toward work-related activities (Menu D)
  • impulses toward play activities (Menu E)
  • impulses toward activities that maintain personal cleanliness or that of your living space (Menu F)
  • impulses that surprise you by changing the course of action you're presently involved in (Menu G)

Dreams can help you sort your impulses into these categories and maintain a balance between them.

HEALING. Dreams that occur during a time of illness may not be interpretable. If the dream is full of more than the usual amount of imagery, characters, confusion, or if it seems to move rapidly from one image to another without a perceivable plot, you may be witnessing the body's healing process, at the cellular level, translated into dream images. Dreams that have the purpose of telling you why you’re ill, what the symptoms symbolize, and what can be done to improve relations with the soul in order to heal the illness, may be interspersed between these healing dreams. My own healing dreams often take the form of soap operas with scores of characters, or very rapid travel, in which the scenery goes by so quickly that I'm hardly able to perceive it.

ALTERED STATES. Dreams can become the springboard for altered states of consciousness, such as lucid dreams, in which you're aware that you're dreaming and can change the content of the dream at will; and out-of-body or projection experiences on the physical, astral, or higher planes. But the primary purpose of dreams is to make you aware of the exact nature of any or all of the lessons you've learned, are learning, or have yet to learn. My experience has taught me that I can't ignore, forget, neglect, or misconstrue any aspect of my life without being set right by my dreams. I've had to give up all investment in being right or in having my way. Such attitudes are signals of an argument with the soul--and the soul is sure to let me know what it thinks in my dreams.