Dear Cynthia: I go through periods when I have exhausting dreams. In them I am usually fighting some war or dealing with some natural disaster on my own. These dreams are so real and detailed that when I wake up I am completely drained. I don't think these dreams are caused by stress in my life because I am happily married with two children and am the happiest I have ever been.
Dear Reader: A full night's sleep and no rest! Many people have written to say they feel worn out by all the activity in their dreams, but this is the first time I have heard of such heroic efforts required in the dream state of someone whose waking life seems happy and stress-free. Remember, though, that any change can be stressful, and even positive things bring some stress. No life is entirely stress-free. Your dream could be telling you that you have stress you aren't acknowledging.
Or maybe you are balancing out the bliss of your daytime life. Some of us create anxiety when everything is going well--almost as if we don't trust our good fortune.
In any case, waking up exhausted is not conducive to good health, so I suggest you try to program your dreams. Just think of an exciting, enjoyable project or plan you have for the near future, such as a trip or a decorating project. Write down some of your thoughts and questions about it just before you go to bed. By repeating your questions to yourself as you fall asleep, you can program your inner dream "screen" with an entertaining problem to solve.
After a few nights, you should wake up feeling more refreshed and satisfied.
Dear Cynthia: I dreamed that little birds of various sizes and colors were getting into our house. They had managed to peck holes in the screens and even the doors, so they could get inside. There were so many birds that I was getting panicky about how I would get them out. I got very upset when I noticed that the birds, especially the smallest ones, were falling to the floor and dying. I opened all the doors and windows and was very relieved to watch them all fly out--even the ones that had fallen.
Dear Reader: Air is often symbolic of the intellect, ideas and communication. Since birds live and fly in the air, they can be messengers of thoughts and ideas. Perhaps when you had this dream, you were being exposed to too many ideas and opinions--too much input. Bombarded with your own thoughts and other people's ideas, you couldn't think for yourself and you felt confused. Some ideas were dying before you even got to consider them!
When you opened the windows and doors, you opened your mind as well, releasing the ideas and thoughts. The relief you felt when the birds flew away suggests that you need to remain open. Don't seek or accept too much advice at one time as it can confuse you. You gain clarity by cleaning unsolicited ideas out of your mind.
Dear Cynthia: I frequently dream that I am in a hotel. My activities in the dream vary, but the consistent aspect is that I am in a hotel. I can be in a room, a hallway, the lobby. . . .
I dream of being in a hotel at least once a week and often more frequently. I travel only three or four times a year and don't spend much time in hotels, so this baffles me.
Dear Reader: Hotels are temporary dwelling places, symbolic of temporary situations. Ask yourself what in your life seems temporary. Do you want to make changes? Or do you long for stability?
The details of each dream can offer many clues to whatever is on your subconscious mind. A lobby is a very public place and could indicate a feeling that others are aware of your activities. A hallway gets you from one place to another and may indicate that you are in--or want--some kind of transition. A room could indicate a need for rest.
Dear Cynthia: My husband had a dream the other night that we are both curious about. We have been happily married for 28 years and have an excellent sex life. In the dream, my husband is a baby. I am my adult self. We are both in a bath, naked, and I am holding him. We are having a good time. My husband says he feels very content and happy.
I hope this doesn't mean he thinks of me as his mother.
Los Angeles County
Dear Reader: You say you've had a long, happy marriage with a great sex life, so I don't think your husband sees you as a mother figure. Rather, it sounds as though he sees you as nurturing, fun and safe, someone he can "come clean" or be honest with. In your presence he can be himself, even when he feels a bit childlike.
Behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond's column appears every other Monday. To contact her, write to In Your Dreams, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; send a fax to (213) 237-0732; or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your hometown and a daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 100 words and cannot be returned.
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Cynthia Richmond explains children's dreams on our Kids' Reading Room page every Wednesday.