Lighthouse provider Jabari Jones, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist with a private practice in NYC. One aspect of his work is helping the queer community interpret their dreams.
The practice of dream interpretation can be beneficial for everyone. But because dream work is so multifaceted, the scope of topics that dream work can be used to work through are of particular importance for the LGBTQ community. Dreamwork can reveal and help us work-through issues such as:
- Identity issues
- The complexities around being a multiple minority
- Gender identity
- Questions about gender fluidity
- Sexual Orientation
- Coming out
- Discrimination and Safety
Dream interpretations are a fun and powerful way to get “inside information” about yourself. Dreams can help us to recognize unrealized potentials and bring to our attention creative solutions to daily problems. Many people have used their dreams to solve problems and generate new ideas related to both their personal and professional lives.
Contemporary methods of dream interpretation have dispensed with the old school notion that places the interpreter in a hierarchical position above the dreamer, as an outside authority and expert who is said to have a fund of knowledge of esoteric dream symbols and plot meanings. Instead, with contemporary methods, the dreamer is rightfully placed as the expert and authority on themselves, and the role of the dream interpreter is to skillfully ask the dreamer specific questions to help uncover the secret gems hidden in their dreams. Each interpretation is derived solely from the dreamer’s own words, knowledge, opinions and beliefs. One great consequence of this shift in contemporary dream interpretation is that, with practice, one can learn the method on their own, and interpret their own dreams.
Below, I’ll outline three examples of dreams that helped my clients navigate their lived experiences.
1. Connect the Personal and Political
Oftentimes, dreams that are related to current political or cultural events can shed light on internalized emotional issues. One LGBTQ dreamer of mine who was well aware of the various levels of discrimination LGBTQ folks experience around the globe had a dream that they were planning a trip to Uganda, a country known for its severe discrimination against LGBTQ people. The dreamer’s awareness of this sociocultural fact led them to explore areas of their life where they may be analogously planning to place themselves in an environment that is hostile to an important aspect of their identity — one that may even be life-threatening. In this way, an awareness of our dreams can also protect us from stepping into harm’s way.
2. Figure Out What You Want From Relationships
Dreams can also help you learn more about what you want from — and how you function within — both platonic and romantic relationships. One of my dream clients is a bisexual man who has had relationships with both men and women throughout his life. He was at a point in his life where he was dating several women and had the following dream.
“I was sitting on the floor with one of my female dates. We were not saying anything to each other verbally but were communicating via text. She was sending me text messages of naked women, because she was trying to get me aroused. Even though in real-life I don’t use drugs, there was cocaine on the floor and we were both partaking in using it.”
Analyzing the dream helped him to clarify his goals for dating and relationships. The dream gave him insight into some addictive tendencies he had in regards to sex and dating. Clarity from the dream inspired him to address this problem, and he immediately came up with practical strategies to manage this. He became more aware of his long-term goal of establishing deeper and more lasting relationships, and realized that his current pattern of dating was not aligning with this goal. This empowered him to change his behavior, and he has subsequently had more satisfying relationships with women. In this example, the dream interpretation helped him to see a pattern of behavior that he was not aware of, and he was able to make a change that led him to get the long-term result that he wanted.
3. Make Surprising Parallels
Another client of mine, Samuel, is a gay man living in New York City. He shared the following dream with me:
“I had a dream that I had sex with Dina, a friend of mine from my high school days that I haven’t seen in years. In the dream I remember that she really wanted to have sex, but I didn’t want to. Eventually she found a secluded place for us to have sex. I wasn’t into it at all, but she was enjoying it. I remember being aroused, but I was not able to reach orgasm. I remember waking up feeling relieved it wasn’t real, but also vulnerable because I am gay and having sex with a woman is not in my nature.”
“I’m perplexed, does this mean that I am bisexual or something?”
Sex dreams don’t have to mean anything about orientation — they’re more about symbolism. Here you can see us break down the symbolic meaning of Samuel’s dream encounter with Dina.
Here is an excerpt of my dream interpretation session with Samuel:
Me: Why do humans have sex?
Sam: To create a deep and intimate bond with each other. Also for enjoyment and to express and fulfill natural urges of attraction to one-another.
Me: What is Dina like?
Sam: She is mostly friendly and approachable, but she can be a bit critical at times and a bit immature.
Me: What was it like having sex with Dina in the dream?
Sam: I didn’t like it. In the dream, I didn’t want to have sex, but I felt I had to. There were a couple of moments where I felt some pleasure, but I remember feeling mostly repulsed and aversion, and wanting to get it over with quickly.
Me: Did you recently create an unwanted deep and intimate bond with someone, or a part of yourself, who is mostly friendly and approachable but can be critical at times and immature? This interaction makes you feel repulsed, wanting to get what needs to be done with this person, or part of yourself, over with quickly?
Sam: Oh wow! That’s exactly how I felt about a coworker of mine. She’s a nice person, and I like her, but I feel that she wants a deeper relationship than I do. She has made multiple attempts to call me into her office to talk, and I always decline her offer, as I have other work to do. The night of the dream was right after this colleague and I spent a majority of the day working on a project together. This was the first time we were alone together for such an extended period of time. She began talking to me about intimate things going on in her life that I did not feel comfortable hearing about. Some of it was deeply personal, and I felt repulsed. I remember feeling pressured to listen, but wanting to get the project and my interaction that day with her over with as quickly as possible. I really wanted to get away from her.
With Samuel, we can see that the sexually laden dream pointed to an issue with boundaries and intimacy with a colleague at work. Often, our dreams bring into awareness unrealized and unconscious aspects of a particular situation in our waking life. Sometimes, repetitive dreams and dream-themes that recur act as a personal built-in alarm system, telling us to pay attention to a particular issue going on in our life that is outside of our waking awareness that needs to be addressed. Paying attention to our dreams helps in building self-awareness and can accelerate our personal growth in many life areas. With a new and clear understanding, we can start the process of change by asking “how would I change the dream if I could? Is there anything in the dream that I would have done differently?”
For the LGBTQ community, dream interpretation is a simple and fascinating way to learn more about yourself — whether it helps you delve deeper into issues you may already be aware of or discover new areas of interest altogether. The best part? Anyone can do it. To get started interpreting your own dreams, check out my guide to dream interpretation here.
To make an appointment with Jabari Jones, click here.