This book is an ideal reference guide not just for those interested in dream interpretation, but also serious psychology students. The introduction gives equal time to both schools of thought in dream analysis. The first is derived from Freudian and Jungian psychology, in which certain symbols appear in dreams and have universal meanings. Dreams are seen as the subconscious mind attempting to communicate with the conscious mind, and the symbols are a cultural vocabulary for interpreting the subconscious’ message. In the second school of thought, dream interpretation can really only be done by the individual who had the dream. For example, an apple in Freudian dream analysis would represent temptation, seduction, or a fall from grace. The dreamer might have stronger associations with apples than the Eve legend, though. The dreamer might have fond childhood memories of picking apples with grandparents, so the apple would instead represent comfort and family. The trick is recognizing the symbols and deciding what they mean to you.
After the very informative direction, the book lists all the people and cultures who have contributed to the study of dreams. To the author’s credit, the listings represent a variety of world cultures and not just Western psychology.
A quick read-through of this section will give a good overview of the history of dream interpretation, as well as new information. My personal favorite entry is about the African tribe that believed dream-life was just as valid as waking life, and dishonest actions taken in dreams were liable to the same punishments as dishonest actions in waking life.
The final section of the book is a glossary of common dream symbols, and how they can be conventionally interpreted. Apparently, small animals who talk in your dreams are messengers from the subconscious and should be listened to carefully. Bodies of water are portals to the subconscious, so swimming dreams are particularly important.
The neatest thing about this book is that is doesn’t attempt to tell the reader that he or she can predict the future from dreams. Rather, the dreamer is given tools to figure out what the dreamer already knows deep down.