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5 Steps to Decode Your Dreams:

A Quick and Effective Method for Exploring Dreams
by Dr. Gillian Holloway



Editor's Note from Tzivia Gover: You've recalled your dream and recorded it in your dream journal. Now what? In this article Dr. Gillian Holloway offers a practical step-by-step process for approaching dreams and uncovering the messages and gifts contained within.

I get a lot of clients who, after their dream session, ask if I do psychic readings too, because they assume the accuracy of the dreamwork came partly out of psychic abilities. For the record, I think that we’re all a tad psychic, and that these abilities are just another form of intelligence that has gotten a bad, and a very weird, rap. 

The secret behind the accuracy of my dream sessions is this: I’ve been using the same method for over 20 years because it works so well. There are 5 elements in a dream that I scan and then translate as I work through a dream. These 5 points make it very difficult to go wrong, and very easy to get to the heart of the dream. It also reminds me to dig into the gift the dream offers; this is the value that makes the search worthwhile. Let’s take a look at how these 5 points can lead to understanding.

1. Your first impression.

2. Your action.

3. Your feelings.

4. Your symbols.

5. Your gift.


A woman in one of my classes described her dream of looking out her bedroom window and seeing the wreckage of a plane in her back yard. The front of the plane was buried in the lawn, while the wings and back part were sticking up. Apparently the plane crashed nose-down when it hit. She was upset by what she saw, as it took up her entire yard. 

(1) Impression: When I asked her for her first impression of the dream, she said that it was simply overwhelming. The wreck took up her entire back yard. 

(2) Action: When I asked her about the action, she said she was simply staring, overwhelmed and mesmerized by the crash site. When I asked how she felt, she said: stunned, unable to look away. She did not want to look, but she could not stop staring.

(3) Feelings: She felt overwhelmed, paralyzed; unable to look away or move.

(4) Symbols: She had no personal connections with planes. Thus, it seemed the plane represented a wreck or disaster in her life. Then she explained that her partner had recently left her, walking out and ending the relationship. She felt her whole life was a wreck right now, and no matter what she was doing, she was always preoccupied with the break-up. Since the setting showed her looking out her bedroom window, I wondered if the dream was about her perspective, her point of view. She felt paralyzed in this perspective. 

(5) The gift: This woman found the dream helpful, because it showed that she was dealing in part with post traumatic shock. She was stuck in her position of horror and unable to function well. Sometimes, in order to handle a situation and respond optimally, we need help in placing it in the proper perspective. This dream prompted her to visit a counselor for a short time, to get support sorting through her layers of shock, grief and loss. Eventually she realized that her partner had picked a fight with her to get out of the commitment of their relationship because he simply was not ready to grow up. 

Six months later, when he returned to try and win her back, she was able to gently and respectfully let him know that she wanted more steadiness in a partner, and felt she would continue to search for someone who shared her sense of commitment and readiness for a mature partnership. Because her dream had helped her to have greater compassion for her own situation and to reach out for the support she needed, she was able to handle the situation more effectively, and to move forward with her life and her quest for fulfillment. 


A woman in one of my dream groups dreamed that she was lost in a vast forest. She became confused and lost her bearings, and then when she tried to find her way out, she wound up going more deeply into the forest. Soon everything looked the same and she had no idea which direction would lead her into the clearing and back to the home. 

(1) Impression: She believed the dream was showing her sense of hopelessness about something. 

(2) Action: The dream showed her attempting to find her way, and that what she did actually drew her more deeply into a state of confusion. 

(3) Feelings: She felt anxious and ultimately somewhat panicked. 

(4) Symbols: She had no fear of the woods, and in fact loved being outdoors. We concluded that the forest was a symbol of feeling lost in some way. When we discussed where she felt most lost in her life, she revealed that she was feeling forced to make a decision about her aged mother, who lived across the country. She and her siblings lived out West, and wanted to sell their mother’s home and move her to be closer nearby. 

Their mother refused, exclaiming that she would die if they moved her away from what was familiar. The dreamer felt more confused all the time, wanting to keep her mother calm and happy, but agreeing that she needed to be nearby where the kids could offer more support. The more she tried to think her way out of this mess, the more her thoughts contradicted one another, leading her into a maze of confusion. 

(5) Gift: People of strong intellect may feel trapped when an emotional or nuanced situation fails to yield to the power of logic. Typically this woman was able to literally think her way out of the woods with most problems life offered, but this time, she found that over-thinking was making matters more confusing. When I asked her to consult her heart center, the place where she felt her emotional truth in her body, about what should be done, she grew quiet, and then said simply: We have to move my mother.

This she did then, in the next month, with a greater sense of clarity and trust, despite her mother’s reluctance. The house was sold, the whole family rallied to help, and her mother joined her in a nearby retirement community. Contradictory to her predictions of death-by-disruption, her mother soon made many friends and even fell in love with a man who lived in the community. No amount of thinking could have predicted this happy resolution, because some corners we turn in life are part of a larger adventure than is measured by deduction and planning. This dreamer now has the benefit of both sides of her brilliance, her precisely trained logic, and her wonderfully free and creative intuition. 

It is an ongoing privilege to explore the profound landscape of dreams with students and clients. I wish you luck in decoding your dreams.



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About the Author

Dr. Gillian Holloway is an expert in the area of dreams and intuition. She is the author of four books on dreams, and has taught at Marylhurst University in Portland Oregon for 16 years. Her work has been featured on ABC’s 20/20 as well as the New York Times Health Blog and The Washington Post. Gillian’s direct approach to dream symbolism and modern stress dreams is widely quoted by journalists. Her latest research focuses on the impact and implications of our dreams of the dead. To learn more Dr. Holloway’s work visit www.lifetreks.com. To learn more about her book, “5 Steps to Decoded Your Dreams" click here.




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