Do you find your dreams confusing? Or sometimes feel frustrated because they don’t make sense? If so, then maybe it’s because you are looking at them from a Western mindset!
In this series we have been looking at how some of the tools that we use to study the bible are also useful for helping us understand dreams. This article looks at the subject of Greek thinking.
Discover how breaking away from our Greek thinking can help with the dream interpretation process!
A different mindset
One thing that I quickly learnt when studying the bible is that the authors did not think like me. In order to understand it correctly I had to ditch my Greek-inspired Western thinking, and learn how the Hebrew writers structured their literature.
For example it was frequently not chronological! The writers tended to place the important events in the middle of the passage rather than in time order.
This is very confusing to our Western mindsets unless we understand it! I have often read something in the bible that seemed to make no sense, until I realised that it was arranged in a specific way, which I did not understand at first.
We sometimes call our Western mindset ‘Greek thinking’, because its origins are in the ancient Greek culture. And we call a biblical mindset ‘Hebrew thinking’.
Dreams jump around
In the same way, dreams are not always laid out in a way that seems logical to our Greek mindsets. The themes jump around. Elements match up from all different parts of the dream (and with other dreams).
When I first started trying to interpret dreams, I made the mistake of thinking about them chronologically. I assumed that my dreams were like little stories, with one thing happening after another. I got very frustrated, not being able to understand them.
I soon realised I needed to change my approach, and started looking out for different patterns. Here are a few things that I discovered:
- Different scenes in a dream are often about the same thing, but providing extra insight, or saying it in another way. For example, one part may set the context, the next give an encouragement, and another give something to overcome. But not necessarily in that order!
- Dreams often repeat the same message several times, but using different symbols or illustrations.
- Often one part of a dream links into another part. When this happens it is like taking a magnifying glass to one particular area of the dream and then expanding that in a different part of the dream.
- Some elements appear in a dream simply to give us confidence that we have the right meaning. The different dream elements match up to confirm the interpretation.
- Sometimes we have to abandon trying to be too precise with the symbolism, and just go with the general gist of the idea.
Left-brain vs right-brain thinking
We sometimes talk about being more left-brained or right-brained. I found a website (link below) which explains what this means, along with a quick test to find out which is your dominant side. It’s a bit of fun:
By left-brained, we mean being predominantly logical and mathematical in our thinking, which fits in well with the biblical concept of a Greek mindset. By right-brained, we mean being more creative and intuitive. In Western culture, we tend to encourage and value a more logical/Greek approach.
To interpret dreams we need to get in touch with our intuitive side.
Obviously we need to keep both of these ways of thinking in balance, but for interpreting dreams we definitely need to get in touch with our intuitive side. It is a bit of a challenge for me I must admit, as I am naturally very left-brained. But I am constantly developing and improving my creative side!
My work-around for Greek-thinking people
If you are naturally intuitive, you will probably have already realised that you think in a creative way, and you can easily make connections in your dreams.
But those of you who are like me, who struggle to think outside the box, I have a few tips to share. I have developed some strategies to help me overcome my left-brained approach:
Overcoming a Greek mindset to understand dreams
- Find the context: Start by looking for the setting of the dream, as this give us the context, and helps get a frame of reference for the dream. (I need that big picture to fit everything into – it’s like doing the edges of a jigsaw puzzle!). For more practical tips on this step see Biblical tools: Considering the context.
- Look for repeating themes. Doing this can save time, and help us see whether different parts of the dream are repeating the same message, or linking up.
- Brainstorm ideas for various dream elements: I consider lots of potential meanings for each of the dream symbols: anything and everything I can think of. Then I look and see if any of them seem to jump out at me, or if there are repeated themes amongst the ideas. (This helps me to think creatively when I’m stuck).
- Application: Breakthrough comes when we suddenly see how the dream applies to our life. Then all the different parts of the dream line up and make sense. At this stage Greek thinking is actually helpful, and becomes a blessing, because we can explain the meaning in a logical way.
There are a few other activities that can help:
- Drawing the dream.
- Mind-mapping the dream.
- Playing gentle background music while thinking about the dream.
- Practising relaxation and prayerful meditation while praying through the dream.
Our greatest asset in this whole process is God’s Spirit. I have found that He often drops ideas and pictures into my mind to help me when I’m stuck. There is no better way to work around a Greek mindset than to spend time in God’s presence, and allow Him to inspire us and renew our thinking.
A real dream example
I had this dream a few weeks ago. It had me puzzled for a while! Try and imagine the scenes as you read, and have a go at thinking about what the dream could mean before you move on to the explanation.
Scene 1: A secret room with a bed
I dreamed I was in a house. There was a secret room with a single bed in it. The bed folded down from inside a wardrobe. The other people in the house didn’t know about this room, but I was staying in it. It was lovely and bright with a window, and I thought it could be really useful.
Scene 2: Swimming with a turtle
My husband and I went to the beach. I was worried about going in the sea in case there was something dangerous lurking that I couldn’t see beneath the surface. My husband went in for a swim, and I was looking under the water. A turtle came floating along which was lovely. Then a cat came out of the turtle (which turned out to be just a shell) and bumped my husband’s leg, so he quickly got out of the sea.
Then we saw a red snake on a rock next to where we were swimming. It must have been near us all the time!
Scene 1 explained
I knew this house represented an area of my life; the single bed indicated that is was about me personally. So initially I thought that this room must be something I didn’t know about that God wanted to reveal to me. But then I realised that I was taking the dream too literally. When I started to think more creatively, I realised that two of the items in the room matched up:
The secret room was not literally secret, in the sense that it wasn’t something I didn’t know about. ‘The secret place’ is a term that Christians sometimes use for spending time alone with God.
The bed in the wardrobe: Christians talk about the ‘prayer closet’, which is also about spending time alone with God.
So this scene was an illustration of how helpful it would be for me to spend time alone with God, and be at peace/rest.
Scene 2 explained
This scene appeared to be about my husband, but since the first scene was about me, I thought maybe this scene was also about my own life. I was very confused and thought I might have done something wrong because of the snake! Let’s look at some of the symbolism:
The sea usually represents people: the world, and what people are saying, for example on social media.
A turtle usually represents peace. This turtle appeared very peaceful, but then a cat came out and I realised it was just a shell. I understood that this was signifying losing my sense of peace.
A snake usually represents a lie. This snake was overlooking the scene indicating that there were lies circulating out there in the world! I was spending a lot of time on Pinterest which has a red logo – hence the red snake. That was a personal meaning of the colour red for me.
The moment of breakthrough
Initially the two scenes seemed totally different. Breakthrough came when I made a shift in thinking, and realised that both of them were saying the same thing from opposite angles:
The secret room scene was saying that I needed to have time alone with God to find that place of rest/inner peace.
The turtle scene showed me that listening to the world and the media was causing me to lose my peace, and whenever that happens I should have time away from it (come out of the sea).
The snake overlooking the sea was just giving further detail; it was the things I was reading on Pinterest that were not helping me!
In order to keep my peace and a Godly perspective, it was necessary for me to take some time out from social media (specifically Pinterest), and spend time alone with God, listening to Him.
Funnily enough I recently wrote a blog post called ‘Keeping your peace amidst all the news’. When I wrote it I had no idea that I’d had this dream which said exactly the same thing! But now I understand..
To interpret dreams we need to hold those Greek mindsets loosely, and learn to embrace our intuitive side – otherwise it can get quite frustrating! Just like the bible, dreams are not always chronological, nor can we always analyse them logically.
In our own personal dream life, we can become aware of our own weaknesses, and improve them. And we can learn to work around them.
And we have the Holy Spirit who knows us, loves us, and helps us to understand His night-time messages!
So relax, have fun with your dreams, and enjoy the journey!
Next in series…
More articles in the biblical tools series
Introduction: Why the bible can help us understand dreams
- Examples of dreams
(includes a list of dreams)
- Dreams as parables
- Symbolic language in dreams
- Dream symbols and the law of first mention
- Puns and wordplay in dreams
- The bible as a dream dictionary
- Considering the context of a dream
- Start with the clear parts in your dreams
- Working around a Greek mindset
- Knowing God’s heart