Where do I start when I have lots of dreams to interpret?

How to manage dream overload – and identify which dreams to prioritise in the interpretation process.

Do you have so many dreams that you are feeling overwhelmed? 

Is it hard to know which dreams to begin with?

This article takes inspiration from bible study principles – plus personal experience – to help navigate dream overload and help you make a sensible start.

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.

If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.

The problem of dream overload

I became interested in dreams around 15 years ago, as soon as I realised God might speaking to me through them. So I started diligently writing down as many as I could remember and trying to interpret them.

But the trouble was, I dreamed most nights, and sometimes they had numerous scenes. Plus, once I started taking them seriously, I began to wake up in the night and have even more dreams! It seemed that God was honouring my interest and giving me more!

Once I realised God was communicating with me, I didn’t want to miss anything: I didn’t want to miss out on any guidance, promises, or insights into my life. So, I wrote them all down, and ended up with loads of dreams recorded – and not enough time to look at them all.

I didn’t want to miss any of my dream messages!

It was also an exremely busy time of my life, which made things even harder. I have written more about the coping strategies I developed in the following article: How I learned to interpret dreams while working, raising 3 boys, and running a church!

I have since spoken to other people on a similar journey, and it seems like this a common problem!

Having dream overload is a common problem!

I now have thousands of dreams written down, and I have had a go at interpreting nearly all of them.  I found that some were hard to interpret, and others seemed incomprehensible at first glance. But some I did understand more easily.

Through all that experience. I have discovered a strategy to help prioritise my dreams – and it comes from my bible study training.

Where do we start reading the bible?

I have discovered that the process of interpreting dreams has many similarities to studying the bible. Like dreams, there is a huge amount of information in the bible, and it can be hard to know where to begin.

History and experience tell us that it is very easy to take an obscure part of the bible and make a whole doctrine out of it.  That is one of the reasons why we have so many denominations and religious groups, each with different theological viewpoints.

Because of this, I was taught to always start with the clearer passages in the bible and use those as a reference to understand the more obscure parts. What that means in practice is this: If you are researching a topic, start with the passages that are clear and simple to understand. After that, you can go onto the more difficult passages.

In the same way, if you are stuck, or trying to understand a confusing passage, it is helpful to look for another passage where that subject is explained more clearly.  Then use that as a reference point for understanding the current passage.

An example from Mark’s gospel

A well-known example can be found in Mark’s gospel. This is quite a hotly debated example – but that’s why I picked it – to illustrate a point. It comes from Jesus’ words in Mark 3:

  • Mark 3:28-29, NASB “Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons and daughters of men, and whatever blasphemies they commit; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

At face value, Jesus seems to be saying that there is one sin that is unforgiveable – that if you do this one thing then you can never be forgiven, even if you repent.  Obviously, this has struck fear into many people, who live life terrified that they might do this one thing. 

But let’s apply the principle of starting with the clearer parts in the bible: The bible – as a whole – is very clear that Jesus’ death and resurrection was powerful enough for everything and anything.

  • John 3:16, NASB For God so loved the world [kosmos], that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

In Mark 3 there were people around who were struggling to accept Jesus as being from God and experiencing the benefit of the forgiveness He brought. Some were saying he was from Satan, not from the Holy Spirit. So, in my opinion, Jesus was simply saying they wouldn’t accept forgiveness because of their beliefs – it’s not that it wasn’t on offer.

You may agree or disagree with me about this passage – and that’s the whole point! But my main conclusion is this, and I think we can all agree:

If someone is a new believer in Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t advise starting with that passage! There are plenty of other clearer verses about God’s love, grace and forgiveness, which can provide us with a solid foundation.

We wouldn’t advise a new believer to start with that difficult passage.

Therefore, we must use the clearer parts of the bible as our frame of reference.

Where do I start with my dreams?

Like the bible, dreams need interpretation. Some are clearer than others, and the symbols can have different meanings. Therefore, there is plenty of scope for misinterpreting what they are saying. But in the same way as the bible, there are some safeguards that can help us keep on track.

If we start with the confusing dreams, the ones that we can only half remember, or ones that are muted, then we could come up with an interpretation that was never God’s intention for us! So, I usually look for something that I can understand easily first and use that dream message as a reference point to help me interpret the rest.

It is important to understand that dreams usually come in batches – or repeat the same themes over time. 

In other words, we often have a number of dreams, or scenes within dreams, all on the same subject – but looking at it from different angles. This is very similar to the idea of having lots of bible passages looking at the same subject in different ways.

Dreams come in batches, covering the same subject in different ways.

This means that we have plenty of opportunities to understand God’s dream messages, and it doesn’t matter if we miss some dreams. God will keep speaking until we get the message. Consider it a bonus if you manage to look at them all!

With that in mind, you can relax and choose to begin. And if you have journals full of dreams, here are some good places to start:

Relax, take the pressure off yourself – and choose to make a start!

1. Recent dreams

Many dreams are about things that are happening in our life around the time of dreaming, or in the coming few months. (There are some exceptions to this: See Timing of dreams and Patterns and cycles in dreams for more details).

So, if you have loads of dreams that you haven’t looked at, there is no point going back to old dreams before you have reviewed the new ones. Is helpful to look at your latest dreams as soon as possible, while you can still remember what real-life events they might relate to.

I would start by looking at dreams from the past week, then the past month, and then further back if I have time.

TIP: Prevention of dream overload is better than a cure: Making dream work a part of your regular prayer time can help you spot dreams that are about your current situation.

2. Brightly coloured dreams

The more colour and light there is in a dream, the more likely it is to be from God (see Background colour and atmosphere in dreams for more on this topic).

Some dreams are positively sparkling with colour, almost heavenly in appearance. Make sure to highlight dreams like that in your records so you can go back to them. The same is true for dreams with obvious colour that stands out.

In contrast, some dreams are dark or muted or confusing in atmosphere. These dreams could be from various sources, and they can seem negative or scary. For example:

  • Monochrome (or obviously black and white) dreams can be from a negative spiritual source.
  • Muted and confusing dreams can be from our own mind, will and emotions.
  • Some dreams can be triggered by our physical body, for example if we are feverish.

I believe all dreams are helpful if we talk to God about them and ask Him what we are looking at – including the dark and less clear ones. But it has taken me many years to feel confident about interpreting the latter.  Mostly I use them as confirmation and further insight, rather than ones to base decisions on.

Starting with dark, muted or confusing dreams is not a good idea if you are new to dream interpretation – unless you have help. I only recommend doing so if:

  • You have plenty of clearer dreams as a reference point.
  • You have an ongoing relationship with God.
  • You have a good grasp of God’s character from reading the bible.

I would use the positive, coloured dreams as a reference point (because they most likely give God’s perspective) and use insights from those to frame the less clear dreams if you have time.

3. Clear and simple dreams

It is important to remember that most dreams are like parables: They are illustrations or stories that relate to areas of our life.

However, some dreams are more literal than others and contain clear messages or statements that are easy to understand. For example, they could be clear prophetic words, instructions, or directions.

Often these come as messages delivered within the dream, or as a clear thought in our mind as we wake up. These are worth recording in a place where we can read and remember them regularly.

Some dreams contains clearly stated messages.

In addition, some dream illustrations are straightforward, and we can recognise the symbolism easily. These are also good dreams to make a start with.

Some dreams are long, convoluted, and confusing – and it makes us feel tired just at the thought of unravelling them! I would leave those until after the clearer ones, or until we have time to properly grapple with them.  

TIP: If you do tackle a long and convoluted dream, the sample principle applies: Look for the clearer parts within that long dream and start from there.

4. Dreams we can relate to real life

I find the hardest part of interpreting dreams is relating them to real life. We can understand the parable, but not see anything that ties up with it in our everyday life. That might be for various reasons, for example if it is about something in the future, or if we need to make a mindset shift before we understand the message.

However, there will be dreams that we can immediately link with an area of life. Those would also be good dreams to start with.

5. Dreams that grab attention

Some dreams just feel important! There are various ways this might happen, for example:

  • Dreams that wake you up in the middle of the night.
  • Dreams that wake you up in a sweat (which might not necessarily mean they are bad!).
  • Repeating dreams.
  • Vivid dreams.
  • Dreams that you can’t get out of your head!

Pay attention to those things. If a dream feels important, then it probably is! Make sure to pray through it and listen to the message. Get some help if necessary.

If a dream feels important – then it probably is!

Dream organisation is important

Being organised about recording our dreams and highlighting the important ones can greatly help prevent dream overload. I have written about that in How to organize your dreams so you can remember their messages.

Making dream work a regular part of our morning prayer time can also help us spot important dreams and highlight them for revisiting in future. It can also help us keep on top of things and spot dreams that are relevant to our current situations!

Use clear messages as a framework

It is amazing how quickly we forget what God has said to us through previous dreams. It then becomes easy to jump to a wrong conclusions about other dreams – particularly the less clear ones.

So, once we have understood the meaning of the clearer dreams and are confident about what God is saying, it is important to remember those messages.

The following tips can help us stay on track:

  • Write down the dream messages that you understand, and the things you have heard God speak to you about clearly. Keep those things easily accessible so you have them as a record and a reference point.
  • Develop a system for logging your dreams so you know which ones are important and which ones you want to revisit.
  • Remember what is already revealed about God in the bible. And remember that He is always loving and brings hope.
  • Move onto more confusing dreams after you have understood the clear ones.
  • Always keep the big picture in mind of what’s going on in your life, and what God has already spoken to you about through the bible and in other ways.

Real dream example

A number of years ago one of my co-elders at our church had the following dream:

Black and white flags at church

We were all putting up flags around the church. We had all gathered to celebrate closing the church and moving to somewhere else. They were black and white flags. I knew that the white was on the top because God was in this. It wasn’t sad at all because we knew we would be coming back.

This dream was very clear! My friend didn’t know about the symbolism in dreams at the time, but she did know the meaning of the dream, as it was revealed to her within the dream itself: We would need to close the church for a while, and although the future was not yet revealed, we would come back in due time. God was in this! 

 My knowledge of colours in dreams confirmed her interpretation:

  • White as a dream symbol can represent the Holy Spirit.
  • Black can represent mystery, as in something not yet revealed.

Many dreams on the same subject

Around that time, I also had many dreams on the same subject. Many of them were confusing and unclear, until I realised they could be about closing the church. After that they started making sense.

That clear dream from the other leader was my frame of reference, and I used it as a key to understand all the others. Here is a list of a few of them:

DREAM TITLEMEANING
A big new house for our familyWe would be joining a bigger church.
I saw a tree being cut downMy leadership role would be ending for a while.
Our church being redecoratedThrough this transition our church would be changed.
We needed a safety netOur big new church family would be a place of safety
We were serving at a barIn our old church we were just entertaining people!
Rocket launch into spacePromise that a new church would launch in future.
Our family getting changedOur church family would be transformed through the process.

Although these dreams weren’t so clear, they helped me understand finer details like the purpose in closing the church and the timing. It was all encouraging and confirmed what we were doing, but it wouldn’t have mattered too much if I hadn’t managed to get round to interpreting them all.

Trust God to lead the process

And finally, when you’re feeling dream overwhelm, try to relax! Dream interpretation is meant to be enjoyable and rewarding.

Remember that you have a heavenly Father who is guiding the process, and that he is perfectly capable of getting your attention if he needs to. Trust him to highlight important dreams and to help you.

Trust God to highlight important dreams.

Resist the lie that you will somehow mess everything up if you don’t understand all your dreams. He will mentor you in the process if you are ready and willing. Rest in his leading.

  • Philippians 1:6, NLT And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished…

But on the flip side, don’t use that as an excuse for not making a start! Make some plans, get organised, use some of the tips in this article, and then trust God to guide you.

Conclusion

We have seen that getting dream overload is a common problem! At those times, it is important to relax and choose to begin. Here are some good places to start:

  1. Look at recent dreams because they might be about your current situation.
  2. Look for brightly coloured dreams, because those are usually from God.
  3. Look for clear and simple dreams, with a message you can easily understand.
  4. Look for illustrations that obviously mirror a real-life situation.
  5. Look for dreams that grab your attention.

We can use the clear dreams and the dreams we do understand as a frame of reference for interpreting the less clear ones if we have the time.

We have also seen that organising our dreams and planning dream work into our daily prayer time can help us keep on top of things.

The main thing is – trust God to lead you and just make a start!

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I hope you found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to emails to receive regular dream interpretation tips.

The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.

It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.

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