My guest is Theresa Cheung. Theresa is a dream decoder and wants you and I to pay attention to our dreams. We talk about how our dreams are us talking to ourselves. I must admit my logical life definitely has squeezed out a lot of my real estate for “dreaming” and listening to my dreams. After my talk with Theresa, I am going to notice more of the symbols all around me and also not cut my creative self short.
She discusses how much creativity lives below the surface of our lives and within us, we just need to give them the opportunity to flourish. I felt hopeful after this talk.
Listen to the episode here:
- Theresa’s Dream Decoder Journey [00:00:46]
- Understanding Your Dreams [00:12:30]
- Safe Roleplay [00:24:37]
- Reconnection After Death [00:29:12]
- Passing On Dream Decoding [00:37:50]
- Theresa’s Dreams [00:45:06]
- An Invitation to Pay More Attention to Your Dreams [00:49:29]
Theresa Cheung – Dreams Decoder
Sometimes I don’t want to say when one is an overly grounded person, you miss a lot. I would love to know being from England, first of all, how does one get into this space? When you’re a young person, were you fascinated by dreams? How did your journey into this begin?
I was born into it because I was born into a family of traveling psychics, spiritualist so I grew up believing that everybody talked about their sun signs, read tarot cards, decoded their dreams, and talked to dead people. I was home-educated. I was lucky enough to get into King’s College Cambridge to read religion. When I went there from a sheltered community of people believing in these mystical ideas, of course, it was a big shock to realize that most people don’t think that way. It wasn’t normal what they considered normal was to dream decode to believe in the spiritual, the unseen world.
A lot of us have this idea that we have an idea about what you’re talking about but not really. When you say dream decode, it’s analyzing our dreams. Can you say what that looked like from a group that not only maybe believed it, but also there was sort of practice around that?
Every morning when I get up, my mother would encourage me to talk about my dreams but it was how we started the day. Now I’ve done so much research into it. I’ve dedicated my life to understanding it. There is a culture, the Synodic Tribe, where that is center stage, and the incidence of crime and depression in that culture is zero. Could it be the dream decoding, the emphasis they placed on the children as young as 4 are called to the elders of the tribe to talk about their dreams because dreams are considered as important as your waking reality?
For me, that was the same. If you dream something, I was encouraged to go back into my dream and seek out my fears there so it was easier in my waking life. That was how I was brought up. Dream decoding is basically when you have a dream, understanding what your intuition, your heart is trying to tell you through the symbolic pictures of dreams. Also, using that information in your waking life to bring you a fresh perspective, a bigger picture of beneath the surface meaning.
In our modern lives today, we live so much on the surface that we don’t look at the hidden and deeper meaning. I was fortunate to be brought up in a way where it was always about nothing is what it seems. Look beneath the surface. What truly matters here? What is the heart noticing but the head isn’t? During the day, we’re led by our head and our ego. We have to because we have to get things done. We can’t all be dreamy, mystical, and meditate but at night, when we fall asleep, everything that our heart has noticed, our heart hasn’t come to the fore in a symbolic metaphorical way.
[bctt tweet=”You don’t die, your body does. Death ends a life, not a relationship.”]
Dreams are a bit like art. If you want to understand a painting, you have to meditate on it. You have to look at all the thousands of meanings in that painting. Whereas during the day, it’s literal. It’s black and white. If people can try to understand the comparison between dreams, art, and music, where there are lots of meanings.
Depending on where you’re at, maybe you’re going through something, or at a certain point in your life, you look at that art or hear that song and it would then bring a different meaning and maybe it’s the guide. What is the Dalai Lama, the inner wisdom of you? Do you think in a way that also transmits back a message that we need at that moment?
Absolutely. What I love that you said there is that the best person to be your therapist, your counselor, your guide, your guru is yourself. That’s what happens. Your dreams are you talking to you and relying on yourself, your own inner wisdom. For a lot of people, the mistake they make is to think, “I’ve got to look externally.” Relationships, career teachers, gurus, tell me. That’s an important part of our journey because we need teachers and mentors.
However, at the end of the day, the biggest personal growth and development is always to be personal. My work is to connect people with their inner therapist, inner guide, inner guru, and inner psychic. We all have it. Research because we have it. It’s in our genes, it’s in our DNA, but we get cut off from it and that’s where all the trouble starts because we’re looking externally for what is always within us. Dreams take us back to that place of deep inner wisdom. If only we learned how to dialogue with our dreams and fall in love with our dreams, we would feel so much happier and fulfilled.
With the people I’ve worked with, I’ve seen it happen. When they start realizing that at night, they are so wise, they are talking to themselves, they are helping themselves. It’s very empowering in their waking life. You also don’t feel so alone. You realize that you’ve got your own back. That sounds weird but you have. There’s a part of you, the eternal infinite part of you that has your own back. We live in a logical, rational world and it’s trying to connect to the deeply intuitive. Not irrational, but hidden and unseen parts of us. That’s what dream decoding does.
I love dream decoding because it’s an entry point for spiritual and personal growth where even people who say they’re not spiritual or psychic, why do we dream? What was that about? I love it. It enables me to talk about spiritual topics in such a mainstream way without being able to go on to mainstream radio, TV talking about dreams. What they don’t realize is what I’m talking about is opening a door to spiritual and psychic growth. It’s the way in. It’s the first port of call for spiritual and personal growth and development.
Do you have siblings?
Yes, I have a brother.
Both of your parents were open to these conversations?
Yeah. It’s what I grew up in. I have a medium for an aunt. At the age of 4 or 5, I was going to mediumship demonstrations. The idea that when you died, your spirit or soul lived on was something I accepted. You don’t die, your body does. Death ends a life, not a relationship was how I grew up.
You woke up in the morning and your mom would say, “What did you dream about?” Maybe we could put it into parallel with somebody who’s never experienced this. Is it also the cultivation of that, then it becomes a richer experience, maybe your dreams for you your whole life versus I come in, I’m supposedly a fully formed adult, whatever that means? I visit you and I say, “This is something I’d like to pay more attention to and cultivate.”
Do you have people write things down at least in the morning, recognizing what they experienced in the night? What does that look like? Let’s say you have somebody who is in this logical world. I do laugh at the fact that you are British, which you’re a sensible group. If you can get to your culture, I imagine you can probably talk to anyone at this point.
My mother was Indonesian and my father was British, so I’m mixed raced. I don’t know if that plays something into it. I’m a mix of cultures. My husband’s Chinese so I feel I’m crossing the world and also my children were born in America so they’re American citizens. I’ve got a bit of the whole world there. Like anything in life, what you pay attention to grows. If you start thinking about dreams more and when you recall them, writing them down, the following night, you’re going to have more and more. That’s what happens. I hope anyone reading this says they don’t dream, first of all, they do. Research shows they do. They’re just not remembering their dreams. They’re not recording them.
I hope that this podcast will trigger a dream because they’re reading about dreams because what the dreaming mind does is during the day, it picks up on everything in your waking life. Dreams are current. People often think they’re dreaming about their past or whatever, but they’re not. Every night when you dream, you’re dreaming about what is present in your waking life in a symbolic way.
If symbols from the past appear like your childhood or your school, it’s because something from your school or your childhood is being recalled in your present day. It’s those emotions, so it goes back into your past to pick out these symbols to make you pay attention. That person who picked on you at school may appear in your dream. That’s because, in your waking life, there may be a relationship where there’s a similar dynamic.
Don’t think you’re dreaming about your past. When you dream about your past. You’re dreaming about your present. It’s teaching people to think in terms of symbols and metaphors and to look beneath the surface. What you pay attention to grows so if you have an attitude that dreams are meaningless, random nonsense, you don’t remember them, of course, you’re not going to get much dream recall. You have to shift that attitude and say, “Before I go to sleep, I’m going to dream tonight and it’s going to be fun. Show me, dreaming mind, what do you want me to know? Show me something that will help my personal growth and development.”
The more you do that, the more your dreams will start to respond and they will reward you. Don’t panic if you always have nightmares. A lot of our dreams, about 90% are anxiety dreams and that’s healthy because it’s your dreaming mind trying to help you release all these emotions that you may be repressed during the day, deny or not pay attention to. It’s trying to help you face your shadow, understand your shadow.
In your waking life, know that you have the potential for darkness within you but choose not to use it. That is true inner strength. True inner strength is knowing that you have the shadow. We’re all a mix of good and bad, but it’s choosing the choice that you make. Dreams remind you that you have the power and that gives you such strength.
It’s so funny because I always say we have this wheel of who we are that you go, the fearful, the brave. We have all these colors and it’s which side we’re choosing to live on. For example, I always say to my husband, for whatever reason, it made it a lot easier for me to choose to be in my best self with his dynamic. In a way, it’s so funny that you’re like, “I like them because I like myself more when I’m with them,” and that kind of thing. Because we do have the ugly sides of ourselves, which is part of the mish-mosh of being a human being, do you think that the dream also is a way to offload our ugly self safely in a place that doesn’t damage our everyday life?
Absolutely. It’s safe role-play. That’s why when people say, “I had a dream that I was cheating,” or, “I murdered someone,” I celebrate. It’s great because your dreaming mind is getting you in touch with this darkness and there’s nothing wrong with that. Life is day and night. You can’t have one without the other. I also try to tell them all these great books they love like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Imagine Harry Potter without Voldemort, dull. Imagine, Lord of the Rings without Sauron, dull. We need that.
Unfortunately, darkness is what helps trigger the greatest growth, but it’s encountering that darkness, understanding it, and learning to manage it and control it. Also in our lives, it’s the same. We meet certain people who make us fall in love with ourselves and that’s the way you’re dreaming minds doing. It’s trying to help you fall in love with yourself every single night. It’s your best friend.
I understand this idea of using the dream to understand these other sides, the subconscious, or something that you didn’t even know is bothering you or you need to work out. Because you’re so highly versed and skilled at this, do you ever go into your sleep with the intent of, “I have this question.” Be it this dynamic of this relationship or this work question or this person that works with or for me or intuition that maybe you have about something maybe with one of your children? I’m riffing.
Because you’re so comfortable and fluid in this, can you go to bed with the question and use the dream to bring some of this up to the surface?
[bctt tweet=”As long as you’re learning, you’re living a life of meaning.”]
Absolutely. I got this idea five or so years ago when I worked with a neuroscientist who would dream for people. She was like an Oracle. This is Dr. Julia Mossbridge, with who I co-authored a book called The Premonition Code. It was fascinating because she would say, “Tell me a problem. I will dream on it for you,” and she would come back.
She’s a neuroscientist?
Yes. The Premonition Code was my perspective on dreaming, which is more gentle. I’m not a scientist. I’m very aware of that but she was a neuroscientist. She studies the possibility of precognition and precognitive dreams, so we wrote a book together. It was fascinating that she dreams for people. It’s something she does. She’s almost like an Oracle. I started to do it and it works.
When somebody has a problem, I think about that problem, I have a dream, I tell them my dream, and we talk about it in symbols. “What association do you have with that symbol?” What it does is almost like brainstorming. It gives you a totally off the wall new perspective on a problem you can’t solve and also encourages you to reflect more deeply.
That’s what dreamwork does. It encourages deeper reflection and I don’t know anyone whose life would not be improved with more reflection. We all need that. We need more reflection on the choices we make and the ways we talk to ourselves and think about ourselves and the things we do in our lives. That’s what dreams do. They encourage deeper reflection. Writing down the story of a dream and pondering it because that’s what you do, you ponder it and you play around with it. Also, what association does it trigger?
It can help you when you’re feeling stuck in whatever situation. It can help other people, too. You can dream on the behalf of other people. First of all, imagine if somebody has been texting you for decades. You’ve ignored them. After a while, that person is going to feel not valued. When you do reply, you’re dismissive and that’s how the dreamy mind is. Every night it has been texting. Say, “I’ve got a message. I’ve got a text,” and you’ve been ignoring it.
First of all, you’ve got to get your dreamy mind to trust that you’re taking it seriously. You need to recall your dream steadily for several weeks, start getting into the habit of writing it down, then your dreamy mind is going to think, “They’re finally taking me seriously. Let’s have a rich dialogue now.” Some therapy sessions begin with, “Tell me your last dream.” It’s a great way to get intimate quickly.
I found that when I do phone-ins for shows and everything, the hosts are always surprised at how deep it gets so quickly. Because somebody calls in with a dream, like, “I murdered my husband last night in my dream.” They think it’s all a joke and it’s meaningless, but it’s not. What they’re giving there and they don’t realize is there’s something deep going on there that you can then gently talk to them about. Is it the relationship with their husband or is it the relationship with themselves? What are we killing within ourselves or in others here? It gets deep quickly.
Can you give a gentle example of someone saying, “I killed my partner last night?” A lot of times, if you trickle through, is it, “I’m afraid of losing them.” “We haven’t been intimate.” Be it physical, emotional connection, and all the ways that that shows up. Is this what you find is at the root of these things?
Most dreams are not about relationships with other people. They’re all about the relationship with yourself. It’s like going into a hall of mirrors when you dream. It’s you. It’s aspects of you. The husband in the dream, for example, would probably be the masculine and assertive part of this person that they’re not expressing in their waking life. Perhaps a submissive or they haven’t spoken up in a work situation or a family scenario. What this dream is trying to say is you need to stop killing that part of you that wants to stand up for yourself.
I have to quiz the person because dreams can have many interpretations and I would know when I’ve got the right meaning because suddenly their eyes would light up and they’d have this moment of illumination and they’d know it’s right. First of all, before I bring in any other people to the interpretation is the personal relationship, “What is the husband symbolizing about your personality, traditional male qualities within a woman? What are you not? Are you not asserting yourself? Are you not expressing yourself? Are you not saying what you feel?” That’s how we’d go in. I would explore that first and if that doesn’t take any boxes for the person, I’m talking to then we’d move wider afield.
First of all, there are typical layers. The first layer is literal. “Are you eating too many takeaways at night? As a family, are you not eating healthily? Are you doing something which is toxic?” Usually, that’s not the case, then go to the personal. It’s like, “Husband, the masculine within me, what am I killing? What am I not expressing? What am I not allowing to come to life before it’s born? What am I doing?”
If that doesn’t ring any bell then look at your relationship with your husband. Maybe you’re snapping or you’re not allowing your husband to express themselves. Maybe there’s some dissonance. Go through those layers, literal, personal, and outside yourself. You could look at a bigger picture than that. There are certain layers to go through with interpretation and you’ll know when you’ve hit on the right interpretation. You’re the best dream decoder when you suddenly get, “I get it.” You just know. It’s like a half-get it.
It’s interesting how what you’re saying seems to be universally true. The reason I even have a self-care practice of trying to eat well, go to bed and work, train, and do all these things is that’s like one level of support for myself to function in the world. The second would be, “What is going on with me?” It is interesting how even in your dreams, you’re dealing with it in this sphere of, “Let’s look at some of the basics. How is your daily practice of what you’re drinking, eating, smoking, sleeping, and all these things?” This idea of how much we can change in our world when we in fact can change ourselves. It is certainly the hardest thing but it is so powerful once we connect with this idea.
Even when it’s uncomfortable or ugly, “I’m resenting that,” or, “I’m feeling left out or left behind,” or whatever the things are, especially in family dynamics. It’s an interesting thing. You have children. When you start to layer on other people that you want and willingly and choose to be of service to at times, you can feel like, “This feels unfair.” It’s not their fault. It’s like, “Let me look at what I’m not asking for, what I’m not saying, what boundaries I’m not putting up.” For me, it’s still fascinating that even within the dreaming realm, you’re still going systematically. “Let’s look at the basics, and then we can look at the people that you think it’s about but it’s probably not.”
Let’s say you get to a place where maybe somebody has years of things that they haven’t mentioned or they haven’t figured out how to ask for. Let’s say somebody uncovers something heavy-duty. Do you then have to pass them off and say, “This is something else that you’re going to have to work through, whether it was like, “My dad was mean to me,” or, “I had unrealistic expectations left,” or something heavier? Do you pass off after that or do you go drill down even deeper?
I keep on dreaming. That’s my mantra. What I love when I start working with people like this is that they start getting interested in themselves in a way that they haven’t before. It feels so safe because it’s all in the land of the dreams and this doesn’t feel invasive in any way so we keep on dreaming. We keep on finding out more and more.
As they self-discover and become more self-aware, what tends to naturally happen is courage comes along with it. It’s like, “I’m worth this.” When confidence and courage come, that’s when miracles happen. It can all start with a dream, highlighting something that they’re not able to when they’re awake, acknowledge about themselves or their relationships, or anything to do with their lives. Keep on dreaming. Keep on doing that because it’s your time. It’s all about you. A lot of people, especially women, sadly are always running around for other people. This is the time when they find, “I matter.” I love that. It’s a confidence and creativity boost.
As I say creativity, people discover that they are artists. They are far more creative than they realize that they have this ability to create these incredible dream stories that are so imaginative and so wonderful that can lead to leaps in their work and in all areas of their life. I always talk about wonderful novels and works of art. Did you know that Google was a dream? Larry Page. Look how he changed the world with that. He had a dream that he could download every page.
He dropped out of studies and made that dream change the world. Novels, artwork, movies. Some of my favorite movies of all time like the Terminator is a dream. People suddenly realize, “I’m creative.” Many people have been told at school, “You’re not because if you can’t draw, you’re not creative,” but you are. Everybody has night vision. Everybody’s a night artist.
I tried to be pretty steady. I have three daughters, but two are in the world and my youngest is at home. I’m trying to measure my words and sometimes maybe not too much but I’m careful with what I say because I’m a person who doesn’t want to have to take it back. I want to go slow so when I say it, I know that it’s been thought about and dropped off. There are times where I say it in the real blasting way that I want to. I find it a lot in my dream.
Another thing, there are these weird moments of trying to use the less tactful, free-flowing side of myself but I find that I can get all my combat out there. I don’t then need to do it and drop bombs in my real life. Sometimes it is a mirror to yourself going, “You are taking the edges off of it.” All of us have these feelings but we’re also aspiring to try to be a certain way. I don’t mean squished. I mean your better and more productive self.
[bctt tweet=”Dreams remind you that you have the power and that gives you such strength.”]
It’s like, “If we’re going to have a conflict, my whole goal is to try to work it out not to be in conflict.” You have to have it to get through the muck and to clear the decks if you will. It’s this weird conflict of sometimes my third-grade ego and I want to win self, “I can’t stand all of you in my house right now. You’re taking me for granted.” I know I love them. I’m trying to be so succinct with my words because it’s going towards the goal of love, peace, and resolution. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s fun in those dreams to…
Let it rip. Dreams don’t lie. They give you an opportunity to do all of that and to get rid of it and safely roleplay. You’re absolutely right. That’s why they are so important for emotional and psychological well-being. Dreams allow us to release that and to be aware that it’s within us so when we feel it happening and waking life, we think, “I’ve been here before. I’m on top of this. I can handle it. I’m in charge.” I love the safe roleplay aspect of dreams.
To go back to the tribal cultures, when children in their dreams encounter tigers, they’re encouraged to go back into the dream by the elders of the tribe to turn around and face that tiger. The idea being that one day that could save their lives because they’ve rehearsed this life and death scenario. I know that in our world, it’s not life and death but in some ways when you do find yourself in that conflict solution, you have been there before. You’ve had a little glimpse and a little roleplay. You’ve been there before you’ve had a rehearsal, you can ace it this time and not lose it as you would in a dream.
Time and space are all mashed together. There are things that we intuitively know might be coming that could be in another part of our life but maybe the dream gives us that opportunity to safety because there are less rules there.
Dreams are beyond space and time. There’s no space and concept of time so they’re as close as you can get to a spiritual dimension. In some cultures, they are the window to the spirit, to the soul, to maybe where we go when we die. I don’t know the answers to that. I have my ideas and my beliefs. There’s no space and time at all and that’s why there is a tiny category that you highlighted here about dreams. About 0.5% or 0.2% of dreams, which are potentially precognitive, which can glimpse potential futures. I don’t want everybody to think, “Because I dreamt I was in a car accident last night, that’s going to happen.” Overwhelmingly, no.
Most dreams are psychological, symbolic. However, there is a rare category of dreams which don’t fall into that category. They are being researched by scientists who study consciousness. I work with those scientists and there’s a different feel to these precognitive dreams. They tend to be ultra-realistic and they tend to be logical. Most symbolic dreams are like a music video, a series of scenes and fragments that don’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Precognitive dreams tend to have a realistic setting where you wake up and you think, “That happened,” at the beginning, middle, and end. However, you won’t know if your dream is precognitive unless you have proof and you write it down.
I love it when people write to me. When they say to me, “In hindsight, I remember I had a dream,” I would then ask for the proof because working with scientists, I’ve learned so much about the importance of proof. Nowadays, I want to see a timestamp preferably from a phone that you had this dream and two days later, something played out. You need to gather proof to find out if you are having precognitive dreams but please don’t be alarmed. A great majority of dreams are not precognitive in any shape or form.
I was visiting with a woman named Kasey Crown. She’s a therapist but she uses science and the notion of a spiritual approach which would mean more in love and not judgy in the therapy part but she knows a lot about rewiring the brain and nervous system through some of these therapies. I was wondering if you’ve had any experience with people who also somehow could use the dream. She says you can have an automatic rewiring. Maybe you’re faced with the information and all of a sudden your understanding of the information completely shifts, your perspective shifts, and now you have a reset.
When you’re asleep and dreaming, you’re more alert and aware. Research shows that your brain is more alert and aware than when you’re awake, especially when you lucid dream, that’s when you know you’re dreaming when you’re dreaming. The brain doesn’t know the difference between dreaming and awake. Yes, you can reshape your brain with your dreams but it’s your attitude towards your dreams.
As they say, “If you have this dismissive attitude, which we do as we become logical, materialistic, and technological, we have lost our ancient connection back in time to this aspect of ourselves.” You’ve got to reunite with that aspect of yourself and you can reshape your brain with your dreaming mind and what you choose to do in your dreams and what you choose to do with them.
To reference, you talked about someone who’s lost a parent, a loved one, a son, a daughter, or anyone, there’s credible research from the University of Northampton in the UK. I work with Dr. Cal Cooper, who has been researching dreams of the bereaved. In over 88% of the cases, people who have a dream of meeting a departed loved one in their dreams deal better with the grieving process. Whatever you think about dreaming, whether you believe it’s real or not, having a dream of someone who has departed is not a depressing, awful experience.
For most people when they wake up and think, “They were alive in the dream and now they’re not,” it’s the most exciting, beautiful healing dream. You realize a part of that person, their essence, their spark, or their soul has not gone. Often when they meet departed loved ones in a dream, it’s them. I’ve had conversations with both my departed parents that have been rich and nuanced that even their habits and what they say to me. I’ve woken up and I felt you’re somewhere. I don’t know where you are but you’re somewhere.
Whether you believe in life after death or not, it’s incredibly comforting and it gives you a sense that maybe we’ll connect and we’ll meet again one day. That’s beautiful. It’s not what some people think, it’s a negative thing and gives you false hope. It’s not because anyone who’s lost a departed loved one will know they’re gone. Physically, you can’t touch them. That’s gone. Don’t take the memories. Don’t take the soul. Don’t take the relationship. That does not die. One of the biggest selling songs of all time was Celine Dion’s My Heart Goes On for a reason. We do agree with that. We agree with it in our music and our art. In our daily lives, we tend to not but our hearts had cried for that song.
I know it’s cliché but why that song? There are so many other beautiful ballads. Why is that the best-selling song of all time? The heart goes on and it’s all about after death having that connection that’s so strong, the love so strong, it’s not gone. In 2020, the Disney movie Soul. I love that because the scientists that I’ve been working with these last couple of years helped research the afterlife scenes in Soul.
When people want to talk to me about my research into the afterlife, I say, “Go and watch the Disney Soul. It won an Oscar for a reason.” These scientists have been researching afterlife dreams, afterlife visions, near-death experiences. Everything in that movie is as close to the science that we know but beautifully presented in a mainstream way for children. Isn’t it incredible that we’ve got to that point with Disney?
It’s because children are still open and they’re not disconnected from it. It makes me weepy thinking about people having that opportunity and those moments.
I don’t see people like a medium but I feel like they’re all around me all the time. I have conversations in my dreams with my parents and with people I’ve loved and lost. If you know William Wordsworth, he wrote a poem called We Are Seven. A little girl is beside her grave and Wordsworth is standing beside her, the poet, and he’s saying, “How many brothers and sisters have you got?” She says, “Seven.”
The poet knows, “There’s only five of you because two have died.” She’s like, “No. We are seven.” She plays and talks with the spirits of the two children that are dead. For her, being a child, they’re not dead because she knows they’re not somehow. That’s how I feel and that’s how a lot of people feel. If you spend time with people before their passing, they feel that connection too with the soul and spirits of everybody. It’s almost like I’ve spoken to people parting visions that they feel that all the departed loved ones or gathered around their bedside. Dreams can be the start of connecting you to that soul aspect.
For people, it would be comforting and overwhelming and all kinds of things. I have to ask because I’m also geared for this. From a performance point of view and I don’t mean logical. When I say performance, it’s when you’re connected with yourself, your world, and the people in it. I’m talking about that performance.
It’s not like, “I’m number one. I’m crushing it. I’m the CEO.” That’s a different performance but I feel like a real performance. When people talk about success, for me, it’s when you’re in harmony with who you are and your external life as much as you can. That’s how we’re learning. We’re learning through things that are disruptive so I get that we have to have that.
Let’s say you have an athlete or somebody who comes to you. Maybe their confidence is down or they’re looking for flow, more fluidity in their life. Is there a way to send people into their dreams? You can’t say, “I want to be number one.” That’s not the way to find it. It’s, “I’m trying to be my best. I’m looking for flow state. I’m trying to connect with the right people who maybe can give me the information.” Is there a way to send people into their dreams in a performance orientation?
Yes, you can set the intention to dream about what your skillset is and to rehearse that. There is research to show that practicing your skillset in your dreams can certainly improve it. There was a kickboxer who had a complicated set of moves that he wasn’t mastering. He dreamt he did it and the next day, he aced it. I love what you’re saying about success and fulfillment. As that happens as you get older, it’s a sign of maturity. You realize that yes, it’s important that you excel at what you do. Unless you’re happy right here and right now with yourself in the present moment, it’s meaningless.
To reference Disney’s Soul, the key character there wants to be a musician. He thinks his happiness is playing the piano in a jazz band. He gets that, it happens, but then afterward, he says, “Now what? I’m not happy.” The other person says, “You do it again tomorrow night.” He has to go on a journey and he has to die and go to the afterlife to understand happiness is loving who he is, loving the taste of a pizza, watching a leaf fall from a tree, and seeing the magic. That is the journey of our lives.
We’re all going to die. Whether you’re a president or a street cleaner, people will forget you in time. Everything is transient. We’re on this planet for a reason, it’s to excel. If you have a gift, of course, you should do it but only if it brings you joy. If it’s not bringing you joy, you’re doing it to get other people to clap or say, “Well done.” It’s for them. We are here to develop ourselves and to find our joy in life. If you’ve found that, whether you’re number one or not, you are a success.
[bctt tweet=”You learn most from your failures.”]
Some of the happiest people I know are the most unlikely people. They’re the people who collect rubbish or the people who are busking on the streets. You see a busy and stressed CEO who’s got everything. It’s redefining our notion of what happiness is. It’s sad that the way society is gone, especially with the internet and social media, that it’s all about how many likes you have, how you look, how much money you have, and all this. Dreamwork, however, is your subtle nightly reminder, “No, that’s not going to make you happy. You think it will but it won’t.”
Many people get what they want and it’s like, “What now?” You won’t feel like that though if you’ve lived every moment with joy then it’ll be something you do because it’s joyful and it’s who you are. If it’s not who you are, when you get it, you’ll be hit with this crushing wave of depression because you’ve been doing it because of other people or society’s expectations and that’s sad.
That is one of the biggest butt-kickers. Coming from a sports background and knowing a lot of people, it was clear that wasn’t going to be the answer to that sense of purpose or peace inside because I could see the story over and over. It was like, “Do you like me now? Am I good enough now?” Also, the problem is it’s not sustainable. Even if you were number one, the guys who won the Football World Championship or Super Bowl in America. The next day, Monday, “Great. Are you going to do it again?” It’s the treadmill that never ends. For me, the thing you’re talking about is important. Let’s talk about you as a mum.
I have two kids.
Are they boys or girls?
One boy and a girl.
How do you raise them with this idea? Because you’re in the “regular world,” I feel like maybe you were in a more protected bubble growing up so that conversation was maybe broader in your community. Maybe in the world that you’re in, how do you teach your children not to be afraid to have this practice or even to share it with their friends? Do they have a time where they’re like, “I don’t want to hear about dreams,” and they rebelled?
They are into it. I’ve always encouraged them to follow their passion and not to go with the crowd and to do what makes their hearts sing. I’m their mother so they laugh at me. I’m the angel lady. Here in the UK, they cringe. However, when I get on cool things like this podcast or Capital Radio or Russell Brand, suddenly they’re like, “Mum, can I come with you?”
I encourage them to follow their passion and I also encourage them to fail because it’s important to learn. You learn most from your failures. Don’t not do something because you’re frightened of failing. I’ve encouraged failure a lot. We embrace failure in our family. I know that sounds odd but it’s important because then they learn to laugh at themselves and as well as take themselves a little bit less seriously.
It’s all about what I was saying. If you’re not enjoying the present moment, are you happy right now? What is the point? There are too many of us who think, “I’ll be happy when I get my degree.” “I’ll be happy when I get that job.” “I’ll be happy when I’ve got X money in the bank.” “I’ll be happy when I have a certain figure.” It’s trying to stop that.
They were saved from up to the age of 10 from social media because of the age they are. I do feel for kids who are younger now who, from the age of 5, got an iPhone with Facebook or whatever on there. I did notice a real change when that became important and to try and separate them from their phones is my biggest challenge. When they come to see me, I try to have no phones. There’s no conversation then. They’re having this intimate relationship with their phone and nothing else.
It’s interesting. For my kids, especially the middle and the youngest, the phone is more of an issue. It’s funny, I think about that. In parenting, the majority of parents would say that 75%, give or take, of the hassle is, “Can you get off your phone?” “Can you put your phone down?” “How much time have you been on your phone?” You wonder where it all goes. Especially my youngest, she is the experiment.
Kids from 10 to 18 are in the sweet spot for the experiment. We’re going to see what happens. Your kids are a little older so they get a little more runway. The idea of talking to them early about their dreams is better than it’s instilled in their life of, “I dreamt this yesterday.” When you say symbols, are there specific things about this idea of things that are symbolic or symbols or it’s unique to everyone?
It’s unique to everyone. Of course, there’s a common symbolic language. I’ve written Dream Dictionary, which is about them. My bestselling book is hugely popular. There are thousands and thousands of dream symbols. For example, if you dream of a dog, that’s a universal symbol of loyalty. However, if you’re frightened of dogs, it’s not. It’s a symbol of fear. I always say, “The best dictionary.” My publishers hate me for saying that. The best dream dictionary you write is the one you’d write yourself. You have your own unique symbols.
However, as a starting point, it’s good to look at the universal symbolism of things because we have a collective unconscious approach that can help. If the sun appears in your dreams, it’s going to be about a new day about optimism about warmth, for example. It’s hard to have a different association with the sun. Although you have to bring in your personal association, that is fundamental to dream interpretation.
If you’re not used to thinking symbolically or in metaphor or if you didn’t thrive in English Literature at school, and things like poetic fallacy when the weather dictates the mood of the scene in the Brontë novels, it’s always hailing and rain whenever a character is having turmoil. If you’re not used to thinking like that, then that’s a good starting point.
Once you start feeding your brain that information, thinking artistically, thinking musically, thinking poetry is a great way to activate the symbolic language. I used to get people to read Coleridge’s Kubla Khan and that kind of poem. All these rich symbols are the language of dreams. Poetry is close to the language of dreams where it’s rich and intense what the poet is pouring into there.
If you’re not used to thinking that way, dream dictionaries are helpful for kickstarting the brain into a new way of thinking and it is rewarding. Please don’t think it’s all woo-woo or out there. It truly isn’t. It’s helping you have a richer life because it will give you the ability to see your life from a new perspective, the other part of you that you’re not yet in touch with. It’s the part of you that can help you make a creative leap in your work, your relationships, your health.
It’s like super brainstorming and you can do it yourself. You save a lot of money on counseling and therapy. If you think of it, you go to a counselor and they say, “How are you feeling?” How do you feel about that? How does that make you feel? Your dreams are doing that for you. You don’t need to pay the money. Talk to your dreams. Imagine your dream is sitting in front of you. Talk to your dreams. If you dream of a bicycle, have a conversation with that bicycle, “What are you trying to tell me? What associations do I have with a bicycle? Am I going too slowly? Do I need to pedal faster? Do I need to upgrade to a car?” Have this dialogue. It’s not insane. It can help you.
I can’t help but think that when you pay attention a little more to these types of symbolic ideas or images, that also would make you notice more in your everyday life.
We miss so much. That’s what a psychic is. Sherlock Holmes, he’s popular but he’s not a psychic. He is intuitive. You come into a room and he’ll notice a button missing on someone’s shirt and make connections. It’s things like that. Most of us don’t. It’s the tiny details. We go through our life not picking up on tiny details.
I will be looking at the books on your shelf. What does that say about you? All the books, the picture, the placement of the cushions, and all that being intuitive being psychic, that is what it is. It’s noticing what people think isn’t important but so is. Even the choice of color that you’re wearing, the green and everything, that’s what a psychic will do. They will read. It annoys me that people think psychics have a supernatural ability but they don’t. They’re super observant and that helps them that their clients will go “Wow. How did you know that?”
What have you been dreaming about?
I dream a lot about the ocean, boats, seas, and swimming. Given what I do, water is a universal symbol of emotion and it’s navigating that. For example, I’ve had a client or a message that comes in, I get intensely involved with it. I’ve got to learn to navigate that better. That’s what I’m dreaming about but my dreams do shift. During COVID, I was dreaming a lot about wearing masks and the anxiety with my loved ones if they get it and all that. It was helping me deal with all that anxiety.
That’s why we had the lockdown dream phenomenon. Everybody was reporting weird and wonderful dreams in the lockdown. It was our dreaming mind trying to help us deal with this chaos that our lives were suddenly thrown into. Also, it was our dreaming mind saying, “This is a real chance for you to reflect on who you are, what matters in your life, what gives your life meaning.”
The lockdown dream phenomenon is well researched and it was incredible for me as a dreamer and author because suddenly I had all these people wanting to talk to me about their dreams. I started in the early 2000s writing about it. I’ve been banging the dream drum forever but never has there been more interest in the last couple of years.
What you’re saying is that you also have to protect yourself. In the process of engaging in other people’s dreams and things, you’re working on finding ways to set a boundary.
I’m quite sensitive. As I suspect, you are too. In your work, you must find that it’s hard to cut off because you care about someone or something and it’s hard to say no but that’s the mark of a good teacher. You’ve got to help other people help themselves.
I would say I’m not empathetic. I can feel it but I don’t need to wear it as my own but I can be aware of it. I have a daughter who’s highly empathetic.
What sign is she if you don’t mind me asking?
She is a Libra.
Libras see every aspect of the situation. They find it hard to have their own opinions because they always see the other side.
I say to her, “Can you not wear your friend’s problems as your own?” You can be there for them. I even joke with her because she’s kind. She’s a bit of a white witch. She’s feeling it all and seeing it all, “Mom, be careful of that. Don’t do this.” I’m like, “Okay.” With your husband, does he share his dreams with you?
My husband is interesting. Sometimes we draw into our lives what we lack. My husband is super-rational. He’s Chinese and almost bordering on the Buddhist. We’re complete opposites. That’s refreshing for me because, in my line of work, I mix with a certain type of people. He is totally rational and logical. It’s a good balance. We can still learn from us. There’s tension sometimes because he laments my lack of common sense. I get frustrated. I’m like, “Can you not dream with the stars?”
It’s good because we do attract people in our lives who help us. I need to learn to be more logical. I need to learn to think practically in common sense. My children would be closed in books rather than anything. I love books and everything like that but he says, “We also need to earn the money,” and that kind of thing.
It’s a little bit like a ship and you’re both pulling each other to keep it more steady instead of healing one side or the other. That is fascinating. I do think people are experiencing so much now with COVID and the combative narrative that’s out in the world. We’re all supposedly polarized but I don’t believe that we are. All you have to do is go to a market, say good morning to somebody, and how are you doing, or how are you holding up? Right away, you would understand that we’re all connected and we’re not opposing each other the way that the world would like us to believe.
If you could send out an invitation to somebody reading that’s maybe navigating this and the normal trials and tribulations of being a biological and spiritual human, what invitation? Especially if they wanted to explore what you’re saying, whether you could direct them to your books or an invitation to pay more attention to their dreams, what would you say?
First of all, I want to thank you for doing this podcast because I’m in awe of you and all that you do and your work. I’m grateful that you’re highlighting what many people think is not that important, their dream life. To connect what you said about us being polarized, the wonderful thing about dreams is that whatever your age, culture, politics, you still dream. It illustrates our shared humanity. Focusing on your dreams is focusing on what unites us all. We all dream. If you don’t think you dream, you do. You have forgotten how to recall them. You need to remember how to do that and it’s simple to do that, pay attention to them, and take them seriously.
Give it a go. See if your life feels richer, kinder, and deeper with some dream work. You’re more than welcome to get in touch with me. I love hearing from people. Send me your dreams. It may take me a while if I’m busy but I always reply. I’ll give you a pointer about how you can work with a dream. Make sure it’s a dream that you want to know the answer to and I will try and point you in the right direction.
It’s easy to get in touch with me. I’m still on AOL. I have not moved with the times. AngelTalk710@aol.com or my website is www.TheresaCheung.com. Barnes & Noble has a special edition of my Dream Dictionary A to Z and they got that special edition in the early 2000s. To this day, it’s still out there selling and it was reissued by HarperCollins in 2020. I’m doing another book with HarperCollins coming out about dreaming as well in 2022.
I want to encourage people to go to all of these places. Should they discuss it and write it down? Do both? What do you think is a great starting point?
With your dreams, be careful because they’re for you. Don’t scatter yourself. Sometimes we’re guilty of oversharing. This is your dream encouraging you to have that dialogue with yourself. Write them down, ponder them. The thing is dreams are intimate, they’re deep, and they’re personal. You’re dialoguing with your soul. Treat that with sacred respect. Don’t fling it out there. I always feel deeply honored when people write to me about their dreams because I feel almost sacred. They are sharing a bit of their soul.
If anyone does share a dream with you, treat it with deep respect. With yourself as well, your own dreams, treat them with the respect that they deserve. Ponder them. They are encouraging you to self-reflect, that’s all, and there’s no harm in that. However dark or deep or difficult or traumatic your dreams, even if they are bordering on nightmares, please know every single one’s a gift with an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself. Every time you learn more about yourself, you transform, you evolve.
The meaning of our lives is found in learning, growth, and evolution. We are here not to stay the same or to find so-called bliss. Bliss doesn’t teach you anything. It’s the journey. Sometimes growth hurts, sometimes growth is painful. As long as you know, “Through that pain, I’m finding my meaning,” that’s what can help you move forward and get you the inner strength. Observe your pain. I encourage you to step outside, what’s happening in your life, and observe it from that bigger picture perspective. Where’s the growth? Where’s the lesson? Where’s the learning?
When you can do that, you find that your life is deeply meaningful. As long as you’re learning, you’re living a life of meaning. Death is not learning. Death is thinking, “I know it all. I have a closed mind.” That’s why people always say, “I know.” We don’t know. Maturity is getting comfortable with ambiguity and not knowing. You can disagree with someone but understand where they’re coming from. That’s all I’m saying, keep an open mind and keep an open mind about your dreams too.
I am grateful. As somebody who is highly logical, I’ll be honest with you, having children has been the thing that helped me to learn to do it a different way because also they politely and impolitely reminded me that would be a good idea. I was highly organized. All the boxes were checked. It was like, “Can you get in the trenches with us?”
I appreciate this work because also what it does for me is it creates a conversation that makes it safe for people to take a look at it. It’s important to remind people how to create safe spaces for the scary stuff and start to realize that we’re all going through it the same, the fact that you can make those improvements. For me, I love the idea of, “Let’s talk about it,” but I do like the idea of, “Can we make some shifts and changes?” Thank you so much and thank you for bearing with me.
You’re talking about success. I want my books to sell well and that was always a driving force with me. It was more than ten years ago when I got my dog. I loved the dog so much and I suddenly thought, “What if I had a choice between the New York Times Number One and my dog?” I’ll choose my dog and I’m wealthy already. It’s the same with family, you choose your family. If you were offered a choice, think about the things you love. If you’re offered a choice, it was one or the other. You think, “Why are you unhappy? You’re wealthy already. You have what’s most important to you.” Focus on that.
Laird will remind me sometimes that we have businesses and they do well and sometimes though it’s hard and what have you and he’ll say, “Our girls are healthy. Our friends are healthy. We’re getting on. We try to work and have a harmonious relationship. What would you trade?” The dreams help us recognize to your point that we’ll be at hard challenges externally. A lot of us are still incredibly wealthy already.
We are wealthy because we can go to sleep and dream. Every morning when you wake up is a miracle. It’s not to sound morbid, you’d never know. We think we’re here forever and COVID has shown us that life is precious every moment. If you’re not happy in the present moment, don’t think that doing X, Y, and Z is going to change that.
Right here right now, dream on it, use your dream power, fuel your life with magic and creativity, and an understanding that you are so much more than you believe you are, much more to you beneath the surface. We show a tiny percentage of ourselves during the day but at night, we go to this vast cavern of endless infinite potential beyond space and time. Tap more into that.
Theresa, thank you so much.
Thanks so much for being here. If you’d like, rate, subscribe and leave us a review. All of my music was graciously done by Frank Zummo and Tom Thacker. If you want to see some of the behind-the-scenes action, follow me,@GabbyReece. Remember, don’t miss new episodes every Monday.
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About Theresa Cheung
Theresa Cheung has been researching and writing about spirituality, dreams and the paranormal for the past twenty- five years. She has a Masters degree from Kings College Cambridge University in Theology and English and several international bestselling books, including two Sunday Times top 10 bestsellers to her credit. Her Dream Dictionary from A to Z (Harper Collins) regularly bounces to number 1 in its Amazon category and is regarded as a classic in its field. Her spiritual books have been translated into over 40 languages and she has written numerous features for national newspapers and magazines.