Book Review: The Complete Dream Book

If you’ve read many spirituality books, at some point you’ve probably run across the suggestion that you should keep a dream journal and work to understand the messages of your dreams. I have seen that advice many times since I started on this spiritual path, and from time to time I would give it a try. Each morning I would dutifully record my dreams and then give up after a few days, completely baffled by trying to make any sense of the craziness that emerged from my subconscious. Looking up the images from my dreams in dream dictionaries or online never seemed to help, and I just decided I wasn’t meant to work with my dreams.

This past year I took a class that again recommended recording my dreams for a month and working to understand them. I wanted to participate fully in the class, so I created a dream journal from an old notebook I had, and decided to give dream work one more try. I also went searching for a dream book that might actually help me make sense of my dreams and I found The Complete Dream Book: Discover What Your Dreams Reveal About You and Your Life by Gillian Holloway, PhD.


My well-thumbed copy of the book.

The author has based her interpretations of dreams on a database she created to collect real dreams as well as information about the life situations of the people who had the dreams. From her research, she was able to find common dream themes that seem to occur for people during different periods in their lives, and her book expands on this research. She believes that dreams “…are the voices of wisdom, healing, and power that each of us possess and are meant to benefit from on a daily basis.”

The Complete Dream Book covers common dream themes, recurring dreams, sex dreams, dream characters and symbols, dream locations, travel and water dreams, animal imagery in dreams, as well as nightmares and psychic dreams. Throughout the book she includes real-life dreams and their interpretations, which I found helpful as I tried to interpret my own dreams. She stresses that her interpretations of various symbols are not hard-and-fast rules, but are jumping off points as you try to make sense of your own dreams.

For the first time, I am actually understanding the messages in some of my dreams! I tend to dream rather vividly and remember my dreams pretty easily, so I don’t analyze every single one of my dreams. However, I have found that recording my dreams regularly has allowed me to see recurring themes and patterns, as well as to notice when a dream seems truly significant so that I can analyze it more deeply. In The Complete Dream Book, Gillian Holloway provides a list of seven factors that can help you determine which of your dreams are most valuable and significant and that merit further exploration.

I have found that my dreams are particularly helpful at showing me when I am worrying about something that is going on in my life, or feeling uncomfortable with something that is happening, without being consciously aware of it. They help me bring some of these worries and fears to the surface of my consciousness so I can deal with them. For example, when I was starting this blog, I kept having dreams where I had to hide or become invisible in order to be “safe.” This helped me see just how frightened I was of putting myself out there publicly, but also allowed me to say to that frightened part of myself, “Yes, being public on my blog does feel scary and unsafe, but this is a choice I am making because I no longer want to hide or stay invisible. It is going to be okay.” Once I consciously dealt with that, the dreams stopped.


My dream journal. I made a cover and attached it with clear contact paper to an old spiral notebook I had around. The image is The Moon card from the The Victorian Fairy Tarot.

So now I am one of those people who recommends recording and working with your dreams. Yes, some of my dreams still seem like an incomprehensible mess, but I feel like by paying more attention to my dreams and being open to their messages they are gradually beginning to make more sense. I’m finding that dreams are another important way to connect to our inner wisdom, as well as with the wisdom of the Divine. The Complete Dream Book is great resource for this journey of dream exploration.

Happy dreaming!