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Dreams can serve as a warning, says expert

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Finding meaning: Holly Paiva wants to help women empower themselves through dream interpretation (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Do you dream about alligators night after night?

It might be because of the nature show you watched, or there could be a deeper meaning.

Holly Paiva wants to help you figure it out. She believes dreams can serve as a warning about the future and even delve into a previous life.

“Most people spend a third of their life asleep,” she said. “Dreams are your magic mirror into your psyche. For example, if you are going through a turbulent time you might dream of choppy water. I truly believe dreams transcend space and time.”

The 37-year-old is such a believer she’s planning on holding an eight-week dream interpretation and empowerment workshop for women in January.

Her fascination with dreams started when she was a child. She suffered from insomnia; everything from a squeaky ceiling fan to tree frogs chirping, kept her awake.

“I had trouble shutting down my mind,” she said.

She outgrew the problem, but the experience led to a lifelong fascination with dreaming and sleep.

In her freshman year at Lesley University in Massachusetts, she started a dream journal. “In the beginning, I’d often just write the date and there’d be nothing because I couldn’t remember my dreams,” she said. “Then, after a while, I’d remember symbols from the dream — like a ladder. Then I was able to write whole pages and scenes from my dreams.”

She amassed a closet full of dream journals and then technology made life easier. Apps such as iDream help her to record and analyse her notes.

Looking back through them, the patterns are obvious to her. Sharks, for example, frequently popped up whenever there was a rough period ahead.

“The shark is my personal symbol,” she said. “If you have a personal symbol or a recurring symbol it’s usually your mind telling you to focus on something. I know to be aware when a shark pops up for me. A car can represent your physical body. The state of the car represents how you feel about your physical self. In the dream, watch to see how fast you’re going. Are you going backwards? Is someone else in the driver’s seat? All these things will help you discover where you are with things in your life. If your car is in need of a tune-up, you may need one too.”

She met dream expert Ernest Hartmann at a conference in Washington, DC in her sophomore year. The late psychiatrist directed the Sleep Disorders Centre at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and taught at Tufts University in Boston. He put her in touch with the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She worked there for five years, helping with sleep studies, and also volunteered with Dr Hartmann as he researched dream changes after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

“He was looking at how fear impacts your dreams,” she said. “There was definitely an impact.”

She focused on sleep and dream studies for the master’s degree she earned in 2005. She was certified as a reflexologist and herbalist that same year.

Her thesis considered whether people suffering from sleep apnoea would have dreams that reflected their physiological state, maybe of drowning or choking.

“It turned out people who had the beginning stages of apnoea did have dreams like this,” she said. “But as it progressed their sleep was so choppy it was hard for them to access their dreams. An abstract of my thesis was published in the Harvard Medical Journal and the Journal of Sleep Medicine.”

Ms Paiva returned to Bermuda in 2008. Since September she has been working as a reflexologist out of Hayley Bennett’s practice on Gorham Road.

Now she’s working to get the dream part of her work off the ground.

“I use the name Dreaming Bermudian,” she said. “I haven’t finalised the details for my workshops in January but I will probably hold them at my house. There will be eight to ten women in a group.”

She plans to use journalling and art exercises to help women connect with their dreams. There will also be lots of discussion between participants.

“It will introduce them to the creativity and spiritual nature of dreams,” she said. “My hope is to have them begin to honour their dreams. Say I was wearing purple in my dream last night, in the morning, I’d pick out a purple sweater to honour that dream. It is about paying more attention to the dream’s wisdom.”

Contact her on 531-8304 or h.bennett@hotmail.com.

Holly Paiva wants to help women empower themselves through dream interpretation (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Holly Paiva wants to help women empower themselves through dream interpretation (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Holly Paiva wants to help women empower themselves through dream interpretation (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)