Dreams exaggerate. A lot. During Step 2 of the D3 process you analyze a dream’s story for use of exaggeration. Exaggerated comparison is used in many metaphors and other devices of story, language, and literature, and when you learn to notice it in dreams you are likely to see it used. A lot! For example:
- A fear of social situations can be exaggerated as a scene of running from a horde of zombies. When viewed that way, the fear is not only more obvious, it’s humorous. Run for your life!
- Perfectionism can be exaggerated as a scene where you pick at a small flaw in your face until it grows into a bloody crater. It’s a fitting comparison and adds a touch of drama.
- An earthquake rattling your home could symbolize news that rocks your world. The bigger the news, the bigger the earthquake. An earthquake is a disaster that kills and could potentially impact millions of people, so it’s exaggerated in comparison with a personal situation.
- Causing terrible injury to a lover while performing fellatio exaggerates the dreamer’s very real fear of doing it accidentally.
- Dreaming about people going crazy during an alien invasion exaggerates the dreamer’s perception that people easily panic.
Exaggeration is often found in how dreams portray something, such as when your parent is depicted as 30 feet tall, symbolizing the respect you have for the person. Or your head is shown as big as a beach ball, a way of saying you put too much emphasis on intellect. Exaggeration blows things out of proportion to be more noticeable and create memorable dream symbolism that also captures the dynamics of your thoughts and feelings. People exaggerate for the same reasons.
When confronted by ridiculous and impossible dream imagery and discrepancies with reality, look for exaggeration. Think like a storyteller. Work backwards and ask yourself why the dream uses that storytelling device. What is it really saying?
To exaggerate or to amplify
The lesson on amplify has more discussion about the differences between exaggerate and amplify in dream stories. Amplify is thought of more as a sounding the alarm to draw attention, or counterbalancing minimization. It zeroes in on your personal illusions and blind spots. When the ego is out of balance, dreams compensate by putting more weight on the other end of the scale, and it can show in exaggerated dream imagery. The purpose is to amplify, and a means of doing it is through exaggeration.
This tells you to look for one when you see the other used in the story. For example, in a dream you talk to a friend about a recent incident in your life and exaggerate the story. While analyzing the dream you ask why you basically lied about it. There could be a tendency for you to notice; exaggerators are often the last people to recognize their behavior. People unconsciously make themselves look better by exaggerating their talents and good qualities. But what appears to be exaggeration could be more: the dream is amplifying so you recognize the pattern.
Exaggeration is good storytelling and more
The main reason for dreams to exaggerate is it’s good storytelling. People like tall tales. They even play along when they know they’re being told a yarn. We are complicit in a sense because we want stories to entertain us. When people ask me as a dream expert why dreams don’t stick to the facts, my response is, “really? How boring!”
But there could be more to why dreams exaggerate. The mind itself is prone to exaggeration. How many people do you know who see all things the way they truly are? How many people see themselves the way they truly are? There’s a tint to almost everyone’s perceptions. Exaggeration distorts perception or results from distorted perception, and your personal reality is created through perception. Reality is much more subjective than is generally recognized.
Exaggeration is a coping mechanism. Otherwise, the truth of the reality most people experience is pretty depressing. And even if your reality is objectively great, the world you live in has issues.
Dreams are teaching us that we have the power to create our reality. It’s not a metaphor or adage, it’s a fact rooted in the nature of a living in a universe that’s responsive to our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. The buzzword these days is panpsychism, an old philosophical belief that “mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality.” (from Wikipedia). Exaggeration and related ideas such as dramatization are the reality we’d rather live in. And perhaps exaggeration is at heart a way to empower us to build the lives and world we truly want.
When dreams exaggerate they’re merely copying how it’s done from us.