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Deciphering dreams

(ran TP edition)

In the dream, Bridget Jackson is a passenger in a car, riding away from a tornado. Two women are hanging off the side door. They appear to be flying.

She can't make out the driver's face, but he looks like someone from her church. The car isn't speeding, as one might do in a disaster situation. Instead, the pace is steady.

Through the rear window, Jackson sees the tornado hovering over a house, yet it never touches it.

Jackson, a pediatric nurse and mother of two, can't remember how the dream ended, but she does remember waking up that September day and wondering what it meant.

She knew enough about dreams, from books like Decoding Your Dreams by Robert Lang, to know the images weren't literal, that she wasn't going to get blown away by a tornado. She knew the tornado was a symbol. But a symbol for what?

Many people would have brushed off the dream as just that, a dream. But Jackson couldn't. Neither could Karen Hess, who was puzzled about a dream she had about her foyer. People from all aspects of her life kept walking into it, she recalled, and no one was moving out. She remembers feeling crowded.

Was the dream trying to tell her something about her life?

Kim Vaz says yes. Vaz runs dream interpretation workshops from her office on Busch Boulevard, and for $25 a class she says she can help you find the key to unlocking your dreams. She does this not by peering into a dictionary of dream terms, but by looking into you.

"Dreams are personal," Vaz said.

To decode Jackson's tornado dream, Vaz singled out the dream images, asking detailed questions about what they meant to Jackson.

The tornado: Did something occur in Jackson's life to upset the balance? The two women hanging off the side door: Did someone help pull her through this?

In the end, Vaz concluded that the dream was about the approaching death of Jackson's mother, who died a month after the dream.

The two women hanging on to the side of the car were the strong women in her family, who would help guide her through the grieving. The church member represented her strong faith.

"You can usually tell you have the right interpretation when everything fits and they go, "Ah-ha,' " said Vaz.

Jackson said ah-ha.

"The dream was telling me that I would pull through my mother's death," she said. "I was going to be okay. And I was."

For Hess, the foyer in her dream was her life, Vaz concluded. And the dream was telling her that she wasn't allowing time for herself.

"Dreams can tell us a lot about ourselves, if we pay attention," Vaz said.

Vaz holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Indiana University and has been on the faculty in the women's studies department at the University of South Florida since 1990, first as an assistant professor, then as an associate professor.

Her interest in dreams came while researching women and myth, which led her to classes organized by the Carl G. Jung Society in Sarasota last fall. She began her workshops, which run every Saturday, in January.

Similar dream interpretation workshops are becoming increasingly popular.

"With the turn of the century coming, more people are searching for meaning, more people are interested in the spiritual," said Diane Chamberlain, 52, who has hosted dream interpretation workshops in Tampa for 12 years.

Dreams can help guide you, Vaz said. They can also reflect your true feelings.

Years ago, while going through a divorce, Priscilla Dean, who took Vaz's workshop in March, dreamt about two cars. One was parked; the other was going downhill. Her ex-husband was in the car doing downhill.

Kristen Davis-John, a Tampa psychologist, said curiosity led her to the dream workshops.

"It is another avenue to understand one's self," she said. "It might not work for others, but it resonates for me."