Martin High Bear on Addictions

Lesson 2 – The Wanderer: Vision Quest


Recognize that dreams and visions are sources of insight and wisdom to help guide you along your journey of self-discovery and wellness.


Use the “stuff” of dreams to identify attitudes and emotions (feelings) that influence or cause physical illness, such as addiction.

The Wanderer

The natural next step of moving from the feeling of being alone is to move towards connection with others; searching for a means of support; trying to find acceptance; looking for answers.

Personal Power

Martin’s stepfather taught him songs and sent him on a vision quest.

The Vision Quest is a tradition of many Native American tribes.   Vision seeking demanded courage and personal endurance.  The seeker, isolated from other people and far from familiar surroundings, experienced severe privation in the hope of receiving power from supernatural beings.  The person seeking a vision appealed to animals for spiritual guidance.

The powers possessed by animals were thought to be transferable, so that people who were found worthy could possess similar qualities.  Power came to a person in dreams or visions.  Once the power was obtained, it became part of the individual’s character, just as physical characteristics are part of how a person is known to others.  The power people received gave them special abilities to perform needed tasks, surmount obstacles, or reach desired goals.

The Dream and the Dreamer

Everyone dreams, even if one doesn’t remember having had a dream.  Dreams present us with stories and pictures—symbolic images of emotions we may not be aware of at a conscious level.

Dreams offer insights into what we are thinking and feeling.  Dream messages are usually disguised, requiring the dreamer to interpret what is happening in order to reveal the intended meaning.  For example, people report common themes in dreams, such as flying or falling, losing teeth, not being prepared for an exam, or appearing  naked in public.  Dreams are best understood if they are interpreted at different levels.  At a subjective level, dream figures might represent aspirations, personal struggles and achievements.  At the objective level, the figures in the dream appear to be who and what they seem, like members of your family with whom you have regular contact.

A nightmare is a dream that stirs up strong emotions like anger, fear or helplessness.  Because a nightmare gives rise to such powerful emotions, it presents the dreamer with warning messages, “red flags” that tell us there are problems we need to pay attention to.  Like the vision seeker, the dreamer must become empowered to understand what underlies the fear or rage, and then begin to make the kinds of personal changes that create inner harmony and balance.

Spirit Guides

Each person has an inner voice—like a spirit guide—that helps us “tune in” to ourselves.  Since people struggling with addiction often substitute their addictive behavior for healthy alternatives, learning to interpret dream pictures and messages help explain the dynamics that feed an addiction.

Here are some suggestions that can help you interpret your dream pictures for the purpose of empowering yourself to make positive life changes.

Start a Dream Journal.

Keep a notebook and pen by your bedside.  As soon as you awake, write down who was in the dream and what happened.  Include as much detail as you can recall.  How were people dressed?  What was the conversation or action?  Where did it happen—what were the surroundings?  Who else was there?  What were you doing or trying to accomplish?  Also record any feelings you have just after waking up.  For example, did you feel frightened, relieved, surprised, or saddened?  This process gets easier the more you do it.

Once you have recorded the details of your dream, give it a title.  Make it descriptive so it highlights or represents the major elements or the “plot” of your dream.

Keep your recorded dream pages in a loose-leaf notebook as you can add to it easily and review your collected dreams from time to time.

When reviewing your Dream Journal, see what insights you can gain from the messages.

  • Are there recurring themes? What are they?
  • What people (family members, friends, enemies, strangers) tend to show up in your dream life?
  • What are typical settings of your dreams?
  • How do you respond to “scary” elements in your dreams?  Do you fight back? Run away? Become paralyzed?
  • What is the message of your dream?  Who is the messenger?  What “lessons” might your dreams be trying to teach you?
  • What is the “gift” in the dream?  Are your dreams showing you ways to resolve problems in your life?  What action could you take to turn the “scary” into the “sublime”?

Visit a bookstore and look for information to help you in the process of remembering, recording, and interpreting your dreams.

Make dream journaling a regular part of each day.


If you were on a vision quest to gain a special power, what might that power be?  What animal represents the type of power you seek?