What Do Dreams Mean? Interpreting Seven Common Dreams
Imagine this: you wake up in the middle of the night, confused and drenched in sweat. The abruptness of your awakening sends you into a downward spiral of questions. You feel restless and possibly dazed. Was this the result of some supernatural phenomenon? No, it was just a dream. You sit on the edge of your bed, wondering, "what did that dream even mean?"
Although dreams are thought to be the result of long-term memory consolidation, psychologists and philosophers have made several theories about the psychology of dreams throughout history. Learning more about what these dreams could mean for you can be beneficial in caring for your mental health.
Theories of dreaming
Although the topic of dreams may be controversial and unique to each theorist, there is often a constant in determining what these dreams mean. Many theorists agree that a dream image, whether lifelike or larger than life, represents some aspect of everyday life and our human experiences.
Sigmund Freud, one of the pioneer researchers of the unconscious, believed that dreams reflect our "repressed desires and emotions." He thought addressing these dreams was the “royal road” to understanding the root of neurotic behavior.
Carl Jung, the developer of Jungian psychology, was another prolific psychologist who spoke about dreams. He was one of the leading revolutionists in dream interpretation. Jung developed a sense of ideas entitled "Mythic Narratives."
The Mythic Narratives are often used as the blueprint to decipher what the extravagant, fairy-tale-like images in our dreams mean. He coined the phrase "big dreams" to describe the mystical, "larger than life" dreams that leave us breathless.
Our unconscious, according to Jung, directly relates to archetypes, universal behaviors, experiences, and personalities that influence human behavior, and originate from our primal instincts. These, he believed, were universal across different cultures.
Ryan Hurd, the author of Big Dreams & Archetypal Visions, described dreaming as "feeling awe”, “fascination”, “fear and terror”, and “a sense of 'other' along with encounters with mythological creatures and strange, intelligent animals."
Meanings of dreams
Dream analysis, trying to interpret dreams, is popular with psychologists and everyday people alike. Taking a closer look at the meaning of dream content and the dream symbols within them can help reveal details of the dreamer’s psyche and any personal significance they may hold. They could also assist us in better understanding ourselves, the way we think, and how we process experiences.
Dream interpreting is not an exact science, but there are some recurring themes and similar dreams that many people report dreaming about, resulting in a dream dictionary that could help you understand your own dreams.
Many theorists agree that falling dreams represent a lack of control regarding a decision. They suggest there may be some dominant force in your life that is preventing you from having confidence in yourself or your choices. You may feel overwhelmed at work, consumed with stress from a relationship, or facing a difficult decision.
Dreams about your teeth falling out
Our teeth are often strong yet sensitive. They can represent our stability since they are deeply rooted in our mouths. We may be stressed when we dream of our teeth falling out of our gums. Many theorists agree that teeth falling out represents a lack of control in some parts of your life.
Showing up naked
Many individuals report dreaming of being in a crowded environment while entirely nude. This exposed dream could represent embarking on a new adventure in your life. When you are entering foreign territory, all eyes may be on you. In these situations, you might stand out or experience a sense of embarrassment at the unknown.
For example, when you begin a new job, there could be countless procedures that you must learn. You might feel a sense of hesitation or embarrassment while attempting to understand these procedures. This process can involve asking questions and possibly making mistakes. Being naked in your dream could represent that sense of embarrassment and vulnerability.
Dreams of mass attacks
Witnessing attacks, violence, or similar tragedies in our dreams can feel frightening. Are you under extreme pressure from a particularly persuasive person or group of individuals? You may be able to relate to the horrifying theme of dreaming of a mass attack.
These dreams may signify the overwhelming emotions of feeling trapped or controlled by another person or situation. Perhaps you don't agree with the tasks or activities you are pressured to partake in, but you still feel connected to those placing these demands upon you.
These demands may be likened to an outright attack on your rights, which the mind may see as similar to a mass attack on innocent individuals.
Dreams of your partner cheating
The thought of your partner cheating can feel heartbreaking in a serious relationship. Often, this fear may ignite in your dreams. Although dreaming about something as devastating as infidelity could cause intense feelings, there could be a logical reason for them based on real feelings.
For example, a lack of safety in a relationship might be the cause. You could feel your partner is devoting too much of their time to something else, whether their job, friends, or hobbies. This change in your relationship could cause you to feel neglected or betrayed, even if your partner is not cheating on you.
In some cases, people may lose trust in their partner's loyalty based on past actions. These actions could cause their imagination to create possible worst-case scenarios, resulting in tormenting dreams. The cause of these types of distressing dreams could be the fear of not being enough, losing a lasting relationship, or disloyalty.
Some theorists argue that when you have bad dreams about someone or something pursuing you, you may be dodging a fundamental problem in your waking life.
We often save handling uncomfortable situations until the very last moment. This procrastination in taking care of the issue may cause a dream like this while you sleep.
Dreams of death or dying
When you dream about dying, whether it involves yourself or a loved one, the symptoms of grief or fear may seem real. Despite the sadness associated with this dream, the underlying meaning could be something positive.
Dreaming about death could symbolize the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Have you recently ended a toxic relationship? Perhaps quit a stressful job? Dreaming about death could be your mind's way of interpreting this newfound change. It may even signify a difference in your personality.
When you modify your life, the grief associated with letting go of past habits could be reincarnated as confusing dreams about attending your funeral or dying dramatically. The same concept could be attributed to dreaming about someone else dying. You may grieve their old personality or company, which prompts the death dream.
Getting help with dreams
Dreams can be a fascinating escape from our conscious mind. Most dreams provide us with entertainment, but other dreams leave us breathless. While some archetypal symbols in dreams and their interpretations may be generally applicable, such as the ones presented here, the symbols and events in your dreams may also be unique representations of yourself and your experiences.
If you'd like to work on understanding your dreams and their meanings or examine good and bad dreams you've been having, consider reaching out to a professional and undertaking dream therapy. Some people who experience disturbing or embarrassing dreams are hesitant to talk about them in person. Online counseling sessions allow these individuals to explore their disturbing dreams in a discrete setting.
It's a common misconception that one must have symptoms of a specific mental illness to benefit from therapy. On the contrary, studies suggest that online therapy promotes general well-being, not just relief from certain disorders. Additionally, if you struggle with having nightmares or night terrors, and they are disrupting your sleep quality or making it difficult to fall asleep, a counselor may be able to help you analyze the meaning and work through any uncomfortable feelings you are having.
Dreams have fascinated humans since the beginning of time. Theorists and dream interpreters have given some insight into how we can analyze our dreams. Having a better picture of what our dreams mean can help provide peace of mind, potentially allowing you to live a happier and healthier life.
When in doubt, consult a professional who can help you figure out your dreams and give you steps to move forward. Take the first step by reaching out to a counselor.
What do your dreams actually mean?
Some ancient cultures believed dreams could predict future events, while others believed they held religious significance. Today, a common theory is that both good and bad dreams play a role in organizing and processing information. It’s also possible that dreams serve to help us solve problems and prepare for challenges in everyday life.
Some theorists believe that dreams reflect unconscious desires, fears, or emotions. For example, dream images like losing your teeth might mean you are feeling a loss of control in some area of your life while dreaming of being betrayed might mean you’re feeling a lack of certainty in your relationship. That said, the meanings of dreams can vary, and interpreting them is not one-size-fits-all.
What causes dreams?
Sleep research is an evolving field, and scientists have not yet figured out exactly what causes dreams. Several different parts of the brain may be involved in generating dreams, including the forebrain and the brain stem.
Why do dreams seem so real?
Most dreams occur during REM sleep, a period during sleep when the eyes move quickly back and forth. During these cycles, the parts of the brain that process emotions and sensory information are active, which is why dreams often seem so real. This may also explain why REM dreams tend to be vivid and intense.
Can you control your dreams?
During typical dreams, people aren’t aware that they’re dreaming, but occasionally they do realize they’re in a dream. While some people wake up immediately after this happens, others may be able to stay asleep and continue dreaming. This is what is known as lucid dreaming. It may be possible to control what happens in a lucid dream.
Why do we forget our dreams?
When we sleep, we have lower levels of several brain chemicals involved in forming memories. In addition, the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for storing memories, may not always be fully activated when we first awaken. These factors may make us less likely to remember our dreams. Other things that may affect dream recall include:
- Sleep habits
- Memory-related conditions
- Certain medications, like antidepressants
- Sleep disorders
People may remember their dreams to different degrees based on these and other factors.
Why do I remember my dreams?
Although it can be common to forget your dreams, it is also possible to remember them. Unique or particularly intense dreams, like nightmares, can sometimes leave enough of an impression to be memorable after waking up. Writing about your dreams or recounting them to others can also make your brain more likely to store memories of them.
What does it mean if I don't dream?
Although not everyone remembers their dreams, everyone likely dreams to some extent. If it seems like you’re not dreaming, it may be because you’re forgetting your dreams upon waking, which can be normal.
Some reasons for forgetting your dreams may include using electronics at night, eating too close to bedtime, and not keeping a consistent sleep schedule. These can affect your levels of REM sleep, the period during sleep when most dreams happen. Practicing good sleep hygiene and writing dream reports when you awaken may help you remember more of your dreams.
How long do dreams last?
During an average night of sleep, people typically spend around two hours dreaming. Dreams may last anywhere from a few seconds to more than 20 minutes.
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