What Do Dreams Mean? Interpreting Seven Common Dreams

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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.

Dreams can offer insight into your mental well-being

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 

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

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 

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.

Falling 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.

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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.

Being chased

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.

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Dreams can offer insight into your mental well-being

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.

Takeaway

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.

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