Sleep Care

Dreams: What Do They Mean?

Whether you see yourself being chased by a dog, falling in slow motion or striking it rich, you’ve probably had a vivid dream that made you stop and wonder, “what does that mean?” Dreams like this can be intriguing, but uncovering their meaning or purpose can be downright baffling.

In ancient societies, people used their dreams and the dreams of others to make everyday decisions. In fact, early books, including the Bible, are filled with references to dreams. More recently, writers, entrepreneurs and inventors often say that they get creative ideas from dreams. For instance, Jeff Taylor dreamt up monster.com and Jack Nicklaus had a dream of a new golf grip. Author Stephenie Meyer said her inspiration for the wildly popular Twilight series came from a dream. Meyer says she woke up from a dream that featured seemingly real characters that she could not get out of her head.

Throughout history, there have been a number of popular theories regarding the purpose of dreams and their meanings. For instance Sigmund Freud suggested that a dream’s content is related to wish fulfillment. Freud believed that the dream’s events disguise the unconscious wishes of the dreamer.

Meanwhile, Carl Jung felt that dreams compensate for parts of the psyche that are underdeveloped. Jung also believed that dreams are highly personal and that interpretation involves knowing a great deal about the dreamer. Later, research by Calvin Hall and G. William Domhoff found that dreams also reflect the thoughts and concerns of a dreamer’s daily life.

Today’s popular ideas about dream interpretation are largely influenced by Ann Faraday. Faraday outlined techniques and ideas that anyone can use to interpret their dreams. And while there is still much debate about dream interpretation, many experts believe dreams can be useful tools for self understanding and problem solving.

With a little practice, even you can learn to make sense of some of your dreams. The first step in

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understanding your dreams is to remember and journal them in detail. Keeping a pen and paper next to your bed can help. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you can remember about the dream including how you felt when you woke up. These feelings can provide clues into the dream’s meaning.

Second, think about all the people, objects, places, smells, sights and other things that appeared in the dream. These dream images or objects, often called symbols, may serve as metaphors from something else. For instance, traveling in a car may not mean that you are getting a new car but might instead reflect something about your future. Also, where you are in the car could influence the meaning — Are you a passenger or the driver? All these elements are important to understanding your dreams.

Third, remember that dreams are deeply personal. Your religious beliefs, age, gender, personality and preferences all play a role in your dreams. So, a lion in a dream may mean one thing to you and something completely different to someone else.

It’s also important to note that the strangeness of your dreams will increase with the more you have on your mind according to cognitive scientist and Duke University professor Owen Flanagan. Dreams sometimes are nothing more than a sorting and reordering of what has happened while you were awake. For instance, you may dream about that problem you couldn’t resolve at work and then wake knowing exactly how to fix it.

Most experts agree that trying to understand dreams in terms of your own world view and experiences is more productive than using dream dictionaries. With that said, there are certain dream themes that do exist across time, culture and people. Some common examples include dreams about your teeth falling out, falling off a cliff and public nudity. In other words, large majorities of people have experienced dreams in these categories.

Here is a brief list of the most common dream themes and possible meanings. Remember though, if you think your dream might mean something different, it just may.

* BEING CHASED. This dream may mean that you are running from something or that you are avoiding something.

* FALLING. This dream may signify that something in your life is out of control. You could feel like you are in over your head or that you have taken on too many responsibilities.

* FLYING. Generally, this is a very positive dream and often indicates that you feel on top of things or that things are going well for you.

* PUBLIC NUDITY. This dream often indicates that you feel vulnerable or weak in one area of your life.

* TEETH FALLING OUT. This disturbing dream has a variety of interpretations but may indicate that you feel like something or someone is controlling you — that there is an area of your life where your power is being threatened.

* DISCOVERING A NEW ROOM. This dream may mean that there is an aspect of you that you are just discovering like a hidden talent or a change in your behaviors.

Finally, what does it mean if you have the same dream over and over again? According to Deidre Barrett, author of Committee of Sleep, recurring dreams are more important on average than other dreams. Typically, these dreams fall into two categories with some being positive or neutral while others border on nightmares.

The nightmare-like dreams may signal the need for outside help. For instance, if you have experienced a traumatic event, this may cause your dreams to become intense including inciting feelings of fear or of being overwhelmed. Barrett says many times people are reliving something that happened in real life but sometimes with a twist. The thing you are most afraid of presents itself in the dream. With post traumatic stress dreams like these, it is often best to seek help from a therapist.

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