Dreams, we all have them. But can we ever really understand what they mean?
Story by Molly Mann, originally published April 2008 on Divine Caroline.
sleeping_teen.jpgDreams come to us in our most private moments: wrapped up in sheets, our public faces stored away for the night. The visions we see in sleep are supposed to be expressions of our individual psyches and imaginations, but most people's dreams are based on themes that are very common. I thought my recurring dream of losing my teeth was scary and freakish until I went online to find thousands of others having the same dream, all trying to find out what the heck it could mean. Just because our dreams are shared, though, doesn't mean they aren't unique; the way we experience these common elements in dreaming life is what's significant.
1. Being chased.
Candice Janco, author of the Bedside Dream Dictionary: 500 Dream Symbols and Their Meanings, describes this dream (the most common) as an indication of a felt threat in your waking life. This threat can take the form of a menacing person or a strong emotion with which you are having difficulty coping. Try to determine who or what is chasing you, where the dream takes place, and what your feelings are during the chase to understand what this dreams means to you.
2. Missing an important event because you are late.
This can indicate regret over a missed opportunity, inability to make a connection, or desire to pull oneself together. In Dream Power: How to Use Your Night Dreams to Change Your Life, Cynthia Richmond suggests asking questions of dreams in order to understand what this common symbol means to you. For example: What are you missing? Who is disappointed by the missed event? Is it only you or are there others involved?
3. Finding yourself at work or school naked.
Not surprisingly, Freud interpreted dreams about being naked as repressed sexual wishes. But the most important part of this dream is the feelings that are involved. You suddenly find yourself exposed, vulnerable, and awkward. What area of your life corresponds to that feeling? Figure this out by noting where you are, who notices you, what part of you is exposed, how people react to you, and how you yourself react to the situation.
Falling indicates feelings of insecurity and lack of support. What situation have you "fallen into?" Who has "let you down?" Perhaps not surprisingly, this particular dream is most common among professional men and women. The Illustrated Dream Dictionary authors Russell Grant and Vicky Emptage note the close relationship between "falling" and "failing." They also note that the dream's meaning is probably not so clear-cut. Grant and Emptage ascribe dreams of falling to feelings of isolation, the sense of being without the support and affection that success cannot provide.
Interestingly, Grant and Emptage interpret flying dreams as boasting about sexual powers. The important part of the dream is how you are flying; since the flying itself represents your ambitions, are you flying successfully, or trying and failing to fly as high as possible? From there, they make the leap to feelings of sexual inadequacy, but such feelings of low self-esteem could cover inadequacy of any kind, not just sexual.
6. Losing your teeth.
This theme has a number of potential meanings because of the very different significances teeth have to different people. Our teeth are representative of our appearance because our smiles are one of the first things people notice about us. Therefore, dreaming about losing your teeth can indicate insecurity about your appearance, or even fears of sexual impotence, as teeth are often used to flirt with a desired partner. We also use our teeth to bite, chew, and tear, so losing them can mean a loss of power or fear of getting old. Interestingly, this dream is most common among menopausal women, perhaps for all of the above reasons
Snakes have been a fear in dreams for quite some time. The ancient Egyptians used to make snakes out of clay and place them at the doors of their homes to frighten away nightmares, believing that snakes were bringers of bad dreams and that the clay snake would keep real ones away. Dreammoods, an online encyclopedia of dream meanings, reports that snakes signify some hidden threat. This makes sense, as most of us fear the "snake in the grass." Like most other symbols, though, this one has many meanings that depend on context. Snakes shed their skin, so they may signify renewal and transformation. This may be a frightening experience, as most people are uncomfortable with change, or it may be very positive.
In all of our dreams, the true meanings emerge when we decide what they really mean to us. Though these dream symbols are shared among many, and we can determine general explanations for them, it is the context in which we place them that is significant. Read all you can about dream meanings to find information that may be relevant to you, but also ask questions about your dreams and how these symbols make you feel. Once you dig a little deeper, you may find answers and clarity.