According to a 2006 poll conducted by Newsweek, a whopping 43% of Americans believe that dreams reveal unconscious desires and wishes. Famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud described dreams as the royal road to the unconscious and suggested that by studying the obvious content of dreams, we could then bring to light the hidden and unconscious desires that lead to neurosis.
Analyzing dream symbols and ascribing meaning has become a popular source of both entertainment and self-reflection in popular culture. Do dreams really have hidden meanings? Can you learn your unconscious wishes and desires by interpreting your dreams? While most modern theories of dreams would suggest that the answer is no, this hasn’t stopped interpreters and analysts from publishing a whole host of dream dictionaries that purport to identify what these common dream themes and symbols really mean.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common dreams and what some of the most popular dream interpretation books have to say about them.
Dreams about falling from great heights are very common. While there is a popular myth that if you hit the ground in your dream you will die in real life, it simply is not true. So what exactly could dreams about falling really mean? According to many popular dream interpretations, falling dreams are a sign that something in your life isn’t going well. It might suggest that you need to rethink a choice or consider a new direction in some area of your life.
“Dreaming of falling is very common. It is a symbol of fear in real life – perhaps of failing at work or in your love life,” claims Russell Grant, author of The Illustrated Dream Dictionary. “Falling often expresses a need to let yourself go more and enjoy life more.”
Naked in Public
Ever have one of those awkward dreams where you show up at school or the office in your birthday suit? Don’t worry. Dreaming about being naked is hardly unusual. Penny Peirce, author of the Dream Dictionary for Dummies, suggests that dreaming of public nudity might indicate that you feel like a phony or that you are afraid of revealing your imperfections and shortcomings.
Tony Crisp, author of Dream Dictionary, suggests that being chased in a dream might indicate a desire to escape from your
own fears or desires. The key to understanding what such a dream might mean depends partly on the identity of your pursuer. Being chased by an animal might indicate that you are hiding from your own anger, passions, and other feelings. If your pursuer is a mysterious, unknown figure, it might represent a childhood experience or past trauma. If you are being chased by someone of the opposite sex, Crisp suggests that it means you are afraid of love or haunted by a past relationship.
“The real essence of teeth is their ability to bite through, to cut, tear, and grind,” she explains. “If your teeth fall out, you lose personal power and your ability to be assertive, decisive, and self-protective.”
“Like death, change can be scary because – also like death – we do not know what is ‘on the other side,’ of the change, which is why the dreaming mind equates change with death,” suggests Lauri Loewenberg in her book Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life.
Loewenberg also believes that dreaming about the death of a loved one can reflect a similar fear of change, especially with regards to children reaching milestones and growing up. Such changes, she suggests, indicate that a child is growing up and a parent’s mind begins to wonder where the younger version of the child went. Such dreams of dying, therefore, reflect a sort of mourning for the inevitable passage of time.
Taking a Test
According to Craig Hamilton-Parker, author of The Hidden Meaning of Dreams, taking an exam your dreams might reveal an underlying fear of failure. “Examinations are stressful experiences in which you are made to face up to your shortcomings,” he writes. “To dream of failing an exam, being late for one, or being unprepared shows that you feel unprepared for the challenges of waking life.”
While in some cases such dreams might be the reflection of waking fears of such infidelity, Trish and Rob MacGregor, the author’s of the Complete Dream Dictionary: A Bedside Guide to Knowing What Your Dreams Mean, believe that such dreams probably don’t mean that your spouse is cheating or will cheat.
“This is another ‘what if’ dream – you are testing the limits of reality,” they suggest.
Eve Adamson and Gayle Williamson, authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide Dream Dictionary, posit that such dreams about infidelity indicate issues with trust, loyalty, and communication in a relationship. “If you or your partner cheated in your dream, one of you isn’t getting what you need from that relationship right now,” they write.
“Flying alone occurs most frequently,” he writes, “showing the independent aspect of flying. But because it often involves positive feelings of pleasure, flying may depict our sexuality…especially aspects of it expressing freedom from social norms and restraints.”
Dream interpreters often suggest that dreams about pregnancy represent everything from creativity to fear. David C. Lohff, the author of Dream Dictionary, believes that pregnancy dreams might sometimes represent a woman’s fears of being an inadequate mother. Author Tony Crisp, on the other hand, suggests that such dreams indicate that the dreamer is developing some area of potential or deepening a
relationship. Dream interpreter Russell Grant writes that these dreams presage difficult times.
So what do you think? Do some of these dream interpretations seem accurate? If not, don’t worry – your dreams are unique and high personal. You are not likely to find anything more than simple entertainment in generalized interpretation books and dream dictionaries. Instead, consider your dreams a reflection of your waking life, mirroring your fears, anxieties, desires, hopes, and aspirations for
Adamson, E., & Williamson, G. (2007). The Complete Idiot’s Guide Dream Dictionary. New York: Penguin Group.
Crisp, T. (2002). Dream Dictionary. New York: Random House.
Grant, R. (2006). The Illustrated Dream Dictionary. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Hamilton-Parker, C. (1999). The Hidden Meaning of Dreams. New York: Sterling Publishing.
Loewenberg, L. (2011). Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Lohff, D. C. (2004). Dream Dictionary. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press.
MacGregor, T., & MacGregor, R. (2004). Complete Dream Dictionary: A Bedside Guide to Knowing What Your Dreams Mean. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
Peirce, P. (2011). Dream Dictionary for Dummies. New York: John Wiley & Sons.