Almost all of us dream, whether we’re having a mind movie every night or only once in a blue moon, it’s a part of the human experience. And it stands to reason that just as many of us are curious about the point and purpose of dreams, right?While many of our dreams can be pretty darn boring, including hitting the aisles of the grocery store with Aunt Ruth or your third-grade teacher, they are also viewed as highly complex and even prophetic by many cultures.People in ancient Egypt believed dreams were a form of ESP while they slept, while ancient Greeks and Romans saw dreaming as a mix of future predictions and visits from loved ones that had passed on to the afterlife.The infamous founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud considered dreams to be an unconscious expression of desires or conflicts that had been suppressed during our waking hours. Another famous psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, believed that dreams were what he called “shaped energy,” and were used to release subconscious narratives.Today’s psychologists and neurologists are using modern diagnostic equipment, such as PET scans and MRIs to take a deeper and more technical look at the process of dreaming, and why we have dreams in the first place.
Why Do We Dream?
Scientists have been fascinated by the question of why we dream for many years, and there are almost as many theories as there are studies about dreaming. Some believe that dreaming has no real function, while others suspect that dreams actually serve very specific purposes.Some of the current theories about why we dream include:
Dreams are a form of processing memories and aiding in the learning process.
Dreaming is a way to reflect upon the experiences we have while awake.
Dreams help us to work through difficult thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
Dreaming is a response to biochemical changes in the brain while we sleep.
Dreams are a way to unite the past and present, while preparing for the future.
Dreaming is a way for the brain to protect itself from possible dangers and challenges.
Even with all of the scientists hard at work on discovering exactly why it is that we dream, there may never be a simple answer to the question, but the likelihood that dreaming serves a purpose in our cognitive, psychological, or biological functions is extremely high, and just another reason why sleep is so important to our well-being.
What Do Our Dreams Mean?
While we may not know exactly why we dream, that fact has never put a stop to our fascination with dreams, and what we should interpret from them when it comes to what they mean to our day-to-day lives.In fact, there have been polls taken in large publications, such as Newsweek, that indicate over 40% of Americans believe that dreams can give us a glimpse into our deepest thoughts and wishes.Freud actually believed that any of us could peek into our subconscious mind and shed light on the desires that live there simply by studying what happened in our minds while we slept, once we were awake.People have become so interested in learning what their dreams mean, a booming industry has sprung up around interpreting the unconscious deeds that we take part in as we sleep the night away.You can now call or text physics to hear their thoughts on dream meanings, hop on Google and look up dream analysis, or pick up a special “dream journal” at Barnes and Noble to record what happens while you sleep.There are even dream dictionaries that have been published to give us a look at some of the most common dream themes. Most of these contain many of the same subjects, as there does seem to be a trend in dream topics that are common to us all.
9 Common Dreams and Their Meanings
It’s time for us to go ahead and take a look at 9 of the most common dreams, what expert dream analysts have to say about what they mean, and why so many of us are having them.
1. Being Chased by a Stranger
Have you ever dreamed of being pursued by a shadowy figure? This very common dream theme can be particularly frightening, given the fact that being chased is bad enough, but when it’s by someone you can’t identify, the fear factor is taken up a notch.This type of dream typically means that you’re trying to avoid something negative that’s going on in your waking life. Whether you’re looking to escape from a fear or desire, the key to understanding what’s happening in your dream is to identify the pursuer.If an animal is chasing you, chances are that you’re the root of the problem, and you’re looking to hide from your own heightened emotions. When you’re being chased by a strange individual, a past trauma or an unhealthy relationship could be to blame.
2. Appearing Nude in Public
Almost all of us have dealt with the embarrassment of being caught without any clothes in a dream. It could be in a classroom or a boardroom, but the setting isn’t the issue with this type of dream. The fear and awkwardness of being exposed is what makes this dream so frustrating and even painful.When you’re dreaming of being out in public in your birthday suit, chances are that you’re suffering from “imposter syndrome” at work or school, where you’re feeling like a phony and at risk of revealing your shortcomings to those around you.
3. Taking a Tumble
Falling from great heights is also a very common dream topic. While falling is scary enough, there is also a popular myth that if you dream of falling and hit the ground in your sleep, you could actually die in real life.Of course, this is simply not true, but that doesn’t make taking a tumble from on high while dreaming any less frightening, does it? The fact of the matter is, this type of dream is less about what’s happening to you, and more about what needs to happen.Many dream analysts believe that falling dreams show there’s something off in your daily life and that you need to reconsider a recent choice you’ve made or direction you’ve taken, whether personally or professionally.
4. Spreading Your Wings
On the opposite side of the spectrum from falling, dreams about flying can feel exhilarating and give you a sense of confidence and freedom. But this type of dream actually has two separate interpretations.Flying in dreams can be a sign that you’re breaking free from something that you’ve felt has been holding you back. It can also reveal that you’re fearing something in your waking life and want to be able to escape from what you feel is constraining you.
5. Being Betrayed
One of the more disturbingly common dream scenarios is being cheated on by your romantic partner, as it brings fear into the realistic realm, as opposed to a nightmare that includes being eaten by dragons or another fantastical element.Many of us actually wake up believing that our dream was real or possibly prophetic. So, does dreaming about an unfaithful partner mean you have to worry about an actual betrayal in your relationship?Luckily, most dream experts agree that these scenarios aren’t based in reality, and are instead an indication that you might need to take a deeper look at your own thoughts on loyalty and communication within a romantic partnership and make sure you’re getting what you want and need from your significant other.
6. Failing a Test
Another common dream revolves around taking (and miserably failing) an important test, such as a final exam or even sitting for medical or legal board certification. Big exams are a stressful enough time in our lives, and most of us likely feel some sort of pressure to perform, or that we’re going to fall flat on our faces, and have to face up to our own shortcomings.Dreaming of failing an exam, showing up late for a test, or being unprepared in some other way is something that most of us will face at some point in our lives, but thankfully, most dream analysts agree that it’s not predicting the future, but simply showing us that we’re feeling unprepared in some way during our waking lives.
7. Missing Teeth
Having a dream about losing one or more teeth can be pretty disturbing, and can also have multiple meanings, making it one that should definitely be recorded in a dream journal and given a deeper look than most dreams.If you’re dreaming about losing your teeth, you could be worried that you’re not as attractive as you’d like to be for one reason or another. It could also mean that you’re concerned about your ability to get your point across effectively during an important conversation or while at work.Our teeth are used to cut and grind our food, making them an essential part of our health and well-being, and if they’ve fallen out during a dream, it can make us feel as if we’re losing our personal sense of power or our ability to protect and fend for ourselves.
8. Loss of Life
Death can also be a common theme in dreams, and another particularly disturbing one, at that. Whether you’re dreaming of the death of someone you care about or your own untimely demise, these types of dreams are never fun and can leave you worried about the future.Many dream experts interpret dreams about dying to not actually be about the final act of death, but are more about you having a good-sized dose of anxiety regarding an upcoming change in your life or some serious uncertainty about what the next chapter contains for you and your loved ones.
9. Becoming a Mother
On the other side of things, dreams about pregnancy are also a common (and typically much happier) version of the end of life theme. In these dreams, you might be newly pregnant, giving birth, or have a newborn baby.This type of dream usually occurs once you’re already pregnant and are anxious about what’s about to change in your world, but they can also happen before you’re about to become a new mother, even though they usually aren’t considered to be prophetic.Pregnancy dreams can often be a sign that you’re looking to deepen a current relationship with a romantic partner or that you’re feeling the pressure to become seriously involved and start your own family, whether those feelings are coming from your own thoughts or the statements of friends or family members.