For the past week, you’ve had the same dream every night. You are walking through a meadow full of wildflowers when suddenly the ground disappears and you are free-falling through the sky. It is so vivid and clear, and you can’t figure out why you keep having the same dream. Finally, you start to wonder if it means something…
This is what dream decoding or dream interpretation is all about. It’s uncovering the why.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, we typically have four to six dreams a night, but we rarely remember them all. When we do, we wonder why we dreamt that or it means something.
There are several theories as to why we dream and what the content of these dreams mean. Sigmund Freud was fascinated with dreams and wrote the book The Interpretation of Dreams.
He believed that a dream was filled with the unconscious wishes of the dreamer. Often, these wishes were disguised and could be dissected using his “dream work” process.
The first element of this process was condensation. According to Freud, there are often many different ideas and concepts in one dream that are represented with one image. The second element is displacement, which says that sometimes the most information and emotional meaning exists in the insignificant parts of the dream. The third element is symbolization, meaning objects symbolizes significant meaning beyond the purpose of the object. Finally, the fourth element is secondary revision. This consists of the bizarre elements of a dream that are reorganized, so the dream makes sense.
Other well-known psychologists like Jung, Hall, and Dormhoff also had their way of interpreting dreams. Carl Jung’s belief in dream interpretation was different than Freud's. Where Freud believed dreams were more symbolic, Jung believed they were very personal to the dreamer. He believed that common dream elements represented the dreamer's attitudes and beliefs that were suppressed by their conscious mind.
Calvin S. Hall didn’t look for symbolism in objects but instead looked for patterns. He analyzed thousands of dream diaries and found there to be different categories of dreams. Like Jung, he also felt that dreams were highly personal and could only be interpreted by knowing the dreamer and the details of the entire dream. For example, to interpret a dream, he would need to know the actions of the dreamer in the dream, any other objects or people in the dream, the way the dreamer interacted with these, and the setting and transitions.
Just like these researchers, people have different views on dream interpretation. Some believe they mean nothing, while others think we can learn a lot by decoding dreams. If you are curious about what your dreams mean, you can start to analyze them yourself or connect with a professional. Here are some tips for analyzing your own dreams.
Analyzing Your Dreams
When you wake up on your millet pillow in the morning, the first thing you need to do is write down your dream. Recoding your dream is the first and most crucial step in analyzing it. You may have noticed that your ability to recall your dream diminishes quickly so keep a notebook and pen on your bedside table so you can write them down.
In addition to writing down what happened, document how you felt. Were you angry, sad, jealous? Do you still feel this way when you wake up? Write it all down!
After two weeks, look through your recording and see if there are any patterns. Try to identify any recurring thoughts and see if they relate to your daily life. Be sure to consider all the details, both within yourself and any other people in the dream. You can then use a dream dictionary to help you identify the meaning of these reoccurring themes or objects.
If you have trouble remembering your dreams when you wake up, you can try vitamins and minerals that are considered natural dream enhancers. For example, magnesium glycinate, a naturally occurring mineral and sleep aid, gives some users more vivid dreams. This is believed to happen because of its positive effect on sleep. Magnesium glycinate is known to improve sleep quality and help get you into deeper phases of sleep, including rapid eye movement (REM), which is when dreams occur. Most people only remember about 10% of their dreams, but the more REM sleep you have, the more you will dream.
Common Dreams Decoded
To help you get started on your dream decoding journey, we’ve compiled a shortlist of 6 common dreams and what they mean.
- Dream of being chased
Dreaming of being chased is quite common. You may be chased by an attacker, an animal, or something unknown. Dream expert and author of the Dream Dictionary, Tony Crisp, believes these dreams represent your desire to escape. It may symbolize escaping your fears or most profound desires. The interpretation depends on who is chasing you. If an animal is chasing you, it may mean you are trying to hide from your own feelings. If an unknown figure is chasing you, it could represent past trauma or an upsetting childhood experience.
- Dream of infidelity
Have you ever had a dream that your partner cheated on you, and it felt so real you woke up hurt and angry? Or a dream that you cheated on your spouse, and you felt guilty because of it? If so, you’re not alone. This dream is common and often distressing. There are two popular theories as to what this dream means. Some believe this is your fears manifesting in your dreams. You have a fear of your partner being unfaithful or fear your temptations, and it is playing out at night. The other theory is this is a sign of relationship troubles. According to the authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide Dream Dictionary, Eve Adamson and Gayle Williamson, a dream about infidelity indicates issues with trust, communication, and loyalty in your relationship.
- Dream of falling
Many dream interpreters agree on the meaning of these dreams – something isn’t going right. For example, when you dream of falling, it is an indication that something in your life isn’t going as it should, and it is time to change course. Falling represents failing, and you may feel as if you are failing at something like your job, parenting, or a relationship.
- Dream of death
These dreams can be very troubling, and you may wake up crying or in a cold sweat. You may dream of yourself dying or dream of a loved one dying. These dreams are said to represent a fear of change. According to Lauri Loewenberg, author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, “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.” They can also represent the mourning of time passing. When you dream of a parent dying, for example. Some research has found that those nearing death often have meaningful dreams relating to their own passing, saying goodbye, making peace, and resolving any unfinished business.
- Dream of taking a test
This is a very common dream! You may be well into your career but sometimes dream of being back in school, stressed out, and taking a test. This is believed to represent a new upcoming challenge that has been weighing on your mind. It may be an upcoming project at work, or maybe you are feeling tested in your relationship. Consider how you felt while you were taking the test. If you felt unprepared, this may be a sign that you feel unprepared for this life challenge.
- Dream of being pregnant
Many women dream of being pregnant and wonder if this is a sign. According to dream experts, it does have meaning but shouldn’t be taken literally. Often this dream represents personal growth and development. You may be working hard in school to earn your degree, in a new relationship, or working towards a promotion at work. Again, consider how you felt about being pregnant, and this may reveal how you feel about your new path.
There are many common trends seen in dreams. For example, Lisa Medalie, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago, says our dreams have emotion. She told HuffPost, “Many of my patients will explain that, in times of stress, they experience more anxiety-provoking dreams. Based on my clinical experience, it seems that daytime emotions play some role in the emotional undertone of dreams”.
If you have stressful dreams at night, try getting into a calmer mental state before bed. Think of things that worry you or cause stress that can show up in your dreams. For example, you can try meditation on your zafu meditation cushion, having a hot bath, or listening to soothing music.
Whether you believe they have deeper meaning or not, dreams are fascinating! They show us just how much is going on in our mind and body while we are blissfully unaware and asleep on our millet pillow. If you want to learn how to decode your dreams, try these tips here and see what you can uncover the next time you visit dreamland.