What Do Dreams Mean?
Everybody dreams. No matter who you are, what era you live in, or where you come from, you dream. Most of the time, dreams are forgettable things. You wake up, and maybe for a few minutes an echo or shadow of the dream remains in your mind, but by the time you shower or brush your teeth or head off to work in the morning, it's gone (tip: a great way to remember your dreams is to write them in a dream journal immediately upon waking up in the morning.)
That's only most of the time, however. Sometimes, there are dreams that stick with you. Maybe they're dreams that have really strange images, dreams that trigger an emotional response, or dreams that speak to some event in your life. It's when you have these kinds of dream that you seriously begin to ask the question: What do dreams mean?
Of course, there's not really a simple answer for this. The history of the study of dreams stretches back thousands of years. It's as old as humanity itself. It's a history filled with thoughts and beliefs and opinions. But there is at least one fact when it comes to understanding what your dreams mean, which is that they are your dreams.
Yes, dreams are a product of your own consciousness, so in the end, only you can fully interpret them. While this might sound like a daunting, even impossible task, there's no need to worry. There are all sorts of guides to dream interpretation. They all have different answers for what dreams mean, and sometimes trying to sort them all out can feel like wading through a swamp. But try not to get bogged down. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are the key to figuring out what your dreams mean, these are only guides.
With that being said, here are a few of the common answers to “What do dreams mean,” which you might find helpful in interpreting your dreams.
Common Dream Archetypes
While everyone dreams differently, those who study dreams have noticed that there are certain kinds of dreams which seem to be universal, to all people. Since these archetypal dreams are so common, analyzing them is an excellent way to start interpreting your own dreams. Let's look at two of the most usual types.
This is one of the most common types of dreams. Even if you haven't personally had this sort of dream yourself, undoubtedly you have heard others talk about it, or seen it in books and movies. How the dream begins can vary. Maybe you're in school, on the day of a test, or giving a presentation, or even something as simple as walking down the street. But the one things these dreams have in common, and the one thing which gives them their name, is that, sooner or later, you realize you're completely naked.
What does this all mean? There are several things, actually. This should be no surprise, as there are many things we associate with nakedness: embarrassment, vulnerability, weakness, being exposed, etc. So when you have a dream in which you're naked, for no apparent reason, it might be an expression of these sorts of feelings. These dreams may speak to the fear of what being naked represents, the unconscious fear of being caught off guard, for example, or being unprepared.
Like Naked Dreams, these sorts of dreams suggest that you have some feeling of anxiety or nervousness in your actual life. These dreams might have you running from a person, an animal, or even something which doesn't quite have a form, a monster or a shadowy figure. But the common element is that, in these dreams, you aren't confronting the danger, but running away from it. The response to “flight” rather than “fight” is an instinctive primal one, so it's no surprise how common these dreams are.
In order to gain better insight to understand what your dream of this type means, you have to ask yourself several things, such as: who is chasing you? Is it a familiar figure? A stranger? An animal? If it's someone you know, like your boss, the dream might stem from workplace anxieties. If it's an animal, the reason for the dream is unlikely to be social in nature; it might represent anxiety regarding some natural thing, something we can't control, like sickness or death.
Dreams do not always, or even usually, fall into easy to interpret archetypes. This speaks to the uniqueness and unconscious creativity of every individual, but it also makes answers harder to come by when seeking to interpret your dream. But just as there are common dreams shared amongst people, there are common symbols which can appear in any type of dream, but often represent similar things. Let's look at a few examples.
A key is a pretty universal symbol, with a universal design: it unlocks something. So seeing a key in your dream might represent your unconscious desire to unlock, seize, or control some aspect of your life, perhaps the answer to some problem you are having.
Maybe, in a dream, you see a pair of false teeth on the table. Or maybe the false teeth are in your mouth, having replaced your actual teeth. In either case, false teeth usually represent feelings of dishonesty, such as not being honest with yourself or suspecting, subconsciously, someone you know isn't being honest with you.
Seeing a web in your dream often signifies one of two subconscious desires: controlling others or feeling less trapped. If you're the figurative “spider” in the dream, spinning the web, this suggests you want to have more control over others in your life. Alternatively, if you're in the web, this might suggest you feel trapped yourself.
As it was said near the beginning of this article, the question “What do dreams mean?” has been asked for millennia. And while there's no clear, concise, 100% certain answer, there are many, many theories on what dreams mean, and many common interpretations of various types of dreams or symbols found in dreams. However, no matter what people say, what's important to keep in mind is you. If someone tells you this symbol means that, or that symbol means this, but it doesn't feel right or make sense to you, feel free to ignore them. You, after all, are the one having the dream. It's a product of your mind, not theirs. So in the end, it's up to you to interpret them.