9 Common Dream Interpretations

The subject of dream interpretation has been of interest for many years, and for good reason. Understanding the deeper meaning of dreams can bring about realizations about how you feel and think, which can be beneficial for providing personal insight.

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Verywell / Jessica Olah

Understanding Dream Interpretations

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 bring to light the hidden and unconscious desires that lead to neurosis.

Analyzing dream symbols and ascribing meaning has become a 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 some modern theories of dreams would suggest that the answer is no—that dreams may have a more biological component or even be due to sleep position—this hasn't stopped interpreters and analysts from publishing a host of content that attempts 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 dream interpretation books have to say about them.

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9 Common Dreams and Their Interpretations

1

Dreams About Falling

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 and at least one study, falling dreams are a sign that something in your life isn't going well. It might suggest that you need to rethink a choice, for instance, 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."

2

Dreams About Being Naked in Public

Have you ever had 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, the author of 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.

3

Dreams About Being Chased

Dreams that feature being pursued by a known or unknown attacker can be particularly terrifying. And many people experience these types of dreams. But what do dreams of being chased say about what's going on inside your mind?

Dream interpreters often suggest that such dreams mean that you are trying to avoid something in your daily life. Tony Crisp, the 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.

  • Chased by an animal: Being chased by an animal might indicate that you are hiding from your own anger, passions, and other feelings.
  • Chased by an unknown chaser: If your pursuer is a mysterious, unknown figure, it might represent a childhood experience or past trauma.
  • Chased by a member of the opposite sex: 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.
4

Dreams About Losing Teeth

What do dreams mean if your teeth fall out? Penny Peirce, the author of Dream Dictionary for Dummies, suggests that dreaming about losing teeth can have multiple meanings.

This might mean that you are worried about your attractiveness or appearance, for instance. It may also indicate that you are concerned about your ability to communicate, or that you are concerned that you might have said something embarrassing.

"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."

5

Dreams About Dying

Death is another common subject of dreams and one that can be particularly disconcerting. Dreamers sometimes dream of the death of a loved one or even of dying themselves. Popular dream interpretations suggest that such dreams reflect anxiety about change or a fear of the unknown.

"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 regard to our children. As a child grows up, a parent's mind begins to wonder where the younger version of the child went. Dreams of dying, therefore, reflect a sort of mourning for the inevitable passage of time.

Studies have also shown that those approaching the end of life and loved ones around them experience significant and meaningful dreams, often relating to a comforting presence, preparing to go, watching or engaging with the deceased, loved ones waiting, distressing experiences, and unfinished business.

6

Dreams About Taking a Test

Studies have also found that dreams of test-taking are common. According to Craig Hamilton-Parker, author of The Hidden Meaning of Dreams, taking an exam in your dream 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."

7

Dreams About Infidelity

Dreaming that your spouse or romantic partner is cheating on you with someone else can be incredibly distressing. In some cases, people even start to wonder if the dream might really be true. Does dreaming that your partner is unfaithful mean that it might happen? Or that it is already happening?

While these dreams might be the reflection of fears of infidelity, such dreams probably don't mean that your spouse is cheating or will cheat say Trish and Rob MacGregor, authors of Complete Dream Dictionary: A Bedside Guide to Knowing What Your Dreams Mean. "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 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.

8

Dreams About Flying

Dreams about flying are experienced by many. Flying dreams can be exciting and even liberating, but they can also sometimes be quite frightening (especially for those afraid of heights).

According to Tony Crisp, author of Dream Dictionary, dreams about flying often represent two very different sides. On the one hand, they can represent feelings of freedom and independence. On the other hand, they can also indicate a desire to flee or escape from the realities of life.

"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."

9

Dreams About Pregnancy

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, has a different take, suggesting that pregnancy 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.

Additional Common Dream Themes

There are a few other dream themes that tend to be fairly common. They include:

  • Discovering new rooms or passages
  • Being dressed inappropriately
  • Being unable to find a toilet
  • Arriving someplace late
  • Having a massive wave approaching you
  • Finding money

A Word From Verywell

So what do you think? Do some of these dream interpretations seem accurate? If not, don't worry–your dreams are unique and highly personal. In all likelihood, the things you experience in your dreams are probably a reflection of the concerns you face in your daily existence, or of recent events.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does it mean when you dream about someone?

    Dr. Carl Jung believed that if you dream about someone close to you or someone who is important to you, that might represent how you feel about that person in real life whereas if you dream about a person you are not close with (such as someone in your past) or an unknown person, that person is more symbolic. Sigmund Freud suggested that the environment around the person you're dreaming about may matter as well, such as dreaming of your parents in places you would normally find a king and queen, which would be a sign of your respect for them.

  • How accurate are dream interpretations?

    There is no way to answer this question with any certainty as dream interpretations are both individual and subjective. They are individual in that the meaning of dreams for one person may not be the same for another. Dream interpretations are also subjective in that they are based on the meanings that you assign them, and these assigned meanings can also differ from one person to the next.

  • Why are dream interpretations important in psychoanalysis?

    The self-organization theory of dreaming implies that dreams are a reflection of one's physiological and psychological activities, thus providing important information about the person's thoughts and emotional state. Psychoanalysts can then use the person's dreams to better understand what is going on in their mind, perhaps on an unconscious level.

  • What do sexual dreams mean?

    Some studies suggest that having sexual dreams is a result of your thoughts and fantasies when you're awake, with more frequent thoughts about sex contributing to more of these dreams. Others connect dreaming about sex with a desire to be in a sexually stimulating situation. These types of dreams are rather common, with more than 95% of people reporting having dreams that are erotic in nature.

  • What do recurring dreams mean?

    Some researchers theorize that regular, recurring dreams represent being frustrated about psychological needs that are unmet. Recurring dreams are also rather common after experiencing a lot of mental distress, such as with post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • What do vivid dreams mean?

    In some cases, having vivid or highly intense dreams is a result of major trauma, with some studies showing increases in these types of dreams post-9/11. Dreams that are vivid generally occur during REM sleep and could also be due to fragmented sleep, sleep deprivation, a sleep disorder, stress, pregnancy, or a medication you are taking.

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