We’ve all had those dreams that make us wake up and just think, “huh?” Whether they’re panic-inducing, confusing, scary, or really dull, these dreams can stick and tempt us to find out exactly what they mean.
In societies like ancient Egypt or Greece, dreaming was seen as something mystical – a spiritual case of divine intervention. Some cultures even believed that dreams were prophecies or a portal to travel between worlds.
Modern science has a less enchanting take on dreams. Specialists tell us that, as we dream, our brain is doing the hard work of moving our memories into long-term storage, and dreams are really, what Freud calls, the “day’s residue” – just us trying to sort through what happened in our day. Some other researchers argue that dreams are metaphors our brains create to understand our reality and the world around us.
But most of us really connect with the fantastical side of dreaming – that, much like getting a tarot reading or seeing a psychic, our dreams have something to tell us about our lives and help guide our future decisions. That’s what makes dreams so exciting. But what can our most common dreams actually tell us?
Dreams of Falling
Interpretation: As if one isn’t scary enough, there are two types of dreams about falling. One is being on the edge of a cliff or building and crashing down. The other is having the floor fall out from under you. Both tend to mean similar things: you’re feeling a lack of support and stability or like you’re losing control over something in your life. This kind of dream can serve as warnings to get a grip on the trouble in our lives.
Dreams of Being Chased
Interpretation: A dream of being chased usually symbolizes that something we’re avoiding is trying to catch up with us. You can run a mental marathon to try and prevent it, but dream experts say that the only way to stop being chased is to stop running and face the problem head-on.
Dreams of Being Naked
Interpretation: Being naked in public may feel more like a nightmare, but it can have two different meanings. First, it can mean that you’re feeling exposed, vulnerable and that people can see through what you’re hiding and see the real you. On the more positive end, this dream can mean that you are confident, have nothing to hide and have no problem letting the world see you for who you are.
Dreams of Failing an Exam
Interpretation: You may have already graduated, but sometimes it feels like your brain didn’t get the memo. Even if you haven’t been in school for years, dreams about exams and classes never seem to end. Dreams of taking a test indicate that you are being scrutinized, and if you fail a test, you may be feeling inadequate in something you’re doing.
Dreams of Mortality
Interpretation: Death dreams aren’t literal, thankfully, but dreaming of your death can be terrifying. But dreams of dying symbolize change, and change is also scary. It reflects apprehension or fear of the unknown, and because it’s unfamiliar, we can’t be sure what’s coming.
Dreams of Infidelity
Interpretation: Dreams of being cheated on are the worst because it makes us question if the dream could really be true. Luckily, these dreams are not to be taken too literally. Whether it’s of you being cheated on or being the cheater, these dreams can signify that you or your partner are not getting every need met.
Dreams of Teeth Falling Out
Interpretation: Whether they fall out one at a time or all at once, dreams of losing your teeth can be a product of anxiety over communication. These dreams come up when we wish we could take back that stupid thing we said, or you feel like you said too much or not enough. Your subconscious is telling you about your communication patterns and what you need to work on to improve.
Our minds don’t make us dream for entertainment (though they can be genuinely funny or bizarre). We dream to process emotions and our waking thoughts, which can impact our decisions and attitudes. By noticing patterns that come up in our dreams, we can go back to the roots of dream interpretation – where dreams were signals that tell us where our lives need some shifting.
About the Author:
Kelsey Purcell holds a bachelor degree in sociology and is passionate about human wellbeing. She graduated from the University of Alberta in June 2019. She has a wealth of knowledge around sleep and enjoys analysing the meanings of dreams. In her spare time, she likes to write and edit copy. Her default setting is to pay attention to little inconsistencies and solve them.