We’ve all had a dream that made us laugh to ourselves throughout the following day, we’ve all had a dream that made us bolt upwards in bed, covered in sweat, and we’ve all had one that was so weird, you couldn’t even begin to explain it (and probably weren’t quite sure that you wanted to).
Since the beginning of recorded history, we’ve been wondering about our dreams and what they mean. Even today, we aren’t quite sure why we dream - it has no impact on the survival and health of our bodies, so its function must be purely emotional and physcological. Back in Ancient Greece, Aristotle and Plato started developing a theory which put forth dreaming as the way we act out our unconscious wishes and desires in a safe and surreal setting. Most psychologists and psychoanalysts agree with this hypothesis, and many take dreams into serious consideration when they’re trying to figure out what someone is working through. You don’t need to see a doctor to start analyzing your own dreams - just keep a journal by your bed and start taking notes on your dreams when you wake up. There are a few common symbols that seem to pop up again and again in our dreams, and we’ve eventually come to understand that certain symbols or images are our mind's’ way of pointing out certain things that may be going on in your life. You might be surprised at what your subconscious is trying to tell you while you snooze!
Animals often represent the feeling of being connected to nature, but they can also symbolize survival. If you dream about being chased by a predator, you might be feeling threatened, or you may be holding back some fear or anger.
Clothing usually has to do with how we want other people to think of us. If you’re dreaming that you’re dressed badly, or not at all, you may be having some self confidence issues. If you’re changing your clothing in the dream, you might be going through a big lifestyle change.
Death usually represents change, or indicates that you’re processing a loss. Don’t worry, dreaming about death usually has to do with endings or new beginnings, and isn’t some kind of psychic prediction!
Exams can mean self-evaluation, and the content of that exam might signify a part of your life that you’ve been wondering about.
Falling often has to do with letting go, failing, or losing control. The feeling of falling just as you’re slipping off into sleep can also be produced by the sudden muscle twitch that often happens as you’re falling asleep known as a hypnic jerk.
Feeling trapped is a pretty common dream symbol which can correspond to a fear of getting stuck or making the wrong decision.
Food sometimes symbolizes knowledge, but it may be that you’re just craving something special!
Hands are among the most common of symbols in dreams. Some people say that trying to consciously examine your hands while you’re dreaming is the best way to achieve a state of lucidity. If you’re washing your hands in a dream, you may be feeling guilty.
Missing a flight, a class, or any other kind of appointment probably means that you’re frustrated about missing important opportunities. These kinds of dreams are most common when someone is trying to make a big decision or change.
Mountains symbolize obstacles or achievements, depending on your success in climbing them. Viewing scenery from a mountain peak can indicate that you’re trying to take an objective view of your life.
Water often reflects the state of your unconscious mind. A rough ocean can signify unease or distress, a calm lake might reflect inner peace, and frozen water can indicate a feeling of being stagnant or inactive.
If you’re interested in what your dreams are telling you, there are many resources online and in paper that can teach you about dream symbolism and how to interpret multiple symbols together. Sleep is a critical time for our physical bodies to rest and rejuvenate themselves, but it’s also the time when our minds are building connections and processing what’s happening in our lives. It might be time to pay closer attention to what our subconscious is trying to tell us!