If you dream it, can you understand it?

April 11, 2006|by FEDORA COPLEY

What are you thinking about when your head hits the pillow at night?

For a lot of people, sleep is just a necessary bodily function, or maybe a time to forget all the worries of the day.

But for some people, sleep can be a creative part of life. Depending on what dreams you venture into at night, you might gain a lot of insight or inspiration from these mini movies you've created.

What do dreams mean?

Scientists aren't really sure how our brains create dreams, according to "Dreams," a reference book by Tucker Shaw. Many religious, psychological and folk traditions use dreams as a window to a person's inner life. Many cultures have myths and legends that refer to prophetic dreaming.


Some people think dreams can be messages from God. The Bible refers to prophetic dream interpretation in several passages in the Old Testament. Some people think dreams are a bunch of trippy stuff from our subconscious. Many people don't really care.

One part of having fun with dreams is accepting all your dreams as unique, fun, maybe weird, but all normal and possibly informative. Shaw says just because you dream about something disturbing, gross or scary, that doesn't mean you're a weirdo, psychopath or anything like it. Many people dream up random plots and strange characters, and generally their everyday lives have nothing to do with the odd material found in dreams.

What you dream about doesn't affect (or necessarily reflect) things going on in real life. Every dream is different, and it's up to you to decide if a dream is important or just fun.

What about nightmares?

Dreams can be scary. Here are some commonly dreamt nightmares:

1. Falling - Pretty much everyone dreams about falling from high places. Often, dreamers wake up before hitting the ground. But if you hit bottom, it doesn't mean you're going to die or anything.

Falling is prevalent in dreams because our ape ancestors constantly had to be aware of falling out of trees, according to dream researcher Linda Lane Magallon on, a collection of articles on dreams. She believes fear of falling became such a fundamental aspect of apes' lives, we still have that fear in our genetics today.

2. Being chased - Something or someone chasing you might represent something in real life you're running from. Sometimes in chasing dreams, your feet won't move. Maybe this signifies you're feeling trapped. Is there something in real life you're afraid to face?

3. Teeth falling out - This might mean you feel you are losing something important to you or losing your confidence. To animals such as dogs and tigers, teeth are used not just for eating, but for warding off rivals.

4. Being naked in public - You don't feel comfortable with some aspect of yourself, or maybe you don't like your body. In general, if you feel embarassed in a dream, it probably means you aren't confident about something. Maybe a dream like this can help you realize your anxiety and focus on feeling comfortable with it.

Working with dreams

Remembering dreams is the first and sometimes hardest part of trying to use them. If you get into the habit of trying to interpret your dreams, it's more likely that you'll remember them.

Experts have several tips for remembering dreams:

Tell yourself when you start falling asleep "I will remember my dreams." Often it works.

Write down dreams as soon as you wake up. Get a journal or notepad of some sort, and keep it by your bed. Even if you just scrawl a couple key words as soon as you wake, it'll help you remember the dreams.

Share dreams with friends. This will get your brain going, trying to remember details. Plus, it's fun to analyze dreams together. People will interpret symbols differently. You could even try the view promoted by pioneering psychotherapist Sigmund Freud that everything in a dream reflects sexual feelings and inuendos.

Analyzing dreams is fun. Sometimes that is all there is to it; sometimes it just seems like there is more.

More information

You can get help analyzing dreams online, but don't get dependent on other people's thoughts. For more info on dreams and dream analysis, check out these sites: (check out the dream dictionary) (a little egoistic but helpful)

"Dreams" by Tucker Shaw is a helpful book and easy to read. It covers all kinds of interesting stuff on dreams. Check it out!

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