Common Questions

How does Dream Interpretation Work?

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  • By Sarah Abramson
  • Published: 03/24/21 8:59 PM EDT
  • Updated: 02/22/21 9:01 PM EST

How Does Dream Interpretation Work?

Dreams are just fascinating. They are so powerful they can wake you up with a jolt. You can be going about your day and stop in your tracks as you remember a dream.  Many have been known to cancel plans, such as holidays, all because of a dream. Since as far back as 3100 BC, people have been curious about the meaning of dreams. Which leads us to the questions, how does dream interpretation work?

A Brief History of Dream Interpretation

One of the most predominant figures in modern dream interpretation has to be Freud. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud believed that dreams were wishes we wanted to be fulfilled. In his book, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he went on to discuss those dreams that weren’t wish-fulfilled as those that are caused by an intra-psychic thought. We aren’t able to see the true meaning of our dreams because they have been distorted.

Jung didn’t necessarily disagree, but he thought it was a little more complicated. He felt there were two ways to analyze a dream. The subjective approach is where the person in the dream represents who they really are. The second is the objective approach where each character in the dream can represent a part of the dreamer which they cannot or struggle to acknowledge. He thought that dreams were compensation for underdeveloped parts of the psyche.

Even before these two great men debated the interpretation of dreams, the Europeans were doing the same in the 17th century. The Chinese wrote their own books about dream interpretation in the 16th century, and the topic goes back to the Greeks in the 2nd century AD and even as far back as the ancient Sumerians.

Then you have researchers like G. William Domhoff who felt that dreams have no real purpose but that they were just reflections of our waking life. Despite the differences in opinions over thousands of years, dream interpretation is something most people have been intrigued by at some point.


The Universal Dreams

There are a number of dreams that most people agree have the same general meaning. These are known as universal dreams and you can probably think back at a time in your life when you have had at least one of the following dreams. Here are just a few ideas:


  1. Being chased or attacked

We may all be running from or be attacked by something different, but the dream is one of the most common. The dream stems from our flight or fight instincts and although we don’t have to fight the same enemies as our distant relatives, this dream is more about our responses to the stress of life today.

  1. Teeth falling out

It’s surprising how vivid this dream can be. Some think this is because we have the habit of grinding our teeth in our sleep and could be coming from issues with anger. Other professionals believe it is because we worry about what people think of our appearance.

  1. Falling or drowning

Have you ever had that dream when you wake up as you hit the ground in your dream? For others, it could be struggling in water. These types of dreams are normally about survival in life and death situations but can also very much depend on age and health. Younger children and older adults have more falling dreams. Health issues where fluid builds up in the lungs encourage more dreams of drowning.

  1. Being naked in public

It sounds like a cliché but the classic giving a speech and realizing your naked or going to a party and not having any trousers on is a sign that you may be feeling vulnerable. You could be embarrassed about something or even feeling ashamed. If it’s a certain, part of your body that is revealed, there could be a specific meaning.

  1. Missing your transport

Whether it’s the bus or a plane, missing your transport could point to the fact that you feel as if you are missing out on something in life. It’s not like other dreams where you are scared. Instead, you could be frustrated or annoyed with yourself.

How Does Dream Interpretation Work?

There are plenty of websites that say they can interpret your dreams and they may be genuine, but dreams are very specific to life circumstances and individual situations. While dreams may contain the same symbols or occurrences, it then has to be related back to your own life. One person may dream of a hero and feel they need to be saved; others might see themselves as the rescuer. To start getting a better understanding of your own dreams you can follow these steps:

  • Keep a dream journal- Just a little notebook next to your bed so that you can write down as much information as you can remember. Don’t forget to add notes on your smartphone because things can pop into your head during the day. Pay attention to as much detail as you can, the surroundings, who you are with, what you are all doing and why.
  • Pay close attention to recurring dreams- The dreams that come back night after night are normally your subconscious trying to tell you something. It’s often something unresolved and even urgent.
  • Sometimes a dream is just a dream- Many of our dreams will have a deeper meaning but there are some that are just dreams. A dream of big celebrations or family gatherings in today’s crisis is normal and is most likely just a sign that we are missing our families. It doesn’t have to be secret messages from our inner self. While our body rests, our brain process the thoughts and feelings from that day.
  • Be careful not to live by your dreams– A dream about death doesn’t mean you are about to die, and you can’t stop living for fear of the dream. Dreaming of a plane crash shouldn’t cause you to cancel your holiday. Try to get a better understanding of what these dreams are trying to tell you. For example, dreaming of death could be the end of something in order to start fresh.
  • Programmed dreams are possible- If you want to revisit a dream so that you can learn more about it, it is possible to program the dream. Thinking of the dream before you fall asleep can help to bump-start your subconscious into revisiting the dream again.


In Conclusion

There is no end to our imaginations. I’m sure we aren’t alone in having some of the most far-out dreams that lead you to wonder “where on earth did that come from”.  There are good sites that offer free Dream Interpretation where you can input your dreams and learn the meaning here Learning how to interpret your dreams or getting professional help to do so can be extremely insightful. It might be just what you need to find the answers to difficult questions and help you move forward in life. And sometimes, it can just be good fun to understand what our brains do while we are asleep.

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