Dreaming is, for lack of a better word, weird. No one knows exactly why we do it, though theories abound. Comedian Mitch Hedberg wasn’t a fan: “Dreaming is work. There I am, comfortable in my bed, and the next thing you know I have to build a go-kart with my ex-landlord.”
You’ve probably had the experience of waking from a particularly vivid dream and wondering “what was that all about?” Though the true meaning of our dreams may be unknowable, there are symbols and scenarios that recur in nearly every culture, and psychologists believe these motifs have specific meanings.
Any of these sound familiar?
Final Exam Time.
You’re back in school. It’s the end of the term. Your grades are good. But there’s this one class you somehow forgot to attend all semester. If you’re having dreams like this, there may be some lesson or lessons in your past you’ve not fully assimilated.
Water, Water Everywhere.
Dreams involving water imagery, whether raging oceans or babbling brooks, refer to the dreamer’s unconscious or emotions. If you’re having frequent dreams of water, there could be important issues bubbling under the surface of your mind you need to address.
Ever dreamt you could fly? This sort of dream is associated with feelings of confidence and competence. You may be facing a difficult challenge in your life, and flying in dreams is your subconscious saying “You can do this.”
They’re After Me!
Being chased in dreams is quite common (and often quite scary). Researchers believe that the significance of these dreams lies in who or what is doing the chasing. Animals, zombies, authority figures—each may represent something in your life you’ve been avoiding.
Dreams in which you’re partially or completely undressed are, as you’d imagine, about feelings of vulnerability. The setting for your exposure (at work, in the grocery store) may have more to tell you about areas of your life where you feel threatened.
The Common Thread
You may have noticed a theme here, but we’ll state it explicitly: Your dreams are about you. Recurring elements—animals, activities, objects and even other people—represent different facets of yourself.
Some find it helpful to keep a journal in which to chronicle their dream lives. Because whether you’re building go-karts or soaring high above the city, your dreams have a lot to teach you.