You’re at work starkers. You’re being chased by dogs. You’re running, but your legs just won’t work. All sound familiar? Why is it that we all have such similar dreams, and what do they all mean?
The ancient Egyptians believed dreams to be another form of seeing, with advanced dreamers working to help plan battles and win wars. Ancient Greeks believed them to be visions of the future. Freud described interpreting dreams as the “royal road” to the unconscious. So far, so prestigious.
Today though, the pressure’s off. Scientists in 2020 have taken the much less glamorous approach – that dreams are simply the brain’s way of dumping the day’s information.
But that still doesn’t explain why there appears to be some common trends amongst dreams, and whether they have any deeper meaning
Why do we have similar dreams?
One theory states that similar dreams occur across different people of all ages and all cultures because they’re responding to something primal. Fears of appearing vulnerable in public are pretty universal, after all. But if we were to step away from the labs and get a little more philosophical, what are some of these common dreams said to mean?
According to psychotherapist Richard Nicoletti speaking to The Huffington Post, dreams of being chased could mean you’re “being told by your unconsciousness that you’re avoiding an issue or a person,”. Of course, who you’re being chased by is significant here… Make of that what you will.
Teeth falling out
Reports of this dream go as far back as ancient Greece. One of the most common interpretations of this is a personal loss, or in more general terms, major changes in life. The underlying feelings behind these events, such as stress and anxiety, are thought to manifest in visions of teeth falling out.
Hands up if you’ve dreamt of flying before. Perhaps the most common of all common dreams, to understand interpretations of this particular dream we have to consider what flying tends to signify. Cross-culturally, flying is often symbolic of freedom, meaning dreams of it tend to mean an attempt to escape anything infringing on our freedom… Or perhaps it just means you watched too much Marvel before bed.
The experts largely agree that this dream represents vulnerability and anxiety. Ian Wallace knows a thing or two about dreams – he’s a dream psychologist who wrote The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams. His research shows that this dream is “common to people who have accepted a promotion, gone off to a new job, or who are coming into public view.” So either you just got a move upwards, or you should probably take that audition.
Here’s one for all the perfectionists out there. Lauren Lawrence has a New York Daily News column on dream analysis, and in her years of researched has observed that only perfectionists tend to have recurring stressful test-taking dreams. She believes that the dream reminds a person to stay alert thanks to raised levels of alertness & stress. These are unsurprisingly not conducive to a good night’s sleep, so if this sounds like you, take a serious screen break before bed. The world will keep turning if you don’t reply to that email at 10pm. Whether you believe your dreams have a deeper meaning or not, there’s some pretty compelling reasoning behind the most common dreams out there. But if there’s one thing that can’t be disputed, it’s that better sleep always equals better dreams.
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