There aren’t many things all humans have in common, but we do know that everybody has dreams. Even people who claim they don’t dream, researchers monitored the sleep behavior of “non-dreamers” and found evidence from their REM movement and brain activity they were indeed dreaming — they just couldn’t remember them.
For those of us who do regularly recall our dreams, it could drive us crazy trying to figure out what they mean and if they have any purpose. “A dream is a conversation that happens between your unconscious and your conscious mind — and whatever is going on in your life today, that’s the initial trigger,” says Layne Dalfen, a dream analyst. “It’s typically your unconscious mind trying to prioritize something that’s bugging you during the day, and your brain is trying to problem solve. Even if dreams seem obscure, it really is never random. They always connect to something that’s going on in your life,” she says.
According to Dalfen, there are six “points of entry” to help you decode the dreams and figure out what solutions these dreams offer to your real-life problems:
- Feelings: “How did I feel in the dream? What’s going on in my life this week that’s making me feel the same way I feel in the dream?”
- Actions: “That’s when I hear dreams like, ‘I was trying to run, but my feet were stuck’ — that’s an example of an action dream.”
- Play on words: “Imagine I said to a friend during a conversation one day that ‘I spent so much money on that purse and if Andy finds out, he’s going to kill me.’ Now, of course, Andy won’t literally kill you, but if that’s the type of language I regularly use, don’t be surprised if I go to sleep tonight and dream that somebody’s trying to kill me.”
- Symbols: “These are people, places, and things that you can ask yourself to figure out why they appeared in your dream. They are never random, your brain is very sophisticated.”
- Plot: “What’s the story behind the story?”
- Repetition: “We repeat ourselves in our waking lives constantly. It’s the same concept of ‘read it, write it, recite it.’ It’s how we learn. And that’s why our dreams often repeat themselves because your unconscious mind wants your conscious mind to understand what you’re saying to yourself and the way it does is by repeating the message to make sure you get it.”
It’s helpful and important to interpret your dreams, because “you can propel your problem-solving skills,” says Dalfen. “Human beings are adept at lying, hiding, and denying the truth, but your unconscious is never, ever lying to you. There are no filters — and that’s the only space where you’re really going to see the whole truth about what’s going on in your life.”
Below, Delfen helps us decode some of the most popular dreams.
“At some point, everyone has their teeth fall out as children. It’s something that’s inevitable and that we have no control over. I know a guy who was dreaming that his teeth were falling out because — even though consciously he wasn’t facing the reality — inside he knew that his wife was going to leave him. He knew it. It was something that was inevitable that he had no control over. And so for him, he was dreaming about his teeth falling out. Somebody else will dream about their teeth falling out because it’s something that’s coming out of their mouth, and it’s because they have something to say that they’re holding in, and the dream is providing a rehearsal to spit it out, the words, and so it does that by teeth falling out. A third person might dream their teeth are falling out because they’re worried about something they said, or how they look. So, it really depends on what’s happening with the dream during the day that week.”
“When people have this ‘action’ dream, I ask them how they felt in the dream. Often they will tell me they’re feeling pressure from deadlines at work or that they put pressure on themselves about something. So in real life, they’re feeling chased down by pressure.”
Flying or Falling
“If a person has this dream, I’ll find out if they were falling, and all of a sudden they turned it into flying. Or, was it the opposite and the dreamer started off flying and then dropped? I always want to know about the action. And then I’m going to ask, ‘What happened that changed your motion?’ I know a girl who is an influencer for a big department store. She was doing great at her job, and then a conflict at work happened recently that changed everything for her. So that’s the kind of situation where she was already flying, and something got in the way. She dreamt about flying and all of a sudden she was falling. And so it was a matter of her finding that thing that’s inside all of us to pick ourselves up and take care of business — that’s what she did. Once, there was a news anchor who said to me that she dreamt that she was falling from a great height, and she hit the ground and got up and walked away. That was a comment about how she knows how to pick herself up when she hits rock bottom.”
People Who Have Passed Away
“Personally, I wasn’t allowed to have a voice in the house I grew up in. My parents were European and it was considered very disrespectful if I were to talk back to my mother or father. As an adult, once I had an argument with my husband and I didn’t stand up for myself. That night I dreamed about an aunt of mine who had been dead for 15 years. She was the most assertive person I’ve ever met in my life and had no problem telling you what was on her mind. So she appears in my dream because I need to access my potential to speak up in my waking life.”
“Contrary to what people might assume, dreaming of death could be a positive thing. It symbolizes the change that’s happening in your life — perhaps saying goodbye to something that’s a part of yourself. I believe that we all incorporate a little bit of ESP — memories and issues from the past and how they impact how we are responding today in today’s situation. When you dream of someone else who’s currently alive and dying in your dreams, your unconscious might be picking up that they are not doing well. Maybe it was something in your grandfather’s eyes or something about his gait when he’s walking, but your unconscious mind picked up on it.”
“That struggle of drowning in a dream is actually a good thing about something going on in your life. Because if you’re drowning, you need to access that part of yourself that is not just going to do a little something. When you’re drowning, you need to reach deep down into your core of survival, and a drowning dream is great because it encourages you to fight, to struggle. It could be a mirror. It mirrors the struggle you’re experiencing in your waking life, but simultaneously it’s allowing you to access the core of what you need to lift yourself out of whatever situation is bringing you down.”
“One of my favorite dreams is from a woman who told me there were snakes all over the floor and she couldn’t put her foot down. I asked her what or who she’s having trouble putting her foot down with in her conscious life? And it was her husband. So her unconscious is telling her she can’t put her foot down.”
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