What does my dream mean? Dream meanings explained

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  • We all have dreams every now and then that really stick in our minds. Ever dreamt about an ex-partner that you haven't thought about in years? How about the one we all hate - finding yourself naked in public?

    While reports of weird dreams have definitely increased during lockdown, an odd dream at any time can leave us wondering all day about what dream meanings say about what’s going on inside our heads.

    Some of us are even suffering because of it, with bad dreams leading to problems sleeping at night.

    “The experience of dreaming differs depending upon the stage of life we are going through.” Dr Dwight Turner, UKCP Psychotherapist says, “When we are more busy, then we either dream less or our dreams take on more of our daily life.  For example, we dream of our boss at work, or the person we saw on the train during our daily commute, or we dream of our friends from the pub, the yoga class, or the school.  When we are away from our busy daily lives perhaps on holiday or on a retreat, there is more room for the unconscious to speak, and this is when the dreams change.

    “The special thing about the pandemic though is it has forced many of us not just to stay at home, but also to retreat into ourselves.  So whilst some of our dreams are of the based around the anxiety of our current situations, there are many other types of dreams coming through during this time, which is a hugely positive thing for us all if we can listen to the messages contained within them.”

    A study of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Bed SOS revealed the nation most commonly dream about having sex (48%), with falling (45%) and being chased (37%) in second and third place.

    Dr Keith Hearne told GoodtoKnow, “Sometimes meanings behind these weird dreams aren’t quite as obvious as you might think. “Dreams are often mistranslated and the actual message is different to the original. They should be taken metaphorically, not literally,”

    So before you start worrying that you’re really in love with the postman, read our guide below to make sense of some of the most common dream meanings. “They are decodable,” says Keith. “The unconscious is our guide, protector and advisor, so we should always be listening.”

    Dream meanings explained

    Dream meanings: Your ex

    Break-ups happen for a reason (whether they’re romantic relationships or friendships) and most us don’t like to be reminded of our ex-partners or friends years down the line, especially if we’re happy with new relationships now. But during the lockdown, reports of dreams about exes have been all over social media, with people wondering exactly why they’re being plagued by the past.

    UKCP Psychotherapist Yuko Nippoda says that the meaning behind the dream really depends on the relationship. “The re-experience of the relationship might have sweet memories, and people might be unconsciously fantasising to go back to the time of this relationship.

    “However, even if it was a sour relationship, people will still remember many parts of it, and might feel that they have unfinished business, such as regret and be unconsciously wishing to fix it.

    “On the other hand, if [it] was damaging, people might dream about the relationship reflecting the instability of the current crisis. Then it can become nightmare which creates further fear, instead of offering a safe place. In that case, it is important to be aware that the relationship has already ended and it will not come back, so that they are now able to create a safe place for themselves.”

    Dr Dwight Turner agrees, “It is ultimately about the nature of that relationship and how it still impacts upon us unconsciously.”

    Dream meanings: Animals

    dream meanings: dreaming of your dog

    Credit: Getty

    Normally a little more pleasant than dreaming about an ex, dreams about animals are also common. In our dreams, they are representations of ourselves and how we’re feeling. Different animals have different dream meanings.

    • Insects represent worries or team work
    • Bears represent hurdles or our inner strength
    • Birds represent happiness, good news and freedom
    • Alligators represents a warning
    • Spiders represent fortune and money
    • Cats, including tigers and lions, represent our feminine and intuitive sides
    • Dogs represent loyalty, generosity and friendship
    • Horses represent physical strength and sometimes arrogance
    • Snakes represent knowledge, wisdom and sexuality

    Dream meanings: Being naked in public

    We’ve all had that dream where we’re at work or in a busy public place when all of a sudden we realise we’ve forgotten to get dressed! The way we react to this in our dreams is key to working out the meaning.

    “In this case, a feeling of embarrassment and shame probably accurately reveals the essential emotion, and the content symbolically displays the cause of the dream. The dreamer should focus on what they have done or said to ‘show themselves up’.

    However, this doesn’t always have to be a negative dream.

    “It may be a rebuke from the unconscious of unacceptable social behaviour. If, however, the feeling is of exhilaration, it may represent perhaps a new-found sense of freedom,” explains Keith.

    Dream meanings: Your teeth falling out

    tooth on blue background - dream meanings

    Credit: Getty

    Losing your teeth is a dream lots of us have had. Sometimes the dream starts off with teeth having already fallen out. Other versions of this dream can be the teeth dropping out one-by-one. Both are unpleasant, but what do they mean?

    One interpretation of a teeth-loss dream is that you’re concerned about losing your looks. Have you recently found a new cluster of grey hairs or feel like your wrinkles are deepening? Something as simple as this could trigger a dream of this sort. Menopausal women have been found to dream frequently about teeth loss and in this instance it represents their worries about growing old and losing their femininity.

    “This dream may be interpreted as a warning that time is passing and important things need to be done in life, or that you are embarrassed over something insensitive you’ve said to someone else,” revealed Keith. 

    Dream meanings: Falling

    woman falling through the air - dream meanings

    Credit: Getty

    Many people wake with a start after having a dream that they’re falling. The common myth is that if you ever actually hit the ground, you’ll die in real life but this, unsurprisingly, isn’t true.

    “This can cover several different scenarios, and often seems to come up as a linguistic pun,” says Keith. “The word ‘fall’ is used in several contexts in everyday life. It may appear either as a wish (for example to fall in love, or to fall pregnant), or refer to a negative event (say, to fall out with someone, to decline or fail in some way). Recall what was happening in the dream, and the characters present, to uncover the probable topic.”

    Dream meanings: Flying

    man and dog flying

    Credit: Getty

    Flying dreams can be really fun, especially when you’re soaring through the sky without a care. “This is a well known metaphor for doing well in life, and progressing with ease,” explains Keith. 

    When you dream you’re flying and it seems like the most natural thing in the world, it indicates that you are on top of a situation and feel confident that you will succeed. However, if you find yourself flapping around to stay up in the air, this could represent a struggle you face with some aspect in your life. Obstacles such as trees or mountains that get in your way represent particular people holding you back so next time you go crashing into a branch, think of it as a confrontation with someone and work out how to progress past them.

    Dream meanings: Being lost

    lost teddy bear on seat

    Credit: Getty

    “The feeling of being lost is a powerful emotion, in life and in dreams,” Keith explains. “Children can be traumatised by such an experience, and a ‘sub-personality’ may form, stuck at that age – subsequently influencing their life and their dreams.

    “They may have developed a feeling of having been abandoned. In adulthood, if they have a relationship which ends, the grief may be amplified by the trapped childhood emotion. Symbolically, the dreamer be ‘lost in life’, and needs to find a way forward to a rewarding place.”

    Have you been worrying about where your career is going or perhaps you’re concerned about how a relationship with a partner has changed lately? This could be a good chance to assess where things are going.

    Dream meanings: Someone that’s died

    dreaming that someone died

    Credit: Getty

    Being visited in our dreams by loved ones that have died can be comforting or upsetting, depending on how you look at it. Some people see it as a sign that the person is trying to communicate with them from the afterlife. Watch out for reading too much into this as it could lead to you obsessing over what they’re trying to tell you.

    Another thought is that it means you still need to deal with issues surrounding their death, even if it was a long time ago. Whichever you choose to believe, it’s clear that the person remains in your memories.

    “The ancients understood the concept of opposites in dreams,” revealed Keith. “The unconscious message might be that a birth is in fact imminent.” Which could mean an actual birth, or a new beginning. 

    The best books to help you interpret your dreams:

    The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert, Ian Wallace, £11.55

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    12,000 Dreams Interpreted, Gustavus Hendman Miller, £8.65

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    The Dream Dictionary from A to Z: The Ultimate A-Z to Interpret the Secrets of Your Dreams, Theresa Cheung, £11.65

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    The Dream Interpretation Handbook: A Guide and Dictionary to Unlock the Meanings of Your Dreams, Karen Frazier, £8.34

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    Dream Dictionary: An A to Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind, Tony Crisp, £6.24

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    Knock Knock Dream Journal: A Guided Place to Record and Reflect, £7.52

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    Which one will you be getting?