The founders of modern psychiatry had differing opinions on dream interpretation. Sigmund Freud believed that dreams were actually unconscious desires that were too wild or outrageous to admit to our conscious selves. Freud's contemporary, Carl Jung, meanwhile had a gentler approach. He felt that dreams were a way of offering solutions to common problems the dreamer was experiencing in his or her everyday waking life.
Today, some cynics compare dreaming to a computer that merely tries to delete or sort out messy, garbled data storage as we sleep. After all, dreams have a a strong emotional component, hardly ever follow a linear path, and seldom make sense to our conscious selves.
It's true. Dreams are often illogical, as in "I had this weird dream last night..."
Yet, as we deal with the world through the five senses - hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste - Jung felt that our dreams were a valuable sixth sense that often helps us interpret our hidden reactions to new personal challenges.
Modern dream interpretation, therefore, is an effort at understanding our unconscious "programs" that process information in the background as we sleep using symbols as the common language of dreams.
While dreams can be the most personal experience for each individual, there are shortcuts to interpreting the most universally recognized dream symbols as having deep, primal meaning.
Common dream symbols & their meanings
Losing one's teeth, for example, is often interpreted as an attempt to process knowledge in a different way, symbolizing the keen frustration felt when you've "chewed over" a problem and failed to get results.
Similarly, dreaming about losing or cutting one's hair is seen as an attempt to start over, or to restyle a new, more creative approach at coping with an ongoing puzzle.
Different animals have different meanings in dreams. An animal's common characteristics (and your reaction to them) is therefore key to interpreting your feelings about a current situation.
Dreaming about being bitten
by a snake usually signifies
anticipation of a threatening
change in your life.
Dreaming about being bitten by a snake, for example, may represent your anticipation of a threatening change in your life. Dreaming about taming a tiger may represent your triumph over anger and aggression. Being chased by someone (or some mysterious thing, often in the dark) usually symbolizes a primal "fight or flight" response in a situation over which we have no control.
Another common but startling dream sequence is finding yourself stark NAKED in front of a group of people, which is almost universally interpreted as an attempt to reveal your true self to others without hesitation.
Conversely, count yourself lucky if you find yourself effortlessly flying within a dream — as your subconscious happily symbolizes your complete mastery over a situation.
Dream fun facts
• The average person has four dreams a night.
• Studies around the world have shown that in every culture men tend to dream more about men, while women dream about both men and women equally.
• Vitamin B6 and St. John's Wort have been shown in studies to increase vividness in dreams.
• It has yet to be scientifically proven whether animals dream, although dog owners would certainly attest that they do.
More about dreams and their meanings around the Web:
Around the Web, dig deeper into your dreams at top resources offering background histories of dream interpretation, and insight into the meaning of dreams with a look behind-the-scenes at our subconscious selves:
There are people known as lucid dreamers who become fully aware that
they are dreaming even while asleep. Can this talent be taught?
The 25 Most Common Dream Symbols - An explanation of the most common images appearing in people's dreams, and a classic of interpretation compiled by the faculty of the School of Metaphysics.
Dream interpretation - Wikipedia - A detailed discussion encompassing the ancient Greeks to modern psychoanalysis and the schools of Freud and Jung to late 20th century pop dream analysis, with related images, references and resources.
International Association for the Study of Dreams - Comprehensive overview on the meaning of dreams, nightmares, recurring dreams, and lucid dreaming with an active discussion board, membership information, meeting calendar, suggested reading and related resources.
Myths Dreams Symbols.com - An extensive, though-provoking collection of resources and information by subject matter, including the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and others with separate looks at children's, men's and women's dreams, universal symbols and interpretations, and more with related videos, photos and references.
Dreams - MysticalBlaze.com - A guide to dream interpretation, common dream scenarios, lucid dreams, sleep paralysis, and how to keep and maintain a dream journal.