What does it mean if you dream that you’re flying? Or being chased? Or walking around naked? We have a great desire to make meaning out of our dreams, and hundreds of dream dictionaries say they can interpret symbols and imagery in our dreams. But can they really explain them?
Dreams and dream imagery are real in the sense that they can have a profound impact on our waking lives. You can fall and hit the ground in a dream and wake up feeling physically flattened against your mattress. Emotionally the effects can be even stronger. There are nightmares so realistic and potent that we wake ourselves up and lie there afraid to sleep. Or dreams can blend subtle and potent emotions we may never have felt while awake, leaving us yearning to re-enter our dreams, and with an intense feeling that we’re experiencing something new-- a new perception about our lives and desires. We may feel we have a new purpose. Usually, but not always, the memory of our dream and the feelings it brought us fades away.
But what are dreams, and why do we have them? Sigmund Freud was famous for his work on dreams, believing that they helped us remain asleep. Later research into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep has determined that we dream many times throughout the night, not only as we are about to awake (from the need to go the bathroom, for instance). Carl Jung, another famous writer on dreams, and once a student of Freud’s, developed a different theory about dreams: that they help us express the parts of our personality that we don't use in our waking life. But research has found that people’s dream selves may be very similar to their waking personalities.
One of the most common beliefs about dreams is that they help us solve issues we are facing in our lives. And they can certainly be used that way. Analyzing our own dreams can help us develop new insights and ideas. But there’s very little evidence in studies that this is what dreams are for, or that there are universal dream symbols such as those found in dream dictionaries.
There are many different current ideas about what dreams are for and what they mean. But generally researchers will say that although we know more about dreams then ever before, we just don’t know why we have them. It’s a grand and tantalizing mystery that affects everyone and may never be solved.
What was your craziest or most vivid dream?
Remembering Dreams Tip
: Keep a dream journal by your bed, or a small voice recorder. If you have a meaningful dream, record it right away so you can think about it later, and so it doesn’t disappear with the morning light.
The "Purpose" of Dreams
Dream Interpretation: Dream Meanings and Interpretations