50 Secret Meanings of Common Dreams
Everyone dreams. Whether they’re remembered or not, dreams occur when the brain enters a state of rapid eye movement (R.E.M., like the band) sleep. The occurrence is natural, subconscious, and, if you take it from the National Sleep Foundation, happens up to six times per night to fully-grown adults. And yet, despite the ubiquity of dreams, few people know what they actually mean. Enter: dream interpretation, an ancient art and—recently, thanks to a parade of well-degreed researchers entering the field—actual science that aims to creative a collective understanding of what we’re all seeing on a nightly basis. But what are your dreams telling you? What does it mean when you dream about someone specific? From endless falling to alien abductions to that naked-in-a-crowd nightmare, some of the more common dreams out there mean things. And no, it’s not always crystal clear, at first, what they’re trying to say. But if you know how to analyze them, you’ll discover some fascinating insights into yourself—and the world around you. Here’s how to start. And for more on what your dreams are trying to tell you, check out the 17 Signs Your Bad Dreams Could Mean Something Worse.
1. You see birds: You are expecting a message or hoping to hear from someone.
What does it mean when you dream about someone that you’re hoping to hear from? Birds have been symbolic messengers of information going back centuries and their appearance in your dreams can still be an indication that you are expecting to hear from someone or receive a message. Psychologist and dream expert Michael Lennox points to beliefs going back to Nordic mythology, where Odin, the head of the pantheon, was accompanied by a pair of all-seeing ravens that “would travel through the world of men and bring back important information.” And for more on animal communication, check out the 25 Amazing Ways Animals Communicate That You Never Knew About.
2. You’re on a plane: You’re struggling with—or desiring—rapid change in your life.
If you’re dreaming of flying in a plane or air travel in some way, your dream is trying to tell you that you are feeling the effects of fast changes in your life. Lennox explains in his book Dream Sight: A Dictionary and Guide for Interpreting Any Dream that, “Because of the dramatic way an airplane leaves the ground and speeds toward a destination, it is connected with any sudden transition in life.” It may not just be alerting you to the fact that you are going through serious changes, but that change “is needed or wished for. As a plane is our world’s fastest mode of public transportation, it connects symbolically to those moments in life where change is rapid and total.”
3. You experience an alien encounter: You’re dreading something new.
According to Lennox, seeing an alien (as in one of those big-eyed, willowy creatures from The X-Files) in a dream reflects some unknown or mysterious part of your own personality. Whether you are encountering it in an everyday situation or have been abducted in the dream, “The more fear you feel in the dream, the more frightened you may be of the changes that are occurring.” And for some amazing sleep advice, here are 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
4. One (or more) of your limbs is amputated: You feel diminished or unable to get to a different place in life.
Lennox notes that amputations or missing limbs are a typical theme that appear in one’s dreams, and indicate some sense of lacking in ability or mobility. If you’re missing feet it “relates to an inability to be grounded on your path, whereas missing an entire leg or both legs connects to being completely stopped on your path.”
5. You’ve (literally) lost your head: You feel a loss of personal identity.
A more extreme kind of missing body part that you might experience is the loss of your head. According to Lennox, that’s a sign of “an eradication of a thought process, or to your sense of identity.” And to really sleep as soundly as possible, here are the 40 Best Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep After 40.
6. You’re in bed with your coworker: You admire their qualities.
7. You’re in an empty room: You have untapped talents.
Psychologist Ian Wallace, who has interpreted no fewer than 150,000 dreams over his three decades of practice, has found that unused or empty rooms that you dream about might be telling you that you’ve got untapped talents. As he told The Independent, “The more time that you spend exploring your dormant talents, the more likely that you will find other doors opening for you in waking life.”
8. You’re in an empty room, and it’s scary: You’ve learned something new about yourself.
If that unused room is accompanied by feelings of discomfort or fear, it might represent something very different, according to Anderson: “If you go into the room and it’s spooky or scary, that means in the past one to two days you’ve realized something about yourself that’s unexpected. It can be something old that you haven’t look at before. It could be any aspect of your life—your job, a relationship—that you’ve shut the door on. It’s about trying to open that door, even if you’re scared.”
9. There’s an out-of-control car: You’re losing control of your career.