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Interpreting dreams

by Sarah Horrocks Published on 18 February 2008

While scientists consider dreams as a physiological reaction, psychologists and psychoanalysts believe they happen for a reason. As well as helping to balance our psyche, they can also give us an insight into our unconscious mind and inner selves.

Sleep and dreams
We can have several dreams in one night. At the beginning of sleep, we dream of what we have experienced during the day. This is the brain's way of making sense of and storing everyday events. However, during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep we dream the most, and the dreams that occur in this state are the most revealing.

Why interpret dreams?
Dreams can tell us a lot about our desires. Dreaming about something that is the reverse of what we consciously wish for can reveal a repressed desire that moral pressures oblige us to withhold. Interpreting dreams is like translation, and when we translate our dreams we can understand better what’s happening in real life.

Approaches
With the advent of psychoanalysis in 1900, Sigmund Freud became one of the first to study dreams. He thought they were hallucinatory accomplishments by an unconscious desire that could not be interpreted immediately. To decode them, he believed it was neccessary to break up each element then analyse it using an association method, while taking into account the dreamer's personal environment. Carl Gustav Jung had a slightly different approach. He believed that man is guided by a collective unconscious and the messages and symbols contained in dreams are common to all, like a sort of universal language.

The meaning of most common dreams
Dream interpretation varies according to the way each person experiences a dream. However various studies have shown that certain types of dreams mean certain things:
- Dreaming about losing your teeth can reveal a strong emotion: a lack of self control preventing the dreamer from asserting their personality.
- Being naked in public is more concerned with social, rather than sexual, issues and how we think others see us. This reveals a lack of self-confidence and a feeling of being different.
- Many people dream about walking or running without moving forward. This can be translated as a difficulty in reaching an objective or making choices, or a lack of independence.
- Flying can be interpreted as a will to be free of constraints and a need for emancipation.
- Falling into emptiness or from a high point can reveal an emotional hole or fear of the future.
- Dreams about being chased can reveal a fear in the future or a fear of someone in particular.
- Dreaming about failing an exam can reveal a simple lack of self-confidence.
- Dreams about death are related to new beginnings and rebirth.

Do recurrent dreams mean anything?
Often, dreams that come back regularly are a sign of a passing crisis or a block linked to daily life (work, a break-up, bereavement etc). These types of dreams usually disappear once the crisis is over.

How do we interpret erotic dreams?
Erotic dreams are a sign you're in good health! Two types exist: dreams about encounters, flirting and kissing reveal internal wellbeing and indicate a harmonious relationship with others. If, on the other hand, an erotic dream goes further (sex) it can mean a lack of sexual satisfaction and an unsatisfied libido. The dreamer is hoping for more frequent relations of better quality!

Premonitions
Studies have shown that 60% of premonitions occur in dreams, yet many experts are sceptical about their credibility. Some see a premonition as a simple need to project a desire onto reality, while others think premonitions are more than just a coincidence.

by Sarah Horrocks

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