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Do Dreams Mean Anything? From Why We Do It To What They Mean

by Vivian KELLY Published on 24 July 2014
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Dreams are one of life's unexplained mysteries that we can't help but question. Sometimes our dreams are so great we hope to never wake up, other times they're just plain scary but what (if anything) the hell do our dreams mean anyway? And why in the world do we do it? Ladies, here's everything you ever wanted to know about dreams...

You've probably had a similar dream to us. Being chased by sharks through some strange land and then later bumping into your ex-boyfriend only to then give birth to some horrific alien type thing? Yeah, we've been there too - 'Thank God it was just a dream!'

But there's gotta be some meaning behind all craziness, right? (After all, we do spend on average 2 hours dreaming each night.)

That's why we got chatting to independent sleep expert, Dr Neil Stanley who is currently working with Crampex and Ian Wallace, dream psychologist and author of The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert, who helped demystify our fascination with dreams.

So if you're still wondering why, what and how, don't worry - we've got it covered. From why we dream to expert interpretations we've investigated them all...

First things first - what are dreams?

While it’s still difficult to fully understand what dreaming is and why we do it, there have been many studies on dreaming that have given us a pretty good idea about what it's all about.

“A dream is the subconscious experience of a sequence of images, sounds, ideas, emotions, or other sensations occurring predominantly during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep when the brain’s activity most resembles that seen in wakefulness,” says Dr Stanley.

So even though you have lighter dreams throughout the night, most people's dreams are most vivid during REM sleep - when your brain is most active (and you're dreaming about shark attacks).

Interestingly, our dreams are only made up of what we know, have seen, heard, experienced or imagined. Dr Stanley says, "We really do not yet understand dreams but we do know that your dreams are personal to you and so any meaning that a dream may have is something that you alone can elucidate."

But before getting into dream meanings, first we need to understand the purpose of dreaming. Which brings us to our next question...

Why do we dream?

The underlying mystery of why we dream is something that has puzzled humans from the beginning of time. Even the bible and ancient societies have made suggestions as to their meaning. But despite hundreds of years of research we still don't really know why.

But we don't just spend a third of our lives sleeping for nothing! What we do know is that in some way or another dreams are emotionally connected to you. So whether you’re feeling blue, depressed, anxious or angry, most of the time your dreams will associate these feelings with the fleeting images you see.

Some researchers believe it's a way for our brains to organise the things seen during waking hours, but according to Ian, dreams are much more than we think. He says, “YOU actually happen to your dreams and generate everything that you experience in them. The reason that you create your dreams is to make sense of opportunities that are emerging for you in your day-to-day life".

“Rather than just dismissing it as nonsensical mumbo-jumbo, taking time to understand your dream imagery helps you to directly connect to valuable chances in your everyday life that you might otherwise miss."

Essentially, dreaming is really important to our emotional health. "Your dreams are just dreams until you put them into action" says Ian. So why not interpret your dreams? Discovering what they mean will help you learn more about yourself and your hidden secrets (i.e. your subconscious thoughts).

Dream interpretations

Who doesn't wonder what their dreams mean? Here Ian gives us his expert interpretations on our top 5 most common dreams...

1. Being chased

There is an issue in your waking life that you want to confront but are unsure how to do so. This issue is often a great opportunity for you to pursue a particular personal ambition. Although they may seem scary, your pursuers are actually bringing your attention to your unrealised talents in your own pursuit of fulfilment.

2. Teeth falling out

Your teeth symbolise how confident and powerful you feel, so some situation is causing your confidence to crumble in waking life. Rather than seeing this situation as something that will leave you powerless, just try calmly chewing over the facts and relish it as a challenge that you can really get your teeth into.

3. Unable to find a toilet

Toilets are what we use to cleanly respond to some of our most fundamental needs, so there is an issue in waking life where you are finding it a challenge to clearly express your own needs. This can often occur if you always spend your time looking after the needs of other people, rather than your own needs.

4. Naked in public

We choose our clothes to present a particular image to the people around us, so being naked in public suggests that there is a situation in waking life that is making you feel vulnerable and exposed. Although it might be potentially embarrassing, sometimes you just have to open up to others so they can see your real talents.

5. Unprepared for an exam

Exams are how we judge our ability to perform, so this indicates that you are critically examining your own performance in waking life. Rather than immersing yourself in endless self examination, the real test of your character is being able to accept your talents by celebrating your knowledge and achievements, instead of constantly judging them.

Finally, how can you remember your dreams?

Some people find it difficult to remember their dreams after waking up. In fact some people aren't even sure they dream! And it's not easy considering you forget about 90% of your dreams within minutes of waking. But the good news is remembering your dreams CAN be easy! It just takes a little persistence.

Ian recommends remembering three words to help you transfer them from short term memory to long term memory. Will, Still and Fill. "As you put your head on your pillow to go to sleep, say to yourself ‘Tonight, I WILL remember my dreams'. When you wake up lay completely STILL for one minute. Don’t move, don’t look at the time, don’t even wiggle your toes.

"​By staying still, images and feelings from your dreams will emerge. Then FILL in the gaps between the images from the dreams that you have created and your dream narrative will appear."

Why not start recording your dreams? A great way to do this is by keeping a dream diary of every account. That way you can go back and see how they've changed over time and see how they relate to you personally.

The mind is a powerful tool - use it girls!

What crazy dreams have you had lately? Share and tweet us @sofeminineUK!

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