Web Extra: Three Reasons Why We Dream (0:54)
Every single night when the warm blanket of sleep envelopes our bodies, we each leave the outer world behind and fall into our own inner world. Sometimes it’s a world of talking animals, sometimes it’s a world of monsters and hungry zombies, and sometimes it’s a world where we are rubbing elbows with celebrities. Whatever world you find yourself in at night is a world that is uniquely your own… most of the time!
We asked child, adolescent, and family psychologist, Dr. Jennifer L. Hartstein to weigh in on what certain dreams mean. She touches on dreams of falling, being chased, being naked, driving, flying, being late, dying, and having your partner cheat. Read these and more below.
Falling may indicate that you are dealing with some unresolved insecurities and anxiety. Maybe you feel out of control in different areas of your life and that is creating some of the worrying thoughts that appear in your dreams. Additionally, you might be feeling that you don’t measure up in some way or that you are failing in some area of your life.
Being chased in your dreams indicates that you may not be dealing with something in your waking life that needs your attention. You may be avoiding dealing with an issue or some sort of confrontation that you need to address. Your dream may be paralleling how you cope with fears and stressors: through avoidance. If you can identify who, or what is chasing you, you might be able to gain some insight into your worries.
Being naked in your dream suggests that you are feeling vulnerable or insecure about something. Maybe you are afraid that you will be exposed to others. Being naked in your dreams can also indicate that you are feeling ashamed of something that you said or did. It is the “naked truth” in dream form: you’re being open and honest with yourself about something, or maybe you need to be.
A car denotes ambition or motivation: literally one’s drive. It connects with how much control you feel in your life. Driving implies that you are taking an active role in your life, making positive decisions and navigating things for yourself well. If the car is out of control, it may indicate that you need to slow down and survey what is going on in your life. Maybe things are more chaotic than you realize, and you might need to figure out what you need to do to get back on top of things.
Flying dreams can be really positive and indicate that you are feeling in control of your life. Often, there is a sense of freedom when flying in dreams. It’s possible that you feel that you have extricated yourself from a challenging situation or achieved something you’ve been working toward. Dreaming of being airborne can also indicate that you are reaching higher levels of success in your life or are working to attain higher goals. Flying can also be considered a way to take perspective: you’re looking down on your life and trying to figure out what you may want to do.
Dreams about being late can symbolize issues with indecisiveness. It can be a symbol of a necessary change in your life. Dreams of late also symbolize a fear of missing an opportunity or missing out on something very important, like the chance to raise a family or have a relationship.
Although dreams about dying can be very scary, they often are positive and may often mean that big changes are ahead. Death can be a symbol that you are moving forward toward something and leaving the past behind.
Dreaming that your partner is cheating highlights some fears of abandonment that you may be harboring. Additionally, you may be feeling as though you are not getting the attention that you would like from your partner. It’s possible that your dream is putting your feelings of being “cheated” out of your loved one’s attention into the form of adultery. These dreams could be giving you some information that it’s time for you and your partner to find some time to reconnect.
Here are some other interpretations that may shed light on your perplexing dreams:
Filthy, Clogged, or Unusable Toilets
Yes, this dream has major “eww” factor, and you’d probably prefer I not go into the details that often accompany this dream. But I will tell you that the most common element to the toilet dream is the inability to use it because of its condition.This is often directly linked to the inability to express to others or to “relieve yourself” of what is really bothering you. If your dream toilets are nasty, clogged or unusable, you need to ask yourself what frustration or negativity you are holding in right now. What is it that you are not allowing yourself to “flush away”?
The Lesson: This dream is warning you that your emotional plumbing is backed up. The more you allow your frustrations (and what you view as “crap”) to build up, the bigger "mess" you'll have to deal with in the end. Let it go!
Back at School
Even if you graduated 10, 20, even 50 years ago, your dreaming mind keeps pulling you back into chemistry class wearing nothing but your Nikes or roaming the halls trying to find your locker. It’s a very aggravating dream.
The reason school is such a popular dream locale is because the dynamics of the school setting continue on into your job or career and also into your social life. School is where you first learn the importance of being on time and meeting deadlines. It is where you learn how to prepare and “do your homework.” It is where you learn how to deal with scrutiny, how to move on up the ladder, and also how to fit in. Basically, it’s where you learn all your basic job skills and social skills. School dreams are most often connected to your work life and slightly less often connected to your social life.
When you find yourself back in those cinder-block halls at night, you need to ask yourself what is going on at work or in your career that reminds you of what went on in your dream. If you’re late for class in your dream, are you worried about a deadline at work? If you can’t find your class or your locker, are you not feeling like you are where you would like to be in your job or career? If you’re having to repeat your senior year all over again, even though you know you already graduated years ago, ask yourself if you are having to prove yourself at work or with a new boss.
The Lesson: There is probably some unpreparedness, uncertainty or even vulnerability with your job or career that needs to be addressed. There is a lesson to be learned here, so sit up straight and pay attention! Your dreaming mind is placing you back in school because it really wants you to succeed in real life.
Your Mate is Cheating on You
This dream has been the cause of many a slap across the face first thing in the morning. In fact, in a recent survey I conducted with over 5000 participants, the cheating dream came in as the #1 most common dream! As upsetting as these dreams can be, the good news is that they rarely indicate that your mate is getting his or her pleasures elsewhere. They do suggest, however, that something rather than someone is taking the time and attention from your mate that you feel you deserve.
If this is a common dream for you, don’t start going through your significant other’s drawers and cell phone just yet! Instead, ask yourself what he or she keeps leaving you to go do in waking life. Is it work? That’s usually the culprit. Is it golf or fantasy football? Or are they simply spending more time with friends and less time with you? What is beginning to feel like a third wheel in your relationship?
The Lesson: In a healthy relationship, the significant other should always come first. This dream is letting you know you are feeling “cheated” out of the time and attention you deserve. Let this dream be a wakeup call that it’s time to fan the flames of passion and carve out some very special time for each other. If you can’t have the quantity of time you would like with each other, then make sure the time you make together is full of quality.
Why are these dreams so common, and more importantly, why is it that these common dreams also keep coming back? It’s quite simple. All these common dreams are directly connected to very common issues and behaviors we all share: mis-speaking, avoiding tough issues, holding in frustrations, work anxiety, and most importantly, a lack of loving, quality time with our mates.
As long as the issues and behaviors keep showing up, so will the dreams. Our dreaming minds are happy to nag us to death about issues it wants fixed. Once you correct the issue and improve the behavior, you have not only ended the dream, you’ve also dramatically improved your life.
Teeth Falling Out
This dream actually has nothing to do with your oral hygiene at all. Body parts in dreams are more about the emotional and psychological parts of your personality than the actual physical parts of you. That being said, your teeth or any part of your mouth, to your dreaming mind, is actually about the part of you that communicates. When your teeth fall out in a dream, it usually means that, in waking life, you’ve allowed something out of your mouth that should have remained in there permanently.
If this is a common dream for you, you need to ask yourself what you have recently let slip out of your mouth that you shouldn’t have. Did you gossip? Did you not tell the truth about something or someone? Did you divulge too much information? Did you say something to someone that you later realized was hurtful? What did you say without thinking about it first?
The Lesson: Your dreams are trying to show you that you must be careful about what comes out of your mouth because once it is out, like a tooth, you can’t put it back in. Paying attention to your teeth dreams helps you to monitor and improve the way you communicate.