Dream Interpretation for Dummies
And people don’t really consider dream interpretation as a process that requires a lot of skill. Usually if someone wants to understand what their dreams mean, the first thing they do is turn to the Internet with the belief that a search engine can explain all of their problems away. That sort of thinking is only partially correct. The Internet is a great place to find hints and clues about what’s going on in our dreams, but in order for us to interpret what a dream means we need a little helpful insight. Oh, and remember that individual dreams have individual meanings for every individual.
Dream interpretation is tricky because dreams are very personal experiences that every individual has had. Our understanding of dreams is minimal at best, and though many psychologists and dream experts have tried to understand the inner meaning behind our nighttime hallucinations, dreams still manage to present a certain level of difficulty to those who don’t dedicate their lives to the study of them.
So, while it’s easy enough to look at a dream objectively and say that it means any of a certain handful of possibilities, the same conclusions may not be reached should the dream be looked at from a more personal level. After all, stereotyping a dream doesn’t mean that you’ve explained it. It just means you’ve provided the dreamer with a text-book explanation. To crack the code that is dreaming, a more successful tactic would be to give dreamers common elements of dreams and what they most likely mean and then allow the individuals to garner their own meanings from there.
1. Dream Theme: Sex
There are literally hundreds of themes that our dreams can fall under, but there are certain themes that hit all of us at least once. The most common theme is, obviously, sex. Because of a little disease called puberty, we’ve all had a ‘sex’ dream whether we’ve wanted to admit to it or not.
Some of us dream about sex or sexually-related things more than others, while some people go years without dreaming of any sort of dirty dancing. Just because a person makes a habit of dreaming about sex doesn’t mean that he or she is a pervert. It could simply mean that they’re more in tune with their sexuality than someone who doesn’t dream of it at all.
Whether that type of tuning is good or bad all depends on what you dream about when you dream about sex and what the dream means in regards to your waking hours. Because there are as many likes and dislikes when it comes to sex as there are people actually having sex, the types of dreams that manifest thanks to the innocuous three-letter word are often numerous and awe-inspiring. Dreams, at least, understand that sex is never just sex.
Often it’s much more, and when you dream about it, chances are good that your subconscious is working overtime trying to send you a message. Sex dreams can cover a broad range of interesting subcategories, all of which have their own meanings and inner secrets. A person can dream about abstinence, adultery, or having some form of STD, or they can dream of pregnancy, perverts, prostitution, or incest.
People can also dream about various forms of sexual fetishes, and when they aren’t indulging in fantasy, they’re dreaming about bisexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, and everything above, beyond, and in between. The trick to understanding a sexually-based dream is to first understand that none of them can be taken at face value. The stranger the sex, the deeper the meaning goes. (For example, dreaming of foreplay is a sign that you may have some desires and wishes that are going unfulfilled.)
2. Dream Theme: Food
When awake, if a person isn’t thinking about or participating in sex, then there’s a larger-than-average chance that they’re engaging in the next best thing. And that’s eating. Food is a powerful form of motivation.
When people aren’t eating it, they’re analyzing it, so what better representative of our inner hopes, fears, and ideas than food? For centuries, different plants, herbs, fruits, and other foods have been associated with various things: rosemary for remembrance; parsley for things like lust, love, death, and birth; sage for conception and wisdom; and so on.
No one knows who first designated certain plants and foods with certain ideas and feelings, but the practice has held true for so long that it’s almost become instinctive; which is why the presence of food in a dream is much more significant than we credit it to be.
When dreaming of food, people will more often than not dream of a meal rather than a specific food. Dreaming about an entire meal is a signal that you’re focusing too much on unimportant details. In fact, you’re paying so much attention to them that you’re in danger of missing what’s actually important.
For those who dream of fruit, your subconscious is trying to tell you something about growth, abundance, and financial gain. Whether you’re gaining or losing these things depends on what’s happening to the fruit in your dream. Almonds in a dream mean success or riches while an entire almond tree speaks of wedding bells. My friend Dr. Regina Alabrtos, a psychiatrist, says:
Apples represent knowledge, prosperity, and wisdom, while a birthday cake indicates that you’re prepared for your deepest wishes to come true. It also means that you possess a willingness to open up to people and share yourself. There are more examples of food themed dreams, but plenty of dream dictionary sites go into more depth about them. To begin analyzing them, an individual must first accept that they mean more than that a dreamer is hungry.
3. Dream Theme: Animals
Animals are common aspects of dreams. These dreams usually surround pets, the transformation from human to animal, or animals gaining the ability to talk. Dreams about animals can also encompass being attacked by an animal, saved by an animal, hurting an animal, and so on, up to and including different variations and combinations of the possibilities just mentioned. The fun thing about animal dreams is that not all the animals being dreamed about a real.
For example, dreaming about dragons could mean a couple of things depending on where you’re from. Many Asian cultures vie the dragon as a symbol of good luck and spirituality. In other areas where dragons aren’t quiet as revered, dreaming of a dragon could mean that you’re letting your passions get the best of you. Dreaming that you’ve become a dragon with all the dragon-like perks (for example, breathing fire) is a strong indication that you’re getting your own way thanks to your temper.
What a dragon dream means depends solely on where you’re from, and that’s a strong example of how influential a person’s upbringing, culture, and beliefs can change how they view something. It’s also why dream interpretation calls for hands-on handling rather than generalizations. What is perfectly clear is that, while the animal and the characteristics that you associate with that animal may change, the presence of an animal in your dream remains the same no matter who you are or where you come from.
An animal represents the physical, the primal, and the primitive, all aspects of ourselves that we either push back or ignore once we’re in civilized company. An animal in a dream is the part of our subconscious that is untamed and unapologetic about being so.
Yo Regina! What do you think?
Just as food and sex-themed dreams require a certain level of understanding before interpretation is possible, the same is the case for animal-themed dreams. Therefore, knowing that animals are simply basic parts of who we are should provide that aforementioned understanding.
4. Dream Theme: Roles
People and the various parts they can play fall under the most important theme. The role that you play in a dream is often less important than the roles of the people around you. What happens most often is that our subconscious forms a character that means something to us.
There could be a person that we’ve never seen before in real life, but who we know is our sibling/friend/lover in a dream. The reason for the ‘stranger’ being cast into a specific role has to do with what we’re trying to learn about ourselves and our waking lives. Oftentimes these roles don’t represent real people, but rather ideas or concepts that our minds can’t express any other way. The following is a list of just some of the type of people/characteristics you may come in contact with, or turn into, while dreaming:
- Family member
- Religious figure (for example, Virgin Mary, Adam and Eve)
- Deity (for example, God, Lucifer, Buddha)
- Cartoon character
- Book character
- Girl/boy scout
- Grim reaper
- The dead (deceased family, friends, or just someone you know who has died)
- Well-known figures in history (for example, Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis)
- A representative of authority (for example, cop, jailer, teacher, fire fighter, judge, king, queen, dominatrix)
- A protector (for example, doctor, guardian, lover, superhero, knight)
- An attacker/monster (for example, kidnapper, rapist, murderer, shooter)
- Husband/boyfriend/sex buddy
- Pirate (I wish i was a pirate)
- A shadow
- A Pervert
SHIT! I just almost burnt my fucking house down. I forgot that I cooked potatoes and now everything smells like a fucking campfire. The potatoes seem good though. Ok, until they cool off – back to dreams now.
The is endless, but hopefully you now have a stronger idea of the main and supporting characters that take up space in a dream, not to mention who your own character is. Any ‘character’ or person that you turn into during a dream (or who comes into contact with you) is a representation of something: a conflict that you have (either with that person or with your feelings concerning that person) or as a model for qualities that you find yourself lacking or having an abundance of. You can always tell which it is by what you or the people around you are doing and how everyone is interacting with one another.
Dream Theme: Places
If the last section talked about people, then it’s only logical that this section would talk about places. The places, or the set, of a dream is just as important as the people and events taking place in it. As in real life, the places shown in a dream directly influence how a dream will turn out.
If there’s a cliff anywhere, then the chance of dreamer falling off of that cliff is about 50/50. A forest, ocean, desert, and so on represent natural forces while a funeral is an indication of death, an ending, or pain.
A factory in a dream represents structure and organization. Basically, whatever we instinctively notice about a place while awake, we then take and incorporate those ideals into our dreams. Everything in a dream is influenced by the place, though the place itself can never limit or dictate the possibilities.
For instance, when you dream of a school, there are certain things that you expect to dream about. However, just because the setting is a school doesn’t mean there won’t be some anomalies. Those anomalies are what stand out the most, and because of that, they are easier to interpret when you take into consideration everything else that was ‘normal’.
The setting of a dream is overshadowed more often than not by the things that take place in it, but when it comes to dream interpretation, the setting is an important aspect to keep in mind. The place, if you’ve never seen it before or been in a setting similar, can also represent a person or idea.
5. Dream Theme: Numbers
Using numbers in regard to dream interpretation can become complicated unless you’re willing to do extensive study on the concept. The idea is that a number very rarely makes itself known in a dream through obvious means. You can usually get a number through how many characters/objects are dominating the dream.
Or you can get a number through the age of something or someone. If the number you’re dreaming of is larger than a single digit, then you can take the number at face value or you can add the individual digits together until you get a smaller single digit.
Odd numbers are aggressive while even numbers are tranquil, and everything from how many times you or someone else performs an act to how many candles are on the birthday cake you’re dreaming of eating can influence the interpretation. Like I said, it’s complicated. The whole idea of using numbers for dream interpretation can seem overwhelming at first, but the process has proven to be just as successful as more archaic forms of analysis.
Each number has its own meaning and weight on the karmic scale and the most difficult part is figuring out which numbers in a dream are relevant and which ones are not.
Your first step would be to take into account what or who stood out most strongly in the dream, and then go from there. If you were pregnant with triplets then you have a pretty standard analysis, since three stands for vitality, life, creativity, inner strength, imagination, exploration of self, and new experiences. On the other hand, dreaming that you’re pregnant means that there’s a part of yourself or your personal life that is developing, or it could mean that you are about to ‘give birth’ to a new objective or idea.
Or the idea of pregnancy can be very simplistic in nature. If, while awake, you want to get pregnant, the dream could represent the fulfillment of a wish while fearing pregnancy (or responsibilities) while awake could mean the embodiment of nightmare while asleep.
That was just one example of how numerical themes are able to tie in nicely with other dream themes, though most dreams won’t be that easy to interpret with the help of numbers.
6. Dream Theme: Calendar Months
Believe It or not, dreaming of a specific month is just as informative as dreaming of a number. As I mentioned before, the meaning behind a particular aspect of a dream depends on who you are and what your background is. For Americans especially, however, when it comes to months, the same sort of interpretation can be applied to a wide range of people:
- January: Represents financial gain, solved mysteries, and the approach or presence of false friends.
- February - Represents health issues, stress, but also promises a silver lining at some later date.
- March: Represents a bad time for business as well as the time when enemies will begin making trouble. (Does the phrase ‘Beware the Ides of March’ ring any bells?).
- April: Represents a lot of pleasure as well as profit as long as the weather is good. If the weather in the dream turns bad however, then that’s a prediction for trouble with a capital ‘T’, ‘S’, ‘I’, and ‘H’.
- May: Represents a time when things are sure to look up. But that mostly applies to the young. Even if you’re considered old though, dreaming of May isn’t at all something to be discouraged about.
- June: Represents the need to avoid rivals and enemies. The reason why is because June is such a good month to earn money, prestige, and popularity, but only as long as you rely on your own judgment and common sense.
- July: Represents a time when you can expect to experience an unusual amount of gain no matter what you’re dabbling in. However, that good fortune doesn’t mean that caution isn’t still called for.
- August: Represents good times, travel, and positive news.
- September: Represents luck as well as situations changing for the better. September also represents accomplishments, in both desires as well as hopes.
- October: Represents the culmination of hard work. You can now enjoy the fruits of your labor and enjoy the chance to experience solid, long-lasting friendships.
- November: Represents happiness and success.
- December: Represents wealth gained but friendships lost. Apparently this is a good month for having a relationship or affair.
What all those bullet points boil down to is that the beginning of the year sucks, while things begin to look increasingly better the further you get from January. The next step up from dreaming of months is dreaming of specific seasons, which is much more likely for most people:
- Spring: Represents happy companions and fortunate deeds.
- Summer: Represents success, joyous events, realized ambitions, and satisfaction in a number of pursuits.
- Fall: Represents transformation, changing surroundings, and ups and downs.
- Winter: Represents death and renewal and promises future happiness and financial stability.
7. Dream Theme: Emotions
Emotions play very specific parts in dreams. They are the most consistent of the themes and therefore the most important when it comes to dream interpretation. In fact, if the people, place, numbers, animals, and sex just all disappeared, we would still have our emotions in the dream to let us know whether or not we’re going through a nightmare or a fairytale.
In most cases, the lingering emotions stick with us most strongly after we come out of dreams, and even if we forget everything else, we rarely forget what we felt during a particular episode. The difference between this particular theme and any other is the fact that emotions during dreams aren’t symbols. They don’t represent something else and they aren’t hiding a deeper meaning. Instead, they reflect real emotions and reactions in a setting where our natural defenses are useless. Emotions have more categories and sub-categories than we’re aware of, and during a dream we can go from one extreme to the next with very little control over the why and when.
When dreaming, it’s much more common for a dreamer to experience a negative or neutral emotion rather than a positive one. We each experience so much stress and unhappiness in our lives, and more often than is healthy we will either ignore these emotions or discount them.
Because of that, those hidden and ignored emotions build up through the years and make themselves known in dreams. Combined as they are with whatever current emotions we happen to be juggling at the time and it’s no wonder that the negative often outnumbers the positive. In the end what’s important is taking note of the emotion itself, because even if the dream seems totally pointless, whatever you were feeling during it was not.
8. Dream Theme: Colors
Just like herbs, different colors have stood for a variety of ideas and concepts over the years. Even awake, people associate so much influence to color that it has become an important characteristic in any dream.
Color and dreams are so intertwined that people often wonder whether a person who is blind dreams in color or if the very absence of color while awake automatically means that there is no color in dreams either.
Color is a major component of our waking lives. Therefore, it’s only natural that, in order to accurately interpret what a certain color means, we first have to look into what that color means to us personally. If a dream is dominated by the color yellow, or if the role/character that we’re playing in the dream happens to be blond, it isn’t a large leap to assume that something in either or past or present is responsible for making the color appear with such enthusiasm.
Maybe we just bought a new yellow outfit or maybe our cat peed on our pillow; either way, interpreting color is a largely personal process of dream analysis. On the other hand, if we’re looking for a deeper meaning behind a certain color, then that meaning can be found by looking at the common associations that have been given to many colors.
Let’s check them out, shall we?
- Red - On one hand, it can mean passion, energy, force, aggression, courage, power, impulsiveness, anger, or vigor. On the other hand, it can mean an absence of those things, meaning that the dreamer is tired and/or without energy.
- Blue – Loyalty, wisdom, the divine, devotion, eternity, truth, openness, creativity, patience, freedom, serenity, clarity of mind, spirituality, optimism, (or as an alternative) sadness.
- Green – On a positive note, green means health and healing, fertility and growth, vitality, peace, advancement, independence, ambition, and money. Negatively, the color can mean materialism, greed, cheating, lying, jealousy, and so on.
- Yellow – What this color represents depends on whether the dream is good or bad. For a good dream, yellow can mean energy, intellect, happiness, wisdom, harmony, and agility. If the dream is bad or negative in some way then the color represents lies and trickery, disgrace, cowardice, betrayal, or sickness.
- Purple – This color has very few negative aspects. It can mean healing, devotion, royalty, justice, wealth, kindness, love, compassion, and dignity.
- Gray – Gray is a color that can represent depression, bad health, fear, confusion, ambivalence, or isolation. However, gray can also represent individuality.
9. Dream Theme: Body Parts
Dreaming of a specific body part is a surprisingly informative theme of dream analysis. Dream body parts can be taken one of two ways, superficially or symbolically.
There’s a lot of history and symbolism attached to every part of our bodies, from our eyelashes to our butt cheeks. When a dream goes so far as to concentrate on specific parts, it’s either trying to bring our attention to some of that symbolism or it’s warning us about a potential health problem that we may want to get checked out.
Say, for instance, that in the dream you happen to be having issues with your stomach. It could be your body’s way of warning you about a health issue. If your body sent you warnings while you were awake and the warnings were ignored or never sunk in, then your subconscious could then take up the reins to try and alert you to the problem by using dreams. In regards to symbolism, the meaning isn’t quite as clear cut.
If in your dream you focus on something like growing eyelashes (something that couldn’t possibly be health-related), you then have to search for a deeper meaning. Growing eyelashes most often symbolizes good health and abundant fortunes, which are two ideas that are always anticipated. To dream of butt cheeks, or buttocks (which is the approved scientific term), means that your subconscious is acknowledging your more basic instincts. To dream of your own butt could also mean that you feel insecure about something.
If your ‘buttocks’ are misshapen or otherwise warped in the dream, then that’s an indication that there are some wounded parts of your psyche that you may need to take a deeper look at.
10. Taking Dream Themes a Step Further
Hopefully this look into some of the themes and forms that your dreams can take has helped you go a step further in your dream interpretation efforts. It was mentioned more than once that the interpretation of dreams was personal, and in order to be successful at it an individual must be willing to analyze what their dreams are trying to tell them from their own perspectives.
When you start your own analysis, keep in mind that these themes and the subsequent generalizations can never be taken as individual parts. To get the full meaning, they have to be combined with other components of the dream. Furthermore, the dreamer’s history and personality must also be taken into account.
Dreaming has the power to be fun or scary, but in the end, what it always proves to be is informative. Dreams tell us secrets about ourselves, and with the help of dream interpretation and a deeper look into symbolism, we can understand what those secrets pertain to. Which is why understanding the dreamer is just one of the reasons why so many psychologists and specialists have dedicated their lives to understanding the meaning behind the dream.
- Cyclopedia Of Dreams: More Than 350 Symbols and Interpretations (Running Press Cyclopedia) (ISBN 9780762406920): David C. Lohff
- Dream Dictionary : An A to Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind (ISBN 9780440237075): Tony Crisp
- Dream Images and Symbols: A Dictionary (Creative Breakthroughs Books) (ISBN 9780876044889): Kevin J. Todeschi
- Dreamer’s Dictionary (ISBN 9780446342964): Stearn Robinson, Tom Corbett
- I Had the Strangest Dream…: The Dreamer’s Dictionary for the 21st Century (ISBN 9780446696036): Kelly Sullivan Walden
- In Your Dreams: The Ultimate Dream Dictionary (ISBN 9781571744333): Mary Summer Rain
- Jungian Dream Interpretation: A Handbook of Theory and Practice (Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian Analysts, 13) (ISBN 9780919123120): James A. Hall
- The Beginner’s Guide to Dream Interpretation (ISBN 9781591790488): Clarissa Pinkola Estes
- The Complete Dream Book, 2nd edition: Discover What Your Dreams Reveal about You and Your Life (ISBN 9781402207006): Gillian Holloway
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Interpreting Your Dreams, 2nd Edition (ISBN 9781592571468): Marci Pliskin, Shari L. Just
- The Dream Book: Symbols for Self Understanding (ISBN 9780967979014): Betty Bethards
- The Illustrated Dream Dictionary (ISBN 9781402742095): Russell Grant
- The Interpretation of Dreams: The Complete and Definitive Text (ISBN 9780465019779): Sigmund Freud, James Strachey
- The Wisdom of Your Dreams: Using Dreams to Tap into Your Unconscious and Transform Your Life (ISBN 9781585427543): Jeremy Taylor
- Understanding the Dreams You Dream Revised and Expanded (ISBN 9780768432121): Ira Milligan
What did you dream about last night?