Dreams are universal, and the desire to understand them has existed as long as there has been written history.
We dream during REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep. The REM sleep phase occurs several times a night, and we dream during each of them, but we don’t usually remember our dreams.
The real question is, for the dreams that we do remember, is there any meaning?
The science on this is based on theory and not proof, but there is good reason to believe they might have relevance to our waking lives and personalities.
Doctor Greg Mahr is a Henry Ford Health psychiatrist who works with sleep researchers. He is also the co-author of a book titled “The Wisdom of Dreams: Science, Synchronicity, and the Language of the Soul.”
“Your dreams are in a symbolic language, and the reason they’re in a symbolic language is because they’re deeper and richer than ordinary words,” said Mahr.
While it might be tempting to just pick up a book on dream interpretation, his view is that you shouldn’t trivialize dreams.
“It’s really important to respect the process and respect its spiritual dimensions and honor it and not manualize it,” Mahr said.
Nevertheless, he does have some hints on approaching the interpretation of some of the more common themes in our dreams.
Starting with falling, Mahr says these are relatively common and “sometimes have to do with losing control, either worries about losing control or internal awareness that you should let go a little bit.”
Dreams about intimate situations are also common.
“The kind of the obvious superficial meaning is, I wonder what happened to so and so, I should call him or her again like it’s an invitation to re-initiate that relationship, but I wouldn’t think of it that way,” Mahr said.
Instead, he suggests considering what that person meant to you.
“If it called up some person, it might be some traits that person represented that you haven’t thought about in a long time that you need in your life now, like if someone is very brave and you need that courage now because of what you’re facing in your life.”
While intimate dreams are generally pleasant, nightmares are the opposite and are also common,” Mahr said. “Sometimes nightmares are like something you need to know that you’re pushing away, and you might try thinking of it in that way. As something you’re trying to avoid that you’ve pushed out of your life, that needs to be part of you. Maybe it’s your angry feelings, maybe it’s your sad feelings or things you haven’t dealt with or processed that are chasing you.”
Mahr said recurrent dreams may have significance.
“If a dream keeps coming back, I think of it a little bit metaphorically, that your mind is trying to send you a message,” Mahr said. “So if it keeps trying to tell you the same thing, maybe it’s because you haven’t listened. It’s like, ‘Hey dude, you know I told you last night here’s the story again, figure it out.’”
Mahr really encourages people not to jump to the most obvious conclusion about any given dream.
While there are many common themes, like being late for a test, being naked in public, and even losing your teeth, that might have simple interpretations, everyone’s circumstance is different, and we should take advantage of the opportunity to reflect on something that might have a deeper meaning.