I find dreams kind of boring. If there's a passage about a dream in a novel, I skip it. Not once has that hampered my understanding of the plot, which is just more proof that dreams, real or fictional, are boring.
Unless they're happening to you, in which case they're part of a beautiful, mystifying tango with your unconscious -- fascinating to dissect and scrutinize. Especially if you enlist a professional.
Yes, there are lots of trained dream interpreters whose actual job it is to analyze your dreams. I spoke to Kezia Vida, a New Orleans dreamworker who has a degree in philosophy from Yale and seven years of dream study under her belt, to unpack the meanings behind the most common dreams. Now there's no reason to bore your friends with stories of the crazy things that happened while you were lying unconscious in your bed.
First, a caveat
While some archetypes and symbols are universal, it's important to analyze each dream within the context of your own life and experiences. "I don't like to be the kind of person who says, 'This means this,' because each dream is so specific to the person," Kezia says. "It's never as simple as looking it up in a dictionary. Even a dream like losing your teeth -- if you have had tooth loss, that's going to be different than for someone who has all their teeth. Whatever dream you have has a personal meaning for you."
Kezia practices natural dreamwork, which is based on the premise that a dream contains everything you need to understand it. "If you feel like your dream means something, that's because it does," she says. "But often dreams bring up things that we don't want to think about. They're trying to illuminate parts of yourself that you don't want to see."
So when reading Kezia's interpretations of common dreams, remember the interpretation is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Help! You're falling and you can't wake up.
This is one of the most jarring dreams, especially when coupled with a hypnic jerk that really makes it feel like you've hit the pavement, or the floor of a Mars crater, or whatever. As with any dream, Kezia suggests people tune into the feelings they experience during these trippy manifestations of REM sleep.
"Falling dreams are about fear, a loss of control, a sense that things are falling apart," she says. "If you have this kind of dream over and over, it means that feeling is alive in your daily life, and the dream is showing you how you're feeling on the inside. See where that feeling might come up [in everyday life]."
Someone is chasing after you
Dreams about being chased follow a similar tack. "There's the sense of an external force coming toward you, that people are trying to violate you or come into your space," she says. "Think about the anxiety you're carrying around."
Kezia points out that in 99% of her clients' dreams, there's no weapon or indication that the pursuer means them harm. "That says you feel like people are going to hurt you, when all they might be trying to do is connect with you, and that's a very vulnerable thing," she points out. "Are there places in your life where you feel threatened, when there might not be a threat on the outside?"
Your teeth are falling out
Some dentists say this dream is a physical reference to jaw-grinding that happens at night, and Kezia concedes that could be a factor. But she thinks this dream is also about self-care.
"Brushing your teeth every day is one of the most basic self-care things, and losing your teeth is painful, but there's also shame in it," she says. "Ask if you're taking care of yourself right now. Are there ways you aren't participating in your own self-care? Let yourself feel the toll that's taking. Because if you don't do these basic things to take care of yourself, you could be in trouble."
You found an extra room you didn't know existed
This is one of the greatest dreams… until you wake up and realize you don't actually have a second bathroom with a whirlpool tub and Carrara marble floors. Still, Kezia insists this dream is a blessing. "It's always a good feeling when you a find a space that wasn't there," she says. "There's more room in your life -- in your body and soul -- than you think. Take a moment and feel the space that actually exists in your life."
You're nude in a place where nudity is inappropriate
While being naked in public usually is embarrassing, and dreaming of inappropriate situations might indicate a fear of that embarrassment, Kezia says there's nothing wrong with being nude in a dream. After all, you're the only one there.
The next time you find yourself giving a board presentation in your Spanx, own it. "Look for the good aspect of what it feels like to be vulnerable that way, and know it is OK to be that open," Kezia says.
You go to the bathroom in all the wrong places
According to Kezia, "This is related to shame, and especially a sense that there's this thing you need to hide. The reality is that everyone has to go to the bathroom. It's not that big of a deal. In real life, where do you feel like you have to hide something that's pretty normal?"
And how relieved do you feel when you wake up and find you didn't actually wet the bed, even if you peed in your dream? Super relieved, right?
There are so many bugs and you can't get rid of them
Dreams about bug infestations also relate back to shame, and are signs that we need to get to the root of some destructive thought patterns. "Shame is very insidious, so open up to the idea that we are denying or not realizing the extent to which the thought processes are telling us there's something wrong, gross, or disgusting about us," she says. "These thought patterns are like a bug infesting your mind. You can't be fully present in yourself as long as those thoughts are present."
Try telling that to Gregor Samsa.
The obvious one: sex dreams
Sex dreams and their meanings are an entire subset of dreams that can be chopped up and analyzed. Kezia says the meaning of a sex dream depends heavily on how you feel about your dream-sex partner. "Who is that person in your life, and what do you feel like when that happens in the dream?" she asks. "How do those things compare and contrast?"
Dreaming about sex with an ex doesn't necessarily mean you're hung up on them. "It shows you had that feeling of connection at one point, and it reminds you that the possibility for connection still exists inside you," she says. "Dreams use whatever prop they can to give you an experience, and if they want to remind you that love still lives in your heart, they use the person you were in love with."
Kezia adds that explaining a dream to someone else might help the meaning align. "You'll get things you won't get when you're just inside your own mind," she says. "I have found an incredible healing power from paying attention to dreams. People have been using them as a tool since humanity began, and I hope they continue."
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