Oh, wait: it was just a dream.
The power of dreams
Dreams can mortify us, embarrass us, even frighten – or delight! – us. Many people believe they're a way for our subconscious mind to work through issues and stress, while others may even see hints of premonitions or omens in them.
"There are many valuable ways that dreams can be of practical benefit," says Craig Webb, executive director of the Montreal-based DREAMS Foundation, which raises awareness about dreams, nightmares and sleep disorders. "They offer opportunities for fun, adventure, wish fulfillment, creativity, problem solving, skill rehearsal, healing, spiritual exploration – and much more."
Webb points out that many successful individuals have tapped into their dreams to improve performance in their waking lives.
"After a terrible extended slump, golfer Jack Nicklaus recovered his winning game literally overnight due to a dream where he saw that he had been holding his club incorrectly since his slump began," says Webb, who also says that Nobel-prize winning scientists have reported finding research inspiration in their dreams. Ideas that come to you in dreams can be further developed in waking life.
The upside of nightmares
Even nightmares can have practical benefit. "Nightmares and recurring dreams are like the engine light on our car – they serve to alert us to something out of balance, or can warn us of impending trouble unless we change something in our lives," says Webb.
Maybe that recurring nightmare where you're sinking in quicksand is about your waking-life feeling of being trapped by choices you've made. Maybe your decisions seemed sound at the time but now you feel like the ground is less firm. Maybe it's time to rethink some of these choices so you feel less likely to be buried by their fallout.
Page 1 of 2 – On page 2, find dream interpretations and learn what your nightly dreams mean.
What do your dreams mean?
Want to uncover the possible hidden meanings of your most common dreams? The Running Press Cyclopedia of Dreams: More than 350 Symbols and Interpretations by David C. Lohff (Running Press) is a great bedside guide to keep on hand.
Here are some common dream symbols and themes and the meanings usually ascribed to them.
If your bike or car suddenly flies off (with you in it!) to avoid a crash, it may hint that you don't take danger very seriously. It could also be a 'hero' dream in which you excel with special skills or power – which can be wonderfully empowering if you're about to take on a real-life challenge of some sort.
If you fly on your own steam – by flapping your arms or mysteriously levitating – you may be seeking to transcend circumstances or gain a safer perspective.
Falling and can't stop yourself? It may reflect a feeling of loss of control in your own waking life. You may have feelings of inferiority, like you're not measuring up to your friends or peers – or that you're not being supported by people in your life. If this could be the case, take note of the context of the fall in your dream. Who was present? Friends, business colleagues, or your spouse? Do you feel unsupported by them in your day-to-day life?
Being naked in public
Public nudity (or being clad only in underwear) is associated with vulnerability, and also a fear that if our full personalities were known, people might not accept us. (Although ironically, in these dreams, others often seem to take your exposure completely in stride!)
Your subconscious may be trying to tell you it's time to re-evaluate your public persona. You may want to ask yourself whether it's worthwhile to continue hiding whatever personality traits you've got ferreted away in your proverbial closet.
Or… you may be an exhibitionist in a major wish-fulfillment dream. In which case – enjoy!
Colours in dreams are very symbolic. The list below pairs colours with their commonly associated meanings.
• Blue: Nobility, tranquility, depression
• Black: Power, death
• Brown: Earth, nature
• Grey: Neutrality, a lack of passion, death
• Green: Fertility, renewal, wealth, greed, envy
• Red: Sacrifice, sex, taboo sex, humiliation, physical injury
• Orange: Adventure, challenge, forced change, disruptiveness
• Purple: Royalty, positive personal growth, injury
• Yellow: Enlightenment, cowardice, illness
• White: Purity, wholesomeness, sacred ritual, emptiness
Page 2 of 2 – Learn what experts believe our dreams have in common with our waking lives on page 1.