What Your Dreams Really Mean? From a Psychological Perspective

dreams interpretations
Simon Rudoplh, PHD
Written by Simon Rudoplh, PHD

Not everything in your dreams has a hidden meaning, okay? Think of it this way: that dream you had about a red lion chasing a butterfly across the river isn’t your boss firing you within three days. Cool? ๐Ÿ˜€

Dreams and nightmares are simply your subconscious mind’s way of processing your emotions and experiences. While they may carry messages, they’re there to help you understand yourself better, not predict the future.

So, what exactly can you learn from your dreams? They’re like whispers from your subconscious, offering insights into your emotions, desires, and anxieties. This hidden world operates differently from our everyday thinking because it’s influenced by our unique collection of life experiences, relationships, and upbringing.

Think of it this way: you have two minds at play. Your subconscious mind is a vast reservoir of past experiences, while your conscious mind handles your daily awareness, memory, and logic. Contrary to popular belief, the subconscious isn’t the one leading you astray. It’s your conscious mind that’s more susceptible to errors. Your memory can be faulty, leading to bad decisions. Your senses can be fooled by illusions. Even your logic can be biased.

The key takeaway? While your dreams can be strange and symbolic, they offer valuable insights for self-discovery. They’re not fortune-telling messages, but whispers from your inner self waiting to be understood.

What are the meanings of the messages that come in dreams?

Freud was one of the most interested persons in dream interpretation and used it extensively to analyze and treat his patients by connecting dreams and nightmares with the messages that the subconscious mind sends. If he could interpret these messages, he could reach the problem, and if he reached the problem, he could solve it. This was Freud’s methodology in short.

Now, let’s gather the efforts of people (including Freud) to interpret the symbols that come in dreams and their relationship with you and your thinking, whether it’s your conscious thinking or your unconscious thinking, which is the activity of your subconscious mind:

Animals in dreams

They always symbolize your connection with nature. If you live in the city and don’t interact with any natural aspects, then most likely animals won’t visit you much in your dreams.

Children in dreams

They represent new needs. Starting a new project, being optimistic about a new idea, something in your work that you’re looking forward to, etc. And it could simply mean you miss being a child ๐Ÿ™‚.

Someone chasing you?

One of the most common dreams among people. Usually, the reason behind it stems from the anxiety that people feel. The feeling of being chased in a dream is usually so strong that you remember the details of the dream easily when you wake up. Most of the time, the reason for this dream is not a fear of someone chasing you in real life, but rather an expression that you are personally avoiding something in your life.

Clothing in dreams

Clothing is generally associated with people’s opinions, meaning it reflects how we think others see us, our appearance.

Religious symbols

They are directly related to the situations that people encounter and have no standalone explanation, such as a mosque, church, cross, crescent, etc.

School/classroom in dreams

It’s normal to dream about a classroom or school if you are a student or a teacher because it’s a place where you spend most of your day. However, if you dream about it and you are an adult who hasn’t been to school in years, it means you need to make more effort to understand yourself better.

Unexpected exam in a dream

One of the most common dreams and one of the clearest and most direct messages from your subconscious mind. An exam or test that you’re not ready for means you need to learn from your mistakes. You may be afraid of failing at something because you haven’t learned from your mistakes and experiences. It reflects the normal anxiety a person may feel if they have something important coming up.

Death in a dream

It’s not necessarily a dramatic thing. It signifies a radical change happening in your life that will make you give up things you do in exchange for other things. The dream includes death not as a condition for the change to be bad.

Terrifying falling in a dream

Falling in a dream signifies something significant in your life that is happening beyond your control. And we say terrifying falling because we are not talking here about the falling sensation that you might enjoy.

Loss of any sense (like speech) in a dream

It indicates a feeling of anxiety, whether it’s psychological and pathological, or just normal or temporary anxiety about something happening in your life.

Feeling paralyzed in a dream

It’s a natural “organic” feeling that occurs if you dream while transitioning between different stages of sleep to deep sleep. Sometimes it also signifies the person’s psychological feeling of not being in control of their life enough.

Eating in a dream

It symbolizes energy, knowledge, or nourishment in general. So, eating good food means you are satisfied with the inputs you have (whether physical, spiritual, or intellectual), and so on. It’s very normal to dream about being hungry, by the way. “A hungry person dreams of a bread market,” is a real saying, by the way.

House in a dream

It represents your thoughts, your mind. The different floors often represent different levels of your thinking. The basement often represents things you have forgotten or neglected. The bedroom represents the close relationships to your heart, and the dream is usually more associated with them.

Have you ever killed someone in your dream?

Don’t worry, you’re not the new murderer in town or anything. The idea is that you want to kill something within yourself (a feeling, a habit, etc.). The characteristics of the person you’re killing may indicate what kind of thing you want to end.

Marriage in a dream

It could simply mean you want to get married in real life. Nothing to be ashamed of ๐Ÿ™‚

Missing your flight or trip in a dream

This dream is also common among people and usually reflects your annoyance at missing a certain opportunity. Focus with me here, it’s not about missing a specific opportunity, but it’s about your annoyance at the loss of the opportunity and how your mind is preoccupied with it.

Money in a dream

Money represents change. Depending on how you receive it or what you do with it, it signifies different things.

Mountains in a dream

If you’re climbing a mountain and succeed, you feel accomplished, so make the most of it and enjoy it. If you see mountains from afar, it means you feel like you’re under a microscope in a certain aspect of your life.

Nudity in a dream

It’s not very polite, I know, but it signifies your need for people to acknowledge you more. You need to analyze this feeling and whether the people you want acknowledgment from deserve this effort and thinking.

Sexual relations

This dream is the easiest. It directly indicates your desire to have a sexual relationship, nothing fancy. It’s also a strong dream and sometimes leads to wet dreams during your sleep.

Your school teachers in a dream

It’s not unusual to dream about them if you’ve been away from school for a while. Your teacher in the dream represents the ideal. Whether you need an ideal, see yourself as an ideal, have an ideal that influences your life, etc.

Your tooth fell out in a dream?

You might be afraid of becoming disabled or not being attractive or tempting enough for people to know you, especially the opposite sex.

Feeling trapped in a dream

Also a widely spread dream among people, it indicates your bad feeling about not being able to decide on something happening in your life.

Driving in a dream

Driving, whether a plane, a car, a motorcycle, etc., generally reflects our impression of how much control we have over the path of our lives.

Sea/river/water in a dream

Water often represents our feelings or our unconscious minds. The type of water (like a rough sea or calm sea/river) is often influenced by how much control we have over our feelings in reality.

Flying in a dream

Great! Flying in a dream means you feel like you can control your life the way you see fit. You feel like you are heading towards your defined goals in life. If you’re flying high, it’s a beautiful thing and confirms the previous meaning. If you’re flying close to the ground, struggling to avoid things to fly, it means the same thing but with some obstacles.

People you know in the dream

Seeing other people in your dream is often a reflection of the different aspects of you as a person. So, depending on who you see in the dream, you might feel the need to develop what in yourself. If, for example, your father saw you as the head of the household, when you see him in the dream, you feel the need to take care of this aspect (taking care of the household). Of course, this is an example for explanation, not for interpreting your dream!!

Please mind that you might dream about things that don’t have any meaning other than you were thinking about them a lot while you were awake, nothing more. Whether you think about them a lot because you wish they would happen or because you’re afraid they might happen. Like a person you miss and think about, wanting children, wanting to ride a plane, being afraid of heights and afraid of falling, and so on. So, you need to look inside yourself to know how to differentiate whether these are symbols or just reflections of things happening in your day that continue in your sleep.

Disclaimer: These are interpretations from different scholars, not more, and an attempt by them to connect these symbols with the ideas your subconscious mind thinks about and comes out when you’re asleep because your conscious mind’s control becomes limited at night (the thoughts that escaped, so to speak ๐Ÿ™‚) and not an attempt to predict the future or the unseen or any of that.

About the author

Simon Rudoplh, PHD

Simon Rudoplh, PHD

A clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders and depression. I help patients develop coping strategies and overcome negative thought patterns. I'm passionate about research and involved in several studies aimed at improving mental health treatments.