When you think about it, dreaming is a really, really bizarre behavior experienced by every human being on the planet. Dreams are abstract, emotional, often elaborate mini-dramas that happen to us without our consent or control. We may not remember most of them, but powerful dreams can affect us on a deep emotional level, filling us with vague feelings of fear, anxiety, pleasure, and confidence — depending on the dream, of course. Certain unsettling omens commonly feature in dreams, and many people experience recurring themes or symbols while dreaming. (I, for example, dream that my teeth are spontaneously falling out every few months. Apparently, it’s a sign of stress and feelings of powerlessness. Yay?)
There are certain symbols in dreams that may seem threatening on their faces, but that actually may be indicative of good things happening in your subconscious. The key is that there is no absolute symbolism to dreams; their meaning changes according to context and to the feelings and experiences of the dreamer. As psychologist Dr. William Braun told Harper’s Bazaar, “Dreams can go many ways," so that even if two people have the same dream, it’s meaning can be totally different, depending on what is going on in each person’s mind. If you’re dreaming about potentially disturbing images or situations, take heart: They might mean something good.
Dreams about death may be frightening, but dreaming about death or dying doesn’t mean that you or someone you love is about to kick the bucket. In dreams, death may simply be a symbol of a major change ahead, the loss of one way of life and the birth of another. Elisa Robyn, trained astrologer, dream expert, and PhD in Educational Philosophy, tells Bustle, “If we dream that we are dying, we are dreaming about a big transformation of some type. Perhaps we are changing our careers or relationships or other life choices. We are probably reinventing ourselves, or wanting to reinvent our life.” So, the next time you wake up scared because you see someone (or even yourself) dying in a dream, relax. It probably means something good is coming your way.
The positivity or negativity of falling in a dream depends on how you fall, explained Suzanne Bergmann of DreamsCloud in an interview with the Huffington Post. Although falling from a cliff or tall building could be a sign that you feel out of control, slow, steady falling can be a sign of positive release, tranquility, or letting go. “For some people ... if they are enjoying falling, they might be feeling a sense of freedom. Imagine falling into a pool of warm water. This is your subconscious telling you that you are OK and will be safe,” Robyn says. You falling in a dream just might mean that everything is falling into place for you.
Depending on your situation in life, dreaming about being pregnant could be either enjoyable or highly disturbing. However, dreaming of pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll soon have a bun in the oven (though, if you’re trying to get pregnant and see this dream, it could mean your wait is over); rather, it’s a sign of something new in your life. “In most situations pregnancy is an indication of being ‘pregnant’ with a new opportunity or idea or exciting challenge. We might be about to start a new career or go to school. For some women pregnancy dreams are indicative of a wish to start something new,” Robyn says. This new thing could be anything from a new project to a new phase in your career — it’s about development, change, and starting a new chapter.
4. Being Chased
Being chased in a dream can be a sign that you feel anxious or overwhelmed, but Ian Wallace, author of The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert, suggested in the book that these dreams may be actually be positive. He contended that we produce these dreams “because of an opportunity we are becoming aware of in waking life.” He addded that our dreams represent our willingness to pursue this new possibility, writing, “rather than trying to avoid this opportunity, we are looking at ways to actively engage with it.”
Robyn tells Bustle that this dream can also serve as a realization. “We are [usually] being chased by something we want to be free of. It is also possible that we are running from something that we need to face. This can also mean that we feel overwhelmed by life,” she says. This dream might just be the wake-up call you need to face that issue or handle that problem that keeps coming back to you.
The meaning of nudity in dreams is all about context. In some dreams, being naked in front of others can be a symbol of your feelings of vulnerability or anxiety, but nudity isn't always negative. Nakedness can also be a sign of your own confidence, your feelings of openness and trust, or your freedom to be totally honest. “We feel exposed, or we wish to expose our true self,” Robyn says. “If we are walking with confidence, then we want to show up as our true self.” Experiencing nakedness in a dream could be a telltale sign that you should begin being more true to your authentic self.
Snakes are frightening for many people, but as dream expert Barbara Condron told the Huffington Post, “snakes represent the dreamer's creative urge toward wisdom.” She suggested that snakes themselves aren’t inherently negative or positive symbols. Their meaning depends on the “slant” we bring to the table; in North America and Europe, snakes often have a negative connotation due to their association with the fall of man in the Bible. Condron explained that snakes in dreams reflect come kind of creative endeavor occurring in the dreamer’s waking life.
Robyn considers seeing snakes as a positive sign, too. “This is different in different cultures. However, snake usually represent some type of change or rebirth,” she tells Bustle. “Snakes shed their skin, and we are ready to shed our old self and emerge as a new person. Snakes can also be a sign of healing in many cultures.”
7. Sex with someone who isn’t your partner Or With Someone You Aren't Attracted To
Sex dreams can mean a lot of things, and many of them don’t really have anything to do with sexual desire. (That said, it’s natural to have sexy dreams about someone to whom you’re attracted, and there’s no need to worry or feel guilty if you’re dreaming about someone other than your partner. You have a right to your own erotic inner life). It can feel really strange to have a sex dream about someone to whom you’re not usually attracted (like a friend) or with whom it would be inappropriate to have sex (like your boss), but you can take comfort in the fact that having a sexual dream about someone you know does not mean that you harbor a latent sexual desire for him or her. Often the people we have sex with in dreams are reflective of qualities that we would like to integrate into ourselves, such as leadership skills, confidence, or intelligence.
“At times this can also mean we are ready to look beyond what we think we want and be open to new ideas and people,” Robyn tells Bustle.
8. Sex With A Stranger
A lot of people have dreams about sex with strangers, whose faces are often unclear or concealed by masks. These dreams can be indicators that you have a talent you’ve been hiding away that you should reveal to the world. According to psychologist Gillian Holloway, these dreams could also be ways that you’re figuring out what you want in a real life partner. Robyn believes these dreams can tell us about ourselves too. “This is a very common dream. We are ready to feel passionate in our lives and want to be attracted to our own traits,” she says. “If we are female we want to embrace our masculine traits and strengths, and visa-versa.”
While having dreams that feature any of these omens might feel unsettling at first, you can rest assured that their meaning doesn't necessarily have to be negative — it's all about reframing their connotation, and figuring out what your brain is trying to tell you about your waking life.
This article was originally published on October 28, 2015 and was updated on June 26, 2019.
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