Freaky Dreams: What Do They Mean?
Whether it’s falling off a cliff or public nudity, find out what may be causing those vivid, crazy dreams.
Worrying About Weird Dreams
What are we to make of the crazy dreams of adults?
Cognitive scientist and Duke University professor Owen Flanagan is the author of Sleep, Dreams & the Evolution of the Conscious Mind. He has written that "Bizarreness will increase ... the more you have on your mind."
Bert. O. States, professor emeritus of dramatic arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agrees. In a paper called "Dream Bizarreness and Inner Thought," he writes, "Dreams are a psychical prism through which reality somehow gets refracted -- as opposed to reflected."
Deidre Barrett is the immediate past president of the International Association of the Study of Dreams and author of Committee of Sleep. She says all dreams are a little strange by waking thought standards. "But artists and scientists report dreams we call bizarre or weird as quite positive or interesting or having creative potential."
Moss tells WebMD, "Crazy dreams may actually be crazy like a fox, using wild dramas and special effects to get us to remember and pay attention to something we have been blocking out -- or simply to lighten up."
All of us can recall strange dreams. But interpreting and understanding them can be tricky.
Some of the most common dreams include teeth falling out (indicating a possible fear of aging or death), falling (loss of confidence or threat to security), or public nudity (feelings of vulnerability or exposure of weakness). These are examples of archetypal dreams that exist across time, culture, and people.
But most dreams are intensely personal. They reflect the underlying thoughts and feelings of the dreamer. Symbols -- images or objects with obvious meaning in daily life -- serve as metaphors, representing something partially known. A lion in a dream, for example, can mean something different to a circus performer than to a teen who claims it as her favorite stuffed animal. By examining each dream element and looking for parallels between associations, you can decipher a dream's meaning.
"Even if it doesn't initially make sense to you, contemplate the dream, meditate on it, marinate in it," suggests Sullivan Walden. "Pretend you are on a treasure hunt. Your interest in uncovering the mystery of what your dreams are telling you will lead you to the gold that is waiting for you."
Barrett says that you can explore dreams on your own, with a peer-led dream group, or with friends. "We are often blind to our own issues and associations. But someone else can see things objectively."
Moss recommends you play the 'What Part of Me' game -- pretending that everything in the dream is a part of you and notice what its condition or behavior may be saying to you about yourself. "In your dream house, for example, if there's a problem with the plumbing or a room you have never explored, what could that be saying about a part of you that needs some TLC or a part of your potential that is waiting to be recognized and opened up."
Another technique he offers is to listen for puns and double entendres. "If there's a train on the tracks in your dream, could it be prompting you to think about what 'track' you are on, what 'line' you are following? Say your dream features shoes. A shoe has a 'sole,' which sounds like 'soul,' so maybe the condition of your footwear in a dream says something about the state of your vital energy."