Dream interpretation can offer new perspectives into the nature of your mind, but it isn’t backed by research and might be best practiced with the help of a psychotherapist.
Dreams may reveal information about your emotions and thoughts, although in ways open to interpretation.
A good starting place for dream analysis is identifying common symbols and understanding what they might mean for you specifically.
Interpreting your dreams is likely to result in better results when you work with a psychotherapist specializing in dream analysis.
To interpret your dreams is to identify specific elements and try to understand if they hold any significance to you.
Dream interpretation has been used as a therapeutic tool. It may serve as a self-awareness resource when digging deeper into your subconscious and emotional state, and when you’re working on finding peace of mind.
Both Jungian theory and Gestalt therapy, for example, have included elements of dream analysis in their therapeutic approaches.
Jungian dream analysis considers individual symbols of each dream to be of great importance. These symbols may relate to your childhood experiences, spiritual perspectives, or culture.
For example, dreaming of a red hat lying on the floor of your high school could represent a present concern about your appearance or a need for social appreciation, something that you may have also felt when you were a teen.
A large aspect of dream interpretation considers your associations and what each symbol means to you personally. In that sense, interpreting your own dreams can be very effective.
Contrary to the Jungian analysis, Gestalt dream interpretation may not be about working with specific symbols but rather identifying the aspects of your personality that may need attention and bringing awareness to them.
Research on symbols or interpretations of dreams is limited and inconclusive, however.
The relationship between your mental health and what you dream about hasn’t been established yet, but some evidence suggests there is indeed a connection.
For example, researchers found that experiencing peace of mind before falling asleep was linked to a higher chance of pleasant dream experiences. On the other hand, anxiety typically led to negative dream affect.
Study authors suggested that based on these preliminary findings, dreams have the potential of being mental health markers, giving you insights into your mental well-being.
And since dreams do often involve emotional responses, it’s also been hypothesized that they may help you process and manage emotions. They would serve as a way to emotionally reset and could prepare you for any emotional challenges you may face the following day.
Some experts believe there’s a connection between the sleep cycle and your emotional state.
In any case, more research on this topic may be needed.
You can explore dream interpretation by becoming familiar with common symbols. These symbols may mean many things, so keeping context and personal significance in mind is recommended.
Consider asking these questions when identifying symbols in your dreams:
- What was the symbol or object doing in your dream?
- What did it look like?
- Where was it?
- How did you feel about it while you were dreaming?
- How do you feel now when you think of it?
- What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this symbol in your dream?
Here are some of the most common symbols in dreams and what they could mean:
House or room
Houses and rooms can represent unexplored aspects of yourself.
For example, if the house or room was frightening, it could represent an aspect of yourself that you may feel fearful about exploring.
Looking into other symbols in the same dream scene may help you develop possible personal meanings.
As a source of affection for many people in the waking state, dogs can represent a need for love or affection.
If you’re fearful of dogs or dream of an aggressive one, it may mean you’re sensing danger about a specific situation or person, or you may feel hurt by someone and haven’t yet become aware of it.
Teeth can be symbols of aggression, assertiveness, or your “bite.”
Dreaming of falling teeth may indicate you’re experiencing intense stress or anxiety. It could also mean you’re fearful or concerned about a lack of control and power in your life.
Weapons such as guns typically involve themes surrounding personal power or control.
Dreaming of using weapons may be linked to the desire to hurt someone or have them disappear from your life. If you’re being hurt in the dream, it could mean you feel vulnerable in a situation or with a person.
Friends and family
People who appear in your dreams may reflect parts of your own personality. Analyzing these dreams may help to think about what the person was doing in the dream and what part of yourself you think may be shown to you through the other person.
Water may be a symbol of your emotions. If the water appears still and murky, it could represent a disconnect from your emotional state or the need to explore your own emotions.
Driving can be thought of as a type of forward momentum. If the car doesn’t start, you may feel stagnant or stuck. If the car is running smoothly, maybe you feel you’re making good progress on your life path.
If you dream about falling, you may be dealing with control challenges in your life.
If you felt relieved about falling, or it was a pleasant sensation in the dream, you may be letting go of some emotional weight and may now feel relieved.
If you felt scared while falling in your dream, you could be having a hard time not being able to control everything around you. It could also mean that you feel you’re letting someone down.
Interpreting your dreams takes patience, practice, and an open mind. It may be a good idea to remember that you give meaning to your own dreams by identifying symbols and thinking about what they mean to you personally.
The same dream can mean different things to different people in this sense. The same dream could also mean different things to you, depending on when you dream it.
Here are some tips to start analyzing your dreams:
1. Try to recall your dreams every day
The best time to recall your dreams is as soon as you wake up, while the dream is still fresh.
If you tend to wake up during the night, it might help to have a notebook next to the bed to record your dream before you fall asleep again. Recording a voice memo on your phone may also help.
It’s natural to only remember fragments of your dreams at first. They may seem vague or meaningless. The more you practice recalling them, the more details you’ll remember from your dreams.
2. Consider keeping a dream diary
In addition to writing or recording aspects of your dreams as soon as you wake up, keeping a more in-depth diary may help you with dream interpretation.
Based on your notes when you wake up, try to write down as much detail as you can remember. As you write every aspect of the dream, include how you feel or felt about those symbols or scenes.
If any ideas or memories come to you while you write about your dream, make a special note. These ideas, memories, or emotions give you more clues about what the dream may mean to you.
3. Telling someone about your dreams can help
Sometimes, it’s about how you describe a dream more than the dream itself.
As you tell someone else about your dream, try to become aware of how you describe specific symbols that may not be as clear at first.
Talking about your dreams with a psychotherapist may be particularly beneficial when trying to analyze them. They may be able to give you feedback about specific words you used or facial expressions you made, which could also add to the dream interpretation.
4. Try to identify symbols and associations
Once you write details about your dreams, try to read your notes again to identify hidden symbols that you may have missed at first.
Maybe you dreamed about cooking with your grandmother, which you wrote in your notes.
On a closer look, you may remember it wasn’t your grandmother’s kitchen or that all the windows were open and the wind was blowing inside the kitchen.
These aspects of your dream may also hint at the possible meaning of the dream.
Dream analysis can become an interesting tool for exploring your mental and emotional health.
You can interpret your dreams by learning more about common symbols, keeping a dream diary, and trying to identify personal associations.
Dream analysis may be better achieved by working with a psychotherapist. They might be able to link different aspects of your dreams and ask you specific questions that could lead to more profound insight.