However, common themes in dreams exist, according to Charles McPhee, a sleep medicine researcher who has compiled what he says is the world’s largest database of dreams. In a recent interview, McPhee, the self-proclaimed Dream Doctor who analyzes dreams on his nationally syndicated radio show, explained the most popular dreams and what they may mean:
Falling: Some experts believe falling is an analogy for lost support and uncertainty about the future. “You don’t know where you’re going to land,” McPhee said. “You’re nervous about it.” But others aren’t so sure dreams about falling really mean anything. One theory suggests such dreams, and others about not being able to get away from an attacker, simply reflect the fact your body effectively paralyzes itself during dreams. In other words, your body is aware it can’t move during sleep and creates a dream about it.
Water: Water could be a metaphor for emotion. “A tidal wave is a very common dream, even in people who have never seen an ocean,” McPhee said. He suggested they represent waves of emotion, so if you see people running for their lives that might mean you’re dealing with large emotions that you’re not sure you’ll survive.
Teeth falling out: This remarkably common dream, according to McPhee, means we are not happy with the way we look.“Women usually have that dream when their body undergoes changes, such as weight gain or pregnancy,” he said. “It’s an uncomfortable dream and reflects insecurity about [being] in public.”
Fire: Fire may be a metaphor of urgency. “There’s an urgent situation somewhere in your waking life that you feel you need to pay attention to because that’s what happens with fire in real life,” McPhee said. “You can't let it sit; you have to take care of it.”
Phone: Dreams involving phone calls can be metaphors for communication.If you are calling 911 in a dream, it probably means you need help with some aspect of your life. If you’re calling someone else and he or she never answers or the phone line is always busy, it could be a metaphor for a communication breakdown.
Infidelity: While dreams about cheating may be very common for married people, McPhee said, it rarely means that your spouse has been unfaithful. Infidelity dreams may simply reflect concerns that you’re not getting enough quality time with your partner.
Dreams featuring the deceased: If you dream about someone who has died, McPhee said, it is probably not a message from beyond, largely because most dreams involving the dead are very upsetting rather than comforting. Instead, he said, the dream is more likely to be about how you feel about the loss.
Naked: And that dream when you're making a presentation to your bosses in the nude? McPhee said you may feel exposed or insecure about something. But he said, if others in your dream don't notice you're naked, you’re probably overreacting. “The dream may help you realize that something that’s a big deal to you is not a big deal to someone else,” he said. “This is a good example of how once you understand the dream … the dream may be able to help you."
Kevin Ebi is a Seattle-based freelance writer and nature photographer. He specializes in technology, business and environmental issues. He has reported for CBS News and the Associated Press.
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