Deciphering my dreams
June 19, 2008 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Most of my dreams are either exactly the same or have recurring themes. Help me decipher them.

I have a very good memory and somehow it helps me recall the dreams I have every night. This is quite cool as they are very complex and often entertaining to tell other people; it seems that the great amount of details makes them amusing.

However, what bothers me is that they are either similar in content (sometimes exactly the same) or have the same recurring themes:

1) I am locked in a house and there's somebody else inside, most of the times a robber. This prompts me to wake up and check all the doors for the nth time.

2) I'm in an airplane that crashes but I survive, though very hurt. (I do a LOT of business travel, so that may be a hint)

3) I kill my own family (parents and brothers), usually with a firearm. (In real life I have no problems with my family and never touched a gun)

4) Somebody is beating me up and I can't hit back (my punches are like those of a little girl), or somebody's chasing me (to try to rob me) and my legs won't move, I lose control over them.

5) I'm drowning. Sometimes this is mixed with 2): I'm at a plane that crashes on the water and I keep drowning there forever.

6) I fly. Not like the superman or anything, but very small flights above other people in closed spaces. Example: i'm at a party and I amuse people by demonstrating my ability to sustain a few seconds of levitation above them.

My former girlfriend is a psychologist and she says I have a knack for analyzing other people (she asks me questions about herself on a regular basis) and even their dreams (same), but I can't figure out what to think of mine.

What are some common interpretations of the themes listed above?
posted by dcrocha to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
All of those dreams feature you not being in control or you having a fear of not being in control. Bigger theme might be you not doing the thing you want to do.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:31 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a knack for analyzing other people (she asks me questions about herself on a regular basis) and even their dreams (same), but I can't figure out what to think of mine.

I bet a practicing Jungian psychologist would have a lot to say about your dreams if you're interested in in-depth analysis.
posted by arnicae at 9:33 PM on June 19, 2008

Hmmm. Cue shitstorm of cod Psychology. There's no such thing as a common interpretation. See a therapist (Analytical). No, seriously.
posted by Blacksun at 9:33 PM on June 19, 2008

I found this "Dream Yoga" site has an interesting process for analyzing dreams. Basically the idea is to try to take on the perspective of each character or element in the dream and see how it relates to all the other characters or elements. In this way you can reveal some of the shadow elements that you can't see from your normal waking perspective.
posted by dixie flatline at 9:40 PM on June 19, 2008

Long time lucid dreamer/dream interpreter.

These are all (with the exception of #6) attributable to fear in your life.

1- Fear of invasion/security. Think business, relationships, and the obvious: home.
2- Fear of unsettled disaster or future problems stemming from life crises (Death or plane recovery prior to crash in this situation would mean loose ends are wrapped up)
3- Fear of losing control or doing something irrational.
4- Fear of personal weakness during times of crisis
5- I think this is a legitimate fear of drowning..
6- Means you have gifts you aren't expressing fully in your wake life. (Doesn't it feel good to show off? I used to have a variation of #6 frequently)

Take these with a grain of salt, but overall I would recommend pushing forward in your life with confidence!

Find comfort in unsurety for the future and the happy dreams will recur :)
posted by bradly at 9:45 PM on June 19, 2008

The very best advice I ever had when it came to dream interpretation was to comletely forget what any book, reference, or outside source said a given dream "meant." Your dream is your own personal private mythology, after all, so whatever symbols in your dreams are things that will make sense only to your subconscious.

What you should do, they went on, is to write down the dream in as much detail as you can -- and then starting at the beginning, take each and every detail, ask yourself, "what does this mean to me?" For example - with the dream where you kill the rest of your family with a firearm. say you start with your mother in the dream. What does your mother mean to you? What does killing her mean to you? What does that gun you're holding mean to you? then you go on to your brother in the dream -- what does he mean to you?

Get enough detail down, and ask yourself what each one means, and you'll start seeing connections that you never thought of.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dream Dictionary (pdf) more about dreams
posted by hortense at 10:04 PM on June 19, 2008

I assume everyone in the dream is me. Then I analyze what part of me is in each person and study the actions I take.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:26 PM on June 19, 2008

I realize you asked this question in a context of dream interpretation, and that's fine, but it might help you to understand that much of the scientific world considers dreams almost entirely meaningless--either your brain is firing random impulses, or it's doing some "bookkeeping" like organizing memories, shifting things from short- to long-term memory, and so on, and your consciousness is stringing those random impulses and images together into stories.

Also, interestingly, your dreams might not take place in real time at all--they may be created instantaneously when you wake up as a way for your brain to explain the images that are going across it at that moment. And the distinction between having "a really good memory" and "a really good imagination" is very fuzzy, as your unconscious mind might create the details after the fact.

(I have some recurring dreams along the same lines as yours, and some I'd consider much worse, and it helps me to understand the scientific aspects of what can cause them.)

Having said that, I have to agree with bradly that all of the dreams seem to be about fear or stress. (except for #6, which just means that flying is cool.) I'd guess that your daily life includes some elements of fear or stress--whether real or due to anxiety--and your dreams end up centered around the same feelings you have during the day.

Note that it's also quite possible that you're having all sorts of dreams about cupcakes and rainbows and teddy bears, but you only remember the fear-based ones because they have a strong emotional component, or because they wake you up.
posted by mmoncur at 12:18 AM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

I had similar dreams where I am in a helpless situations like in the middle of a robbery, someone dangerous approaching me and I can't open the car door or something, and it's always a matter of my doing something about it but I can't...nothing comes out when I try to scream or whatever.

This got me thinking a lot about stuff but one night when I was having a similar dream, I remembered that I have to scream so I did! IN MY SLEEP, and that woke me up. I haven't had any dreams like that since.

This advice prolly doesn't help but try to figure out the things that are happening in your life that makes you feel the same way, and try to come up with a solution.
posted by icollectpurses at 5:23 AM on June 20, 2008

they are either similar in content (sometimes exactly the same) or have the same recurring themes:
What does that mean precisely?

What are your dreams usually like? And how are these different?

I need more details! :)
Why are you there?
Are 'you' you?
What are you thinking?
Who are you with?
How does everything make you feel, and then how do those things change?
ect. ect. ect. ...

And possibly very importantly - anything new happen? Colours, sensations ect. Anything that's never happened before?

But on another subject, I find it really disturbing you get up to check. I've had a stretch of those dreams... Are you not safe?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 5:36 AM on June 20, 2008

much of the scientific world considers dreams almost entirely meaningless

This is somewhat misleading. Many consider psychology a science, and I don't know any psychologist that would agree that dreams are meaningless.
posted by charlesv at 7:35 AM on June 20, 2008

These are common dream themes that everyone gets. I think asking "Hey help me decode my dreams" is a lot like saying "Hey, everytime I make tea there's some pattern in the leaves. Help me decipher them." Of course your mood (especially at waking) may affect dreams, but the idea that dreams are this nightly puzzle for you to solve has been discredited. Sorry but, anything about 'dream dictionaries' and such is a pseudoscience.

Dreams have been shown to be almost completely meaningless and dream interpretation to be even more so. I think how television writers think psychiatrists work makes people think that dream interpretation is a valid discipline. Its not.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:41 AM on June 20, 2008

Normally I'd say dream interpretation is a bunch of hokey, but...

Are these the *only* dreams you have? If you have other dreams and these are the only repeating ones, I wouldn't worry about it. They're quite common and I've had most of them myself.

If these are really your only dreams or nearly so, then it seems pretty obvious that there is a big element of stress somewhere in your life. Grad school? Job unhappiness? Find out what it is and alleviate it.
posted by GardenGal at 8:30 AM on June 20, 2008

I don't believe in a dictionary approach to dream analysis. You can't separate the dreams from your own fears or experience. Generally you dream about things that are currently on your mind. Be aware of what you are thinking by keeping a journal and then it should become pretty clear where those dreams are coming from.

A day's stresses at work or at school are going to be reflected in anxiety dreams. Do some self-analysis of your random thoughts during the day. Sometimes you have some fleeting thoughts or moments of reflection while you are sitting on the can, driving, or eating that can shed some light as to what is going on in your subconscious mind.
posted by JJ86 at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2008

I used to have those "can't put any power behind the punches" dreams a zillion years ago. Never figured out what it was about, they just went away.

I believe that this, and the "try to run/walk but can't" are due to the fact that most people become paralyzed while asleep. If you are dreaming of moving and your body tries to move in the same way you won't be able to do it - the dream then picks that up.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:44 AM on June 20, 2008

It's not necessarily within the domain of science to decide what is or isn't meaningful at a human level. For example, you could also make the argument that "science says all experience is just a bunch of brain chemicals", and reason from there that it is impossible for us to make any meaningful judgments about morality, art, etc.

I would agree that interpreting dreams from a strict "dream dictionary" approach is pretty worthless. However, the value in dreams is that they show can you perspectives that ultimately are "you" but that you don't identify with because they're suppressed--the "shadow" in Jungian terms. Recognizing and reintegrating the shadow is a pretty well-accepted (if not universally, I'm sure) psychological process.

It would be similar to going to a therapist, and as the therapist continually mirrors your own viewpoint back to you, you eventually start to recognize aspects of your attitude that were hidden before.

You generally need some kind of process to identify this "shadow" material; by its very nature it's unconscious and is not going to be revealed by your ordinary thinking patterns. Investigating dreams is not the only available approach, but it is a valid and useful one.
posted by dixie flatline at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2008

There's a theory that popped up recently that dreams are the way our brain rehearses for things it thinks might happen.

Here's how I interpret dreams. Instead of getting caught up in the situation, look at the feelings. Also look at how the situation differs from the obvious.
1)I am locked in a house and there's somebody else inside, most of the times a robber. This prompts me to wake up and check all the doors for the nth time.
I would guess in this dream you feel trapped, and threatened. Where else do you feel trapped and threatened? What is the robber's goal...i.e.What are you afraid of? How can the robber harm you? What vulnerabilty are you rehearsing?
2) I'm in an airplane that crashes but I survive, though very hurt. (I do a LOT of business travel, so that may be a hint)
Does the crash happen before the dream begins, or is that part of the dream? If so, how do you feel before the crash, during it? In what way are you very hurt? What feelings do those injuries cause? i.e, if you lost your legs in the crash, or you're impaled on a beam, you might feel very stuck....or very overwhelmed with wreckage.
3) I kill my own family (parents and brothers), usually with a firearm. (In real life I have no problems with my family and never touched a gun)
Is there a reason the dream-you does this or is it a pre-dream reason? Do you feel awful about doing it while it's happening/after it happens or are you neutral? Do you hate yourself for doing it? Are you glad it's done? This probably means nothing about your family itself but about a situation that shares power/control/responsibility/vulnerability-issues with this situation.

Anyway, that should be enough to get you going.
posted by Brainy at 12:12 PM on June 20, 2008

To give a more specific example of what I mean about investigating shadow:

There's a technique you might try applying called the "3-2-1 technique". Basically the idea is to take a character from the dream, then relate to them in first the third, then the second, then the first person. In the third person you just describe them; in the second you imagine a conversation with them; and in the first you speak as if you are them.

For example, in the dream with the robber, you might say:

(third person) You: "There is a robber in my house. I don't want him here. He's frightening to me."
(second person) You: "Why the hell are you here? I don't want you here. Go away." Robber: "I need something that you have. I know I can get away with it and you can't stop me."
(first person) Robber: "I'm robbing the dreamer's house. I know this is upsetting to the dreamer, but I don't care because there's a reason that getting what I need is more important."

Of course this is completely made up and you have to substitute your actual thoughts and feelings about the situation. Try to stay with each perspective until it feels like it's complete. At the end you might be surprised how easy it is to arrive at an insight that seems obvious but you couldn't see at all when you started. For example, in my made-up example it might be that in trying to keep yourself secure, you're withholding some resource or capability that some part of yourself really needs. You could get more specific by examining in the 2nd person exactly what it is the robber came for.

It only takes a few minutes to do this, and the results can be interesting, so if you're interested enough in dreams to think about them regularly, I think it's worth giving it a fair try. Also, you can do this on a significant object in the dream that's not a human character, e.g. the plane in the plane crash dream, or the water in the drowning dream.

(Sorry to post multiple times but I thought this might be helpful.)
posted by dixie flatline at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2008

I realize I'm late to this party, but I have to contribute.

I pretty much always remeber my dreams, and while, unlike you, they don't always fit into these general scenarios, I can say that the ones you describe are certainly among the ones I do get several times, and the ones that make me think about what they might mean. So, I got all of them, except for murdering the family or the airplane crash.

For me, they're either nightmares or really good dreams. Nightmares include 1) (a lot of 1, though I always hide in a cupboard or closet until they've left, and I don't check locks afterwards)); 3), though usually not hitting, it's mostly talking/screaming/running. Really good dreams include 5) and 6).

As for the nightmares, I believe they have to do with control. I'm the type who likes to be in control, and these dreams play up on the fact that I know I'm really not. They prey on fears (the house robbery thing, I jot it down to a fear of intimacy - someone getting too close for comfort.)

Drowning is a really good dream, though I think I only had that one once. It was beautiful. I completely felt myself letting go of everything as I died - it sounds pretty awful, but it wasn't. Again, control. I let go of it, it felt great.

Flying. I fly loads, and these are generally sexual dreams. I can't really come up with a good explanation... But I feel sexual while having them, even though there's nobody else flying along. There's also a bit of fear in there, since I feel like I question what I'm doing in the dream to some degree, but mostly enjoy the feeling of it.
posted by neblina_matinal at 7:44 AM on June 26, 2008

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