Not long ago, I woke abruptly in the middle of the night. Tousle-haired and wild-eyed, I scanned the room in search of my sister, convinced she was to blame for what felt like stones being thrown at my chest moments before. Nursing the dull ache that resonated there, I called out; no response. I switched on the light, ready to scold, and again, the culprit was nowhere to be found. Even as I staggered my way to my sister’s bedroom, blinking obtusely and still half-asleep, I was convinced I would find her smirking and wide awake, proud to have pulled off such a stupid prank. She was, of course, fast asleep. The following morning, I searched my bed for pebbles, grumbled about it over breakfast, and only after being laughed at by multiple confidants did I accept the boring truth that it must all have been a dream.
Ruling out the odds that we have a new poltergeist in the house, the incident got me thinking. I set to work, exploring the possible causes of my brain conjuring a sensation so vivid and convincing. I was intrigued to find a wealth of meaning in my dreamtime stones, the most notable being ideas about personal change and evolution. More specifically, spiritual author and dream enthusiast, Theresa Cheung suggests that having stones thrown at you could link to guilt over past wrongdoings. It was this part of my research that sent me into a state of reflection, and prompted me to think about the real purpose of our dreams.
From blood to bananas, the features of our dreams can be used to understand feelings or impulses too subtle in our waking hours. They can, in a sense, act as nudges from our subconscious; encouragements to do, realise, consider or stop something. Out of curiosity, I explored some of the most common dream themes and what they might be telling us about our lives.
Dreams "can, in a sense, act as nudges from our subconscious; encouragements to do, realise, consider or stop something."
One branch of common dreams are anxiety dreams. It is safe to say that many of us have probably experienced a number of these over this past cruel year; they usually involve an event that would be considered horribly stressful, were we to experience it in reality. From time to time I dream about a malfunctioning phone or, more specifically, malfunctioning fingers. No matter how hard I try to punch a phone number in, I can’t. Interestingly, dreams of this nature can point to poor communication in a relationship in your life. Perhaps it seems a clear explanation, but dreaming situations where we are struggling to reach a goal or arrive at a certain place might indicate that we ought to reevaluate a real-life choice.
Similarly, a lot of people experience dreams of losing teeth, or being naked in public, both of which stem from ideas about self-image. Losing teeth can indicate a sense of instability, of something being at risk of falling apart, while nakedness exposes us and the parts of ourselves we are looking to hide. This is most likely on a deeper level than just our physical body; it is a prompt to consider our internal insecurities, things we wish to strive for that we tend to second-guess, and vulnerability in expressing our true selves.
"Dreams are, in my opinion, our sturdiest bridge to magic."
I may be a few years free of the place, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes revisits my old school in my dreams. Aside from flunking exams or feeling unprepared (which are both signs of anxiety), a simple return to a school day can be a sign of nostalgia, a yearning for youth, or even a link to a new upcoming change in our waking lives that stems from the person we were at school. If the dream presents school in a negative way, then it is possible that we must take the social lessons we learned in our early years and apply them to our new endeavours of adult life to ensure we prosper.
Another theme that piqued my interest was animals. We all have a handful of dreams that don’t fade away like the rest. One of mine occurred when I was five and I remember it as clearly as if I had dreamt it last night. It was more of a nightmare, really; the result of watching Spirited Away one too many times. I watched my dad transform into a pig, my mum a chicken, and my sister something less distinct in view of the fact that I was screaming at this point, but I’m pretty sure she had a mane. Transforming into animals—coined “zoomorphism”—signifies a loss of restraint, embracing freedom and other ideas surrounding independence that have left me pondering over my five-year-old state of mind.
Dreams are, in my opinion, our sturdiest bridge to magic. They are transcendent but so elusive, often slipping away too quickly to be caught and understood fully. Some dreams are common, however, and collected research shows that the themes can reflect our waking life. If this is the case, it is safe to say that our subconscious creations are there to push us in the right direction. If you are interested in the meanings of your dreams, I suggest you invest in a copy of Theresa Cheung’s The Dream Dictionary from A to Z.