We spend about a third of our lives asleep — and for around two hours each night, we dream, even if we don’t remember those dreams.
Dreams can be pleasurable, terrifying or strange, and they are also the way our unconscious mind processes experiences and revives us for the day ahead.
But what do our dreams really mean? Is the sleeping brain trying to tell us anything important? In many years of work as a dream interpreter, I have learnt that dreams can reveal to us things we fail to see about ourselves — but the information they carry is often obscured in strange images and feelings.
Here, I explain some of the most common dream meanings.
Dream expert Tony Crisp, shared his interpretations for some of the most common dreams including taking a flight, graveyards and falling (file image)
Everyone has sexual desires about people other than their partner. If you are having sex with another person in a dream, it may be a harmless way to flirt with the idea of sexual adventure.
If you dream that your partner is having sex with someone else, you may be feeling uncertain of your own value and wondering whether you are lovable. These feelings may hide painful dependence on your loved one.
Making love to someone you dislike can mean you are getting involved with distasteful things.
Being in a plane indicates that you are making changes, or altering your situation in some way.
Dreams where you watch an aircraft take off, or fly, can point to a project you have launched. A crash-landing may suggest problems ahead.
Being attacked or bombed by aircraft can indicate anxiety attacks or feeling threatened. A grounded plane represents difficulties in getting plans or a relationship started.
The angel can be the positive side of a relationship with someone you love, such as your mother. It can also represent intuitions about death, or a need for a parent figure to guide or instruct you in decision-making.
Tony says dreaming of beaches can relate to a connection between your conscious self and deep thoughts from the background of your mind (file image)
Anything relating to snow can point to long-frozen emotions and urges. The avalanche may show something is disturbing inner feelings that have lain cold and apparently dead for a long time.
To find an object on the beach is to locate something that has come from deep within. It is the point of connection between your conscious self and all that exists in the background of your mind.
To dream of a bird may suggest a sense of freedom from material ties. Being in the nest and hatching depicts pregnancy, birth and becoming independent.
A young bird’s first flight recalls our struggle to exist unaided by parents.
This suggests you are feeling in an ‘in-between state’. If the corridor provokes difficult feelings, you may feel unable to flee from a bad situation.
The expert claims dreaming of dancing can be symbolic of relationships, both the prelude to a new sexual relationship and the harmony with a current partner (file image)
If you are dancing with someone, it usually means a loving relationship, or it can be the prelude to a new sexual relationship. If the dance seems awkward and unnatural, it shows there is a lack of harmony with your partner.
This can suggest that you are angry with your partner, or that you fear for your marriage. It can also suggest a difficulty with your feelings and intellect. Occasionally, this indicates the future, because you sense a parting.
This points to great anxiety. The dream often occurs when big personal changes are taking place.
Revisiting the examination hall usually points to some uncertainty in yourself, or a search for deeper understanding. If there is anxiety in the dream, it may relate to feelings about yourself that you learnt at school.
Tony says dreams set in a cemetery are common when dealing with thoughts and feelings of death (file image)
Falling in a dream illustrates a drop in confidence or feelings of falling from power, grace or love. It can also signify the fear of not being in control in a new relationship. Floating often suggests the dreamer is getting close to someone of the opposite sex.
To feel fear in a dream means you have not yet developed abilities to cope with whatever is causing the fear.
If you are the giant, it may mean you have feelings of power over others. If someone else is the giant, it may indicate feelings of inferiority, lack of power, or fear. A giant can also represent feelings you had about parents who, in your childhood, were ‘giants’ physically and emotionally.
You are probably dealing with thoughts and feelings about death, or the dream may be a form of contact with someone you know who has died. The cemetery may also refer to things in your life you have ‘buried’.
Tony claims dreaming of the hairdressers is often related to questions in the mind about how you can change the way people see you (file image)
There may be a question in your mind about how you can change the way people see you. It can also be connected with attention to the way you think, or how you appear.
This indicates making changes to the way you live and feel. Depending on what you are doing, you may be clearing out old attitudes and things you have held on
to, or adding new features to your life and personality.
DreamS of illness are often a way of making you aware that you have painful feelings which need to be addressed. Often these feelings were experienced, but not fully felt, earlier in your life and need to be healed or released.
Sometimes dreams about illness show the early signs of breakdown in your body — if they are very worrying, see your doctor for a check-up. Tests have shown that men with serious illness have often dreamt about death, and women have dreamt of break-up and separation.
If you are becoming invisible or appear out of nowhere, it suggests something relating to or emerging from your unconscious, or being forgotten. It can also mean that hidden influences are at work around you.
The dream expert revealed jungles often represent hidden ancient urges and processes that are still alive within you (file image)
The dream journey is a comment on what is happening in your life and how you feel about it. It may relate to new experiences or undertakings. The dream journey will show you what strengths are helping, and what is hindering, your travels through life.
This represents the ancient, instinctive urges and processes that are alive in you but often hidden. They include the most important directives in life — survival and reproduction.
A place of transformation where you can change parts of your nature. It also links with how well you provide for yourself or neglect your body’s needs.
This shows you attempting to get somewhere that is out of reach or difficult to attain. Perhaps it involves risks and anxiety. The ladder may be a symbol of social success or failure.
Tony says dreaming of mazes portrays the feelings towards things that confuse you and a need for help (file image)
A list may present you with choices to make and refer to all the decisions you are facing. It may remind you of important thoughts, facts or situations of which you need to be aware.
This often portrays the things and feelings that confuse you. Sometimes you need to admit you are lost and need help.
In many dreams, money depicts your power to change things or do things, or it can be about having power over someone else. Its loss can suggest a feeling of effort expended for nothing.
In some dreams, people search through or dig in the mud. This represents the cleansing of emotions caused by outer circumstances, the looking through the muck of your life for treasure.
Dreaming of onions represents tears and can be symbolic of something we’re struggling to face says Tony (file image)
To be naked in a dream may show either a fear of, or a desire for, people knowing your real feelings. It can also be a fear of your real self being disclosed.
Some dreams in which you are naked show extreme self-consciousness about other people seeing you. In other cases, the dreamer enjoys being on view. Sexual feelings are often a part of these dreams.
An owl sometimes represents a fear of the dark or of your inner self, but it can also sometimes act as a guide or adviser.
This may represent tears, or something we find difficult to face. It sometimes represents the layers of your personality.
If you are in a car, it suggests you are following someone else’s lead. It can be a dependence on other people’s decisions, energy or drive. Or it may be a mutual direction being taken — in a business venture, for example. The dream of crashing or being in a crash is often about the sort of difficult collisions you sometimes have in relationships or at work.
Tony claims dreams about teeth falling out are often related to a sense of losing someone and fears about ageing (file image)
These are your feelings connected with your mother. It can also represent your ruling passions, or a desire to rule over others emotionally, or to be respected or acclaimed.
Rain symbolises a release of feelings. If the rain is gentle, it is usually a relaxing experience and suggests a release from ideas and intellect. If it is a downpour or a storm, it is feelings that may make you withdraw.
These can point to any aspect of your past. They may refer to an old relationship now in ruins, or to attitudes or a way of life that once existed for you.
This is trying to escape from an emotion or fear, or it can be rushing towards something. In a few dreams it expresses a sort of surrender to the joy of living.
This relates to the usefulness of various items, or a searching for your needs or things you want in what is usually seen as worthless. Perhaps it points to the recycling of past experiences, or of ideas, skills or attitudes you have obtained from other people.
The dream expert told how the response to a phone ringing can be interpreted differently based on whether or not you answer (file image)
If you dream of your teeth falling out, the cause may be a sense of losing someone you love. Missing teeth suggest fears about ageing.
A phone rings. If you don’t answer, it may suggest you are unwilling to listen to your inner feelings or intuitive advice, or be in a relationships with others. If there is no one on the other end, it suggests feeling alone.
An emergency call is probably a desperate attempt to be heard, or a cry for emotional help in a difficult situation.
This is an inability to face or cope with the emotions, fears, ideas or urges represented in the dream. It is important to find out where you felt that sort of terror in the past, as this releases its hold on you. This is not easy because many memories have never been verbalised, or occurred either before you were able to speak or when you were under anaesthetic.
This is about conformity. The uniform may also depict your identification with a social role, such as that of a nurse or teacher. In that case, it may be about how much you need the role for your sense of confidence.
Tony says dreams about washing your hair are representative of a change in your attitude and the way you present yourself to others (file image)
A holiday refers to being relaxed, or to experiencing a change in your feelings. It can also suggest a departure from your usual way of life, an opportunity to express yourself differently, or an attempt to be happy.
This is clearing out feelings such as despair. Washing hair means changing your attitude or the way you present yourself to others, or altering your view on something. Washing hands shows you getting rid of feelings about a thing you have done or were involved in.
These are invisible influences in your life. It can be an insight or a fear of being seen through, or looking at your inner self.
This is sometimes linked with cowardice but also, as a warm colour, with hopeful feelings.
This may link with your appearance or relate to connections with others or secrecy, as in the expression ‘keep it zipped’.
Be Your Own Dream Interpreter, by Tony Crisp (CICO Books) is out now.