Psychologist reveals what the 10 most common dreams mean

How to decode YOUR dreams: Psychologist reveals what the subconscious is trying to tell you if you’re troubled by death, snakes and paralysis during your sleep (and why you shouldn’t worry about cheating)

  • Psychologist has explained the meaning behind the ten most common dreams 
  • Dr Carmen Harra says if you forget dreams, it doesn’t mean you don’t have them 
  • Expert revealed what our subconscious is trying to tell us during our nightmares 

A psychologist has shed light on the meaning behind the ten most common dreams – including death, snakes and paralysis, as well as cheating, flying and falling.

Dr Carmen Harra, American author of Committed: Finding Love and Loyalty Through the Seven Archetypes, has revealed exclusively to FEMAIL what our subconscious is trying to tell us during our nightmares. 

‘Because they originate in the subconscious mind, dreams can reveal our deepest needs, fears, and desires,’ explained Dr Carmen. 

‘Dreams prompt us to examine our feelings and states of mind. They mainly occur during the rapid-eye movement or R.E.M. stage of sleep, when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake.’

And even if you forget your dreams, it doesn’t mean you don’t have them, explained  the psychologist, with people having between four to seven dreams each night. 

Here, the expert decodes the ten most common dreams…

A psychologist has shed light on the meaning behind the ten most common dreams – including death, snakes and paralysis, as well as cheating, flying and falling (stock photo)

1. The Dream: Chasing

Dreams that involve being chased by a person, animal, or frightening figure signal some form of anxiety or fear in the waking world.

The Meaning:

Dr Carmen says: ‘If you dream that you’re being chased, you might be avoiding some issues in your life. This dream reveals that instead of confronting an uncomfortable situation, you tend to navigate away from it. 

‘It can also mean that you don’t want to open your mind to new prospects or possibilities or that you don’t wish to acknowledge a certain part of yourself that is being suppressed. 

‘Being chased points to fears you may not want to face or people you may not want to see. If you’re the one chasing something or someone, it’s a sign of your ambition and determination or the need to catch up to others.’

3. The Dream: Death 

Death is perhaps the scariest dream to have but rest assured that it’s not an omen about a loved one actually dying. Rather, a death dream reflects a metaphoric end or beginning of some aspect of life.

The Meaning:

Dr Carmen says: ‘Dreaming about your own death denotes that you’re undergoing self-development and a great transformation: a part of you has “died” to give birth to something new. 

‘Perhaps you’re giving up old behaviours or destructive habits. You may also be sacrificing too much, giving up a portion of yourself for others. Seeing your own death in a dream can mean that you want to get rid of some significant obligation or difficulty in your life. 

Dreaming about the passing of a loved one, such as your parent, sibling, or child, suggests that your relationship with this person is evolving. On the other hand, dreaming about an ex dying tells you that you harbour resentment against them or that your feelings for them are, indeed, dead. 

‘Death dreams sometimes issue a wake-up call: your mind is trying to get your attention about something you need to address, like unhealthy lifestyle choices. 

‘If you dream of someone who has already died, their spirit may be trying to transmit an important message, or you may be trying to make peace with their passing. This sort of dream can help you cope with the loss of a loved one or get closure what wasn’t attained while they were alive. Dreaming about those who have passed can help you maintain a special connection with them.’

2. The Dream: Cheating

Dreams in which your significant other is cheating on you can be so disturbing that you wake up mad at your partner – but the good news is that dreams about infidelity rarely translate into such in the real world. Instead, they may indicate insecurities within yourself.

The Meaning:

The expert says: ‘If you were cheated on in a dream, you may be feeling neglected in your relationship. Lack of attention from or trust in your partner may trigger your subconscious mind to fabricate scenarios involving infidelity. 

‘You may also be experiencing fear of abandonment, as dreams about betrayal often originate from having been abandoned by a former partner or parent figure early on.

‘Cheating dreams should make you re-evaluate the way you regard yourself: you are more likely to have dreams in which your partner “chooses another” over you if you have low self-esteem and believe other women are prettier or better than you. 

‘In some cases, seeing that your partner is cheating on you in a dream is a red flag that you may be in denial about your partner cheating on you in real life. 

‘If you’re the one having an affair, however, you may be struggling with feelings of self-guilt: you have betrayed yourself in some way. This dream can also point to the fact that your partner may not be satisfying you fully.’

4. The Dream: Falling

Chances are you’ve had this dream once, twice, or every other night. Falling from a high ground such as a building, cliff, or airplane isn’t a pleasant dream to have but it has different meanings in the physical world.

The Meaning:

‘Dreams in which you are falling signify loss of control over your circumstances or insecurities about your current standing,’ says the psychologist.

‘Falling can also convey that you’re making poor decisions and are headed in the wrong direction. According to Freudian psychology, if you fall in a dream it can mean that you’ve given up your discretions and are about to give in to your temptations or sexual desires.’

5. The Dream: Flying

Flying is often seen as a positive, exhilarating dream. This dream falls under the category of lucid dreaming and carries feelings of being in control and finding freedom from something oppressive or burdensome.

The Meaning:

Dr Carmen explains: ‘Contrary to falling, flying dreams stand for control and personal power. These types of dreams mean you’ve gained a greater perspective and advantage over situations in your life. 

‘Flying symbolises that nothing is impossible and that you have the ability to make anything happen. If you’re flying high in your dreams, enjoying the scenery below, you’re motivated and hopeful; you’ve been liberated from stress and pressure. 

‘If you feel fearful while you’re flying, however, you may be afraid of challenges. If you meet obstacles while you’re flying, there may be people or situations standing in your way to success who must be identified in the waking world.’

Dr Carmen Harra, American author of Committed: Finding Love and Loyalty Through the Seven Archetypes, has revealed exclusively to FEMAIL what our subconscious is trying to tell us during our nightmares (stock photo)

6. The Dream: Being Naked

You’ve just entered your workplace and are greeting your co-workers, but they’re staring at you in shock. You look down and discover that you’re missing some or all of your clothes. This type of dream can be shocking and alarming – not to mention highly embarrassing – but in dream-form, it’s quite common.

The Meaning: 

‘If you’re naked in your dream, there might be something making you feel vulnerable, exposed, or helpless. If you walk through the door of your school or job naked, you may be unprepared for a task or project,’ says the expert. 

‘If you suddenly realise that you’re in your birthday suit and feel mortified, you may be feeling ashamed or guilty about something you’ve done. Since clothes are a form of concealment, nudity implies baring your true emotions, thoughts, and intentions to others, a prospect with which most of us feel quite uncomfortable. 

‘Depending on how you feel in the dream, showing up to an event naked can also express your need for attention, arrogance, or self-imposed insecurities. If you feel positive about your nudity, it suggests that you’re totally open, honest, and carefree. 

‘If no one notices your nakedness except you, it means that you’re worried about something that’s only in your head and that no one else can see.’

8. The Dream: Teeth 

Most people assume that dreams about teeth are adverse in nature: dreaming that your teeth are falling out surely means something bad will happen, right? As with all dreams, having a dream about teeth requires us to look more deeply about what’s going on in our day-to-day lives.

The Meaning:

Dr Carmen says: ‘A myriad of theories surrounds dreams about teeth, one of which claims that you’re concerned about your attractiveness, appearance, and appeal to others. These dreams may relate to vanity, but also to the inability to express yourself or communicate effectively. 

‘It can be that you are being deceptive or dishonest in some way. Falling or rotting teeth can represent embarrassment and a sense of powerlessness.

‘One of the darker interpretations is that falling teeth warn of poor diet and even death. On a brighter note, losing a tooth in a dream can also mean that you’ll soon get money.’

7. The Dream: Snakes

Whether you like snakes or are repulsed by them, these creatures can quickly slither into your dreams. Their appearance is complicated and can be seen as negative or positive, depending on how you interpret the dream taking place.

The Meaning:

The psychologist explained: ‘Of all animals, snakes are one of the most common that show up in dreams. Much of the dream interpretation depends on your own opinion about snakes. 

‘If interpreted negatively, dreams with snakes can refer to unpredictability, threats, and betrayal. If you killed the snake or it was already dead, the threat has passed. A snake in a dream can point to a snake in real life, a person who is treacherous or wicked. 

‘If interpreted positively, seeing snakes in your dream illustrates creativity, healing, and transformation. Remember that snakes can shed their skin, just as you can grow and change. 

‘Freud viewed snakes as a symbol of sexuality, so if you’re afraid of the snake in your dream you may be afraid of intimacy or commitment in your relationship.’

9. The Dream: Taking a Test

As if real-life exams weren’t stressful enough, they also pop up in our dreams. Even worse is that most times we dream about taking a test, it’s maddeningly frustrating: we don’t know any of the answers or our pen suddenly runs out of ink.

The Meaning:

Dr Carmen says: ‘One of the primary explanations of test dreams is that you are literally about to be put to the test or scrutinized in some area of your life. This dream has a lot to do with anxiety and uncertainty about some impending challenge. 

‘Fearing that you’ll fail your test shows you may feel unprepared for something that’s coming up and lack confidence in your capacities to do well. Tests in dreams also imply that you’re setting your standards too high and therefore setting yourself up for failure.’

10. The Dream: Paralysis

Being unable to move or speak during a dream can be terrifying. In addition to the various connotations, this dream may be a reflection of the paralysis that occurs naturally during the REM cycle.

The Meaning:

‘Feeling paralyzed in a dream may indicate struggles in which you feel stuck. Such dreams are not limited to full body paralysis, but extend to include dreams in which you’re restrained from performing everyday tasks like standing up, climbing a flight of stairs, holding on to an object, or running away if needed,’ explained Dr Carmen.

‘Being restrained during a dream mimics being held back from accomplishing a certain goal in the real world. This dream can be induced by strong stressors like lack of finances, workplace problems, illness, family rifts, or arguments with your significant other.

‘In order to better understand your dreams, you must identify what aspects of your waking life are making you experience particularly strong emotions like fear, anger, inadequacy or joy. 

‘It is also important to keep in mind that dreams rarely represent their contents: dreams are much more about the process and about the feelings you experience while asleep,’ concludes Dr Carmen.

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