Twelve Common Symbols in Dreams and What They Mean
By Anna Hunt
“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego- consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends.” ~ Carl Jung
Dreams give us an opportunity to look into our subconscious mind and may allow for a deeper understanding of personal psychological transformation during waking life. Much of the scientific study about the interpretation of the messages that we are given in our dreams has been based on the work of Carl Jung, a well-respected psychologist and psychiatrist, who believed that dreams are filled with symbols that stem from the unconscious.
Interpreting your own dreams can give you an interesting glimpse into the totality of the psyche. If you’re ready for a peek, keep a journal next to your bed and write down what you remember about your dreams as soon as you wake up (because most often you will forget your dream within a few minutes of being awake). To improve your ability to remember your dreams, each night set an intention that you will remember your dreams. Also, it may help to stay free of drugs and alcohol and to limit what you eat 2 or 3 hours before your bedtime.
Below are twelve very common symbols found in dreams and a short description of what each one means. Dream analysis can be an interesting and fun method of self-reflection and conscious personal development, but always remember that all dreams are very personal and esoteric in nature. Carl Jung states:
“It is plain foolishness to believe in ready-made systematic guides to dream interpretation. No dream symbol can be separated from the individual who dreams it, and there is no definite or straightforward interpretation of any dream.” – Man and His Symbols
1. Being Chased – Something Needs Attention
We often remember dreams where we were being chased because it makes us anxious and fearful. The message in these types of dreams is usually about what you are running from. The mind is giving you a hint that something needs your attention, something that you are not addressing, but should.
2. People – Characteristics of the Self
Seeing people in a dream is a representation of the various aspects of the Self. This may give the dreamer ideas of which personal characteristics need attention. If you dream of specific people, this may indicate which interpersonal issues you need to work through, or if you’re detached from a specific aspect of yourself.
3. House – Dreamer’s Mind
There are several layers of consciousness that comprise the mind. Within a dream, a house is believed to be a representation of the dreamer’s mind, with its different floors and rooms relating to the various aspects of the psyche. For example, a basement can represent something that’s been neglected or is not being amply acknowledged by the dreamer in waking life; and bedrooms can represent intimate thoughts, feelings and memories. The activity in the house signifies how the dreamer utilizes the structure of the mind to acquire and interpret information.
4. Food – Knowledge
In the physical world, food nourishes and energizes our bodies. In the dream world, food is a representation of the nourishment of our minds, or, simply put, knowledge. Dreaming about food can also be interpreted that the mind is ‘hungry’ and is seeking new insights and intellect.
5. School – Learning
When a school or classroom is present in a dream, or you dream about the various aspects of schooling such as taking a test, it signifies the learning process. This could be interpreted as a need to learn something from a situation, past or present, or that you are in need of some self-examination.
6. Nudity – Honesty and Openness
When someone appears nude in a dream, it means that a certain aspect or emotion of the dreamer is being expressed openly and without limitation, even to the point that the dreamer feels exposed or vulnerable.
7. Sex – Sexual Expression, Unification and Creation
When one dreams of sexual intercourse, it may represent the unification of unconscious desires and emotions with conscious recognition. Dreaming about sex can also symbolize creation of new intimate relationships with others or with the Self. In many instances, sex dreams are simply an outlet for sexual expression.
8. Vehicles – Giving or Receiving Experience
Vehicles in a dream symbolize a means for experiencing what is happening in our conscious life, how much control we think we have over the path that the experience presents, and the obstacles we are facing. The type and size of vehicle can indicate different messages. For example, large vehicles can symbolize the organization that is enabling the experience, such as your church or company, an ambulance would indicate a need for healing, and a police car would indicate a need for discipline.
9. Baby – Something New
Dreaming about a baby often represents a new idea or development or the potential for growth in a specific area of your conscious life.
10. Death – Change
In the language of the mind, death usually represents the shift from one state of being to another. Although many may perceive death in a dream as frightening or negative, it usually correlates to a dramatic change or transition that is happening in the dreamer’s life.
11. Animals – Dreamer’s Habits
Considering that the function of animals is mostly based on instinct, the presence of animals in a dream is a representation of the dreamer’s habits. Dreaming about animals can be very helpful in gaining insight into our daily patterns as well as our deepest desires. The type of animal, what it is doing and its habitat can all affect the message that is being communicated by the unconscious mind.
12. Falling – Return to Being Awake / Control
Usually, if you are falling during a dream, it symbolizes the process of returning to the state of awake consciousness. Most often than not, the dreamer does not ‘hit bottom’ but will awaken or stop dreaming beforehand. Some believe that if you are falling uncontrollably in a dream, it represents that you don’t feel in control of a certain aspect of your waking life or are afraid to let go of something.
What to learn more about interpreting your dreams? Check out:
The Dreamer’s Dictionary, Barbara Condron
Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung