Who hasn’t awoken from a dream that’s fantastical, beautiful, erotic – or as cryptic as a Dali painting – and wondered what it meant? People have been pondering the meaning of these nocturnal messages for centuries. Dr. Douglas Frayn, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a practising psychiatrist, has studied and analyzed dreams for 30 years. He says it’s difficult to interpret dreams in detail without the dreamer’s own input, but his new book, Understanding Your Dreams (Ash Productions), attempts to explain symbols and scenarios that are common to many dreamers. Below are some of the most common dreams and symbols, along with suggested interpretations. Keep in mind: while dream dictionaries can be helpful guides, there are no universal definitions. The key to deciphering your dreams, says Dr. Frayn, is to be in tune with the thoughts and emotions you associate with them. In other words, what do you think they mean?
Animals: These symbolize basic, instinctual actions and emotions: parts of the personality we often repress. For example, dreaming of a lion – the ferocious and noble king of the jungle – could mean you’re dealing with repressed anger. A more straightforward reading could be that you’re feeling courageous or strong.
Colours: Colours usually tell us about our emotional state. Reflect on the meanings you associate with whatever colours you remember most vividly from your dream. Green could mean envy or, conversely, fertility, rejuvenation or a new beginning. White is often associated with purity. Red can mean passion and energy; blue, sadness or, alternatively, peaceful feelings; black, obscurity or destruction.
Exams or tests: Dreaming that you’re taking an exam usually reflects performance anxiety. You may be concerned about making a decision, or you could be worried about some unpredictable situation that has arisen in your waking life and how you will past this “test.”
Naked in public: This dream can be positive or negative, depending on your emotional reaction to being naked in the dream. It can often represent frustration, harassment or vulnerability, according to Dr. Frayn. Another interpretation is that you’re feeling self-confident. If no one notices you’re naked, it could mean you aren’t getting the attention you crave in your waking life.
Sexual dreams: These could simply be pleasant dreams: your libido is talking! They can also be associated with anxiety, depending on your waking attitudes toward sex. If you’re straight and dream of having sex with another woman, it probably has nothing to do with your actual sexual orientation. More likely, it symbolizes self-love and self-acceptance or, alternatively, the need to get in touch with your feminine side.
Teeth: Dreaming that your teeth are falling out can mean fear of loss of personal power, sexual potency or miscarriage, according to Dr. Frayn. It can also mean you’re worried about your appearance, or worried about getting older.