The ABCs of What’s In Your Dreams

Dreaming is one of the most interesting and mysterious functions of the human body. Dreams can be sources of entertainment, fear, or just plain old confusion. Scientists and psychologists have devoted lifetimes to cracking the code behind our dreams -- what they mean and why we have them. Some theories state that dreams provide practice for real life dilemmas, and other theories state that dreams are just the excess brain flotsam from our conscious mind. Sigmund Freud popularized dream theory with his 1899 book, The Interpretation of Dreams. With Freud's foundation and modern dream theory, we can begin to chip away at the extreme mystery of the unconscious. Here are the ABC's of what's behind your dreams! These common symbols will give us suggestions about our unconscious fears and desires, and what our brains are trying to tell us!


Dreaming about animals represents a step back into the primal and connection with deep-rooted emotions. Different animals possess different characteristics, so an elephant may symbolize power, while a hawk may symbolize a desire for freedom.


Boats, like other methods of transportation, symbolize controlling a path in your life. In Ancient Egyptian culture, the funerary boat was used as a passage vessel into the afterlife.


As you can imagine, dreaming you are trapped inside a cage symbolizes a greater feeling of imprisonment. It can either mean that you feel physically trapped or restricted by life's circumstances or that you are imprisoned by your own thoughts.


Dancing indicates a kind of freedom and frivolity, the opposite of the cage. Dancing has also been viewed as a ritual, which is the prelude or courtship before something more significant.


The Earth in general is a symbol of groundedness and sustenance. Earth is the mother, the giver of life. Dreaming about the Earth signifies a desire to be connected with nature.


One of the top 10 common dreams we have! Flying encapsulates a feeling greater than the freedom of dancing, but a release from something previously restrictive.


Dreaming of your elders puts not only weariness and lethargy in your state of mind, but also wisdom and experience! These dreams are reminding you to connect to your familial roots and delve deep into your historical ancestry.


Hair is a symbol in both dreams and literature, and most often represents a feeling of security and sexuality. In Lorraine Hansberry's seminal play, A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha's hair represents first assimilation, then the acceptance of her heritage. Healthy, luminous hair is a sign of youth and vigor, whereas dry or graying hair a sign of decay.


Illness in our dreams doesn't only imply that we are feeling unwell, but that there may be something clouding our judgment. It can represent feelings of anger, insecurity, or fear. Constant worrying is a stress on both the body and the unconscious mind.


You'd think this one would be largely connected to the cage symbol, but herein lies the important distinction: dreaming of being in jail may suggest feelings of guilt. You could be blaming yourself for something that's gone wrong in your life. Think about whether you have control over it or not.


A key symbolizes new opportunities and frontiers. If you lose your keys in a dream, it could mean that you are trepidatious about an upcoming journey. A ring of keys symbolizes power and authority, for those who hold them have the ability to access mysterious places.


Climbing a ladder has been likened to experiencing the reward from a labor. A ladder can be both rickety and stable, so note how comfortable you feel on it. Climbing down a ladder symbolizes a retreat from a fearful expectation, a relinquishment of strength.


Machinery implies that you're going through the motions in a methodical, robotic way. Machinery can also symbolize the inner workings of the body. It's important to note the condition of the machines. If they need repair, it might be an indication that something in your own body is in need of attention or conscious action.


Another surprisingly common dream! What could be more embarrassing than standing in front of a crowd naked? We are exposed not only physically, but nakedness in dreams suggests an internal exposure as well. It means that you fear judgment and are insecure about something.


The ocean signifies rebirth and renewal, but can also foster fear. Rough seas are indicative of a hard time negotiating a tough situation. Dreaming that you're drowning means that you are overwhelmed by various emotions.


Pain in dreams can sometimes be a warning sign of an actual physical pain or illness. However, it symbolizes self-punishment after a situation occurs that is not ideal. But it's also possible to feel actual pain during REM sleep! The power of our minds is remarkable.


Dreaming about quicksand means that you have misjudged a situation and now have to deal with unexpected consequences. It can also be a warning that something isn't as it seems.


A race symbolizes how we compete with and stack up against others. It can also imply pressures to succeed where others may seem more apt.


Not only does saltwater have a connection to the ocean and may symbolize rebirth and renewal, but it also relates to tears. Saltwater signifies mourning or deep reflection over some kind of traumatic event. Salt can represent wisdom and riches.


Like hair, teeth are a symbol of physical beauty. Therefore, decaying teeth or teeth that are falling out symbolize an insecurity about getting older and unattractive. Unkempt teeth can also indicate lying or obscuring some aspects of the truth.


Dreaming about a UFO brings to mind the themes of spirituality and belongingness. Unlike dreams about the Earth, these kind of dreams allow us to consider where we fit into the world, to question our roots.


Vacations symbolize rewards at the end of a difficult journey, or the need to break out of the daily routine. A dream about a vacation could be telling you it's about time to change things up and freshen up your environment!


Marriage is a symbol of a commitment made between people. A wedding in your dream could mean that someone in your life is worth this kind of commitment, or that you need to strengthen your bonds with someone already close to you.


If in your dream you're getting x-rayed, it could mean that you are being tricked by someone. X-rays symbolize what's beneath the surface and invisible to the naked eye. Similar to the symbol of being naked, the x-ray examines the inner workings of one's interior.


Like in real life, yawning means that you are lacking stimulation and in need of an energy boost! Go get a coffee!


If you're a zombie in your dreams, you could be experiencing feelings of detachment and lethargy (beyond that of just yawning!). You'll probably be having some vacation dreams soon!

Still have questions? We suggest keeping a dream journal! It's a great way to track what kinds of symbols recur in your dreams. You can easily map out what dreams coincide with what life events. A greater understanding of the unconscious mind can give us incredible insight on our conscious minds. So keep dreaming!

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