Common Dreams and Their Meanings


17. Sex-mares

Unfortunately, not all sex dreams are pleasant. But don’t worry, just because you’re dreaming about having sex with your elderly 8th-grade algebra teacher doesn’t mean that you are secretly hot for him.


According to Keith Stevens, sex dreams about someone you are not attracted to – even someone you’re related to or someone of a different gender than you are normally attracted to – are unpleasant by design; they are meant to disgust you so that don’t pursue such unwise pairings in real life. Similarly, dreams about being raped encourage us to avoid this disturbing and dangerous scenario in real life. Dreaming about being raped could also indicate you are feeling violated in some way.


18. Being Shot

According to Keith Stevens, this is one of the commonly reported dreams about threats from other people, especially in the United States. This type of dream may occur as a result of your instinctual concern about avoiding and surviving an actual shooting. You may have this dream in response to seeing coverage of shootings on the news or because of violent threats in your own life. Taking a more metaphorical approach,  interprets dreams of being shot as symbolizing any sort of confrontation or victimization in your waking life, including self-punishment.

19. Being Exposed on the Toilet

Like being naked in public, being exposed to the public while using the toilet leaves you extremely vulnerable. Going back to our cave-person roots, you need privacy when doing your business so that no one can attack you while you’re in a compromising position. Therefore, dreams about being exposed to the public exist to encourage you to avoid potentially vulnerable situations, according to Keith Stevens. However, despite our instinctual resistance to vulnerability, sometimes it is actually in our best interest, as when forming close relationships with other people. According to Ian Wallace, an “exposure” dream might be a good reminder that you need to open up to others and not worry so much about the potential embarrassment you risk by doing so.

20. Driving an Out-of-Control Vehicle

Most drivers have had this dream: You’re driving along and realize you’re about to hit a car or person … only to realize that the breaks or steering wheel won’t work! Of course, this could also happen in real life, so this type of dream could simply indicate anxiety about such an event occurring, especially if you have been in a car accident before. But as you might guess, dreaming of not being able to control your vehicle might also mean that you feel out of control in your own life, or that you cannot make consistent progress toward your ambitions, according to Wallace.


21. Celebrities

It might seem strange that we talk about, and even dream about, celebrities almost as much as we do our own group of friends and family, but evolutionary psychology has a solid theory to explain it: If we see or hear about a person a lot, even if it’s on TV or in magazines, our brains cannot distinguish between whether we actually “know” the person, or if we just think we do. Thus, we can feel like a celebrity or public figure is a member of our “tribe” even though we’ve never met them. So, having a dream about hanging out with Jack Nicholson is not necessarily more significant than dreaming about hanging out with a college friend you admire (unless, perhaps, Jack is in character from The Shining). However, if you have a dream where you feel a rush of pride or elation because a celebrity is showing you attention, this could mean you long to attain a higher social status, possibly due to low self-esteem.

22. Can’t Make a Phone Call

Although telephones don’t resemble the form they did 20 or even 10 years ago, we are still dependent on our phones for much of our communications, whether it’s via text or using it to actually speak to someone. In fact, you could argue that we’re more addicted to our phones than ever before in history. As in real life, a phone in a dream represents communication. Thus, the common dream of not being able to get through to someone over the phone indicates communication problems or fear of not being able to connect with the person at the other end. Perhaps you are having communication issues with this person in real life. On the other hand, you might be a little too dependent on using your smartphone as a primary means of communication and could benefit from some in-person human interaction. (Ever heard of meeting for coffee?)

23. Being Paralyzed

You try to move, but your legs are paralyzed or physically trapped. Or maybe you try to speak, but can’t make the words come out. Whatever the exact context of the dream, you are unable to use your usual tools to flee a threat, go somewhere, or express yourself. Paralysis dreams can indicate that you feel unable to progress in a certain situation because something is holding you back, possibly even self-sabotage. As a result, you may be exerting a lot of effort but still “going nowhere.” Try to figure out what obstacle you feel is hindering you in real life.

24. Can’t Find the Bathroom

In some cases, the common dream of not being able to find a bathroom could have the same meaning as being exposed to the public when trying to use the bathroom: you seek privacy so that you won’t have to feel vulnerable or embarrassed. However, in many cases, people have this dream when they need to use the toilet in real life. If you frequently have this dream and wake up with an urgent need to go to the bathroom, or worse, you find and use the bathroom in your dream, but not in real life, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to make sure you don’t have any, um, plumbing problems. If the dream is unrelated to a real-life urge to use the bathroom, it could symbolize that there is an issue in your life where you are finding it challenging to express your fundamental needs, according to Wallace.

25. Being Frustrated

A general feeling of frustration is perhaps the most common theme in dreams. Maybe you lost your car keys and can’t find them, or you can’t figure out the answer to an important question, or you can’t cry out for help when you need it. Or maybe the context is so nonsensical that can’t even figure out why you found it so frustrating once you wake up. This theme runs through most “bad” dreams, including many of the dreams discussed above. According to threat-rehearsal theorists like Keith Stevens, these dreams motivate us to be persistent and overcome challenges in real life. However, if you have these bad dreams so often that they are causing you significant distress, this could indicate that you have severe stress or a psychological condition, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In such cases, it is a good idea to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. If your dreams have you tossing and turning every night, you might also want to talk to your doctor about taking a natural sleep aid to achieve more restful, restorative sleep.

26. Babies

Babies in dreams are symbols of purity, rebirth, and vulnerability. Again, it’s important to recognize what’s happening with the baby to figure out how it relates to your life. A crying or abandoned baby could mean that you’re not paying enough attention to your own needs. Perhaps you feel especially needy and vulnerable right now, or you might have doubts about being able to take care of someone other than yourself.

Babies can symbolize a literal desire to produce offspring, or need to feel loved. They can also signify a new start.

27. Bugs

Creepy-crawlies are the manifestation of problems that we’re not facing. Bugs on your skin mean an unsettling change is taking place in your life. The more bugs you encounter in your dream, the greater your problems and unconscious anxieties.

28. Work

Who hasn’t had dreams about working? Dreams about your job suggest that certain work habits need fixing–either not being on-task enough or working too much. When worries about job performance leak into our subconscious, there’s a lack of balance somewhere, either in effectiveness or in leisure time.

29. Candles

If the candle is aflame, that might mean good luck’s coming your way, or at least that there’s a reason to be hopeful. If it’s not lit, the candle could represent a lack of initiative or not living up to one’s promise. A candle that’s blown out has to do with leaving something behind, which could be good or bad.

30. Death

This makes for a sad dream, but death isn’t as ominous a theme as you’d think–it’s more about change on the horizon. If someone you know dies in a dream you have, think about your connection to that person. Is there an aspect of your relationship that needs changing? Or is there something about the person’s life that you’d like to see manifesting itself in your own? Death-related dreams might also be about incoming change or the dreamer’s need to change.

31. Mirrors

Mirrors in dreams reflect our inner qualities–both how others perceive us and how we see ourselves. If the mirror is foggy or clouded, however, that means we’re not seeing things accurately and need to figure out why. Shattering a mirror is allegedly bad luck in real life, but in the dream world, it represents breaking away from the inner self.

32. Hair

Hair in our sleep life has multiple meanings, including sensuality, self-image, and strength. If you’re cutting your hair, that symbolizes taking power over your life and letting go of unnecessary burdens. Brushing or fixing your hair alludes to heightened self-consciousness. Hair falling out has to do with fear of getting old and/or physical weakness.


If you’re crying in a dream, you’re likely grappling with a pent-up emotion that you’re not letting go of in real life, and it’s a way for your subconscious to provide you with the emotional outlet you deny yourself otherwise. If someone else is crying in your dream, it could be a message to you to be mindful of the thoughts and feelings of those around you.

34. Roads

Traveling down a road during a dream is like traveling down the path to your goals in life. Sometimes it’s windy or full of potholes, which means you have hardships to overcome. If it’s smooth, you’re making good choices and feel confident about your future success. And if the road ahead looks dark and looming, it might indicate that you’re making choices along the way without all the information you need, which could produce difficult outcomes

35. Killing in your dreams does not make you a closet murderer; it represents your desire to “kill” part of your own personality. It can also symbolize hostility towards a particular person and the desire to see them suffer.

36. Mountains are obstacles, so to dream of successfully climbing a mountain can reveal a true feeling of achievement. Viewing a landscape from atop a mountain can symbolize a life under review without conscious prejudice

37. Driving with partner

I often have dreams about driving. After suffering through two car accidents in one week in 2009, some of these dreams felt very real and literal. Whether the dreams were recollections of the accidents or occurring under other circumstances, my husband was with me in the car. Sometimes he was driving and other times he was asking me to drive.

The worst dreams involved me in the driver’s seat-especially when the brakes gave out. This likely indicated that I couldn’t control (or slow) the aftermath of the actual car accident. It impacted our lives severely and there was no slowing down.


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