Dreams have been a source of wisdom and mystery since human consciousness existed. For many years many of these cultures regarded dreams as prophetic “visions” or spiritual messages. Historically, dreams were messages that forecasted what was to come and had the potential to solve life’s dilemmas. “A dream uninterpreted is like a letter unread”, says the Talmud, an ancient collection of Jewish philosophy papers. Kimberley C. Patton, professor at Harvard Divinity School, believes dream interpretation plays an important role in Judeo-Christianity. She points to Joseph, “a prophetic dreamer” who was called upon to explain the pharaoh’s nighttime visions, and Daniel, who interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about a massive gold statue.
Carl Jung , a noted Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, started his public career as a prodigy of Sigmund Freud. Both of these noted professionals have been dubbed the “father of modern psychology” and the “father of modern dream interpretation”. They were the first to attach significance to recurring and common themes in people’s dreams, examine how they reflect on an individual’s emotional and mental wellbeing, and how personalized dream interpretation can be a powerful tool in human kind’s eternal pursuit of personal happiness.
Where the two differed, however, was in the root or reason of our dreaming. While Freud largely argued our dreams represent repressed needs & wishes, Jung asserted our dreams are actually meant as a form of expression of the deepest thoughts & issues we don’t deal with in our waking life. Jung theorized our dreams come to ponder problems we grapple with in our waking lives and test out solutions in an environment that is emotionally real, yet physically unreal. Protected by the privacy of our bed, we are free to process the real issues/problems, be it in relationships, career or life goals, with the best of deep creative thinking and with none of the judgement our conscious mind imposes. Most in modern psychology side with Jung on the topic of dream interpretation.
While Jung was against the concept of a ‘dream dictionary’ where dreams are interpreted as a “one size fits all” of predetermined meanings, he did acknowledge some dreams are globally recurring and common to people of all creeds & backgrounds.
Below are some of the most common dream symbols and their general meanings. This guide is not meant to be taken literally but, rather, ask yourself at the time you wake up, how these symbols might relate to you and your life.
Teeth crumbling / falling out / pulling out / breaking
This symbol depends on how the teeth are coming out of your mouth. If crumbling or falling out this might point to an anxiety you have over your abilities or over something you’ve said that was untrue. If you are pulling your own teeth out in the dream, you might be struggling to express something.
Naked in public
This dream usually deals with one's feeling or fear of being “overexposed”. If the element of shame is prevalent, it may mean you are insecure about your skills, abilities or character.
Unprepared for a test or presentation
When you dream you are suddenly back in school or at your job, about to give a presentation or complete an exam, it usually points to our natural fear of failure, anxiety of making mistakes. Rest assured, if you truly are prepared for an upcoming such event, this dream is only meat to “let out some steam” on your natural fears, practice “worst case scenarios" and better prepare you for the big day.
Driving an uncontrollable car or vehicle
This dream, again, can be taken quite close to the image. The car symbolizes your life, as the road is your path. When you can’t seem to control that car, ask yourself: was it accelerating and hard to break? - if so, you might be feeling like something is moving to fast for you and spinning out of control. Conversely, if the car won’t start or won’t accelerate - you might be feeling like there’s something new in your life (a new relationship or job perhaps?) that you are having difficulties getting started or getting “off the ground.”
There are times in our lives we keep having this sort of scary dream or nightmare. It can feel very vivid, almost like real life. This dreams points to something you are trying to avoid dealing with or the fear of dealing with it. Ask yourself: Who is doing the chasing? Is it a stranger? A group? Someone you know? - For example, if you dreamt of a boss chasing you it could point to feeling or being told your performance hasn’t been up to par and your fear of losing the job.