This Is What Your Dreams Really Mean

August 5, 2015 | Posted in Dreams

Your psyche is trying to talk to you — listen to it.

Have you ever woken up from a dream that had you really scratching your head, wondering what the heck it really means?

The famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung analyzed 20,000 dreams over the course of his lifetime and theorized that dreams were the key to understanding the psyche. Scholars and practitioners who follow his school of thought believe in therapy that focuses on the unconscious rather than the conscious world, and work to help people discover what their dreams are telling them.

HuffPost Lifestyle spoke with Carder Stout, a Los Angeles-based Jungian psychotherapist to evaluate 10 common dream scenarios.

“Dreams are a window into that unconscious part of our psyche,” Stout told The Huffington Post. “You can extract a wealth of important information that is going to help you be a happier, healthier and more evolved person.”

One of the keys to contemplating your dreams and their meanings is to look at them symbolically rather than literally, according to Stout. They are often full of metaphors representing components of your persona that are asking for your attention.

It’s also important to recognize that depth psychology (the formal name for this kind of practice) isn’t the only theory available to address dream analysis. Some believe that the things you do while you’re awake can influence the content of your dreams later that evening — in both good and bad ways. The position you sleep in may either invoke or prevent nightmares, and those who spent the majority of their lives watching a black-and-white television can actually experience most of their dreams in shades of gray.

If you dream about being pregnant…
“It essentially means that there is some kind of new life inside of you, that there is new energy inside of you, that there are new ideas inside of you,” said Stout. “Perhaps you are going through some sort of renaissance or rebirth, moving in a whole new direction. You’re shedding a skin or a layer and transforming into a different aspect of your life.”

If you dream about your ex…
“If we’re dreaming about a specific person, then that person is representative of a particular aspect in ourselves,” said Stout. “So if you had been dating someone and you start dreaming about them, you have to ask yourself, ‘What do they represent to me? What sort of qualities do they have? What do they remind me of?’ You’re actually dreaming about those aspects in yourself — it’s reflective rather than literal. If your ex was philosophical and you’re dreaming about that ex, then you are dreaming about that part of you, that philosophical part of you. Maybe it needs nurturing or attention.”

If you dream about your teeth falling out…
According to Stout, this dream is an archetypal one, affecting people all over the world from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

“Think about what that represents to us in life when our teeth fall out. Initially they grow in when we are infants, and they fall out as we are children growing into adolescents, and then they grow back in again. Our teeth falling out represents a transitional time in life. If you’re going through some phase in your life where there’s a lot of change and that’s creating anxiety, that’s when you’re going to have a dream like this one. It’s a sign that you’re growing and evolving and transforming.”

If you dream about death…
“We look at death in a very similar way to how we look at the emergence of new life,” said Stout. “Symbolically, we are talking about some pattern or aspect of ourselves that is dying — some persona that we’ve had for a while, something that’s not serving us anymore, and we’re moving in a different direction. Maybe we’re quitting a job or moving homes, maybe we are engaged in a breakup and we’re starting the grieving process. Dreams about death are really about an aspect of ourselves that we are letting go of.”

If you have a recurrent nightmare…
Stout explained that throughout our lives, we experience negative things and internalize them, creating underlying emotional traumas. The human mind is notorious for holding these memories inside rather than releasing the traumas they’ve created. And those consistent suppressions lie at the roots of recurrent nightmares.

“When we are holding on to this traumatic energy, it often shows up in our dreams,” he said. “If we start dreaming about a certain thing over and over or having similar types of dreams, it’s basically our psyche telling us, ‘Please pay attention to me. Please look at me. I have grown to a point where there needs to be some diffusion of this energy, because it’s too large and too harmful, and if you don’t pay attention, there are going to ramifications.’ It shows up over and over and over again because it needs to be addressed.”

If you dream about having an affair…
“It’s really about dishonesty, but it’s about you being dishonest with yourself,” said Stout. “There is something that you are suppressing or not giving attention to or actively being deceitful about within yourself. The infidelity part of it is how the psyche represents a relationship. So you’re being unfaithful essentially to your own needs.”

If you dream about animals…
Similar to the teeth loss scenario, animals are also archetypes, according to Stout. Different animals mean different things to different cultures, so that may influence what one means to you as well.

Take snakes as an example.

“Start with your personal life, then go into your unconscious life, and then you can look at it from an archetypal level,” said Stout. “So do you have a snake? Did you ever see a snake in a snake shop? What myths have you read about snakes? What do you snakes mean to you? Are you scared of them? Are they interesting to you? All of these things are important to consider. On a mythological level, snakes can represent deception, regeneration, power and other magical or mystical elements. Unpack layer after layer after layer and see what you find.”

If you dream about school or work…
“Having a dream about not being prepared for a test or being late for work or being unprepared for a meeting, those are all just dreams about being vulnerable,” said Stout. “It’s about fear of people seeing the real us and who we are, a fear of people seeing the aspects of ourselves that maybe aren’t the ones we want to present to them, and that’s frightening.”

Stout explained further that, while we may behave genuinely in professional settings, most people do still wear a mask of sorts that conceals aspects of their persona from employers, coworkers, professors and even peers. The thought of that protection being stripped away leaves us feeling vulnerable, just like sitting in a classroom in nothing but your underwear would.

If you dream about wild adventures…
“These are great dreams,” said Stout. “Many people have them where they’re flying. It’s about that childlike energy in you that’s really showing itself. As children we have that adventurous spirit and we’re unconfined by overthinking things and we act impulsively and live in that almost imaginary world. Maybe you need to pay attention to that important part of you and nurture it — go be more impulsive. Maybe you’ve been working too hard, chained to your desk with deadlines and things, and that childlike part of you is being neglected and needs to come out and play.”

If you dream about food…
“Ask what is it that is starving in you, or if your dream is about overindulging, what is it that you’re overcompensating with in your life right now,” said Stout. “Say you’re a workaholic. The dream would be saying, ‘I’m swallowing too much of this work energy and I am bloated, and there is no room for anything else in my life.’ Or if the dream is about restricting food or not having enough of it, what is it that you’re really craving? Think about what part of yourself is starving and needs nourishment.”

The next time you have a vivid dream, jot down a quick memory of it when you awake — even if it’s just a simple visual — and take a moment to think about what your psyche could be telling you. Whether you you felt it was positive or negative, exciting or scary, good or bad, recognize the opportunity to learn about yourself in the purest form and take advantage of it.