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5 Different Theories on How to Interpret Dreams

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Dreams are so cool. I love that every night I get to fly, go to space, and travel through time… before I wake up and remember the sh*tty world I actually live in. Do our dreams mean anything, or are they just random synapses firing? Here are five different theories you can use to figure out what your dreams mean!

1. Don’t! – a.k.a. the Activation-Synthesis Theory

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This theory suggests that dreams are random; that they’re basically your brain dumping out trash at night. Random things you thought about that day or saw will all mix together. You have random activation of brain cells that then synthesize with existing knowledge and memories into dreams that mean absolutely nothing, so don’t bother analyzing them.

2. Freudian Interpretation

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Freud saw dreams as wish fulfillment, so if you’re dreaming about something, you must secretly want to do it. Freud thought that our dreams represented what we are trying to repress and disguise in our waking life.

3. Problem-Solving Theory

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Similar to Freud’s view, the problem-solving theory says dreams represent problems that need to be solved. Look deeper for the dream’s unconscious meaning and what it means about particular problems you have in your life.

4. Jungian Interpretation

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Carl Jung was a protégé of Sigmund Freud and agreed that dreams were meaningful views into the subconscious. But unlike Freud, who saw dreams as representing animalistic, instinctual, and sexual subconscious thoughts (Freud thought basically everything was sexual — it says more about him than about us), Jung thought dreams were spiritual, that they teach you about the other half of who you are — your “shadow” self.

5. Common themes

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There are many common dream themes — being chased, flying, going to school, having a baby — and plenty of websites ready to tell you what they mean. These themes have grown out of Freudian and Jungian analysis, and are filtered through years of the internet. On Dream Moods, I found gems such as, “To dream that you are caught in a hailstorm suggests that you are emotionally withdrawn,” and “To use a hair dryer in your dream indicates that you need to clear your thoughts and get a fresh perspective on things.” How do they know this? Is it accurate? I don’t know, but try interpreting your dreams this way for a bit and see if it makes sense to you!

One of the most important things to do regardless of which theory you choose to follow is to write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. It’ll help you remember them. Do you analyze your dreams? Which of these theories makes most sense to you? Tweet at me and let me know @erikaheidewald!

Contributor: 
Erika Heidewald
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