Dream themes refer to those experiences of mankind that are held in common, for example dreams of flying or falling, in which we are caught undressed, in which a major disaster is taking place, or in which we are chasing or being chased by something or someone.
Just as is the case in dream symbols, dream themes can only be interpreted in the light of our own individual experience - that is, our upbringing, environment, and personality as a whole. But much of the experience of mankind - and certainly in the western world - is held in common.
When interpreting dreams, look at them in the landscape in which the dream is set, as well as the circumstances in which it appears, and what other dream symbols are apparent. It's also important to focus on the overall atmosphere of the dream. For example, if you had a dream of being chased by a monster, take note where the dream is taking place - is it a cityscape, a swamp or a desert? These details will often reveal the area of your life or mind the dream is drawing attention to.
A dream in which water is a main theme may be commenting on your emotional state, but the form taken by the water is significant too. Is the water calm or stormy? Cold or pleasantly warm?
Although impossible to generalise with dream themes, the following may assist you in ways to look at the overall themes of your dreams, in conjunction with various dream symbols.
Common Dream Themes
* Pursuit: Dreams of being pursued can be very frightening. Pursuers can take the form of monsters, skeletons, wolves, dogs, or things from other worlds... often to the point of nightmare. The most important thing is not to allow frightening symbols to continue to pursue us in our waking life, and the best way to prevent this from happening is to explore what these dreams represent.
* Landscape: Dreams in which we found ourselves in an other-worldly or beautiful landscape are often both pleasant and memorable. Often the landscape forms the background of the dream and although an important element, be sure to take note of the other features of the dream too.
Dreams of Travel: Travel dreams can be awesome explorations of distant lands - and sometimes so vivid that we wake up with the feeling that we've actually been somewhere else. These dreams are often scene-setting dreams, offering a background and structure for the dream.
* Disasters: Dreams of disaster may qualify as nightmares. These dreams sometimes represent our physical state, for example the need to urinate may prompt a dream of a flood. But more subtly, these dreams can point to repressed emotions, and reveal private anxieties and personal concerns.
* Weather: If the weather features prominently in a dream, it's probably significant. Look at the weather in conjunction with any key dream symbols that may be appearing, for example thunder, lightning, rain or wind. In dream interpretation, changes in the weather can be important clues as to our next move or action.
* Birth, Death and Change: Any kind of transformation is a strong force in the dream world. Animals changing into birds, birds becoming tigers, or tigers transforming into princes all signal psychological changes in our waking lives. Our dreams may be commenting on our changing attitudes to a particular problem or situation, or symbolise opportunities of some kind. The transformation from life into death can be frightening in a dream, but often indicates emotional change and endings rather than physical death. Dreams of birth may signal the birth of new ideas, projects or relationships.
* Fire: Dreams of fire may represent anything from our level of enthusiasm and energy to our whole attitude towards life. If the fire in a dream is a welcome one, the dream may carry the message to approach difficulties more positively. In certain contexts, fire can be related to passion in relationships, religious fervour or creative endeavours. Note the course of the fire and how it burns in the dream.
* Water: Water dreams often refer to our deepest emotions, intuitions and instincts. As such, they can alert us to deep-rooted conflicts or be oddly reassuring. A water dream may encourage you to dive to the bottom of a challenge, to allow the free flow of emotion, or to seek an emotional rebirth. If you love water and you're confident and happy as a part of it, your dreams will obviously differ from someone who fears water. Consider whether you are sinking, swimming or floating. How do you see yourself in the water?
* Clothes and Nudity: Dreams of being naked in the company of others who are conventionally dressed may indicate feelings of inadequacy or guilt, but they can also be simple suggestions that your clothes need attention. Note the setting of the dream and the actions taken. Clothes and accessories can reveal interesting facets of your personality.
* Flying: Most people have flying dreams at some point in their lives. In such dreams we can be sitting in an aircraft, or be carried away by a bird, or in some way defy gravity and soar in the sky ourselves. Flying dreams can point to the celebration of a joyful intimate relationship (according to Freud), or be associated equally well with other areas of our experience, for example feeling on top of a situation. On the other hand, if the flying is associated with falling, the dream could be connected with a dangerous situation in our waking life.
* Food and Drink: Dreams of food and drink may just be your body's way of alerting you to the fact that you need nourishment. However, preparation and offering food may also indicate how we express love. Drinking is often suggestive of physical pleasure, but may also be a message relating to the need for purification or spiritual cleansing. Ask yourself whether your dream is encouraging you to exert more self-discipline in some area of your life. Are you nibbling at something or being over-selective about food, or are you perhaps 'picking away' at a problem in your life? Gorging on food may represent a hunger for some other form of nourishment, perhaps affection or security.
Animal dreams very often represent our basic 'animal instincts.' In dream interpretation, consider the creature in detail; its appearance, size, behaviour, how it relates to other species and its own kind, whether you view it as positive or repulsive. Recognition and identification of the dream animal's behaviour will usually reveal some aspects that you can identify with.
* Sexuality: Many Freudian dream analysts tend to over-emphasize this theme in dream interpretation. Dreams in which we are making love is actually quite rare but sexual symbols in dreams are common. Sexual imagery can be very beautiful and textural, such as images of velvet and silk, but some people are also disgusted by their own sexual dreams. Consider whether your dream is a message about needing to relax into your own animal nature a little more - and how you can express it more positively.
* Buildings: The environment, or setting of a dream, can be a significant element in dream interpretation. Buildings in particular play an important part in dreams, whether they are awe-inspiring castles, or modest cottages. Dreams in which you are conscious of exploring the interior of a building often relate to challenges and a need for fulfilment, and can tell us a lot about how we should approach the future in waking life.
* Colours: Research indicates that most people dream in colour most of the time, but if colours are an important element in a dream, it's worth taking note of. Colours may represent a person (perhaps someone who often wears it), or can point to certain personality traits such as introversion and extraversion.
* Crowds: Dreams involving crowds are generally complex, for they can indicate many different aspects of our personality. The feeling of claustrophobia in these dreams may point to feeling trapped in waking life. Take note of your reaction to the crowd, as well as the crowd's reaction to you. Ask yourself what the message is in relation to allowing yourself room to move and breathe.
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