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What Do Your Dreams Mean?

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Young woman sleeping on bed

Use your dreams as a tool for self-evaluation.

B2M Productions/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Have you ever had a dream and woke up wondering why you were thinking about floods, flying, or chickens? Well, chances are good that those things -- and others -- have appeared as a symbol of something else. Here are a few samples of common dream symbols and events that people experience. For a thoroughly detailed analysis of your dreams and their meanings, pick up a good dream dictionary, like The Element Encyclopedia of 20,000 Dreams.

Animals: Most dream experts agree that if you dream about an animal, the meaning will vary based upon what sort of animal it is. Think about the characteristics of the animal in your dream. A cheetah, for instance, might symbolize speed and the hunt, while a dozing Labrador would mean something very different. Also consider how you interacted with the animal in your dream. Were you fighting with it? Perhaps you're trying to fight or repress some inner part of yourself. Were you adopting it and caring for it? Maybe it represents your own need to nurture others. Be sure to read about Animal Magic to get some ideas about what animals represent.

Being Chased: Many people experience a feeling of being chased in dreams, and sometimes we don't even know who or what is chasing us. Dream experts suggest that this represents a subconscious need to run away or escape from something. Are you running away from something scary or frightening? Are you being chased by people you know, or a crazed killer with a knife? Perhaps your life is a bit overwhelming right now, and you need some time away from your day to day obligations. It's also important to make the distinction between running away from something versus running to something.

Celebrities: Sometimes people dream of celebrities. They may appear to us as a character they've played, as the actor or actress themselves, or as someone completely different. Have you ever woken up and thought, "Why on earth did I dream that Jennifer Aniston worked at my dry-cleaners?" Often when celebrities appear it's because of what they represent to us. For example, if you dream of the aforementioned Jennifer Aniston, it may be because she represents friendship to you. Likewise, if your dream includes President Barack Obama, perhaps your subconscious is connecting with his role as a leader and diplomat. Consider whether celebrities in your dream might be there to give you a message, or whether they're just appearing because you happen to find them appealing.

Death: It's not uncommon to dream of death. What's important in a dream analysis is the manner in which you die -- did you commit suicide or die of old age? Did you dream that someone shot you, or you were in a car accident? Dreams of death typically represent our fears of the unknown, tied in with the idea that we've reached a transitional point in our lives. In many cultures and religions, death is connected to rebirth, so dreaming of death could mean that big changes are on the horizon for you. Sometimes we dream about the deaths of other people, particularly loved ones. While some people see this as prophetic, often it's an indicator that we may need to work on improving our relationship with the person before it's too late for us to do so.

Falling: Have you ever dreamed you were falling from a building? Did you ever dream about stepping off a curb and feel yourself falling into the street? What's important to remember in dreams of falling is not so much the fall itself, but how you fell when it's happening. Are you falling from a great height, but feeling calm and tranquil about the whole thing? That's probably a sign that you're pretty well adjusted and can handle adversity and obstacles. On the other hand, if you're falling and it causes you to panic, that may indicate that you're overwhelmed by pressure right now, and that you're on edge and anxious.

Houses: Many dream experts say that houses represent the inner soul, and each room is a different aspect of our own experience. Some people believe that if the house is empty, it means you're unsatisfied with your life. A full home represents abundance and a fulfilling emotional life. Again, consider how you feel as you explore the rooms in your dream - does one particular room frighten you, or make you feel relaxed and happy? If you dream that your house is under construction or in need of renovation, it could mean that you're trying to rebuild various aspects of your life.

Pregnancy: At some point, most women will have a dream in which either they or someone close to them is pregnant. For most people, this indicates that there is something new about to develop -- and not necessarily a baby. It signifies upcoming changes, plans coming to fruition and new endeavors. Occasionally, dreaming of pregnancy can represent some aspect of your life that you're just not ready to cope with yet - especially if you don't wish to be pregnant in real life. If you've been trying to conceive, it's entirely possible that dreaming of pregnancy indicates your hopefulness.

Sex: It's not uncommon to dream about sex, and our dream sex lives can often be pretty darned exciting. If you dream about lovemaking with your spouse or significant other, experts suggest that it's because you have a satisfying and emotionally fulfilling relationship. If you're dreaming about passionate sexytimes with someone else, it may be because you're lacking what you need in your current relationship. Are you dreaming about sex with someone you're friendly with, or a celebrity, or a co-worker? If so, figure out what that person represents to you, and what it is that you're missing. Sex with a stranger often indicates uncertainty.

Water: For some people, water is a recurring theme in dreams. The nature of the symbolism depends on the type of water, and how you're experiencing it. Drowning or flooding can represent a fear of being overwhelmed. Sailing on a lazy river may indicate a feeling of being content and satisfied. Being carried out to sea might signify that you feel helpless to change the things that impact your life. Water is often connected to the subconscious self, so if you dream that you're walking on water, or safely on a boat or raft, it can show that you are in fact in control of situations in your daily life.

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