“I can never decide whether my dreams are a result of my thoughts, or my thoughts the result of my dreams. It is very queer. But my dreams make conclusions for me. They decide things finally. I dream a decision.”
D. H. Lawrence
Just as there are different types of music—classical, rock, jazz—there are different kinds of dreams. Although different types of dream can blend and merge, modern dream researchers tend to break dream types into the following categories:
These can exaggerate certain situations or life attitudes in order to point them out sharply for the dreamer. For example, someone who is very shy may dream that they have become invisible.
ANTICIPATING DREAMSThese are dreams that may alert us to possible outcomes in situations in our waking life; for example, passing or failing an exam.
Such dreams evoke extremely emotional reactions, when the unconscious is urging us to relieve pent-up feelings we may feel unable to express in waking life. For example, you may find yourself bursting into tears on a packed commuter train in your dreams, or you might punch your irritating neighbor or tell your boss exactly what you think of him or her.
CONTRARY OR COMPENSATORY DREAMS
In these types of dreams, the unconscious places the dreaming self in a totally different situation to the one we find ourselves in waking life. For example, if your day has been filled with unhappiness and stress due to the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship, you may dream of yourself spending a carefree, happy day by the seaside. Your unconscious may also give you personality traits that you haven’t expressed in waking life. For example, if you hate being the center of attention you may dream about being a celebrity. Such dreams are thought to provide necessary balance and may also be suggesting to you that you try incorporating some of the characteristics that your dream underlined in your waking life.
DAILY PROCESSING DREAMS
Also known as factual dreams, daily processing dreams are dreams in which you go over and over things that happened during the day, especially those that were repetitive or forced you to concentrate for long periods; dreaming about a long journey or a tough work assignment, for example. These kinds of dreams don’t tend to be laden with meaning, and most dream theorists think of them as bits and pieces of information your brain is processing.
DREAMS OF CHILDHOOD
Dreaming about your childhood may reflect a childhood dynamic which hasn’t been worked out yet and requires a resolution.
It is thought that many reported sightings of ghosts are caused by false awakening, which occurs when you are actually asleep but are convinced in your dream state that you are awake. This is the kind of vivid dream in which you wake up convinced that what happened in your dream really happened.
This is when you set your conscious mind on experiencing a particular kind of dream. For example, you may incubate a dream of a loved one by concentrating on visualizing your loved one’s face before you sleep, or you may ask for a dream to answer your problems immediately before going to sleep. The theory is that your unconscious responds to the suggestion.
Many great works of art, music, literature have allegedly been inspired by dreams, when the unconscious brings a creative idea to the fore. For example, English poet and artist William Blake said that his work was inspired by the visions in his dreams. One night in 1816, Mary Shelley, her husband and a group of friends were challenged to write a ghost story. That night Mary Shelley dreamed of a creature that would later become the monster created by Dr Frankenstein in her yet-to-be-written novel.
These occur when you become aware that you are dreaming when you are dreaming. It takes time and practice to stop yourself waking up, but it is possible to learn how to become a lucid dreamer and control the course of your dreams.
When two people dream the same dream. Such dreams can be spontaneous or incubated, when two people who are close decide on a dream location together and imagine themselves meeting up before going to sleep.
Dreams that terrify us or cause distress in some way by waking us up before the situation has resolved. Nightmares occur during REM sleep and typically arise when a person is feeling anxious or helpless in waking life. Once the dreamer has recognized what is triggering this kind of dream, and worked through any unresolved fears and anxieties, nightmares tend to cease.
These are similar to nightmares, but because they occur in deep sleep (stage four) we rarely remember what terrified us, although we may be left with a lingering feeling of unexplained dread.
Also known as astral travel or projection, out-of-body experiences are thought to occur at times of physical and emotional trauma. Researchers tend to dismiss the idea but those that experience such dreams say that their mind, consciousness or spirit leaves their body and travels through time and space.
If you dream of being in a historical setting some believe this is evidence of past-life recall, although most dream theorists dismiss the existence of past-life or far-memory dreams, or genetic dreams when you assume the identity of an ancestor.
These dreams reflect the state of your body, so, for example, if you have an upset stomach, you may dream that you are being violently sick. These dreams may highlight the progress of serious physical conditions or in some cases predict the onset of them.
Most dream researchers dismiss these dreams but precognitive dreams are thought to predict real-life events of which the dreamer has no conscious awareness. These dreams tend to happen to people with psychic abilities. They are extremely rare but there have been many instances when people claim to have dreamt of things before they happened. For example, many people reported dreaming about 9/11 before it occurred. Other people tell of cancelling trains or flights because of a foreboding dream. There are also reports of people who dreamt the winning numbers of the lottery.
These occur when you have gone to bed mulling over a problem and found the answer in your dreams. This could be because your unconscious has already solved the dream and sleeping on it gives your unconscious a chance to express itself. Many famous inventions were allegedly prompted by a dream. For example, Scottish engineer and inventor of the steam engine James Watt (1736- 1819) dreamed of molten metal falling from the sky in the shape of balls. This dream gave him the idea for drop cooling and ball-bearings. The model of the atom, the M9 analogue computer, the isolation of insulin in the treatment of diabetes, and, as we have seen, the sewing machine, were also ideas that sprung from inspiration in dreams.
These are dreams that bring things we would rather not think about to our attention. They make us face an aspect of ourselves or our life that might be hindering our progress. They are often about our fears, anxieties, resentment, guilt and insecurities. For example, if you dream of yourself running around and around on the wheel of a cage unable to stop, this could suggest that in your waking life you are taking on too much and not giving yourself enough time to relax.
Dreams that reoccur typically happen when the dreamer is worried about a situation that isn’t resolving itself in waking life. When the trigger in waking life is dealt with the dreams usually end. Recurring dreams can also occur when a person is suffering from some kind of phobia or trauma that has been repressed or not resolved. If this is the case the unconscious is urging the dreamer to consciously receive and acknowledge the issue and deal with it.
In dreams, sex can reflect the archetypal pattern which underlies the waking sex life or may represent a hoped-for reunion with another part of ourselves into a whole.
This is the kind of dream when someone you know appears in your dream in acute distress and you later learn that that person was experiencing a real-life crisis at the time, such as extreme unhappiness, an accident or even death. It is thought that telepathic dreams are a meeting of minds between two people who are close to each other emotionally.
These are processing dreams that involve your senses. For example, if your mobile rings or a picture falls to the ground while you are asleep, the sound may be incorporated into your dream but appear as something else, such as a police siren or a broken window. The smell of flowers in your room may also become a garden scene in your dreams.
These are the kind of dreams in which we quite literally live the dream; we might win the lottery, date a celebrity, ooze charisma or simply go on a long holiday. In these kinds of dreams our unconscious is trying to compensate for disappointment or dissatisfaction with our current circumstances in waking life.