This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 03 table of contents.

Meaningful Dreams

A small number of dreams contain important insights about emotional or psychological problems. Here are some common categories of meaningful dreams, each with two examples provided by students.

What are some categories of meaningful dreams?

1. Warning dreams point to dangerous situations in the future.

(A student dreams about his drunk-driving friends dying in a wreck. Another student dreams about the ill consequences of dropping out of school.)

2. Guilt and worry dreams express concern about past or present events.

(A student is "haunted" by dreams of her grandfather, whose last wishes concerning burial were not carried out. A young man dreams that another man fathered his wife's new baby.)

3. Inspirational dreams set goals or ideals to attain.

(A tennis-playing student, ranked at the state level, has a recurring dream of beating a famous star in a tournament match. A student having trouble in school dreams of rising to the occasion at the end of the term, doing well on his exams. Inspired by the dream, he makes it come true.)

4. Post-traumatic dreams contain flashbacks to stressful events.

(One girl relives a serious traffic accident in recurrent dreams. Another dreams of her near drowning in Hawaii.)

5. Problem-solving dreams present solutions to difficulties.

(A boy dreams of sticking little numbered labels to wires, which allows him to figure out how to wire his car stereo. A girl loses her bracelet then remembers, in a dream, where she put it.)

6. Death-reconciliation dreams help people deal with death of loved ones.

(A boy dreams that his father comes back to life to catch up on the news of his life. A girl dreams her recently killed boyfriend returns and gives her the chance to say she loves him.)

Some hard-nosed psychologists scoff at the idea of meaningful dreams, and no wonder. The grocery store paperback shelves are full of dream-interpretation books that offer interpretations of specific objects and themes. These symbol dictionaries are unlikely to be helpful. Dreams are private events that probably reflect the full diversity of individual memories, feelings, and symbols. We will discuss a simple dream interpretation technique in a later chapter.

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