What are our dreams?

Most of us dream. Some dream occasionally and others dream regularly and vividly.

by Elia Strange

relaxing cat

There are many theories about why people dream.

Some people say our dreams link us to our spiritual side of life, where we can see what will happen to us in the future and where we can meet with those who are not with us anymore.

Others think that our brains try to solve challenges and puzzles that we have from our daily activities, and this is why when people have some decision to make, they decide to ‘sleep on it’. And surely enough, in the morning it’s all seem much clearer and you often know what decision to make.

Dreams involve imagery and some feel very real to us.

Other dreams just do not make any sense and can involve scenes, times and people from our past and present – all in the same scenario. It can make you wonder – who can we wake up refreshed after this kind of dreams?

Psychologists say we dream vividly during certain cycles of our sleep – REM sleep. You might have about five sleep cycles in the eight hours of sleep, and that means that you’ll probably have five different dreams.

Each dream lasts only 10-15 minutes, but when we are ‘in the dream’ it might seem that days, weeks or even months passed. You dreams might be in black and white or in full colours.


Some psychologists, for example Reiser (1992), say that most of our dreams are ‘simple extensions of the activities and problems of the day’.

You are more likely to dream about things that you were preoccupied with, for example, someone’s illness or death, sexual and aggressive urges, wishes and goals, and so on. People that appear in our dreams are those who we know, not monsters and superheroes.

Sigmund Freud’s theory was that dreams contain our unconscious wishes and urges, mostly of the sexual meaning. Have a look at his dream symbols that were used for many years by some psychologists:

Symbols for the Male Genital Organs:

- airplanes
- bullets
- feet
- fish
- fire
- hands
- hoses
- knives
- neckties
- poles
- snakes
- sticks
- tools
- trains
- trees
- umbrellas
- weapons

Symbols for the Female Genital Organs:

- bottles
- boxes
- cases
- caves
- chests
- closets
- doors
- hats
- jars
- ovens
- pockets
- pots
- ships
- tunnels

Symbols for Sexual Intercourse:

- climbing a ladder
- climbing a staircase
- crossing a bridge
- driving an automobile
- riding an elevator
- entering room
- flying an airplane
- riding a horse
- riding a roller coaster
- walking into a tunnel or down a hall

Symbols for the Breasts:

- apples
- peaches

So what do you think?

Was he totally mad or is there some truth to it?

It seems that most symbols for the male genital organs include pointy objects, whereas for the female ones the objects have lids or doors.
What about his symbols for sexual intercourse?

Do you think that driving an automobile or flying in an airplane mean your sexual urges or they merely signify some of your fears?


Have you ever had a dream as if someone or something is sitting heavily on your chest and that you cannot do anything about it?

And this something or somebody is watching you?

You cannot move as if you’ve become paralised but you realise that whatever is happening is terrifying and you really need to wake up though you can’t.

Particularly in the Middle Ages, and even these days, according to some people interested in paranormal phenomena, nightmares are often a work of demons and other negative spirits. It is believed that these negative spirits may have sexual intercourse with you and during this act they steal some of your vital life energy.

Psychologists say that nightmares are the products of our mind, similarly to other more pleasant dreams. If you had a recent traumatic event or if you are a person who is anxious and/or depressed, then you are more likely to see nightmares.

If you do suffer from regular nightmares and insomnia, have a look here at the recommendations on how to have a good night sleep.

Also, I have recently read somewhere that if you suffer from nightmares where you become paralised, try to put your pillows higher. For example, sleep on two pillows if you can. I’m not sure the exact reason for that, but it helps me…

Other articles you might be interested in:

How to get a good night sleep

Do I have a sleep disorder?

Why am I sleeping too much?

... or go to:

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'What are our dreams' Article Reference:
Rathus, A.S. (1999). Psychology in the new millennium. (7th ed.). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

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