10 Common Dreams + What They Actually Mean

10 Common Dreams + What They Actually Mean Hero Image
Photo: Kenrick Rhys Photography

A leading voice on modern spirituality, Emma Mildon has traveled the world studying everything from auras to aromatherapy. This week, we're sharing her expertise in a series on how to decode your dreams and apply their insights once you wake up. To learn more, check out her new mindbodygreen class, The Essential Guide to Dream Interpretation.

Have you ever wondered what that rogue fox or wiggly tooth in your nightly dreams could possibly mean? We can all admit to having at least one of these common cameos show up during shut-eye. I've got your subconscious covered with this list of common dreams and their meanings.

1. If you dream of animals...

You are channeling your animalistic side—the primal pieces of yourself that connect you to nature and survival. The animal kingdom is all about survival of the fittest. Being chased by a predator suggests you're holding back repressed emotions, like fear, instead of confronting whatever situation you are looking to escape or hide. Pay attention to the animals you see in your dreams, think about the people or situations they may present, and ask yourself how the animals make you feel. Think about your waking life and how this might connect to the animal or animals you tend to dream about. Every animal has a unique meaning—similar to the concept of spirit animals—so consider doing some research into dream symbolism, either online or at your local library.

2. If you dream of babies...

Dreaming about babies is usually less about your own offspring and more about your own inner child. These dreams represent a subconscious need for unconditional love, nurturing, and support. Babies can also represent the birth of new ideas, new beginnings, and a new chapter in life.

3. If you dream of being chased...

Talk to anybody about dreams and they'll probably admit to having experienced at least one chase dream. They're super freaky! Dreams in which we're being chased by someone or something are rooted in our fight-or-flight instincts. They can mean that you are feeling threatened by someone or something, so reflect on who is chasing you in your dream and who that pursuer could represent in real life.

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4. If you dream of death...

Ironically, death in dreams can represent birth in your waking life. A death of a friend or loved one represents change—the transition between an end and a new beginning. If you have recently lost a loved one, dreaming of death may be your subconscious mind's attempt to come to terms with your grief through your dreams so that you can achieve release in your waking life. These dreams can be very healing.

5. If you dream of falling...

Ever woken yourself up with a jolt, like you had suddenly crashed down onto your bed? Falling is a common dream that connects to our anxieties and fears about letting go in our waking life. We may feel like we are losing control over a situation, a person, or simply a long-held belief or prejudice, and we experience this letting go as falling in our dreams.

6. If you dream of food...

Whether you dream about stuffing your face or wandering the desert longing for dessert, dreaming of food (or the lack of it) symbolizes a craving for knowledge, since grub nourishes the body just as information nourishes the brain. Food for thought!

7. If you dream of killing someone...

Killing in your dreams does not make you a closet murderer; it represents your desire to "kill" part of your own personality. Chances are, you have become aware of something about yourself you're not a huge fan of and are working toward "killing off" that piece of yourself. It can also symbolize hostility toward a particular person and the desire to see them suffer or struggle.

8. If you dream of sex...

Most people attribute sex dreams to guys, but girls totally have them, too! The meaning behind sex dreams for both men and women is about as straightforward as you can get: You seek intimacy and are experiencing a literal desire for sex through your dreams. Dreams that feature sex or erotic imagery could point to a desire to explore new experiences in your waking life as well.

9. If you dream of losing teeth...

Have you ever had all of your teeth fall out in your dream and woken up only to race into the bathroom to check that they're all still in your head? Gah! Loose, wiggly, or broken teeth are common dream symbols that point to general anxiety of losing control in your everyday life. They can also point to hidden fears of getting old and being unattractive to sexual partners.

10. If you dream of water...

Dreaming of water can symbolize the overall state of the subconscious mind. Calm pools of water reflect inner peace, while a choppy ocean can suggest unease and upheaval. The night before I first went to study Transcendental Meditation, I had a dream that I was out in an ocean in the middle of the night. The ocean was gently rolling along when suddenly a huge wave formed in front of me. I took a deep breath and dove down deep, digging my hands into the sand to anchor myself as the wave went over me. I resurfaced to a perfectly calm ocean once more.

The next day, the teacher drew a picture of a wavy ocean, and then explained to us that as we go deeper into transcendental meditation, the process would resemble diving deeper into the ocean—it gets quieter and calmer as you delve to its depths, finding peace and stability there.