The 15 Most Common Dreams — And What They Mean

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Oftentimes, we have dreams we can’t remember, and we have dreams that are very vivid. The dreams we do remember have specific meanings associated with them, but to interpret those meanings can be difficult.

In general, dreams represent our emotions and thoughts; it's our subconscious mind's way of delivering messages about our waking life.

“Dreams can be thought of as messages from deeper parts of the psyche,” says Greg Mahr, MD, psychiatrist, author of "The Wisdom of Dreams," and director of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “Dreams appear to balance our conscious mind and to remind us of the deeper world within.”

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In order to find the meaning behind specific dreams, one must pay close attention to all aspects and circumstances of the dream and further interpret them, whether through a dream dictionary or other means.

Many people tend to forget their dreams after they wake up; in fact, we forget 95% of all our dreams. However, when we do remember, it's because we are in REM sleep. That said, there are very common dreams many people have had at least once in their life.

Here are the 15 most common dreams and what they mean.

1. Being attacked or chased

These types of dreams can differ depending on the type of attack or chase, as well as location.

According to Mahr, “Being chased or attacked may suggest that a part of you that you are neglecting — probably a more instinctual, animal-like part — demands attention.”

These dreams represent feelings of vulnerability, and the ways in which we judge ourselves. Other interpretations relate to stress catching up with you, or running away from or trying to escape something in your life.

2. Being lost and/or trapped

These dreams commonly occur when you are confused or anxious about something in your real life.

There may be things happening that make you feel powerless or stressed out. You may also experience dreams about being lost or trapped when you’re desperate for something.

3. Car or other transportation accident

This dream usually occurs when you are going through a life-changing event of some kind, as well as conflicts with others. Perhaps you didn't get the promotion you had hoped for, or there is tension between you and your coworkers.

Whether or not it's a big change in your day to day life, you may dream about car crashes or other accidents if this is an impending event.

Adds Mahr, “Cars often appear in dreams and represent our conscious ego, that which gets us around the world. A car accident may suggest an obstacle that we need to face.”

4. Natural disaster/man-made disasters

Typically, people experience these types of dreams when they are confronted with or dealing with upcoming change.

People tend to have this dream when they are receiving a warning that their plans for the future will change. These dreams could also represent personal problems that seem to have no resolution.

Dreaming about natural disasters like tornadoes, for example, represent fear, and sudden change or challenges.

5. Falling

Dreams about falling can represent feelings of insecurity or helplessness. People who have a recurring dream of falling are often advised to face their stressors in order to reduce the anxiety that this dream can incite.

Overall, a dream about falling symbolizes a loss of control.

6. Being inappropriately dressed in public

Whether it's being naked in public or improperly dressed, this dream represents anxiety or stress related to your own personal weaknesses or shortcomings.

Dream interpretations for this type of dream are also related to vulnerability and being embarrassed about issues in real life.

“How we are dressed suggests a conscious persona or attitude. Being naked can represent who we really are, without a conscious ‘pose’,” Mahr says.

7. Poor performance

This dream may involve failing a test and usually occurs when you are being tested or are feeling insecure. These dreams don't usually relate to actual academics, but do relate to making an important decision that will impact your life.

Some dream experts have suggested this dream can mean anxiety regarding recent sexual performance.

8. House and/or property damage or loss

These types of dreams may happen when there is something of value in your life that is at risk. The positive aspect of this specific dream, however, is that you might discover new things about the item of value at risk and are able to prepare yourself.

9. Missing a connecting flight or train stop

Experiencing panic-inducing dreams like this can represent feelings of missing out or not taking opportunities that present themselves. This anxiety dream might occur when you’re feeling anxious.

10. Dying, being ill, or being injured

Dreams about dying or illness represent something in your life that is no longer there, something within yourself that is no longer working, as well as transformation and change.

Some experts have suggested these types of dreams can represent anxiety about how others perceive you and your physical appearance. But it's a dream that can lead to positive changes, especially for your mental health, as it opens the door to new beginnings.

"Remember that the ‘you’ in the dream is not actually you," Mahr states. "It is a fictional entity, your conscious self’s attitude. Students of dreams call it the dream ego. When the ‘you’ in the dreams dies, it may not be a bad thing; it may be an attitude toward the world that is outgrown and needs to die.”

11. Flying

While a flying dream can occur during lucid dreaming, overall, this type of dream relates to feeling in control, freedom, and the desire to escape from the world around you.

Depending on the circumstances of the dream — if you're in control of flying or how high you are flying — this may also symbolize gaining a wider perspective and even connecting to a higher spiritual power.

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12. Teeth falling out

Though it can feel pretty scary dream, dreaming of your teeth falling out represents fear and insecurity, worry or anxiety, and even losing a part of yourself.

However, a dream about teeth falling out can also mean that you are improving your confidence and are allowing yourself to let go of things from the past that no longer serve you.

13. Being back in school

A dream about school or being back in the classroom is related to anxiety, insecurity and worry, as well as low self-esteem, judgment, fear, and unresolved conflicts from childhood.

Despite the negative connotations, to have a dream can bring you to facing the specific issues you're experiencing in your waking life, and overcoming your anxiety as a result.

14. Pregnancy

Having a dream of being pregnant doesn't mean you are actually pregnant in your real life; however, it does mean you are in the process of "giving birth" to a new opportunity or potential.

So, think of this dream as the inspiration to seek out that adventure or act on that creative idea you have.

15. Cheating

Just like a dream about pregnancy doesn't indicate an actual pregnancy, dreaming about cheating on a partner doesn't mean your relationship is on the rocks. However, it does mean there may be unresolved issues in your partnership.

Depending on the circumstances of the dream —i.e., which partner is cheating, or who they cheat with — the underlying meaning of this dream relates to dissatisfaction of some kind, as well as insecurity or even past experiences of cheating.

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Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.