What Does It Mean When You Dream of…?

What does it mean when you dream of your teeth falling out? What does it mean when you dream of spiders chasing you? What does it mean when you dream you are pregnant? What does it mean when you dream of someone who died?

Most people who come to the internet to learn more about dreams come to discover the meaning of a particular type of dream.

It’s natural that once we start paying more attention to dreams, we will seek to make sense of them. Most of us are not given a framework for studying more closely our dreams. Therefore, we use the structure we have been taught in school to use: ask someone older or wiser or in authority. We turn to subject matter experts. Which is okay … as a first step.

However, if you arrived at this site determined to discover the definitive meaning to your dream, I’ll be honest: I don’t have it.

But together, we may be able to arrive at deeper and more thoughtful explanations for recurring dreams or unusual dream experiences than the ones you’re bound to find on the internet these days. 

I wrote recently about my general disappointment in dream dictionaries. The dictionaries you’ll find in your average book store offer up mostly outdated and broad explanations at best, and even when they temporarily satisfy our need to understand, they don’t provide insight over the long term, especially as we age and grow, and even moreso, when our dreams get stranger and the difference between waking life and dreams begins to blur.

Dream content on the internet is not often very insightful, is it? And, it’s never individualized. (You may or may not have noticed most of the search results turn up text written by AI or content creation software.)

While it can feel like a relief to be told by an expert what your recurring dream likely “means,” I wonder about the benefit of that exchange over the long term.

In a way, searching on the internet for what a dream means allows us to rest in a state of certainty, in the same way a medical diagnosis sometimes can.

“Oh, so that’s what it means…” may be the immediate reaction. Dream “interpretation” by another person allows us to just get on with things.

Or does it?

I don’t know about you, but since I was in my mid-twenties, I haven’t ever walked out of a doctor’s office satisfied by a cursory explanation and a prescription for a medicine I don’t know much about. This has been especially true for my chronic conditions, the ones that don’t have a quick fix or a gentle cure. 

For me, medical diagnoses usually lead to more research, more learning, and often, big lifestyle changes.

Dreamwork is a little like that, too.

* * *

Dreams, I’ve discovered, are a multi-layered mystery, asking us to excavate more and more and more. 

What I believed for myself about “teeth falling out dreams” when I was 12 is different than what I believe for myself about the same type of dream now that I am in my forties.

What I understood for myself about “house dreams” — finding extra rooms in a house, leaving belongings behind in a house, buying a big, new house — has shifted over time as I study different methods for analyzing and understanding dreams.

The more I study dreams, the less stock I place in the basic explanations of common dreams. The more I study dreams, the less the surface layer explanation satisfies me.  

Which isn’t to say there isn’t any value in symbolism or archetypes. Certainly, there is! 

However, it doesn’t help a person who is suffering from a recurring nightmare that takes place on a dark train to know that trains often symbolize a feeling of being out of control (due to the fact that we aren’t driving) or that darkness in a dream may represent blindness for one person, but despair for another.

What can help a person is getting to know them and the circumstances of their past and current lives, while also listening to their dreams. Together, in a back and forth, we can excavate the layers: one asking the question, the other suggesting a possible answer, one that is liable to change. 

We may never make ultimate sense of the dream, but we can achieve meaningful insights, heal, change, or grow simply as a result of the inquiry.