You’re on the best date ever and just when you think it couldn’t get any more perfect, you lean in to seal the deal, and find yourself suddenly making out with your 50-year-old English teacher from 7th grade. You wake up confused and you hope the tent you’re pitching in your boxer shorts isn’t a result of Mrs. Gruber making a random appearance in your dream and shoving her tongue down your throat.
Dreams happen every night to everybody. And although it seems like your subconscious is just playing dress up with your thoughts and memories like a toddler on a sugar high, some experts believe that a lot of those seemingly random dreams aren’t that random after all. Your subconscious mind might be sending you a message that could be useful to you in your everyday waking life.
Our brain giving us this information while we’re unconscious and laying in our moist, drool covered pillow instead of just giving it to us plainly while we’re awake is some passive aggressive bullshit. But since we have a soft spot for you, here are just a handful of reasons why you keep dreaming of having a weekend bromance with Mario Lopez.
The Cockroach/Bug Dream
That dream about cockroaches falling out of your hair isn’t just because you ate bad Chinese food and haven’t done your dishes in close to two weeks; it could be your subconscious telling you that you need to reassess a major part of your waking life. Usually if it’s more than just one roach, it could be a hint that you need to clean out all the negative or “dirty” influences or situations that might be messing with your psychological, emotional or spiritual self. Or it could easily just be your brain trying to tell you that the tip of the pen cap that you use to clean out your ears and under your nails is cleaner than the restaurant you got your Chinese food from.
One meaning doesn’t necessarily fit all. Usually, the dreams that evoke the most feelings are the dreams you want to pay attention to. Write down as much as you can about your dream and how you felt, then make all the connections you can think of in your real life that brings up similar feelings and take action. Maybe next time, you’ll go to the better lit Greek Restaurant across the street that offers more than just a spork to eat your food with.
The Dream About Your Ex
We’ve all wondered why a random crush or an old neighbor you hadn’t thought about in ages suddenly takes a starring role in your dream. It could even be a little disturbing if it’s a dream about your old ex-girlfriend/boyfriend from high school and you’re presently in a happy relationship with someone else (not to mention way too old to be fantasizing about high schoolers). Does it mean you still love your ex? Do you secretly miss having emotionally filled, drawn out arguments at Jack in The Box because you forgot to get her a napkin with her curly fries? (True story.) Probably not. Usually these dreams have everything to do with you and almost nothing to do with the person you’re dreaming of.
What are the main characteristics of the person you’ve been dreaming about? If you dream about your neighbor and you remember him as being easygoing and laid back, maybe your brain is trying to tell you to take note and stop getting your panties in a bunch when the counter girl at Starbucks spells your name “Brian” instead of “Bryan” on your soy latte.
The Drowning, Falling, Choking, All Around Disturbing Dream
Sometimes disturbing dreams can actually be a warning system for a physical illness. The body has a self-checking and self-correcting system that works all the time, but during the day, people are too occupied with the everyday stresses of life (Red tie? Blue tie? Hawaiian flower tie so you can seem both professional AND fun?) to notice any unusual changes in their body. But in the evening, while we’re asleep and free of outside stimulus, some experts believe that changes in our body’s chemical balance or energy can manifest themselves as dreams.
You can usually draw a simple link between your dreams and your body by using shapes. For example, dreaming about a clogged overpass could correspond to your colon because they have a similar shape and unfortunately similar traffic. If you have recurring dreams about being stuck in a traffic jam at an overpass, you might want to go to the doctor and check out that back exit. The same goes for dreams like drowning in a ditch, which could refer to the ureter, while a small pond or lake, could refer to the bladder. Having a nightmare that includes the sky or clouds could have something to do with your lungs.
Usually dreams about dying and illness are metaphors for an emotional issue you’re having but if you dream about drowning in the toilet and sense that it could be something physically wrong, it never hurts (a mild discomfort at most) to get it checked out.
The Good Idea Dream
Our dreams usually get their material from whatever is currently on our minds. It’s not too unusual for a student to dream about studying, a cab driver to dream about driving, or Oprah to dream about Gayle. Some experts believe that dreams are just a dress rehearsal for real life and could also be a way for your brain to help process new things you’re learning. You can wake up from these dreams with an answer to a problem you’ve been thinking about or have a brilliant epiphany on why some people still insist on saying “pop” when clearly the correct word is soda. (Don’t argue with us.)
A lot of great ideas have sprung from dreams, such as Dmitri Mendeleev who saw the complete Periodic Table of Elements in his dream. Paul McCartney says he woke up from a dream that helped him tune the melody for “Yesterday.”
Instead of waiting for your brain to help you solve a problem or throw you an idea nugget, help it along by setting a conscious intention to dream about whatever it is you need help on. You can visualize the problem before you nod off, write it down or just tell yourself what you want to dream about throughout the day and before you fall asleep. If you can spare a night or two not wishing to dream about being Angelina Jolie’s bra, it might just work out to your benefit.
Written by Elaine Chaney who enjoys eating at questionable Chinese restaurants to insure that she’ll never have a clogged overpass. Follow her on Twitter @Ladyhaha and read more at her blog, Sanity Interrupted.