The Ten Most Common Dreams | Dream Encyclopedia


Anthropologists, psychologists and dream analysts often find similar themes in dreams that appear to transcend all generations and cultures. Whilst not all experts agree on the same list and frequency, the list below is representative of what are generally accepted as common dream themes. You’ll notice that both fantasy and contemporary scenarios appear in the list, and when it comes to interpretation, both the surreal and the everyday can be rich sources of symbolism.

Being chased or attacked
Many people dream of being pursued or attacked, although who or what is attacking or doing the pursuing varies from place to place. These dreams are a natural response to life stress; it could be that events are catching up with you or perhaps you trying to run away from something.

Being lost or trapped
In these very common dreams, you’re lost and feeling desperate. You may be buried alive or locked in a cage. You dream of not being able to move; you’re powerless to scream or breathe. Or you may feel desperate for the toilet and unable to find one. These dreams may occur when you feel confusion or conflict about how to act in waking life.

Being injured, ill or dying
Such dreams may involve deaths of famous people, your parents or children, a lover and even yourself. When you dream about an accidental death of any person, that person’s death symbolizes something in you that is no longer functioning.

It can also suggest new beginnings; out with the old and in with the new. Another common scenario under this theme is of teeth falling out or crumbling.

This might have a physical origin in people gritting or grinding teeth during sleep. Freud suggested that dreams of teeth falling out are related to fears of castration, but women have this dream as often as men.

Other psychologists believe the dream reflects anxiety about your appearance and how others perceive you.

Car or other vehicle trouble
An out-of-control vehicle is a fairly common nightmare among all people and ages, whether or not the dreamers actually drive. Such a dream may occur when the dreamer feels events in waking life are out of control.

House or property, loss or damage
In these dreams, your house is damaged or destroyed by fire, water or other causes. These dreams may surface because you feel that some valuable aspect of waking life is at risk.

Dreams about losing a wallet, watch or cherished piece of jewelry, such as a wedding ring, also fall into this category.

Meanings vary depending on what is lost or damaged. The flip side of this is that dreams about discovering new spaces or rooms in your home, or dreams about repairs or improvements are also common.

These dreams may occur when you feel that some valuable aspect of waking life is improving.

Poor test or other poor performance
You’ve probably dreamed of arriving for a test and found the exam has already started. Or you search fruitlessly for the examination room.

This is a common dream that can occur years after school or college; it usually occurs when you feel you are somehow being ‘tested’ in waking life. Some psychologists think the dreams can denote anxiety about sexual performance.

Falling or flying?
Falling is one of the most common dreams among people of all ages, and may be a reflection of feeling insecure, helpless or of having no support or solid grounding. Some people may actually fall from their beds during this dream.

Dreaming about drowning is less common, and often occurs when a person feels overwhelmed.

Dreams about flying, swimming or dancing are the flip side of falling or drowning dreams. Such optimistic dreams inspire, as the dreamer is lifted to spiritual heights or is filled with creative notions.

Pleasurable swimming may mean freely exploring your depths; dreams of dance may be a metaphor for moving freely through your life.

Being naked in public or inappropriately dressed.
This is a common dream scenario that occurs at all ages, even with children. The dreams involve feelings of exposure and vulnerability, and often include an element of embarrassment or shame.

On the other hand, dreams of wearing a special outfit may suggest you feel good about your body or your life.

Missing the train or connection
You rush to catch a departing bus, train, airplane or ship, only to find it has left without you.

These dreams reflect feelings that you are missing out on something in waking life.

Machine or telephone malfunction dreams are another variation on this theme, often occurring when you feel anxious about making an emotional connection or when you feel you’re losing touch with someone.

Natural or man-made disasters
You’re confronted with overwhelming floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, hurricanes, bombings or chemical warfare.

These dreams may depict personal problems raging out of control. Dreams of vibrant flowers, verdant hillsides or uplifting music that leaves the dreamer feeling inspired are the flip side of disaster dreams.

Common Dreams | Theresa Cheung