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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High


Decoding the depths of dreamscapes

Why we dream, where they come from and what they mean
Samari Sanders
Dream interpretations are an important part of psychoanalysis, a method of analyzing psychic phenomena and treating emotional disorders. Dream interpretations originated at the end of the 19th century when neurologist Sigmund Freud set out his theory that dreams carry a message from our subconscious. There are three main types of theories: the cognitive theory — the idea that how and what people think leads to the arousal of emotions, physiological theory — responses within the body that are responsible for emotions and psychodynamic theory — the focus on psychological drives within individuals that explain behavior and personality.
The subconscious mind controls the mental process of things we aren’t fully aware of, but still could be brought to the conscious mind, such as blinking or breathing. Even though dreams happen while we’re sleeping, we’re still aware of what’s being experienced in the dream. “Some cultures thought that [dreams] were omens of something, some thought they were messages from higher powers, so there’s a lot of cultural and historical aspects to dreams,” psychology teacher John Wright said.

Some experts hold that dreams — these mental, emotional or sensory experiences that happen in our sleep — may come from skills we use in the real world or memories. All of the information we acquire during a long, active day is processed and decluttered by our brains during the night when we dream. 

The most vivid dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — named after how eyes move behind our eyelids while dreaming. Newborns spend about eight hours in REM sleep each night; however, by adulthood, we need an average of two hours per night. Still, dreams are an inconsistent phenomenon that range from person to person. Often due to the medial prefrontal cortex, which mediates decision-making, and the amount of white matter this region of the brain holds, some people dream frequently and remember them vividly, while others cannot remember any.

“[It] depends on the individual. For some people, it might be a window into different issues or things that they’re thinking about a lot. Psychologists believe there’s some sort of aspect of an unconscious mind, but there are some things that we’re unaware of sometimes that could come out through dreams,” psychology teacher John Wright said. “The science behind dreams is that we dream every night, but because our memory doesn’t work the same way as when we’re awake, we forget most of the dreams that we have.”

Neurologist and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed every dream is meaningful, no matter how much is recalled or comprehended. In his method of free association, Freud concluded that “dreams are disguised fulfillments of repressed infantile wishes.” Therefore, analyzing common dreams, from flying to seeing old friends to being chased, the variety of symbols and meanings can provide new personal insight.

Common dreams 

Common dreams vary depending on the individual. These dreams don’t cause any physical feelings, however, they’re people-powered thoughts associated with real-life experiences, allowing an individual to look deeper into things they may need to incorporate into or separate from their life. 

  1. Flying 

You take step after step until, suddenly, the usual, grounding pull of gravity eases its grasp. Now looking down towards the earth, the ground is moving farther away — or rather, you’ve taken flight. You soar by clouds, feeling the thrilling rush of the wind. Flying dreams are a representation of being set free from circumstances that have held the dreamer back in some way. These dreams give an idea of what the future might hold while encouraging release and trust in personal journeys. Flying dreams symbolize new, positive opportunities that await us.  

Additionally, there is a difference between flying with control and randomly flying, as well as the flight direction. Flying without control and direction in a dream suggests the enjoyment of liberation within the mind and body while incorporating self-awareness, which are both elements of wakefulness. Flying upwards in a dream symbolizes a new level spiritually — it is the feeling of having internal peace and increased intuition. On the other hand, flying low to the ground represents strength and determination in life. Either way, these dreams bring focus to personal freedoms and spirit.

  1. Heights 

Inching closer and closer to the ledge, the dreamer gives themself positive affirmations to feel more at ease, then abruptly, faces their biggest fear yet. Heights dreams are the desire for success and achievement. It indicates taking a risk in waking life, yet we associate the concept of tall heights with emotions such as fear and anxiety — or, commonly, with the act of falling over a ledge and plummeting to our death. Despite such associations, these dreams may also contain a valuable message addressing what needs to be focused on in life. Dreams involving heights encourage the dreamer to acknowledge their fears and anxieties about things that are out of their control. The good news is this sort of dream often offers clues of locations, emotions and people to help figure out exactly where focus is needed. If memory allows, after putting the pieces together, the dreamer should look into issues revolving around emotional instability, relationship problems or inner-self issues.

  1. Teeth 

Many dreams start by looking in the mirror and finding missing or chipped teeth. Teeth are an enigmatic dream symbol possibly suggesting some sort of loss in life, often symbolizing insecurities, inner weakness, loss of control and poor communication. Teeth dreams could include, rotting, broken, falling out or holes in teeth. Rotting teeth dreams suggest interpretations reflecting speech, an image or neglected responsibilities of repressed inner selves. In other words, these dreams can subconsciously convince that others are judging even if they’re not causing this illusion of rotted teeth. Nevertheless, it’s best to use this as a warning to stop self-doubt before it gets worse.

 Avoiding the cause of the dream, like the fear of imperfections being exposed, could lead to dreams becoming more vivid if neglected for too long. A broken tooth dream connects self-image and perception. The tooth could relate to negative traumas, internal beliefs and perfection. However, according to psychologist Carl Jung, it can be a sign of rebirth occurring. Reflecting on negative things in life could lead to clues as to why these dreams, fears and anxieties are appearing. 

  1. Old friends 

A wave is the last and final goodbye to a beloved friend, leaving many wondering if another conversation will ever take place. Dreams about old friends are associated with past experiences, emotions and memories that can resurface in the dreamer’s life during any present moment.

“In our experiences, a lot of people [can] impact our dreams, so it’s certainly possible if you have similar [dreams], you [wouldn’t] know unless you compare dreams really specifically,” Wright said. 

Such dreams encourage reflection on what changed within past relationships. Growing apart from someone is a natural part of life; you change, your friends change and you become more aware of who you want to surround yourself with. Typically, our past shapes our present, and over time, changes in social life can stop interactions with people for a variety of reasons. However, these dreams are sending an unconscious message to show that those the dreamer doesn’t associate with anymore could still be relevant in life.


Nightmares are the bad dreams that wake the dreamer up. These dreams cause the heart to beat rapidly fast, the body to sweat and the mind to try to escape the negative thoughts. Typically, this is caused by stress, negative life events, depression and trauma. When nightmares occur, it is the brain trying to connect to unresolved anxiety that hasn’t been given enough thought. They’re common occurrences with children but can happen at any age. 

 “There’s evidence that says that during different stages of sleep, we might dream different things. During our non-REM sleep, [which] we have a lot of times early in the night, might be consolidating memories you’re replaying trying to figure out. The dreams during our REM state are a little more emotional. It might be things that are either more exciting or threatening because they seem to activate our emotional centers during our REM state,” Wright said.

  1. Death 

The presence of death in dreams often has nothing to do with the dreamer actually dying, but rather, it could represent a shift happening in life. Dying in dreams often symbolizes the ending of a stage, such as a change in relationship, job or physical appearance. Depending on the method of death, there are different meanings each could correlate to. For example, cars symbolize how much control a personal journey is present. Generally, dreams about dying in a car crash hint toward moving away from defeatism and toward victory.

  1. Falling

Your breathing becomes heavier, suddenly your palms become sweaty as your heart beats rapidly. Whether it was off of a cliff or down some stairs, dreams about falling are common nightmares. Falling in dreams is known as the hypnagogic state” due to the hypnic jerk or the involuntary muscle twitch that feels like falling. Oftentimes, these dreams mean a loss of control over something in life. Usually, this begins with holding on to something that isn’t beneficial. The feeling of helplessness, or falling, forces the dreamer out of sleep. 

  1. Being chased 

Being chased in a dream can allow the dreamer to understand their fears — relating to an inner conflict that is unable to be conquered. The location differs depending on where the problem lies. For example, being chased by a killer implies the dreamer is running away from something intimidating. Or maybe, switching positions, the dreamer is chasing someone, thus signifying a point desired in life that has not yet been obtained.

  1. Cheating 

People who experience dreams about cheating on their partners may not realize these dreams can be quite common. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a desire to cheat or that they’re cheating but rather a deeper connection with someone the dreamer isn’t fully aware of yet. However, encountering unfaithfulness with a partner can cause these dreams to come from feelings of trust issues. If it comes randomly, it represents a lack of confidence within. Additionally, cheating dreams could also be a sign of wanting to be free again, to go out and do things without worry that the dreamer may be lacking in life. The importance of understanding what’s causing disturbance from these dreams, especially if it’s recurring, is to resolve any personal issues that would deteriorate mental and physical health and relationships.

To prevent these bad dreams, practice relaxation techniques and avoid oversleeping. Sometimes, brushing off things to avoid failure makes the brain stress more about whatever the initial problem was. Practicing calm activities like meditation and being mindful of negative thoughts could help better sleeping habits.


In order to stop having these kinds of dreams, addressing the issue prompting the dream is necessary. Pushing something under the rug will only make it appear on the other side. With that being said, thinking of present negative situations and confronting them — as difficult as that sounds — makes it easier to understand escapism from things that cause fear and how to use it as a defense mechanism. 

Overall, no matter the takeaway from common dreams, it’s a favorable sign for good mental health to process these emotions and memories, thus enhancing quality of life. Dreams can prepare for real-life encounters and provide insight into repressed emotions. Even though the exact reason as to why dreams happen isn’t fully understood, dreaming can be understood as a spiritual way to meet ends with real-world experiences, whether it’s to interpret the positive and/or negative aspects of them.  


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Samari Sanders
Samari Sanders, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 11 Years on staff: 2 What was your favorite childhood TV show? My favorite childhood TV shows were "Doc Mcstuffins" and "Sofia the First" What is your favorite book? Divergent by Veronica Roth What motivates you? To be honest, I don't have a specific person who motivates me, I think the feeling of me just wanting to be successful is my only motivation. I want to be able to not worry financially and to be able to live life to the fullest.
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