I don't know who started the rumor that no one wants to hear about your dreams. I love hearing about people's dreams. I want to hear every single weird thing your subconscious presented to you while you were asleep. What improbable images does your brain juxtapose while you're snoozing away, unaware, or possibly dribbling the best bits out in a breathy ghost voice that scares your significant other and friends at sleepovers? What themes recur? Whom from work did you last have a sex dream about, and, more important, was it good?
It is possible that I'm biased. I have extremely intense dreams and also a twin sister who sometimes dreams the same things as me (I know, right?). (We used to dream each other's funerals (#gothtwins).) If you have trouble remembering your dreams but want to get on board with some deep-sleep analysis, try keeping a journal beside your bed and recording everything you can remember about your dream as soon as you wake up. [Note: you do not have to call this book a "dream journal," but you may choose to do so if mentioning it will get a bro in a suit to stop talking to you at a bar.]
Analyzing other people's dreams is fun and free and makes you feel like Freud minus the casual phallocentrism. Please see below for a few classic dream definitions and some alternative interpretations that could be real, but don't quote me please, I am not a doctor.
Animals — Animals appearing in dreams are often a stand-in for the basic needs or deepest emotions of the dreamer. The state of the animal (caged or free, healthy or neglected, angry or happy, etc.) can be an indicator that our basic needs are being ignored and require attention and care. Alternately, having an animal appear in your dream can mean it's time for your boyfriend or girlfriend to stop fighting the inevitable and let you get a dog already, GOD, you'll take such good care of it and walk it every day.
Babies — Don't worry; you're not pregnant. Babies represent new ideas and fresh beginnings. Maybe that frantic worry list you keep while you're nodding off is actually getting somewhere! Giving birth in a dream is a great omen and suggests you will probably be grunting through the process of bringing a great new project into the world sometime soon. Dreaming about babies may also indicate that you saw some pictures of Idris Elba holding a baby and have been … thinking about it.
Being Chased — A classic anxiety image, being chased in a dream invites dreamers to ask themselves what they're afraid might catch up to them. See if you can remember what you were being chased by: was it a family member? A shadowy presence (i.e., the unknown)? A tree? Many screaming teenagers? A murderer? Ask yourself if you are avoiding something. Is it … being murdered? (Murder is a bad example; let's all do our best to avoid that, please, but basically if something is chasing you in a dream, it's likely you need to turn around and confront what you're fleeing.)
Death — As in tarot readings, the appearance of death in dreams is not the grim omen it may seem to be. Rather, it is a signal of the symbolic death of a period in your life, or the end of a relationship, or, like, a sign that it's really time to throw out your jeans — they have holes in the crotch, and everyone can tell. It is also possible that dying in your dream means it's time for a symbolic resurrection, i.e., dust off that seat-belt belt, girl, the world is ready.
Flying — Flying is an extremely fun thing to do in a dream. Unlike being naked in school or having sex with your weird coworker, flying is something you could never actually experience in real life! Having a dream about flying tends to mean that you feel on top of whatever situation you're in. If you dream about flying, you are experiencing your own sense of being powerful and in control. If you find yourself struggling to stay aloft, chances are you feel out of control in your waking life. Dreams are not very subtle. To wit: one time I had a dream that I learned how to fly, taught my mom how to do it, and then she told me not to tell anyone because it would be embarrassing for her. Slow down, subconscious! That's almost TOO inscrutable! What does it all MEAN?!
Nudity — Appearing fully naked in your own dream is generally about feelings of exposure. Often if you are naked and uncomfortable in a public place like work or school, it is a sign that you feel you've exposed too much of yourself to others or that the world around you isn't quite picking up what you're putting down. More rarely, nudity in dreams can represent intense freedom, a feeling that you have "nothing to hide," or the fact that you've been to the gym twice this month and know it's early but really feel like you're seeing results.
Sex — Most dream-interpretation resources will tell you that sex in dreams is about "merging" contrasting aspects of yourself. Sex-dream-interpretation literature is plagued with weirdly heteronormative readings ("Lesbian sex can indicate a subconscious need for sensitivity and nurturing") and unhelpful suggestions ("If you dream about having sex with a celebrity, it may indicate a waking crush on said celeb"), so I feel like it's best to not analyze them too hard and just enjoy the ride. Sometimes a dream cigar is just a dream cigar.
Teeth Falling Out — This is an extremely common dream image and is most often linked to anxiety on the part of the dreamer — particularly anxiety regarding one's physical appearance or sexual performance. It may also, possibly, indicate an aggressive crush on the dreamer's dental hygienist, coupled with a fear of accidentally asking said hygienist to "Gimme the tooth, Doc, I can take it" in a cutesy way that is both completely out of character and an utter miscalculation of your doctor-patient dynamic.
Monica Heisey is a writer and comedian from Toronto. Her first book, a humor collection called I Can't Believe It's Not Better, is available now.