Meaning behind Dreaming

The last dream I had involved me waking up with half of my hair chopped off. I was absolutely mortified and remember crying for hours (in my dream), and hoping it REALLY was just a dream. Luckily for me, I woke up and discovered that my hair was still on my head- untouched.  Although I am not a hair fanatic, I am very fond of my long hair and would be incredibly upset if anything happened to it. When I had this dream, I was surprised because it was very unlike me to dream about something as superficial as losing my hair. However, I am not in control of what I dream, and it was likely that my subconscious was trying to tell me something. I have always wondered if dreams have underlying meanings and are actually reflections of what is happening in our brain and subconscious. When I had the dream that my hair was practically gone, I felt that it represented my current stressed-out state in my everyday life. Bombarded with exams and an almost unmanageable schedule, it might be my subconscious telling me that I am really “losing it”. Can dreams really tell us things about ourselves? Or is it all just apart of our crazy imagination?

According to The Huffington Post , dreams have a variety of different meanings. One of the most common dreams that people have is one in which they are being chased or followed. This represents a base anxiety that an individual may be experiencing in their life. They may feel pressured to do something or feel “chased” by responsibilities, obligations, and deadlines. Another common dream involves elements of water, which can reflect the current state of an individual’s life or mentality. If the water is turbulent, there may be chaos running admist. On the contrary, if the water  is calm, it may be a sign of solitude and acceptance. Vehicles and airplanes in dreams can signal the start of something new or a milestone being reached. They represent the different pathways that life can take, whether it be somewhere new or back to the past. Dreaming of school or a classroom environment can be a direct signal towards the past; “learning a lesson”. People who have already finished schooling may dream more about classrooms and school because it is an indication of the past.


In a study reported by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , social psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University conducted a study to see how people viewed their dreams in the United States, South Korea, and India. The % of people who believed that their dreams were accurate reflections of their subconscious were as follows:

United States: 56%

South Korea: 65%

India: 74%

Next, another study was conducted to test to see if dreams really did have an effect on the decisions that people made. The study consisted of 182 individuals, who were asked which of the following scenarios would prompt them to change their flights: imagining their plane crashing in mid-air, hearing that an airplane crashed along the route of your flight, the government announcing a national threat that could potentially be serious, or having a dream that your plane crashed. The majority of the individuals said that the scenario that would most prompt them to change their flight plans was dreaming that their plane crashed. In their minds, they trusted their subconscious more (telling them that it was a bad idea/gut feeling). This particular study would be an observational study, because the participants were simply asked a survey question. There was no independent or dependent variables, and no control was assigned. However, the conclusion of the study has relevance towards the idea that dreaming does have an affect on people’s decision making and how they perceive their lives.


The interpretations of dreams date back to the theories of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud , who had two different intepretations of dreams. Freud believed that all dreams could eventually be connected to sex, while Jung argued that dreams were direct reflections of the individuals’ subconscious trying to highlight a certain part of their life that needed attention or had significant meaning. According to them, dreams are another way the brain attempts to find solutions and answers.


Dreams are most likely to happen during our REM sleep, which is when our bodies go on “auto pilot” and our brain experiences the most activity, according to ABC Science. REM sleep, which is an acronym for rapid eye movement sleep, is responsible for the most intense and visually realistic dreaming. The dreams that take place during REM sleep are more likely to be remembered because the brain waves are moving rapidly, along with overall brain activity. On the contrary, non-REM sleep allows for slower brain waves that may result in slow-paced dreams. These dreams are harder to remember because the brain waves are moving slower and there is less activity in the cortex.

Dream Stop lists the 7 categories that most dreams fall under. If you’ve had a strange dream lately, check out the link to see if there’s a hidden meaning behind it.  The next time you dream, take note of what you’re dreaming about. Then check out Dream Cloud , which is a dream dictionary that contains the meanings behind your craziest dreams.  Happy Dreaming!

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About omz5012

Olivia Zhang is a junior at Pennsylvania State University from McLean VA. She is currently in the Smeal College of Business, majoring in Supply Chain & Information Systems with a minor in Information Systems Management. Olivia is an extremely motivated individual and works tirelessly to get the job done. When faced with multiple tasks, she sets short term goals for herself until she is able to accomplish them. She enjoys communicating with others and collaborating on group projects and business endeavors. As an undergraduate Supply Chain & Information Systems professional who possess the qualities of a team player, creative visionary, and goal-oriented leader , I am looking for experiences that will propel my knowledge and expertise in the business market's most vital supply chains.

4 thoughts on “Meaning behind Dreaming

  1. Marissa Dorros

    Dreaming is universal, but does an individual’s culture affect the way they dream? I was particularly interested by the statistic in your post that reported whether or not people of different nationalities feel their dreams reflect their subconscious. My immediate explanation for the results is that western society in general causes people to be less in-touch with themselves spiritually than people of other cultures like the South Koreans and Indians included in the study. This article not only explains how the dreams themselves differ between cultures, but also how people deal with and interpret their dreams. Some cultures consider their dreams as more of a reality than other cultures do, and some consider it as a form of communication. The dreams themselves are influenced by an individual’s experiences, but certain dreams, like falling and flying, occur across all cultures. Even the amount of dreams that people remember differs between cultures. Anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann discusses in this article how different patterns and perspectives of sleep in certain cultures can influence the types of dreams people have.

  2. Patrick James Mcgovern

    Thanks for this. A huge topic that I really wanted to read about on here.

    This is interesting to me in its wording because you identified certain commonalities and connections with dreaming and real life situations. However, when I read this, I thought that some things identified in dreams sounded like movies, specifically. Being chased or chasing something is an extremely common movie scenario and often furthers plots. Airplanes are related to a massive section of movies and their characters, with transportation and large vessels being a useful tool for writers and directors, while also resonating heavily with viewers who know what the experience is like. Water is another large contributing aspect of visual storytelling through its iconic necessity and symbol of human life.

    The reason I point this out is because I am starting to believe that what we watch and focus on with our visual sense contributes a lot to what our mind makes sense out of when it is on its own. Kinda creepy.

  3. Griffin Lambert Brooks

    Great post I was very intrigued. I believe that dreams are things that we were thinking about or in our minds shortly before we fall asleep. I can recollect that when I have dreams and can remember them I also seem to remember thinking about whatever happened in my dream before I fall asleep. Personally when I dream and call me crazy but I’ve been saying this for years, I can control my dreams. When I am dreaming I can actually tell myself and understand that I am dreaming and currently sleeping. Its weird and I’m not sure if anyone understands where I’m coming from but while I’m dreaming I fully understand and can control what I do in my dreams.

  4. Mairead Donnard

    This was fascinating to read. I have always felt that dreams are extremely relevant to our lives as I believe they act on what we are subconsciously thinking. In addition, I think that the study that you discussed produced valid results being that it surveyed a relatively large number of people. With this being said, the lack of control group does cause me to hesitate a little about the results. You also discussed the meaning behind certain aspects of dreams such as getting chased. With this being said, I think you would find this article ( by The Huffington Post to be particularly interesting as it talks about the symbols behind dreams.

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