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Men’s most common dreams explained
It is easy to dismiss dreaming as just something we do, and to ridicule dreamers who search for hidden meanings - especially if they do it by paying good money to self-appointed experts who analyse them on their behalf.
Most of us set some store by them, however, if only by noticing that if we have a particularly pleasant one it can put us in a good mood for the morning, just as a nightmare can leave even the most sceptical types feeling decidedly out of sorts.
The professionals - meaning pyschologists and neuroscientists, rather than those slightly scary weirdos who hang around spirit fairs - seem largely undecided about the whole thing.
Most agree dreaming is an important part of a normal sleep pattern - it could simply be the brain ditching a lot of old nonsense before settling down to relax - although only a small minority are inclined to ascribe any deep or significant meaning to a particular dream or theme.
But even the sceptics must occasionally wonder why certain themes surface time and again, and wonder what those aforementioned experts think it all means.
Being caught with your pants down
Or more commonly completely starkers. It is very common this one, and the stuff of a thousand sitcoms.
The experts say the good news is that if no-one else in the dream notices your nakedness then it is an indication that you have been worrying about something which is not worth worrying about.
If they do notice, however, it means you are in trouble. On the one hand it could be that you have been trying to conceal something important from someone else; on the other that you are ill-prepared for something big coming up - and have been caught out (ie exposed).
To a degree it doesn't matter who (or what) is chasing you, just that you are being chased.
It can be frightening, it may instead be exhilarating, but what it symbolises is your refusal to accept certain facts or to deal with problems. Instead you have chosen to run away.
Where the problem lies is for you to figure out. It could be at home, at work or even an aspect of your personality which you know is destructive but refuse to address. The dream is just like a warning light on your car: it is up to you to make the appointment to get it fixed.
Some people fly in all or most of their dreams, but for the rest of us the occasions when we do it mean we are particularly happy or feel on top of things.
That is, unless you find yourself having trouble staying aloft or feel insecure, or like you are about to plummet earthwards.
If that happens then maybe you feel unequal to the challenges facing you, or feel that someone is standing in your way and preventing you from controlling your own destiny.
Keep trying though, and if you stay aloft the new perspective you gain from up there may help you get around them to achieve your goals.
Losing your teeth
If you have not yet had this dream, you will one day. Dreaming of losing your teeth (or your hair) is strange but surprisingly common and usually bound up with your image of yourself and your self-esteem.
Sometimes they fall out, other times you spit them out - but the message is the same.
Apparently it is all to do with confidence - both our confidence in our appearance (those gappy gums look ugly) and in our ability to communicate effectively through the normal vocabulary of speech, smile and facial gesture.
To overcome it, the experts say be sure to speak your mind from now on. Oh, and keep brushing regularly.
Common and discomfiting, most of us at some time experience the sensation of falling, falling, falling - and then coming to a bumping halt on the mattress. Sometimes you could even swear it was actually bouncing slightly, as if you really have fallen down from the ceiling.
This one too is about insecurity and anxiety: something is worrying you, even if you are not quite sure what it is or where the worry comes from.
Other analysts say the dream suggests you think you're a failure, while for Freud it indicated the dreamer was about to give in to a sexual urge.
Sitting and failing an exam
Dreaming of failing a test, or even forgetting you had a test to sit, is not in itself an indication of failure (academic or otherwise). Successful students frequently report precisely this scenario, and there are countless cases of students who have never failed a test sharing this particular dream.
They do indicate that no one is perfect, however, being manifestations of other anxieties and fears relating to self-confidence and self-esteem.
Rarely connected to actual exams (although many dreamers can recall highly detailed questions) they more often relate to fears about our lives and the likelihood of our reaching our full potential.
It sounds a bit too obvious to be true, but many analysts say that finding yourself in unfamiliar surroundings - or being unable to navigate around familiar surroundings - is a nocturnal hint that in life you have lost or are in danger of losing your direction.
Once again the dream is unlikely to give you any more indications about where you are going wrong. That is up to you: if you are nervous about a new job, are you right to be nervous? And that new girlfriend - is she really the one for you?
Dreaming of animals
Unsurprisingly it depends on the animal, although their symbolism might surprise you.
Cats, for example, are about warmth and sexuality - unless it's a black cat which can be a bad omen - or a need to feel loved and cared for. Dogs are too, apparently, unless it is chasing you (see above).
A riderless horse similarly suggests a yearning for freedom whereas a bull indicates a certain stubbornness and strength. But of course this depends how you feel about the animal: if you dream about something you fear - a spider, or a snake, or a cat for some people - it is unlikely to be reassuring.
People like to say that if you dream you die you never wake up - but that is a very tricky hypothesis to test.
Dreams of dying are certainly common though, although rather than taking them literally many analysts like to take them as a symbol of something positive such as renewal or change.
Often they are a wake-up call (as it were) or a reminder to look at a relationship or particular circumstance. Dreaming about your own death may indicate a need to change and move on; the death of a stranger may represent an aspect of your own personality which needs to be dealt with.
Fighting a war
A privileged generation in that most of us have never had to fight in a war, this is nevertheless a commonly occurring theme.
Understandably anyone who has been in battle may relive the horrors nightly, but for the rest of us such dreams usually indicate internal conflict rather than an external threat.
If your partner dreams you are off to war she may be due to get some bad news about your character. Otherwise couples can sometimes relive (and temporarily relieve) any strife in their relationship by 'fighting it out' in their sleep - but it is hard to see them arriving at a viable, long-term solution.
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