How to Interpret Symbols in Dreams

Written by alyson paige
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How to Interpret Symbols in Dreams

Dream interpretation can be confusing. Symbols that appear to be straightforward may carry deeper meaning to the dreamer. The old Freudian, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" may or may nor be accurate. Essentially, the best approach to interpreting symbols is to determine if the meaning rings true to the dreamer. Some common dream experience include flying, chasing and water. Depending on how these symbols appear in dreams determines how the dreamer can understand their meaning.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Ask why people have flying dreams and in what context does flying occur in a specific dream. Although there are specifics to consider, generally flying in dreams indicates freedom, breaking loose from limits or a soaring spirit. Take some time to recall the circumstances in which flying occurs in a dream. Free flight can mean that you have a handle on your ambitions and are on the right track to realising them. A rare case is to dream of flying toward a distant light. This can point to some part of your past or remembrance of a lost loved one. Flight symbolises, in this case, that you can release your bonds to the past.

    How to Interpret Symbols in Dreams
  2. 2

    Untie the knots of confusion caused by chasing dreams. If you were chased and ran away in slow motion, it can be a signal to stop and look at what you feel "chased" by in your waking life. If you are trapped in quicksand, you can know that your struggle is wasted. Release the fight. If you were chased by a person, ask yourself questions about the person, such as his identityand whether he was a stranger or a friend. Keep a journal to help untangle your confusion. Write what thoughts, moods and feelings come to mind. Ask yourself if you felt threatened by a person or situation.

    How to Interpret Symbols in Dreams
  3. 3

    Explore the meaning of water when it appears in dreams. Generally, water represents the unconscious, although some schools suggest that water is about the dreamer's emotions. The form that water assumes in a dream, if applied to the unconscious theory, indicates meaning. Diving deep into a lake or pond can mean diving into the depths of the mind to hidden reservoirs that hold meaning in the dreamer's waking life. A river or other running water might symbolise that the dreamer is in the flow of life and the mind is unhindered by unconscious debris.

    How to Interpret Symbols in Dreams
  4. 4

    Think and write. Regardless of the symbols that appear in your dreams, it is valuable to spend time reflecting and writing about how the images make you feel and what associations you make. When you awaken from a dream, write it down. You will try to tell yourself that you will remember in the morning. You won't.

    How to Interpret Symbols in Dreams

Tips and warnings

  • Some psychology suggests that every element in a dream represents the dreamer. Whether or not this applies, the dreamer must decide what rings true.

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