The Secret Meaning of 60 Common Dreams, According to Experts

Here's what your subconscious is trying to tell you after you nod off.

It's not always obvious what your dreams are telling you, but the art (and science) of dream interpretation can set you on the right path. What does it mean when you dream that you can't find your shoes? What does it mean when you can't see in your dream? Should you be worried about your marriage if you dreamt about getting a divorce? From endless falling to alien abductions to that common naked-in-a-crowd nightmare, almost all of your dreams can tell you something about yourself that you may not have realized. Read on for the meaning of 60 common dreams and sleep a little more soundly tonight.

1
What does it mean when you dream about having an affair?

Couple drinking wine on a date
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A dream in which you cheat on your spouse or partner does not necessarily mean that you're thinking about being unfaithful in real life. According to J.M. DeBord in his book, The Dream Interpretation Dictionary, that dream could be rooted in a broader range of feelings about wanting to escape or try something different. He gives the example that "the thought of quitting your job and living on an island crossed your mind, and the desire is growing in you to actually do it." Or this dream could represent the idea of jumping into a new artistic project or exploring new intellectual pursuits.

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2
What does it mean when you dream that you're speaking in an accent?

Woman drinking espresso and talking on the phone
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If you've had a dream where you're inexplicably speaking with a southern drawl, cockney lilt, or some other accent you don't naturally have, it could be positive or negative—depending not on the type of accent, but the way people in the dream react to it. DeBord posits that using an accent that draws positive attention could mean you are feeling a sense of "confidence or sophistication" while an accent drawing a negative reply may mean "you feel insecure or persecuted."

3
What does it mean to have cats in a dream?

Man with beard cuddling grey cat
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In The Illustrated Dream Dictionary, Russell Grant explains that cats are largely bad omens and may be a sign of deception or disloyalty among those closest to you. A black cat, in particular, may indicate signs of illness to come, "but chase one away and you may get a surprise stroke of good luck." What did cats do to deserve this??

4
What does it mean to have dogs in a dream?

Young man with beagle puppy on bed
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Grant says dogs generally symbolize friends and can indicate good times ahead, but a snarling dog may indicate that someone close to you may not be trustworthy. If a dog actually bites you in the dream, "a so-called friend is up to some trickery which can harm you," he writes. A barking dog could be a signal of danger on the horizon, potentially legal trouble.

5
What does it mean when you dream about aliens?

UFO in night sky
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If you dream about being abducted by aliens (assuming you weren't actually abducted and tricked into thinking it was a dream), it may mean that you are encountering something in your life that is unfamiliar or even hostile. Craig Hamilton-Parker writes in The Hidden Meaning of Dreams, "Your first step should be to find out what it is and get to know this neglected aspect of yourself. For example, you may be behaving in ways that are 'alien' to you or have feelings that are 'unlike you.'"

6
What does it mean dream about an airport?

Woman standing in front of departures board at airport
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Sure, it might be that you are anxious about an upcoming flight, but being at an airport in your dream can also symbolize a time of transition or change. "Airports are points of departure, such as when you're leaving behind old beliefs or practices or a time of life," according to DeBord. It could indicate that you are ready for change or start something new. It's time to take off!

7
What does it mean when you are bald in a dream?

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Like losing your teeth, losing your hair in a dream (assuming you aren't already bald) can mean a sense of lost vigor, helplessness, or exposure. But it can also have positive connotations. DeBord explains that baldness "can indicate a clean mind, especially if the head is shiny and spotless." It may also relate to a sense of conformity, "because hair is a strong visual identifier" and may connect to a sense of losing oneself in a corporate culture or organization.

8
What does it mean when you are playing sports in a dream?

Young women on softball team sitting in dugout
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If you are getting athletic in your dream or playing in a competition, it may not mean anything special—if you do those activities in your regular life, that is. But if you don't regularly participate in sports, it could indicate that you may be pushing yourself in life and must "take care not to overdo things," according to Grant. It may also mean you are feeling competitive or see rivals in your midst of whom you should be wary.

9
What does it mean if you're baking or cooking in a dream?

Young woman putting tray of cookies in oven
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As with sports, if you're someone who bakes or cooks a lot in your waking life, doing so in a dream might not mean all that much. But it could have deeper significance otherwise, according to Hamilton-Parker, who says whipping up something in the kitchen in a dream could "represent plans you are nearly ready to put into action." Baking might even be an indication that you are pregnant or have the urge, whether conscious or not, to conceive.

10
What does it mean when you are wearing armor in a dream?

Close up on knight in armor
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As you might expect, armor in a dream indicates that the dreamer is emotionally protecting themselves in their interactions with others. Hamilton-Parker recommends examining from where this need for protection may be originating and what could be fueling this fear. With a little introspection, he suggests, "you may discover you need not be so guarded."

11
What does it mean when you dream about someone?

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If you dream about someone you like (or even love!) it could just go to show how passionate you are about them. But there's also some nuance here. If you dream your partner is with someone else, it doesn't necessarily mean they've been unfaithful. It could simply mean you no longer feel as passionate about your life as the people around you seem to feel about theirs.

12
What does it mean when you die in a dream?

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If you die in a dream, or feel like you're dying, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're afraid of dying in life or have a terminal illness you didn't realize you had. It may just mean that something in your life is coming to an end: "Dreaming about death often means that you feel something is coming to an end in your life," dream analyst and the host of The Dream Show podcast, Jane Teresa Anderson, told news.com.au. "But that being said, how you react to the death in the dream can mean different things."

13
What does it mean when you die in a dream, but feel peaceful about it?

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If you experience death in a dream but feel at peace, "you have an 'out with the old and in with the new' attitude" and "it could be something that you're ready to let go from," according to Anderson.

14
What does it mean when you dream about being scared of dying?

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Alternately, if you feel a pang of anxiety or even panic at the thought of death in your dream, Anderson told the outlet that it may be that "you're not quite there yet" and uncomfortable with letting go.

15
What does it mean when you dream your teeth are falling out?

Closeup on pulled tooth
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It may be that events in your life are swirling around you or that you've lost a job and with it, your feeling of being in control. The result might be that you dream of losing your teeth. Psychologist Ian Wallace told The Independent, "Your teeth symbolize how confident and powerful you feel, so some situation is causing your confidence to crumble in waking life."

16
What does it mean when you dream about birds?

Raven on tree branch
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This dream could mean you're hoping to hear from someone. Birds have been symbols of delivering information going back centuries, and their appearance in your dreams could be an indication that you are expecting to hear from someone or receive a message. Psychologist and dream expert Michael Lennox wrote in his book Dream Sight: A Dictionary and Guide for Interpreting Any Dream that these beliefs go back to Nordic mythology, where Odin, the head of the pantheon, was accompanied by a pair of all-seeing ravens that "would travel through the world of men and bring back important information."

17
What does it mean when you dream you're on a plane?

Confident woman selects music on smartphone to listen to during her flight. She is smiling cheerfully while wearing earbuds.
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If you're dreaming of flying in a plane, your dream is trying to tell you that you are feeling the effects of fast changes in your life. Lennox wrote, "Because of the dramatic way an airplane leaves the ground and speeds toward a destination, it is connected with any sudden transition in life." It may not just be alerting you to the changes you're going through, but that change "is needed or wished for." He continued, "As a plane is our world's fastest mode of public transportation, it connects symbolically to those moments in life where change is rapid and total."

18
What does it mean if you dream that one of your limbs is gone?

Man with prosthetic leg lifting a barbell
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Lennox's book also notes that amputations or missing limbs are a typical theme that appear in dreams and indicate some sense of lacking in ability or mobility. If you're missing feet, it "relates to an inability to be grounded on your path, whereas missing an entire leg or both legs connects to being completely stopped on your path."

19
What does it mean when you dream you've (literally) lost your head?

Woman waking up from a nightmare
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A more extreme absence that you might experience in a dream is the loss of your head. According to Lennox, that's a sign of "an eradication of a thought process, or to your sense of identity."

20
What does it mean when you dream you're in bed with a coworker?

Businessman and businesswoman talking
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If you are being intimate with a coworker in your dream, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a crush on them. Anderson said that it more indicates that they have "positive qualities you admire" and "welcome in your own life."

21
What does it mean when you dream you're in an empty room?

Empty room with white walls and wood floor
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Wallace told The Independent that unused or empty rooms might be telling you that you've got untapped talents. "The more time that you spend exploring your dormant talents, the more likely that you will find other doors opening for you in waking life," he said.

22
What does it mean when you dream you're in an empty room and you're scared?

Closeup on door into dark room
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If that unused room is accompanied by feelings of discomfort or fear, it might represent something very different. "If you go into the room and it's spooky or scary, that means in the past one to two days you've realized something about yourself that's unexpected," Anderson said. "It can be something old that you haven't look at before. It could be any aspect of your life—your job, a relationship—that you've shut the door on. It's about trying to open that door, even if you're scared."

23
What does it mean when you dream of an out-of-control car?

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If you've got an out-of-control car in your dreams—maybe you're trapped in one or have one coming at you—it may mean that "you don't have enough control over your road to success," Wallace said. He also recommended, "Instead of trying to over control the situation…relax your grip and allow your fundamental instincts and drives to steer the best path for you."

24
What does it mean when you dream of a regular car?

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But a car in one's dreams could indicate the opposite, as well. Wallace explained, "The car represents your ability to make consistent progress toward a specific objective." So if a dream features a car progressing steadily and consistently, things might be moving along just as they should be in your life.

25
What does it mean when you dream your car is missing?

Man looking at parking spot where his car used to be
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Ever dream that your car was lost or stolen? The lack of a car has a symbolic resonance about one's career or ability to get where we want to go. "If we dream about searching for our car, then we have lost our drive and ambition in waking life and are looking for ways to recover it and continue on our journey," Wallace wrote on his website.

26
What does it mean when you dream there are animals nearby?

Brown bear in snow
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Animals can vary in their significance and how they make you feel. A fierce bear doesn't mean the same thing as a high-flying hawk. But according to Lennox, any time an animal appears it may be an indication that your dream is "asking you to stop trying to think your way through a situation and turn instead toward your instinctive nature for an answer."

27
What does it mean when you dream you're in an attic?

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Having a house in your dream usually connects back to your sense of self, with different rooms representing different aspects of your personality. So dreaming of an attic usually relates to your intellect or memories—and a "musty, dirty atmosphere means you are in realms that you haven't visited in a while," said Lennox, which can indicate "unhealthy avoidance."

28
What does it mean when you dream about having a baby?

Woman holding a baby in a blanket
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Dreaming about a baby is usually a sign that you're reflecting on burgeoning potential or "some new chapter in your life that is just beginning and has yet to unfold into full manifestation," Lennox explained. Of course, since a baby is also helpless and needs to be cared for, it can also refer to responsibilities you feel you have.

29
What does it mean when you dream you can't find your shoes?

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If your dream consists of you being literally unable to find your shoes, chances are you're having difficulty deciding what your take is on a topic, whether that's an important decision you have to make or an ideological position you need to assume.

30
What does it mean when you dream you lost something valuable and can't find it?

Woman looking under couch for lost item
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If you've misplaced something of value in our dream or spend the dream trying to find something and fail to do it, it may be that we feel a sense of lower value in our life. Wallace said, "If we are looking for our purse or wallet, then we are reflecting on our value to others as we may feel that we have lost some self-esteem in waking life."

31
What does it mean when you dream you're searching for someone?

Woman in garden calling for someone
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If you dream you're searching for someone, it may not have to do with that person, specifically. "When we search for other people in our dreams, we are trying to reconnect with aspects of our own identities that we have lost touch with," Wallace explained.

32
What does it mean when you dream you have suddenly become very wealthy?

Man taking money out of his wallet
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If you have a dream about striking it rich or winning the lottery, you're feeling pretty good about life or have gained a "sudden awareness of the richness of the self," according to Wallace. "This richness can be an understanding of the wisdom the dreamer has gained, or a realization of their value to others." In other words, not so much material as spiritual wealth.

33
What does it mean when you dream that you're falling in love?

Young men on a date at a beach boardwalk
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If you dream of falling in love or a having a passionate tryst, it may be because you lack this kind of intimacy and passion in your waking life. Wallace has said that dreaming about falling in love "can be triggered when we are about to fall in love with a potential lover in our waking life, or in an existing relationship, where inadequate love is being received and our uniqueness seems to be ignored."

34
What does it mean when you dream that you're falling?

Man falling off cliff in a dream
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We've all likely felt the sensation of falling in a dream. Though this might make you think that you need to get a tighter grip and hang on, according to Wallace, the opposite is true. It's a sign that "you are hanging on too tightly to a particular situation in waking life. You need to relax and let go of it."

35
What does it mean when you dream that you're flying?

Man in suit flying
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While falling is an indication that something is amiss, flying in a dream is usually a sign that you've freed yourself from something frustrating or difficult. Wallace explained that the feeling of flying "suggests that you have released yourself from circumstances that have been weighing you down in waking life… Although you may regard this feeling of liberation as just luck or coincidence, it is usually because you have managed to make a weighty decision or risen above the limitations of a heavy responsibility."

36
What does it mean when you dream you're flying, but there's an obstacle?

Sleeping woman in bed floating through a starry sky
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Flying might not always be a pleasant experience, however. If you're flying in a dream but feel scared or see an object or obstacle in front of you, it may be that you feel something is holding you back or preventing you from accomplishing something you are attempting. "You feel that something is taking off but it's not quite there yet," said Anderson. "It could be a relationship or a job—it's the details in the dream that really explore your feelings on a deeper level."

37
What does it mean when you dream that you miss your plane or train?

Man with luggage after missing train
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If you miss a plane or train in your dream, leaving you standing on the platform or tarmac, it may be that you feel you are being weighed down by too many other commitments. "You may be taking on too much in your waking life in order to achieve the fulfillment you desire," Wallace said about this symbol. "You can reach your goals more effectively by being more aware of your deeper priorities, and leaving unnecessary baggage behind. Listen to your own internal rhythms instead of constantly trying to beat the clock."

38
What does it mean when you dream that you call the wrong number?

Man on phone looking upset
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Your subconscious might be feeling frustrated that you can't connect with someone in your life the way you used to—and this may manifest itself in a dream in which you are dialing a wrong number. "This suggests that a logical way of communicating with someone, or a specific personal behavior used when being with a particular person, is not really working anymore," said Wallace. "It is also experienced in dreams about computers or calculators where the dreamer keeps pressing the wrong buttons. This reflects that what they are doing in waking life just doesn't really add up."

39
What does it mean when you dream that you're naked in the middle of a crowd?

People walking on crowded city sidewalk
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You're standing in the middle of a crowd, at work, or in some other public place, and you're completely naked. Though it's a relief when you realize it's just a dream, you might want to think about your feelings of vulnerability. "Being naked in public suggests that there is a situation in waking life that is making you feel vulnerable and exposed," Wallace has advised. It might be time for you to take an improv class or seek another way to get comfortable opening up to others.

40
What does it mean when you dream that you're barefoot?

Woman walking barefoot up stairs
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Just as being naked indicates vulnerability, having bare feet gets to a similar sense in your subconscious—but with a more direct connection to the steps you are taking in life. It can "indicate issues around how you are maneuvering through your current life choices," Lennox explained. "If you are exposed to the elements, it leaves them vulnerable to injury. This can have a great impact on your journey and how you get to where you intend to go."

41
What does it mean when you dream you've gone blind?

Woman covering eyes with her hands
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Suffering blindness in a dream usually hints that you're overlooking something in your life or worry you aren't able to see something. Lennox said, "By dreaming of the inability to see, you may be expressing areas in your life that you may be blind to…You may be dreaming of a situation in your life, or your personality, where you have a blind spot. You may have to go beyond what the eyes can see in a situation to determine how to respond authentically."

42
What does it mean when you dream you're playing a board game?

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While some might dream of fights or athletic competition, if you are someone who has board games appear in your dreams, you are more likely someone who prefers "a civilized approach to expressing competitive impulses and conflict-solving skills," according to Lennox. If you're playing Monopoly or Scrabble in your mind, it may be a sign that you prefer some emotional distance to actual confrontation, and the more structured, rules-based logic to conflict that board games bring.

43
What does it mean when you dream of an explosion?

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While we might usually think of bombs as a destructive force, often when explosions happen in your dreams, it shows that you are experiencing or ready for major change. Lennox advised looking at the specific context in which a bomb detonates and how effectively it destroys its target.

"Whatever or whomever was hunted or destroyed will supply you with the meaning you should assign the symbol," he said. "The area of life that is suggested by the target is the area of your life that needs a drastic change."

44
What does it mean when you dream that you show up for an exam but aren't prepared?

Young stressed woman studying
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Another classic dream scenario is the feeling of showing up for an exam and realizing you are totally unprepared for it. Maybe you feel like you studied for the wrong subject or you can't even understand the words in front of you, but the likely source of the feeling is that "you are critically examining your own performance in waking life," per Wallace.

45
What does it mean when you dream that you show up for another exam and you're still not prepared?

Student filling out standardized test sheet
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Having the unprepared-for-an-exam dream can also be a sign of something positive: you are a high performer who is used to working hard and doing things right. That's the conclusion of Anderson, who has said that those who have the dream are usually the people who perform well and that "it's your fear of being unprepared that actually drives you to being totally ready to perform."

46
What does it mean when you dream that you can't find a bathroom?

Woman who needs to use the bathroom holding her pelvis
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If you have a sense that you're not addressing your own needs, a typical dream you're likely to have is one in which you're trying—and failing—to find a toilet. "Toilets are what we use to cleanly respond to some of our most fundamental needs, so there is an issue in waking life where you are finding it a challenge to clearly express your own needs," said Wallace.

47
What does it mean when you dream you need to use the bathroom?

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Dreams of needing to use the bathroom likewise can mean that "you literally want to let the crap out of your life. It's about decluttering and letting go—you want to release something or someone," Anderson explained.

48
What does it mean when you dream that you need to pee?

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Of course, it may be that you actually do need a toilet, and your subconscious will alert you to this fact with dreams of water or in which you are seeking out a bathroom in vain.

49
What does it mean when you dream that you're accused of a crime?

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Dreams can sometimes torment you by showing you being accused or actually committing a crime. These situations usually arise from a sense that you're hiding something from yourself in your waking life—and it isn't always something negative. "The crime we have committed usually represents a conscious choice that we have made in waking life to ignore some of our individual needs and talents in order to gain social acceptance," Wallace explained.

50
What does it mean when you dream you're entering a lot of new spaces?

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If you have a large house in your dreams or spend your dreams going through doors and discovering new spaces, it "indicates that exploring the initial possibility will lead onto a number of other exciting opportunities and give you the chance to expand well beyond where you are just now," said Wallace. His advice? "You need to be open to opportunity and not close the door on any chances that you create. As you begin to explore one talent, you often start to become aware of other possibilities for using your unique abilities."

51
What does it mean when you dream there's something chasing you?

Man in suit running away from something
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If you're running away from something in your dream, "There is an issue in your waking life that you want to confront, but you don't know how to," Wallace posited. Your dreams may be trying to tell you that it's time to face your fears and pursue what you've been putting aside.

52
What does it mean when you dream about a bridge?

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If you're ready to move into a new chapter in your life or to make a change—but without losing touch with your past—the image of a bridge is likely to appear in your dreams. According to Lennox, a bridge "relates to the connections we make in life, hence the warning in the phrase 'don't burn your bridges.'" If the water below is especially rough, it might mean you're uncomfortable with the change.

53
What does it mean when there's a candle in your dream?

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If you're feeling a creative spark or an innovative idea just struck you, then you may dream of a candle or candles. "When we light a candle, we are committing an act of creation," Lennox explained. A candle can reflect the beginning of some important event or relationship in our life or a sense of creative richness. Of course, if the candle is blown out, it can mean the end of something.

54
What does it mean when you dream you're climbing something?

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If you're climbing in your dream, straining as you make it up the side of a mountain inch by inch, it may be a signal that you are someone who likes a challenge or the opportunity to take a journey that, while difficult, promises a reward at the end.

55
What does it mean when you're exploring a closet or looking in a cabinet?

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Back to the dream house: If you're exploring a closet or looking at what's inside a cabinet, it could mean that you are hiding something or ashamed of it. "What you discover in a closet should be viewed through the focus of something you are hiding from or not wanting to face," Lennox said. "A full or overstuffed closet may point to avoidance issues that need attention."

56
What does it mean when you dream about a farm or cowboys?

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Images of a farm or cowboys can indicate that you have a self-reliant nature. Lennox explained, "Working on a farm points to a call to action to dig deeper and take responsibility for getting your needs met. Owning a farm connects to how responsible you are to your self-nurturing and perhaps the dependence of others upon you for such needs."

57
What does it mean when you dream you're getting a divorce?

Couple sitting across a table with divorce papers between them
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If you've filled your schedule with too many things and are overwhelmed by your to-do list, you may find yourself dreaming of divorce. Don't despair that a divorce dream is trying to tell you that your actual marriage is over. According to Wallace, it may simply be giving you the message that "you are trying to balance your commitments and honor the promises you have made to other people. It can be difficult to service all these obligations and it can become very easy for you to start to feel out of balance."

58
What does it mean when you dream you're getting married to someone you don't know?

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Whether you've taken a new job or agreed to attend an event where you are not totally sure what will be expected of you, a sense that you are committing to something which you are unsure about may manifest in a dream where you're marrying a stranger.. "Not knowing the identity of the bride or groom suggests you are unsure what you are really committing yourself to, and that you doubt that you will have much time for yourself if you take on these commitments," Wallace explained.

59
What does it mean when you dream that you're professional athlete?

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If you're someone who responds to being part of a team or being part of something larger than yourself, you might have dreams where you're a professional athlete, according to Wallace. A dream where you're competing in the big leagues, "reflects their acceptance into a wider society where in order to have their skills and talents recognized, they will have to work as part of a team, and this will help them to ultimately achieve their goals."

60
What does it mean when you dream you're unable to speak?

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If you find yourself unable to speak in your dream, Wallace said it may point to "an unresolved tension in our waking lives where we really want to say what's on our mind and to speak and be heard." He advised addressing the situations in waking life where we feel "ignored or have no way to make our opinions heard" to see if there is a better way to communicate.

Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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