originally published August 27, 2013
“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”
This quote beautifully sums up how easy it is to find quotes about dreams by using a search engine. Actually, you can learn a lot about interpreting your dreams on the internet, just as you can find a thousand contradictory horoscopes or even insane fan-fiction in which Donnie Darko sleeps with that woman from Medium.
But the thing about dream analysis is that people often believe the first site (or book or Cosmo article or whatever) that they read, as though there’s some repository of knowledge when it comes to dream analysis, and that source is simply tapping into the same vein of information as all the others.
Ever the skeptic, I don’t buy it. And I want to have some fun with it.
I was going to do a run-down on the history of dream interpretation, from the ancient Greek belief that dreams predict the future to the Freudian concept of dreams being residue from the previous day’s experiences, to the modern psychoanalytic precept that everything in your dreams probably represents a penis. Then I got an idea. What if I selected three ‘dream dictionary’ sites and skimmed through them in search of weird or contradictory information?
The down-side to taking this approach will be a lack of verifiably beneficial research or factual information. But I’ll hopefully find a few opportunities for mockery and cheap jokes – two of my favorite editorial techniques. I don’t mean to put down those who truly believe that dreams are a representation of something bigger within the subconscious mind – there are so many pools of thought on the matter, and I’d just as soon not dip my toe into too deep into any of them. This is simply an exercise in curiosity.
Let’s start with jugs. If you dream of jugs, Dream Dictionary says it’s how you interpret the contents of the jug that will tell you what it means. If you see it as half-empty, you look at negativity too often. If the jug is totally empty, something is missing in your life. Dream Moods thinks jugs can be a dream-pun, symbolizing women’s breasts, a.k.a. ‘jugs’. Or the jug could mean innocence, abstinence and virginity. Well, that clears up the jug issue.
Was there a babysitter in your dream last night? According to Dream Dictionary, you may need to care for the child within yourself. I assume that means you should have chicken nuggets and candy for lunch today. But Dream Bible says a babysitter in your dream means you are overwhelmed by looking after someone else’s problem. Maybe you’re bored with your life, or people around you are acting childish an immature and that’s frustrating you. So either you need to watch cartoons or shut certain people out of your life – flip a coin and pick which meaning you’ll go with.
Dream Dictionary is the only site that addresses a jetpack as a dream symbol. They say it means you are being propelled into a position of power. I think it means you have kick-ass dreams and should sleep more often.
Dream Bible is quite specific on dreams which involve pancakes. They believe it means you or someone near you is making an effort to only see the good in something, perhaps at the perilous expense of dangers or bad influences (like syrup). Dream Moods says the pancakes mean you take pleasure in the simple things in life. If the syrup on the table happens to be in a jug, then I guess you take pleasure in simple breasts.
That dream where you were standing in a valley? According to Dream Moods that means fertility and abundance. Dream Bible says the valley means you feel that love and fertility is for everyone else, not you. And Dream Dictionary thinks you probably need to be protected or to protect others. To sum up, if you dream of a valley, it means anything you want it to mean.
A fedora is a very significant dream element. If you read Dream Bible, then a fedora means underhandedness or reveling in bad habits, such as dressing like a hipster or cooking blue methamphetamine. Dream Moods says fedoras represent coolness, not letting peer pressure get to you. You are the danger. You are the one who knocks. And that’s just groovy.
If you had a dream in which you had a maid, then Dream Moods says you’re depending too heavily on others for help. Dream Bible suggests you are putting others’ needs before your own. Dream Dictionary says you should just clean up your act. If your dream-maid is wearing a fedora and serving you pancakes whilst hovering over your table in a jetpack, you should probably check yourself into an inpatient sanitarium immediately.
Dreaming of tacos can also mean pretty much anything. Dream Moods says the taco represents warmth and comfort. Dream Bible says they represent enthusiasm and excitement. If you dream of a person in a giant taco costume, that means you really hate your job as a person in a giant taco costume.
According to all three sites, dreaming about nipples means you have some issues with dependency, possibly that you rely on your mother for too much. This is where I slap my forehead in exasperation… if I dream of nipples it’s probably because yay! Nipples!
This is where I have to part ways with these ludicrous dream analyses. Freud thought dreams represented subconscious desires, while Carl Jung felt dreams were a complex representation of the entire subconscious. I think Carl might be on to something, as sometimes dreams do pull emotions and images out of the deep chasms of the brain and slap them in front of our mental cameras when we don’t expect it. But mostly I believe it’s all just an end result of wackily-firing synapses.
Somewhere in a dark and musty windowless room in your brain is a table, and around that table is a staff of writers who are scribbling down ideas for your nightly film clips. They know that you’re going to forget 98% of what they put together, and they hope that the remaining 2% is at least entertaining, if not thought-provoking.
No website is going to give you the key to your subconscious’ secret strategy, nor should you rely on someone else to tell you what it all means. I can’t find any entry on these sites that can sufficiently deconstruct my dream in which I participated in a swimming-barbecue contest with twenty or thirty people, including Kenny Loggins (who was really a great guy in person, by the way).
Sometimes it’s best just to quit overthinking it and enjoy the show.