7 Fascinating Types of Dreams
Dreams are often keys to insight and empowerment.
Posted October 11, 2020 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
“Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.” — Black Elk
The American Psychological Association defines dreaming as “a physiologically and psychologically conscious state that occurs during sleep and is often characterized by a rich array of endogenous sensory, motor, emotional, and other experiences.”
Although there is still much we don’t understand about the nature of dreams and their complexities, it is generally agreed in the medical and psychological communities that dreams reflect, at least in part, our subconscious workings. Here are seven types of dreams, with references from my book How to Interpret Your Dreams: Keys to Insight & Empowerment. Each category of dream below can be a distinct, “stand-alone” experience. It is also common to have a dream with several characteristics at the same time. For example, a dream may simultaneously include a current event, metaphor, problem-solving, and fantasy. Although dreams are often complicated and difficult to understand, even partial awareness and insight can be helpful.
1. Current/Recent Event Dreams. This is one of the more common types of dreams, where events that occurred during the past 24 to 48 hours are directly or indirectly reflected in the dreaming. For instance, one might have a dispute with a romantic partner and have an argument dream, or watch a car chase in a movie and have a chase dream. Details in a current or recent event dream are not always so literal as waking events. Some representations are metaphorical or symbolic as well.
2. Metaphorical/Symbolic Dreams. These dreams help us process life events (current or from the past) metaphorically. For example, if a person is having a hard time completing a work project, she might have a dream where she’s struggling up a mountain alone without gear, while other climbers work in teams and are better equipped. Metaphorical dreams are instructive in that, properly interpreted, they can provide insights for personal development. In the mountain climbing dream above, the lesson could be to ask for help and collaborate when needed, instead of trying to accomplish everything by oneself.
3. Fantasy/Comfort Dreams. Another fairly common type of dream involves fantasies or comforting experiences (especially when times are tough). Fantasy dreams are often aspirations, wish-fulfillments, or compensations in response to the ups and downs of daily life. Comfort dreams may evoke positive people and experiences from the past or present. For example, a child who is bullied in school may dream that he is a superhero, or an older adult who feels alone may dream about travels with friends when she was young.
Among other functions, both fantasy and comfort dreams may be the subconscious’ way of helping the dreamer soothe and release from the stressors of waking life. The dreamer gets to take a “dream vacation” from their anxieties.
4. Creative/Problem-Solving Dreams. Some dreams are inspirational and can provide either creative ideas or long-sought solutions to problems. The dreamer may wake-up feeling that a revelation has occurred. Two well-known dreams of this type are singer/musician Paul McCartney’s dream of a melody which became the song “Yesterday”, and Nobel Prize laureate James Watson’s dream about snakes which led to devising the structure of DNA.
5. Nightmares. A nightmare may occur following a recent stressful event (i.e. a family problem, an incident while driving, upsetting news in the media, etc.). Nightmares may also be the result of unresolved anxieties, fears, or traumas from the past. Some nightmares are attempts of the subconscious/unconscious to work through issues. The nature and cause of nightmares can be multi-faceted. In some cases, there may be biological, neurological, chemical, dietary, as well as psychological factors at work.
If you have nightmares fairly regularly, consider seeing a qualified mental health professional and/or sleep doctor for support.
6. Lucid Dreams. One of the most interesting (and potentially fun) types of dreams is lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is aware that she or he is dreaming while the dream is taking place. Frequently, lucid dreaming allows the dreamer to “control” her or his actions while the dream is taking place as if one is the lead actor of one’s own action/adventure/romantic movie. This type of dreaming is not only fun and enjoyable in many instances, but gives the dreamer the power to problem-solve (i.e. deciding to turn and fight instead of running away from a pursuer; choosing to fly over rather than be blocked by an obstacle), which may have real-life applications and benefits.
7. “Supernatural” Dreams. Perhaps the most striking and memorable type of dreaming is what may be called “supernatural” dreams. These dreams tend to happen rarely for most people. But when they do, the experience can be so unique and special that the dream is often profoundly remembered months or even years later.
Examples of “supernatural” dreams include:
- Premonition Dreams. Dreams in which the dreamer has a vision of a future event which later becomes true.
- Telepathic Dreams. When the dreamer receives communication about a person or an event occurring elsewhere without the dreamer’s waking knowledge. After the dreamer awakes, details of the dream are verified to be true.
- Shared Dreams/Communion Dreams. When different people have the same dream at approximately the same time.
- Visitation Dreams. Dreams in which a recently deceased family, friend, romantic partner, or pet appear. These dreams are often vivid, loving, instructive, and sometimes life-changing.
Although these “supernatural” dreams are beyond the scope of current scientific understanding and insufficiently researched, they occur with many people around the world and point to the possibility that consciousness may expand beyond the individual, at least during the dream state.
For tips on how to interpret the meaning of your dreams, see references below.
© 2020 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
Ni, Preston. How to Interpret Your Dreams: Keys to Insight & Empowerment. PNCC. (2020)
Ni, Preston. Visitation Dreams of Deceased Loved Ones: Understanding Their Meaning and Transformative Power. PNCC. (2016)
Ni, Preston. How to Interpret & Re-Experience Visitation Dreams of Deceased Pets. PNCC. (2020)
Clift, J.D., Clift W.B. Symbols of Transformation in Dreams. Crossroad. (1987)
Dream. APA Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. (2020)
Empson, J. Sleep and Dreaming (3rd ed.). Palgrave/St. Martin's Press. (2002).
Jung, Carl G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Pantheon Books/ Random House. (1963)
Krippner, Stanley & Faith, Laura. Exotic Dreams: A Cross-Cultural Study
Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams. (2001)
The Science Behind Dreams and Nightmares. Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio. (October 30, 2007)
Shorter, Jennifer E. Visitation Dreams in Grieving Individuals: A Phenomenological Inquiry Into the Relationship Between Dreams and the Grieving Process. Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. (2010)