Dreams are tricky. They can run the gamut from the funny and slightly bizarre to the terrifying and bone chilling. People that have an active dream life have always fascinated me. I dream of course, but they are so incredibly mundane they aren't even worth journaling most of the time.
I literally have dreams about folding laundry and cleaning the grout in my bathroom (for real, I cleaned the grout in my sleep two nights ago). I do have the occasional wacky dream (like the time I dreamt that I was 90s teen actor Scott Wolf's agent and I was trying to get him cast in an off-Broadway production of MacBeth) and the standard archetypal subconscious dreams (forgetting to go to a class all semester, walking through a creepy haunted house while being chased by some un-named specter, etc.). I have had a few psychic dreams, (those were fun) and a handful of really meaningful spiritually significant dreams that still stay with me today.
There are different categories or types of dreams so I thought it would be fun and useful to write about a few of the most common. Remember that these categories can coexist together, so you can have a psychological astral travel dream, or an unconscious/spiritual dream, and the more you consciously make a decision to remember your dream when you wake up (and write down any impressions no matter how basic) you will remember them more.
Psychological Process Dreams
These are dreams that are filled with psychological or emotional meaning. In these dreams we work through something that is consciously or unconsciously presenting itself in our lives. If we are anxious we may dream about being surrounded by that which we fear, or if we are afraid of commitment way me dream we are being getting married with a ball and chain on our foot. Whatever the case it is a symbolic manifestation of our psychological work. They often appear when we haven't fully processed a problem in our waking life, and as a result we let our unconscious minds take over and pull imagery, symbols and metaphors together in order to create a scenario that our dream selves have to face more directly. These dreams tend to be relatively non-fantastical, but can have strange elements within them. Some may manifest as nightmarish while most of them may be more like a weirdly patterned soap opera.
Writing about these can be useful because you bring the symbolic dream content to the foreground. There are a ton of dream interpretation books and websites out there, I like Dream Moods for some interpretations, because its encyclopedic and pretty thorough, but there are many others look around for one that resonates with you. Many of them list common associations with typical symbolism which has showed up in multiple people's lives over the ages. A lot of interpretations are based on the work Carl Jung did with dreams and archetypes.
Dream archetypes are symbols which seem to be universal across cultures and ages, things like wolves, flying, falling, empty houses, food, sex, etc, all represent something in the collective unconscious. As we evolve we add archetypal imagery to the collective database like the Internet, cars, cell phones, computers, text messaging etc., whatever the case they are indicative of universal roles, representations for emotions, feelings and thoughts.
Deep Unconscious Dreams
These are the dreams that pull from even deeper within the unconscious mind. The imagery in these dreams tends to be a bit more primitive, and as a result can be startling. These are dreams where odd but pervasive universal archetypes show up. We may see ourselves as a murderer, or being murdered as an expression of our need to express aggression or feeling stifled or abused; or conversely we may be an animal as an expression of a desire to be more instinctual. There are thousands of possible scenarios that can come up in deep unconscious dreams. Another popular unconscious murk dream is being chased by dogs, or traveling through an empty old haunted house (although this could be mingling with the astral travel type as well).
These dreams allow us access to our instinctual (id) impulses and show us those things which we may deeply desire or deeply fear. These dreams also typically have very little discernible "real world" reality but are comprised of mostly "real world" things, however those things may appear together in a strange or sometimes unsettling way. I was once told a dream where everyone in the dream had a dog head and would have sex with whomever they wanted in any setting, but them. The person later discovered that they felt that everyone else is allowed to express their instinctual urges except them and so they began to work with expressing their instinctual urges (in a healthy way).
Astral Travel Dreams
When we dream our physical body rests and our astral body comes out to play. Most people's astral bodies float up about 1-2 feet from their physical body and stay fairly close to the physical shell during the sleep process. However, there are those who are adept at astral travel and tend to do a bit of exploring during their sleep state, these are often those we deem "deep sleepers".
When we astral travel we may go somewhere familiar (like the kitchen to see what's in the fridge) or we may travel further out (either in this world or another). You can recognize an astral travel dream by the specificity of feeling and visual and sensory information you get. If its a familiar place you may even notice details in the environment that are actually there when you check later. If it's an unfamiliar place you may get a feeling of being somewhere you're not supposed to be, or conversely of being somewhere you've been many times before (but have not been to in waking life).
Sometimes people are met by other beings that make it clear that you have gone too far and it would be best to return to where you came from. Astral dreams can be really cool, quirky, fantastical and interesting or really creepy and terrifying depending on where you go and how adept at travel you are (anyone seen the film Insidious...yeah, that mess happens for real).
Many people don't remember their astral travels but some do. If you've ever seen a creature in a dream that you haven't encountered in real life (or in a film or book) chances are you've taken a little trip. Remember you can't imagine something that doesn't of hasn't existed somewhere. Sometimes astral travel dreams are you living out an alternate reality. There are multiple versions of us living concurrent realities and sometimes you may plug into one of those potential realities while dreaming (I know it sounds like science fiction but research string theory and the multiverse). These are typically marked by an inability to discern your dream from your waking life, especially when the reality is extremely similar.
Psychic or Prophetic Dreams
These dreams typically provide warning or information about something that ends up being validated in your waking life. Many people have had at least one of these at some point. Some people will dream of relatives being in trouble, sick or dying, some will be visited by a loved one who has passed in a dream (this is the most common), some people dream of things that have yet to happen. There was a huge influx of people who dreamt of the World Trade Center bombings prior to 9/11, possibly because the event would prove to be so significant in the consciousness of the planet.
Not all are doom and gloom though....some dream of babies being born, the sex or arrival of their own child, or someone getting married. Whatever the case they tend to come with a message that reveals itself later in waking life. Some people's intuition is filtered only through their dreams and as such these kinds of dreams cam be a useful link into intuitive information. Some are more symbolic while others are extremely literal.
Past or Future Life Dreams
These are exactly what they sound like. In these dreams people relive aspects of former incarnations with specificity and detail they do not retain in waking life. Often when we have vague impressions of a time period we have not consciously studied we are picking up on the impressions of a past incarnation in which our consciousness lived. Past life dreams are often meant to allow us to work through a particular issue from another lifetime and so may mingle a bit with psychological dreams. These dreams are recognizable by the historical reference material and the feeling of realness they may have. It's not uncommon for dream types to mingle, so there could be various unconscious elements that show up along with this type, but the historical realness or the feeling of really having lived in the dream world is a big giveaway. Unless you are a huge history buff, and even if you are, anytime you find yourself in a different era you are likely reliving aspects of a past life. More generally, often when we are attracted to a certain time period it's usually a a connection you retain from a lifetime during that period.
These dreams always have a deeper spiritual or existential significance. They may be loaded with spiritual metaphors (flying, soaring through the clouds, swimming with dolphins, walking on water, etc.). The metaphors may be specific to your spiritual or religious belief system. If you don't have a particular belief it may be represented as you feeling uplifted or feeling guided assuredly on a specific path you need to take in your life. Sometimes spiritual figures appear in these dreams to deliver a message, they could be discarnate spiritual teachers and masters, angels, a trusted spiritual mentor, or even a wise friend or loved one (living or deceased).
Spiritual dreams always leave an imprint in our waking lives and tend to engender a feeling of freshness, vitality and inspiration when we wake up. They typically show up at times when we may be looking for guidance or when we have reached a new level in our spiritual understanding. Sometimes we receive spiritual messages meant for others, or we may see loved ones, friends, or strangers we've never met before in the dream. The people that appear in these dreams are those whom we are actively working with in our intimate or larger soul families. Whatever symbols, metaphors or imagery that shows up in a dream of spiritual significance should be explored so that the full breadth of the dreams message can filter through to your waking life.