This article will explore what causes weird dreams using the concept of dream symbolism. I first came across dream symbolism in the book Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.
Dreams are a means of communication between you and your subconscious mind. When you are dreaming, there is often a message that the subconscious mind is trying to convey to you through the dream.
Now the problem is, this message is usually encoded in dream symbols and so is often difficult to understand. Other times, the dream delivers you the message directly without any use of symbols.
A symbol is an object or a person that represents something else. For example, if you were afraid and anxious about an upcoming exam, then you might see a ghost chasing you in your dream. The ghost you saw was nothing but a symbolic representation of your exam.
But why does the mind use dream symbols?
Well, I can think of two possible explanations:
1) There is often some resistance by the conscious mind to the message that the subconscious mind is trying to communicate in the dream, even if the conscious mind is not very active.
Since these messages are often nothing more than warnings about some issues that we are ignoring in life, our resistance in bringing them to consciousness is often palpable. We experience this resistance frequently during our waking life.
For instance, if you have important work to do that can cause you a good deal of stress, you ignore the warning of your subconscious mind to ‘get to work’ by procrastinating or indulging in other mindless stuff. You don’t want to remember your task or bring it to your conscious awareness because it is painful.
Similarly, if there’s an unresolved issue in your life that you don’t want to face, the subconscious mind can’t bring that into your consciousness directly in the dream because it will face resistance.
To overcome this resistance, your subconscious communicates you the message in a coded format in the dream. This way it escapes any resistance it might have faced in delivering that message. Your conscious mind thinks, “Okay this means nothing, I’ll let it through”
If your dream is really weird or distorted with excessive symbolism, it can mean that something that you have been strongly resisting has been brought into your conscious awareness.
2) At the end of the day, when we are in bed reflecting upon the events of the day, we only recall those events of the day that were either important or weird.
The ordinary, unimportant events of the day are not recalled. It’s the same with dreams because they are equivalent to experiences, experiences that we have during the night.
The weirder your dreams are, the more likely you are to remember them. This might be another reason why your subconscious mind uses symbols in dreams.
Since the message that it is trying to communicate to you is important, it codes it in symbols as weirdly as it can just so you can remember it in the morning. Had your dream been ordinary, the chances of you forgetting it would’ve been quite high.
We all have our unique dream symbols
The symbols that my mind uses can be entirely different from the symbols that your mind uses. This is because symbols arise from belief systems which in turn arise from memories.
No two people have the same set of belief systems because they don’t have the same memories. So if you love cats and I hate them, and we both see cats in our dream, then my dream will not have the same meaning as your dream.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.