Author and radio host Diane Brandon has interpreted hundreds of dreams during her 40 years as a student of sleep research.
"I feel that our unconscious, which is the source of most but not all of our dreams, is a wonderful inner ally that is trying to bring us to wholeness and balance," Brandon tell us.
Brandon helped us compile a list of the 10 most common nightmares, or dreams with negative meanings, which we have only edited for clarity.
1. Having a disease or health emergency
This nightmare could reflect a fear of an unknown thing suddenly having a negative impact on the dreamer’s life. It could also reflect an underlying fear of illness or of contracting a serious disease. It could also express a fear of not being able to enjoy life or that there’s something wrong (“ill” or “rotten”) in one’s life.
A nightmare about an illness could also be a way of telling the dreamer that he or she actually has an illness, even if consciously unaware of it.
2. Being attacked or injured
This type of nightmare could reflect a fear of others, a fear of not fitting in, a literal fear of violence, or a fear of being figuratively “attacked" or criticized by others. It’s important to take into account the actual scenario and what’s going on in the dreamer’s life for meanings.
This nightmare could mean you feel overwhelmed or put out a lot of effort with no success or return. It could also simply represent a fear of water. It's important to pay attention to the whole scenario as different meanings or even nuances could emerge.
For example, if the dreamer is drowning, it could mean one thing, but if the dreamer is drowning along with other people or being drowned by someone, there could be entirely different meanings.
If there is no negative feeling attached to a "falling dream" (more of a dream than a nightmare), then the dream may be happening in what's called the "hypnagogic state." This is the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.
We suddenly may feel that we’re falling, jerk awake, and then realize that we had indeed been sleeping. Nightmares of falling could reflect a fear of heights, a fear of not being in control, a feeling of having nothing solid to hold onto in life, or even a fear of death.
6. Teeth falling out
This nightmare generally means you feel out of control, powerless, or inadequate. It can also reflect social embarrassment, fear of being unattractive, or fear of being revealed as inadequate or not up to snuff.
It would be important to consider what the dreamer was going through in life for more specific meanings.
7. Being lost
This nightmare may be worse for children than for adults, but both can have it.
For adults, it can mean that the dreamer does not feel in control in life or does not know what to do next or which direction to go into.
It can reveal a figurative feeling of "not being able to find one’s way." It could also potentially reflect a feeling of not paying attention to or following directions.
8. Failing a test
This nightmare is fairly common, although the exact scenario can vary. It can indicate that one feels unprepared or hasn’t done something correctly in life. It can also refer to feeling that one has to prove oneself and either doesn’t know how or feels inadequate.
Depending upon the dreamer’s life and work, one may experience variations of this dream. It’s important to look at the exact scenarios for more precise meanings.
I, for example, have had an intermittent variation on this dream in which I am in a play that is opening soon. In the dream, I either didn’t realize I was cast in the play or had never been to a rehearsal, hadn’t read the script, or didn’t know my lines. (I acted in theatre for many years).
10. Being chased
Many people report nightmares in which they’re being chased. This is often indicative of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, that something being avoided is catching up with them, or not getting everything done in their lives.
In interpreting dreams, it’s important to consider the feelings the dreamer had. For example, one woman in the audience when I was speaking on dreams recounted recurring dreams in which she was chased. When I asked her how she felt, however, she said that they were pleasant and that she enjoyed them. So, for her, these dreams were not nightmares.