Because dreams are involuntary and sometimes vivid or recurring, they often make us question what they could mean. But the practice of dream interpretation becomes particularly tricky because of the erratic and messy nature of dreams.
If you have a recurring dream about your teeth falling out, one expert may claim you are unhappy with your appearance, but another might suggest that you are worried about being embarrassed in your daily life.
One thing that is irrefutable is that recurring dreams can be somewhat traumatic when they involve frightening or negative scenarios.
But now, new research has found that recurring negative dreams are indeed related to problems in our daily lives, specifically if our psychological needs are not being met.
Two studies conducted by researchers from Cardiff University explored how dreams relate to unmet needs to see if dreams are a way of processing our negative emotions.
For one study, the researchers asked a group of 200 participants to discuss their most common recurring dreams, and the second study involved a group of 110 participants that had written in dream diaries over the course of several days.
The researchers analyzed responses from the two studies to see how unmet psychological needs influence dreams and cause an increase in nightmares.
The popular recurring dreams that the participants reported having were ones of being chased, trapped, falling, or attacked.
“We found that people whose recurring dreams were felt to have more negative emotions in them also felt more incompetent, isolated, or pressured by others in their daily life,” Dr. Netta Weinstein, an expert in dream studies, told the Daily Mail.
The researchers discussed each type of recurring dream and linked it to certain difficult situations in someone’s life that could be causing the dreams.
For example, if someone was frustrated, it was likely they would experience dreams where failure was a common theme.
If the person felt trapped in their job or relationship, they might have recurring dreams where they are physically trapped or unable to move.
“Negative dream emotions may directly result from distressing dream events, and might represent the psyche’s attempt to process and make sense of particularly psychologically challenging waking experiences,” Dr. Weinstein told the Daily Mail.
The studies show that it’s important to pay attention to your dreams, and if your recurring dreams are negative and nightmarish, your brain might be trying to process or highlight the stresses of your daily life.
The results of the two studies could help future dream analysis and make more sense of the chaotic nature of dreams.