Certain dreams tend to float into our night-time consciousness more frequently than others. You know the ones we mean: the recurring dream about being chased, or all your teeth falling out, or realising that you’re not wearing any clothes on the school playground.
If you’re cynical by nature, it’s easy to scoff at the idea that these visions mean anything at all – but human beings have been trying to interpret their dreams for millennia. The ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (written around 2100 BC) tells the story of a man whose mother explains the meaning of his dreams to him. In Ancient Egypt, meanwhile, priests often acted as dream interpreters, while the Ancient Greeks built special temples in which they thought dreams could be ‘incubated’.
Nowadays, dream reading is often associated with the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whose 1899 book The Interpretation of Dreams argued that our midnight reveries depict the fulfilment of unrealised wishes. But many modern psychologists and scientists have also dedicated their careers to figuring out why we dream – and what it means when we do.
In a recent video produced for the Telegraph, psychologist and dreams expert Ian Wallace explains the meaning behind a common contemporary dream: missing a plane or a train.
According to Wallace, this anxiety-inducing nightmare “indicates that you feel you may be missing some opportunity to fulfil a particular ambition in waking life”.
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Aeroplanes, he says, “symbolise the ideas and plans that often seem to fly around in your thoughts”. As a result, dreaming about not making a flight in time “suggests that you feel you may have missed the opportunity to get one of your plans off the ground”.
But if you frequently wake up in a panic, convinced that you’ve missed an important journey, take heart: this dream doesn’t mean that your time has actually passed.
“[It] is announcing that it is now time to embark upon this particular project,” says Wallace. He suggests using the dream as motivation to get started, instead of seeing it as a sign that you’ve blown your chances.
“Rather than just sinking back into your daily routine, commit to the first step that will enable you to really go places on a timetable of your own choosing,” he says.
To see more from the Telegraph’s What Your Dreams Mean series, click here.
Images: iStock, Rex Features