We’ve all been that friend. You’re out to a cozy Italian dinner with pals, catching up. Oh my god, I had the craziest dream last night. And you launch into a roller coaster of a tale, involving romance and murder and also your fourth grade art teacher for some reason. Then, just as you’re getting to the best part — the part when your art teacher turned into Sandy at the end of Grease — you notice your dinner companions’ eyes glaze over, much like the sauce on your branzino. Oops. Dreams are f**k**g weird. The intense ones feel so real that they stick with you all day, but trying to describe them is often an embarrassing exercise in futility. Yes, I was being chased by a butterfly, but it had, like, an unspeakably evil vibe.
And the cherry on top of it all — no part of this wild story even happened? I hate to break it to you. Your friends don’t want to hear about your dreams.
But we do.
Dreams are a universal human experience, and they’ve played a huge part in human history across cultures. Ancient Greeks took them as prophecies. Certain African tribes use dreams to communicate with their ancestors. Historical perv Sigmund Freud famously thought dreams were all sex with your mom (all the time). And modern science shows that during sleep, your brain processes information, actively problem-solves, and practices responding to “threats.”
The theories are as varied as dreams themselves, but they converge on one point — your sleeping brain is up to something. And we want to help you take a closer look.
Welcome to In Your Dreams, a dream analysis column, where we think interpreting your dreams can help you understand your waking life a bit more.
Let us be completely clear for legal-ish reasons. We’re not scientists (or even pseudoscientists). We’re like your best friend at a sleepover — we’ll make our best, enthusiastic, lightly-Googled assessment of the unhinged ramblings of your unconscious but we’re not professionals. Take it all with a heaping tablespoon of salt, friend. Maybe this is all a bunch of witchy Millennial nonsense. But who cares, isn’t it fun?
Let’s get to our first letter…
Help! I dreamed I was supposed to give a presentation at work, but when I stood up from my desk I realized that I was totally naked from the waist down. Everyone was waiting for me in the conference room, which was also an ice skating rink. I tried to find a way to cover myself, but I woke up. What does it mean?
Ah, yes, this one’s a classic. Naked at work. Naked at school. Naked at a Rainforest Cafe. Insert whichever inappropriate setting here. (Actually, we should double check that nudity would be inappropriate at your work. In some contexts, a pants-less Powerpoint could be chill. You’re not running a naturalist retreat or acting in adult films, right?)
Let’s assume a Winnie-the-Pooh fashion moment is frowned upon in your place of business. According to dream theorists, nakedness (of the unsexy variety) often represents vulnerability and insecurity. It’s the embodiment of that gut punch when you realize it’s ~all~ hanging out and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Is there a part of your life where you feel a little, ahem, exposed lately? Maybe you’ve made a few silly mistakes at work. Maybe your partner caught you belting Justin Bieber in the shower. Maybe you’re worried you haven't practiced enough for that upcoming hot dog eating competition. There are infinite ways, big and small, that this world can make us feel caught without pants on. Your brain could be turning your emotional vulnerability into an extremely on-the-nose visual metaphor.
As for the ice rink of it all, have you watched the Tonya Harding 30 for 30? (That’s not analysis, simply a recommendation. It's really good.)
Okay, back on track.
So, what can you do? Take stock of where you’re feeling vulnerability in your life and then, feel it. Sounds simple, right? But it may seem scary if vulnerability doesn't come naturally to you because our lizard brains are built to protect us from threats. The good news is it's a skill that you can practice and improve. Start small and go easy on yourself. Embracing uncertainty and emotional risk has lots of benefits, like better management of negative emotions, richer interpersonal relationships, and even improved physical health. It’s well worth the work.
Go ahead and lean into your nakedness! (Symbolically).
You could also ease up on the Ambien? Or not. You’re a grown-up, and we respect your choices.
If you’ve ever woken up from a dream like, what the hell was that?, and would like to be featured in the next In Your Dreams, contact us at email@example.com with a detailed description of the inner workings of your unconscious. We're dreaming of hearing from you.