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Universal dream themes


Vintage 611, 2004
Photo Credit: Nancy Chan

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No matter what part of the world we live in, Los Angeles, Burma, the coastal waters of Bulgaria we have all experienced at least one universal dream. We dream about our deceased loved ones, natural disasters, movie stars, and flying. Although each dream is unique and varies from one individual to the next, the general theme remains universal regardless of what part of the world we inhabit. 


The dreamer is pursued and feels threatened by something with an evil disposition. Sometimes the dreamer is lost in an unknown city or feels confined to small spaces. Feelings of anxiety, dread and terror are common. The optimistic version of this theme involves exploring imaginative spaces, finding someone you love and enjoying physical contact.

The Celebrity
The dreamer meets movie stars, politicians, royalty or rock musicians. This theme is an extension of the engagement theme and branches out into erotic dreams where the dreamer consummates their admiration or desire for a particular person.

Enchanted Animals
The dreamer encounters enchanted creatures. They can speak, befriend the dreamer and appear in strange and unlikely forms. In some cases, they can guide, protect and intervene on behalf of the dreamer.

Bodily Impact
The dreamer (or close relative) is injured or killed. Rather than emphasizing the cause of the injury, this theme centers around the emotions evoked by the experience. Other versions include loss of hair or teeth, falling and drowning. An optimistic account of this theme involves flying with ease, swimming or breathing underwater. Also, instead of sustaining an injury the dreamer may experience a healing quality. The source of pain is located and its remedy outsourced into waking life.


In this theme, the dreamer experiences some form of trouble with a mode of transportation or mechanical malfunction. Either the car breaks down, the brakes stop working, or you lose control of the wheel and find yourself nose-diving off a cliff. A phone call cuts unexpectedly or the line gets muffled. You miss the train or flight by mere seconds. An optimistic version involves landing a plane, driving a motorcycle or car with precision and traveling to distant places in the past, present or future.

Personal Belongings

The dreamer loses an item of value like a wedding ring, family heirloom, wallet or house. In harsher  accounts the identity of the dreamer is stolen. An optimistic version of this theme includes unexpected monetary gain or a house transformation where the dreamer discovers a new room or section of the house that did not previously exist .

The dreamer feels unprepared taking an exam, forgets the points to an important presentation, or how to execute the plays on the basketball court. Other accounts include being naked in public or arriving unsuitably dressed for an event. The various scenarios in this theme are often filled with apprehension about being tested and the dreamer's inability to perform tasks. An optimistic version of this theme involves performing beyond expectations with a great deal of confidence.

Natural World
The dreamer observes natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, thunderstorms, apocalyptic scenes, or man-made calamities. The optimistic version allows the dreamer to observe and engage the miracles of the natural world. 

The Deceased
Certainly one of the most powerful themes for any dreamer. The dreamer encounters the deceased, usually a close relative, in a familiar setting.The deceased may haunt the dreamer or change their perspective about the afterlife. In some cases, dreamers have claimed to receive special messages from the departed.

Each theme, whether positive, negative or a semblance of both, is a mixture of innate behaviors, cultural assumptions and individual experiences. Even before we began to record literature and history these dreams were experienced by people everywhere. Now more than a century after the world was introduced to Freudian dream analysis in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), these universal dreams continue to transcend cultural borders. 

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For further reading: See Patricia Garfield's The Universal Dream Key


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