health, Psychology
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Do women dream differently to men?

woman dreamingAre men and women’s dreams different?  Seems a dead cert from my bed.  While I wake up shattered after endless epics of swirling water, arguments and lost children, my husband surfaces with a broad grin, musing about pubs, prizes and Arsenal winning the cup.  Patricia Garfield, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Dreams (Simon & Schuster) isn’t surprised:  ‘Women are, in general, more concerned about their emotional relationships to both sexes, whereas men are more occupied with succeeding or failing in reference to other men. Overall, women have more people in their dreams.’

Research shows that we women dream more – or recall more of our dreams – and that our dreams are also longer (on average 8 percent longer than men’s).  There also seems to be a connection with hormones:  the amount we dream fluctuates with our menstrual cycles.  Also, as any woman who’s been pregnant knows, dreaming flies off the Richter scale (or its dream equivalent) during those nine months.  Even as we get older (and dreaming decreases across the gender barrier) we still dream more than our male partners. Dreaming, it seems, is a vital part of being a woman – and one we shouldn’t ignore.

‘Dreams can help with problems, provide insight into relationships, heal past wounds and be a signpost to the future,’ says psychotherapist and dream expert Sarah Dening*, author of Healing Dreams (Hamlyn).  Psychologist David Fontana, author of The Secret Language of Dreams (Piatkus) agrees:  ‘Dreams have been shown to provide vital insights into both psychological and possibly physical health, and they can be an invaluable aid to problem solving.’ 

I’ve taken a look at several important areas of women’s lives and asked the dream experts for advice on what common (and uncommon) dreams mean.  Bear in mind, however, that dreaming is a very personal experience.  If our interpretation doesn’t ring true, always ask yourself what a dream symbol means to you and what links it has with your life.

YOUR HEALTH

‘Dreams can help keep you in good health and alert you to danger,’ says dream therapist Brenda Mallon, author of The Dream Bible (Godsfield) who gives this incredible example: ‘A woman dreamed of a black hole at the base of her skull. She saw a doctor and insisted on being X-rayed. On her X-ray there was a black circle – a tumour that was successfully removed later.’

Dream analyst Michael Sheridan (www.dream-analysis.com ) believes that dreams can be very precise – if you can read the symbolism.  If a particular food appears in a dream for example, it can be a warning that you have an intolerance to it.  I once dreamed I was watching a film called ‘Wheat World’ and yup, wheat is a disaster food for me.  

KEY DREAM:   ‘I have a terrifying dream that my house is on fire and there’s nothing I can do.’

WHAT IT MEANS:  Sarah Dening: ‘Certain bodily symptoms such as raised blood pressure can be reflected in dreams about fire.  If you dream your house is on fire, it could be good to get a health check.  Or perhaps you are ‘burned out’ and need rest and recuperation.’

DREAM SYMBOLS WORTH WATCHING:

  • Black dog:  this can hint at depression.  Take stock of your feelings.
  • Sharks:  dangerous, predatory forces in your psyche.  Are there toxic emotions ruling your life?
  • Clocks:  symbolise the human heart and also the emotions. 
  • An engine leaking oil:  possibly a sign of anaemia – get your blood checked.
  • Problems with stairs.  Can indicate the spine – is yours in good shape?
  • Anything soggy, mouldy or steaming (ie a mouldy kitchen or steaming hay):  can indicate candida. 

YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

Research shows that women mostly dream about people they know (while men dream more of strangers).  It’s as if we’re working out our relationships in our sleep.  ‘Dreams reveal what is happening below the surface and allow you to go beyond superficial ties to the roots of your connection with others,’ says Brenda Mallon.  Remember, however, that although characters in dreams can be who they appear to be, they can also represent parts of our own psyches.

 KEY DREAM: ‘I’m in my kitchen and trying to fix my fridge which seems to have broken down.’

WHAT IT MEANS:  David Fontana:  ‘Repairing an appliance such as a fridge often indicates the need to work at a relationship to prevent it from deteriorating. An appliance that has unaccountably been dismantled may carry the same meaning.’

 DREAM SYMBOLS WORTH WATCHING:

  • Babies:  can represent a relationship in its infancy.  A baby can also suggest you feel vulnerable in your relationship.
  • Your lover’s kitchen:  you need to reconsider your attitude towards him.
  • Being a passenger in a car: you’re being driven by someone else’s needs or expectations – take control.
  • A hotel:  a period of transition in a relationship.
  • Crossroads:  you’ll either meet someone or leave someone.
  • Death of your partner:  possibly the death of the relationship. Can be a common dream following divorce or separation.

YOUR SEX LIFE

Dream sex can be erotic, exciting, frustrating or downright alarming and disgusting.  Dreams have no censors so literally anything goes!  But remember that dreams use symbols –  it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a frustrated transsexual dominatrix.

‘Dreams can help us face honestly some difficult issues in sexual relationships,’ says Lucy Goodison, author of The Dreams of Women (Women’s Press).  ‘Sometimes they do this by replaying in detail real-life problems or sometimes the issues are more general.’

KEY DREAM:  ‘I’m having sex with a woman.  Yet I don’t think I’m a lesbian.’

WHAT IT MEANS:  Sarah Dening:  ‘Dreaming about sex with a person of the same gender does not indicate homosexuality.  It means that you are trying to get in touch with your own feminine energy – with qualities such as acceptance, compassion and relatedness.’

DREAM SYMBOLS WORTH WATCHING: 

  • Cats:  sensuality.  May also indicate a need for healthy selfishness or greater independence. 
  • Purse/handbag:  can stand for female genitals and the womb.  However it can also be linked to your feelings of self-worth.
  • Shoes:  are you sexually dominant? Or would you like to be?
  • Dancing:  you’re ready to bring sex into a relationship or go to a new depths of intimacy 
  • An unopened letter:  can indicate virginity.  If you’re not a virgin, think back to when you were or what it means to you.
  • Knife:  a fear of intimacy or ambivalence about sex.

MARRIAGE

Marriage, the symbolic joining of two people, is a classic dream topic. If you’re about to get married in real life then most dreams can be put down to common anxiety – you’re using them as an opportunity to play out worse-case scenarios. However, a dream wedding can also indicate an ‘inner’ marriage between different parts of your psyche. ‘Dreams of weddings may be symbolic of your commitment to becoming a complete human being – where head and heart form an equal partnership,’ says Sarah Dening.

KEY DREAM:  ‘I’m at my wedding but the bridegroom doesn’t appear.’

WHAT IT MEANS:  Sarah Dening: ‘This may signify that you feel ready for marriage but cannot find a suitable man.  However it can also indicate that your masculine side is underdeveloped.’

DREAM SYMBOLS WORTH WATCHING:

  • Marrying a former lover:  a positive dream that shows you’ve integrated the qualities you found attractive in him.
  • Black wedding dress:  represents the ‘dark’ powerful feminine aspect of your personality, the part that can say ‘no’ rather than seek to please.
  • Marrying your father:  have you always been ‘daddy’s girl’?  Maybe it’s time to stand on your own feet.
  • Monks/nuns:  how seriously do you take your vows?  Is one of you going to break your vows?
  • Naked in church:  are you comfortable with the role of wife? Do you feel vulnerable or exposed in any way?
  • Can’t say your vows:  what can’t you say about your marriage or relationship?

PREGNANCY/MOTHERHOOD

‘For many women, the first indication they are pregnant comes in a powerful dream,’ says Brenda Mallon.  My own pregnancy was announced by a dream of a circular pool full of ornamental fish.  I was invited to enter the water by a beautiful Indian woman (the midwife).  A week later I found I was pregnant. 

Once you know you’re pregnant, anxiety dreams are common – and many women dream of giving birth to dogs, rats, demons – you name it.  Relax – you’re not reliving Rosemary’s Baby!  ‘An American obstetrician found that his rate of premature deliveries dropped from 6.5 percent to 2.8 percent after he began paying attention to anxiety dreams,’ says Brenda Mallon, ‘Talk to your doctor, partner or midwife who should be able to reassure you.’

Shifting into your new role as mother can mark a new phase of dream-life.  Becoming a mother often puts your relationship with your own mother under scrutiny.

 KEY DREAM:  ‘I dream that I’m losing all my teeth – they’re just crumbling and falling out.’

WHAT IT MEANS:  David Sheridan:  ‘Losing teeth can have many meanings, all to do with uncertainty.  You may want a child but your partner doesn’t.  Or there could be physical problems with fertility.  Or it might mean that you don’t feel yourself capable of raising a child.’

DREAM SYMBOLS WORTH WATCHING:

  • Frogs, fish, eggs, acorns, circular pools:  all strong indicators of early pregnancy.
  • Flying:  can indicate an easy birth (if you dream of it late in pregnancy)
  • Infidelity:  concern about how your child will affect your relationship.
  • Your own mother:  can symbolise your maternal side – what kind of mother appears in your dreams?
  • Spider:   the ‘devouring’ mother.  Are you too possessive with your children?  Or was your own mother smothering?
  • Wearing a uniform: do you feel resentful about your role as mother?

 * Sad note:  since I wrote this, my dear friend, the author and Jungian psychotherapist Sarah Dening, has died.  She helped me with numerous dreams and dilemmas and I know she would want this information shared as widely as possible.

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This entry was posted in: health, Psychology

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Journalist, writer, mother, juggler. Author of over twenty books on natural health, wellbeing and 'personal development' (loathe the phrase but it gives you an idea). Wannabe novelist (like everyone else). Lives in the middle of nowhere.

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