It is very common when working in the field of dream therapy that people will ask what their dreams mean. What does it mean when my teeth fall out? What does it mean when I am flying or falling? Though it is very common for people to want to know from us, can we actually generalize imagery to meaning, or is it specific for the dreamer?
Research has shown that dream images are specific for the dreamer. If a person is dog phobic and dreams of dogs, then likely that dreamer will connect the imagery to fear or anxiety in waking life. For another dreamer, who loves dogs and in fact owns 4 dogs in waking life, dream imagery of dogs will be connected to a different meaning. From what we know so far, we cannot generalize dream imagery to any one meaning and in fact, to do so, diminishes the meaning of dreams. Falling does not translate into waking day anxiety, water does not translate into spiritual matters. Imagery is specific to the dreamer and can ONLY be interpreted by the dreamer himself.
Taking images and making them universal could be one of the major mistakes made by dream workers. Though this is how dream interpretation was practiced in the past, we are now far beyond that work and into a more sophisticated form of interpretation. It is our professional responsibility to guide dreamers to their own meaning and to not stand in the way of that. We do not, and cannot know what a dream means for someone else-no matter how tempting it is to want to do that. Unless the dream is our own, we cannot claim any part of it as our own.
Dream interpretation has moved forward with scientific research practices so we must not stay stuck in the dark ages where dream interpretation was done by the healer, holy man, or shaman. Dreams belong to the dreamer and should be respected as such.