The average person will spend five years of life dreaming — that’s more than 100,000 dreams over a 70-year lifetime. Still, not many of us spend more than a few passing moments reflecting on what those nightly dreams say about our waking life.
But would you give them more credence if you could get free feedback from licensed psychologists and other dream experts?
The curators behind DreamsCloud says dreams are the world’s common language, and they’ve got some evidence to support it: Hundreds of thousands of users already have shared their personal dreams across the site and its mobile app.
Here’s how the site works: You upload a description of your dream to the site or mobile app and within 24 hours you receive a “reflection,” i.e. analysis, of your dream from the DreamsCloud team of experts.
“We believe that the social media platform can be used to communicate, interact and help society better understand their dreams,” DreamsCloud Chairman and co-founder Jean-Marc Emden told Yahoo News in a phone interview. “Dreams are naturally social — people wake up and want to tell someone about their dreams.”
So far, the DreamsCloud experts have given out about 20,000 "reflections." Its Facebook page has more than 250,000 “likes” and the company recently unveiled apps for both iOS and Android so that users can upload a dream for analysis directly to their phone right after waking up from the dream.
DreamsCloud’s team of experts include licensed psychologists, social workers and even life coaches, who combine their areas of expertise to help provide free dream reflections to users.
“My life mission is to get people excited about dreams,” Robert L. Van de Castle, who serves as an adviser to DreamsCloud, told Yahoo News. “It’s our one common language. The experience we’re having can be pretty universal,” he said. “I’d compare it to art in that sense; we can interpret these things visually and symbolically.”
And beyond simply wanting to understand their dreams, Emden says he hopes the large social community on his site will form bonds between individuals who might not otherwise feel they have much in common.
“Our society has been pushed through desire to be independent,” Emden said. “I’m not sure if humankind is made for that. We’re trying to find commonalities. The dreamer is the biggest family on the planet. We all do it.”
Van de Castle, who has authored several scholarly works on dreams, says the reflections offered by DreamsCloud are not scientific, but he nonetheless hopes they will improve people’s understanding of their own dreams.
Still, he’s not shy about advertising what he thinks are the benefits of dream analysis. Van de Castle says there is evidence to show that dreams can help a pregnant woman better predict the time of her labor and that dreams often give dreamers advanced warning of oncoming illness.
And bottom line: Van de Castle says the more time we spend thinking about our dreams, the better we get at remembering and interpreting them.
On a personal note, Van de Castle says dream therapy was instrumental in his physical recovery from angiosarcoma. At the time of his diagnosis, doctors gave Van de Castle just 15 months to live. It’s now been 10 years since that diagnosis, and the 85-year-old psychologist credits his work in the world of dreams for his extended lifespan.
And if dreams really are the common language that unite people across different cultures and languages, what are our most common dreams?
Van de Castle says the four most common dreams are all some form of self-examination.
“A lot of dreams deal with motion,” he said. “In general, flying or moving upward is better and a sign of hope or confidence. Whereas falling is a metaphor for losing your balance in life.”
He said another common dream — in which someone else is chasing the dreamer, often represents “parts of yourself that are trying to get ahold of you and get your attention.”
And, of course, there’s the dream where we show up to work or school in our underwear. “It’s a reflection of anxiety. Am I good enough at work, in my relationships and so forth,” Van de Castle said. “What if you could see me as I really was?”