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This is what your dreams really say about your personality

For centuries, the phenomenon of dreaming baffled people. Ancient civilizations used to believe that the worlds we experience in our sleeping states were real places that could only be accessed through dreams; stories from the Bible and other old texts speak of people who could interpret dreams as predictions of the future; and, due to the popularity of Sigmund Freud's theories on the unconscious, we've come to believe that certain dream scenarios might hold hidden truths about a person's thoughts.

As we still don't fully understand the purpose of dreams, there's a lot of speculation around what they actually mean (if anything at all). Some people believe that dreams are only physiological stimulations, acting as the brain's way of sifting through recently-processed information in order to decide what's important or not. Other people, however, think that dreams are actually psychologically necessary, and that we could learn a great deal from them.

If we assume that the latter option is true, and that dreams are the key to a person's innermost thoughts and feelings, what exactly do certain scenarios say about a dreamer's personality? Here are some commonly-occurring features of dreams, and what they might say about you:

1. Houses

Often, the houses we see in our dreams are familiar to us - perhaps they're our childhood homes, or somewhere we've stayed while visiting relatives. However, sometimes, the house will be a complete fabrication of our imaginations, and its appearance represents the human psyche. Bedrooms can represent intimate thoughts and feelings, while basements or excluded areas can signify things that have been ignored by the dreamer in their waking life.

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2. Nudity

Many of us will have experienced dreams where we show up naked for work or school, and it's often interpreted as a sign that the dreamer is anxious about something. However, it also implies that the person feels vulnerable or exposed in a certain situation, and could be an indication of paranoia.

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3. Being chased

Whether it's by a supernatural being or someone you know in real life, being chased in a dream is another indicator of anxiety. A lot of the time, the thing chasing the person can be a clue about something they're running from in real life (metaphorically, of course - unless you frequently find yourself legging it from your angry boss). This dream scenario is commonly reported because it's easily remembered, and often people will wake from the dream in fear.

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4. Babies

If you have a baby, it shouldn't be particularly surprising if you dream about them. However, for those who do not have babies, dreaming of small children can represent the desire for something new. If dreamt of in a negative context, though, babies can signify one's own vulnerability.

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5. Hands

Even when we are physically present in our dreams, we are very rarely conscious of our own bodies. However, if you do happen to see your hands, their state could give away a lot about your personality. If you find yourself washing your hands, you may be feeling guilty. Or, if your hands are tied up, you may be feeling frustrated with something.

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6. Sex

A lot of the time, dreaming about sex - especially with a particular person - normally indicates a literal sexual desire that is present in the conscious mind, too. However, sometimes sex is symbolic of intimate connections with other people, and an awareness of oneself.

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7. Food

A symbol of nourishment and energy, dreaming of food and eating could indicate that you have a craving for new information or experiences. However, it could also just mean that you're hungry.

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8. Death

This is something that normally appears in nightmares - but it's not always a bad sign. Dreaming of death, especially your own, could simply be an indication that you need a change in life, or that a significant change has recently happened.

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9. Faulty machinery

Being unable to properly operate a phone or a computer is not often the main focus of a dream, it does frequently occur in many of our nocturnal visions. There's actually a logical explanation for this, too: as the language centre of the brain is shut down while we sleep, it's difficult for us to process information such as phone numbers or the time on a clock.

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10. Water

If you find yourself dreaming about water, its physical state and quality could help you decipher your unconscious emotions. A turbulent sea may suggest fear or anxiety, whereas a tranquil lake could indicate a sense of contentment and calmness. How you approach the water is also indicative of how capable you are of managing your emotions.

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If you've had a strange dream recently, or keep seeing the same things crop up every time you fall asleep, it could be worth investigating. Then again, it could just be coincidence.