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October 26, 2018

In season 3 of Insecure, there’s a scene where protagonist Issa Dee keeps jolting awake, terrified that her teeth have disappeared from her mouth. It’s a scenario played for laughs—her bizarre dreams are meant to reflect the way her life is unraveling after a BF suddenly ghosted her. As her relationship crumbles and disappears, so do her teeth.

When I watched it, I laughed along, went to bed for the night, and woke up the next morning reeling from my own strange dream. In my slumber, I was back in middle school, sitting in a history class that definitely wasn’t for 27-year-old high school graduates. I sat down to take a test, panicked, then woke up to my alarm clock. Normally, I would have brushed it off. But after watching Issa’s dental drama, I wondered if my test panic might be trying to tell me something. And if so, what could it be?

I turned to Lauri Loewenberg, a celebrity dream interpreter.

“Our dreams are the most powerful part of who we are,” Loewenberg tells Shine. “When we are dreaming, we are figuring out our current issues, exploring how we really truly feel about ourselves and our relationships—basically we are learning how to get our life right. That's why, when faced with a dilemma, we tend to say, ‘Let me sleep on it,’ because we are actually dreaming on it.”

'When we are dreaming, we are figuring out our current issues, exploring how we really truly feel about ourselves and our relationships.'
- Lauri Loewenberg, celebrity dream interpreter
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The way she sees it, our unconscious thoughts can be more truthful than our conscious thoughts. They help us pinpoint our issues, see them in a different light, and resolve them. “Our dreams are brutally honest with us when the waking mind refuses to be,” she says.

Working with your dreams can take a little, well, work. The hazy, nonsensical scenario you experience is rarely a direct reflection of what you’re going through (or what to do about it), but rather a hint at what might lie under the surface. Once you’ve gotten a peek, it’s up to you to act on what you’ve learned.

Here, Loewenberg breaks down the most common dreams and what they might mean.

The dream: Your teeth are falling out

Issa’s nightmare is surprisingly common. “Teeth dreams are most often connected to communication, as any mouth-related dream tends to be,” explains Loewenberg. “Teeth falling out of your mouth uncontrollably is often the result of loose speech in real life: saying something without thinking about it first, gossiping, saying something that should have remained in your mouth, saying something you wish you could put back in your mouth.”

'Teeth falling out of your mouth uncontrollably is often the result of loose speech in real life.'
- Lauri Loewenberg
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In Issa’s case, it might have reflected what she wished she could say to her absent hookup, but couldn’t.

The dream: You’re back at school or missing a test

My history class nightmare left me feeling 13 again, but Loewenberg says it says more about what’s going on in my adult life. “School dreams are most often caused by job or career stress, because school is your first job in life and holds the same dynamics: you need to be on time, you need to be prepared (have done your homework), and you are being tested and judged and you want to keep moving up to the next level,” she explains.

A test dream might mean you’re being tested IRL, too, whether it’s someone testing your patience, an upcoming evaluation at work, or you’re trying to learn something new. “This dream often comes as a reminder that is time to be fully prepared for what is in store in waking life,” Loewenberg says.

The dream: You’re falling through the sky

Ever jolt awake after a few seconds of freefall? That feeling is often triggered by a loss of control in your real life or a lost sense of stability. “This is especially common when we have suffered a letdown—when plans fall through, when something you had high hopes for did not work out, or when something goes in the wrong direction,” Loewenberg says. “You want to go up in a dream, as that usually means something is progressing, and going down is often connected to regression.”

The dream: You’re being chased

Ah, the familiar chase dream. You’re sprinting down a street, or hallway, or dark alley. But who’s chasing you? “This dream is caused by avoidance and tends to happen when you are running from an issue rather than facing it, such as avoiding a confrontation you need to have with someone, trying to get out of an obligation, avoiding the truth, etc.,” Loewenberg says.

The dream, she says, is your subconscious telling you to stop running away from your problems and try facing them head-on.

The 'I'm being chased' dream is your subconscious telling you to stop running away from your problems and try facing them head-on.
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The dream: Your partner is cheating on you

You know your significant other is faithful. So why do they stray in your dreams? “If you’ve been cheated on before, this dream is a good indication you are not over the betrayal,” Loewenberg says.

The good news: “More often than not, this dream doesn’t point to an actual affair that may be going on.”

Instead, she says, this dream tends to occur when there’s a third wheel in your relationship, like work, a new baby, or even fantasy football. “Basically, this dream is a very good indication that you feel something is taking your partner's time and focus away from you and it is causing you to feel ‘cheated’ out of that time, focus and attention,” she says.

Think of these dreams as a nudge to open up about what you’re feeling—they’re pointing out an underlying issue that’s affecting you on the down low. “Bring it up to your partner and find a way the two of you can make the time you do have together meaningful,” Loewenberg says. “This will make the dream stop.”

Wishing you sweet, meaningful dreams!


Read next: 4 Tactics to Help You Slide Into Sleep a Little Easier

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