While COVID-19 has made most of our physical lives smaller, it appears to have made our dream lives bigger. A March 2020 poll found that a third of Americans experienced greater dream recall, and, as COVID-19 dragged on, people began describing ever more vibrant visions. “As a dream ‘event,’ the pandemic is unprecedented,” reported Scientific American. That doesn’t surprise Deborah Bryon, who holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Denver and is chair of the dream exam (think: the bar exam for dream interpreters) for certifying prospective members of the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. “Dreams can be a way that we try to metabolize and work through things,” Bryon says—and, boy, have the past two years delivered some serious baggage. To start the unpacking, we asked Bryon to help us make sense of common symbols that might be appearing in your slumber.


Symbols mean different things to different people, but peaks often represent obstacles. The questions to ask yourself upon waking are: What real-life impediment does the mountain embody? and, In the dream, are you scaling the hill, or are you stuck? An even more common dream about the natural world is an avalanche (or tidal wave) wiping out a town—the archetypal premonition for impending disaster.

Childhood Home

Issues from when you were a kid may be bubbling to the surface in these dreams. Sometimes, children don’t have the tools to process trauma, so they bury their feelings until they are equipped to deal with them—like now, when you’re an adult. An enjoyable dream or just a specific memory, however, could be your psyche saying, Hey, remember what fun was like?

Strange Bedfellow

Just because you become, uh, romantic with someone in dreams doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got the hots for them. “It’s more about integration,” Bryon says. In other words, you are assuming the traits of your dreamtime bae. If your hookup is loyal, for example, maybe your subconscious believes you are maturing into a more faithful friend. If they’re selfish, though, it’s probably time to check yourself.


Dogs tend to embody something personally important to you. Cats personify your intuition. Bears, meanwhile, can signify protection: A grizzly guarding you may signify that your ego is strong. A bear attack, on the other hand, could be a sign you’re not advocating enough for yourself.

Ski Bum

Remember: Every aspect of a dream—from the characters to the animals to the inanimate objects—represents you. If you’re straight-laced and organized, then the presence of a ski bum could reflect the need to relax. On the other end of the spectrum, an accountant might visit at night to convince you to bring some order to your chaotic life.