I go through phases where I remember my dreams in vivid detail, and other times I don’t remember them for months at a time. I am currently in the memory-hole phase. But when I remember my dreams, a lot of them are repetitive. I dream all the time about having car trouble, and also about running, which is probably because I cannot run at all because of an injury. Running has become my ultimate fantasy, as well as dancing. Real Simple has an article about recurring dreams, and they are really common–at least 65% of Americans have them. Common themes include falling, being chased, and being back in school. Sometimes the dream can reflect an emotion or topic we’re trying to avoid, or sometimes it’s something we are thinking about a lot during our waking hours.
65 to 70 percent of us have recurring dreams: According to an October 2023 study from Amerisleep, the most common subjects of recurring dreams involve falling, being chased, and being back in school. The Sleep Foundation reports that between 60 and 75 percent of Americans experience recurring dreams.
Why do they happen: Recurring dreams can happen for any number of different reasons. For instance, unresolved issues, including unaddressed emotions or experiences in a person’s life, can contribute to a recurring dream.
“For example, if a person feels guilty about something or is worried about a particular relationship they have, this can manifest in their dreams,” Freedman says. “Certain traumatic events may also contribute to recurring dreams, such as car accidents, natural disasters, experiences of abuse, or interpersonal violence.”
It’s hard to really know what dreams “mean”: “At best, we can speculate on what a particular dream, or set of recurring dreams, means, and if an interpretation resonates for someone in a way that is helpful, that’s great,” she says. “While some people believe their dreams reflect unresolved emotions or ongoing life situations, the specifics can only be determined by examining the dream’s details and the dreamer’s context. It could be the individual’s way of signaling that it’s time to work through a trauma or process that’s holding them back.”
Therapy or dream journaling can help: “If your dreams are signaling that you may be avoiding certain emotions, situations, or topics, therapy can help the individual address those topics while you are awake so that perhaps they will not plague the person while sleeping,” she says.
Additionally, she recommends dream journaling. “Dream journaling can help identify whether a recurring dream might continue popping up and help the individual make sense of the themes and details involved,” she says.
[From Real Simple]
There’s no doubt that day-to-day things influence our dreams, like what we’ve watched on television just before going to sleep. (I strategically fall asleep to Gilmore Girls for just this reason). But I think there’s value in paying attention to our dreams. A framework that is helpful to me is imagining that each character in a dream represents a part of my own psyche. So if I am having dreams that I’m being stalked by a dangerous man, it means there’s something lumbering around in my psyche that is self-destructive. If I’m having that dream all the time, it means my negative self-talk is probably worse than usual during my waking hours. But I feel like almost everyone I know still has nightmares about being in school again, which is kind of funny. Why is high school the universal dream symbol for suppressed anxiety?
Photos credit: Kenneth Surillo on Pexels, here’s a link to his Instagram
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