Dream On

Spring Labyrinth by Jacek Yerka

Spring Labyrinth by Jacek Yerka

I am a dream skeptic. I don’t believe that dreams are the window to my soul or they’re important messages from my subconscious, let alone the spirit world. I subscribe to the belief (whether or not true) that dreams are the brain’s way of processing and discarding most of the junk that doesn’t need to be stored in our long-term memory.

Nevertheless, as with most people, my dreams have recurring motifs.

When I was at university and throughout my twenties, I had dreams about being late for an exam and not being able to find the exam room, being locked out of my locker and having an important assignment inside, and other student nightmares. I would wake up with the same real body response as if the event happened, and have to calm myself down. But I could laugh because the dreams were such literal enactments of my fears. In retrospect, it’s funny that I had deep fears related to academic areas, in which I had so few troubles, and no dreams about relationship woes, which were rife at that age!

I had frequent dreams about entering a house, walking through the corridors and into the rooms, and sometimes being unable to find my way through or back. Yet they weren’t “caught-in-a-maze” terrifying. They were empty houses with no scary people or hazards. I trusted the way-finding wouldn’t be impossible! I would wake up feeling it was just an empty house. In dream symbolism, I am sure that opening doors, walking down paths and exploring rooms all refer to impending life choices.

Photo: motaen.com. Yes, of course I know this is not really survivable!

Photo: motaen.com. Yes, of course I know this is not survivable!

Another startling dream I had often was being swept off a rocky cliff by a giant wave into the ocean! Far from being a nightmare, I would always quickly surface, swim to shore, and feel victorious! Living near the ocean and being a very strong swimmer, this is the least of my actual fears. In dream lore, I like to think this is about resilience.

On the other hand, I had a one-time dream in which I was driving my car at full speed, the road ended, the car continued onto a dock, and over a lake. I woke with my heart pounding. The dream literally had a cliff-hanger ending! I was really scared – but not scared enough to buy one of these in real life 🙂 Wait – I need that!

At the same time, the “me” in my dreams didn’t go so far as to imagine or experience the feeling of being submerged and trapped in the car – my mind just didn’t go there – thankfully!



In recent times, I have two frequent, similar dreams. One is being in charge of a group of children or teens at an event for a school or library. There is a lot of chaos with the noise and commotion of the kids’ behaviour, but also the feeling that this is my role and I can do it – I just have to get organized and do the tasks I’m supposed to do. The other one is being the organizer of a conference in which I am responsible for the logistics. People are pulling me in all directions, drawing my attention to whatever is urgent to them in the moment.

Both of those situations are so close to my real experiences at work that they don’t bother me at all. I wake up and think, yep, all in a day’s work.

I am more interested in the parts of my real life that are never in my dreams. I almost never dream about Rom. I think he is so rock-solid in my life that there is no conflict to explore. At times, I worry a lot about Link, but they also rarely show up in my dreams. Perhaps I process my worries so thoroughly during the day time that there’s nothing left over for my sleeping brain!

I will conclude that since I am an introvert and have lots of time for thinking, planning, problem-solving and restoring my energy, I have less need of dream-space to bring things to my attention. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

What do you dream about? What do you think it means?


  1. Kris

    Interesting post! Like you, I believe that dreams are the brain’s way of “defragmentation” of experiences. In my teens, I was very ill and then often dreamt of falling, but never reaching the bottom. They were scary. Now I often dream of us having moved house and trying to fit in our stuff, or fixing up the place, or meeting people living around us. Circumstances in my life are changing, so I can “interpret” these dreams. I recently met someone who has visionary dreams, according to them, and found their interpretation of their dreams quite absurd. Here’s to more interesting dreams!

    • I am often amazed when people share their dreams (such as at work) and the interpretations they choose! Happily, I don’t think I have ever dreamed of falling (except for the one about the car falling). Having house and neighbourhood dreams sounds quite nice!

  2. Great post. Frustratingly, I rarely remember my dreams. I wake up knowing that I’ve had a dream about something interesting, and yet I can’t recall even the general subject of the dream.

    So, when I do remember a dream – like the recurring one in which I’m traveling with a group of people, all of which are “off-camera” in the dream, and we’re at a crossroads, looking at a map – I think it’s fascinating, but consider it not much more than a random thought.

    • I usually have at least a fleeting idea of the “subject” of my dreams but often they are mundane and it escapes my brain quickly. I like how you mention the “off camera” angle. I am the central character in my dreams and I see them first person, and not as if I am seeing myself in a movie, but most of the other content is very cinematic. Not important – just visually distinctive.

  3. EcoCatLady

    Hmmm… very interesting post. I’ve always had very vivid dreams, and over the years I’ve done a bit of research on various methods of dream interpretation. The one that makes the most sense to me is the Gestalt model, which holds that everything in the dream is a representation of yourself, and the parts of the dream that aren’t you represent emotions that you’re unable or unwilling to take ownership of.

    So… given that introduction, I used to have recurring nightmares about monsters of various ilks coming to get me. These were terrifying dreams, and I’d often wake up drenched in sweat with my heart pounding out of my chest. Then one night, during a period when I was in therapy working through a lot of stuff from my childhood, I had a dream that I was walking up a rickety staircase in an old house. I was terrified that the stairs would collapse, but for some reason I couldn’t move. I looked up and saw that there was a horrible cyborg-esque monster at the top coming to get me.

    As I stood there paralyzed by fear, I saw the monster reach up to his chest – I was sure he was reaching for his blaster (cyborgs all carry blaster weapons, you know.) I stared in horror, waiting to be blown to smithereens. But… then I saw that he wasn’t reaching for a weapon at all, he was reaching for a zipper. He pulled down the zipper and I suddenly realized that it wasn’t an actual cyborg, it was someone wearing a cyborg suit! Whoever was inside started to step out of the suit… I was terrified. Then, to my amazement, I saw that the person emerging was me. It was a mirror, not a monster.

    The Gestalt interpretation of that dream would be that the monsters were a representation of my own suppressed negative emotions – anger, rage, power, etc.

    Now, I’m not sure if EVERY dream can be interpreted this way – when you’re dreaming about searching hopelessly for a public toilet and then you wake up and really have to pee… well, I think those are pretty self explanatory! But I do know this – I stopped having monster nightmares after that dream.

    • Fascinating! I’ve never had a dream in which I could see myself from the outside, as another character. I am glad you worked through that part of your life – it sounds like processing the dreams helped.

  4. Dreams are such an indulgence, an personal soap telenovella, I love them. I lived with horrible nightmares through my twenties, and I always died. It went so far it became the daily joke how I had died. My favourite was being shot in the back with a cannon ball. (It turned out to be a medication side effect and six months after stopping them, the dying stopped.)
    Now I often dream I find an extra room in whatever house or apartment I live in that I didn’t know of. I am sure it means that I have hidden potentials that I will discover. THAT is MY story and since it makes me feel good about my life, i am sticking to it!!

    • Woah! It sounds horrifying to me to have dreams in which I would actually die, let alone many different ways! I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to check medications. Yes, you definitely have many rooms of untapped potential at your disposal, I’m sure of it!

  5. I forced myself awake the other night. I heard footsteps around the house, maybe inside. Wake up, I told myself. Something’s there. So I woke up. Turns out I dreamt the sounds but they were real enough to scare me.

    I’ve had similar dream twice in last week. Made myself wake up both times.

    My recurrent dream is about loss of power. I’m at the school assembly and the students won’t do as they are told and won’t be quiet. That’s scary for me! As in I hate the thought of not having control and power.

    • I had the same kind of dream last night after I worked on our library “teen night” and had to police the kids’ behaviour all night. Nothing bad happened but I was getting irritated. I do have “lucid” dreams sometimes in which I get into a predicament, then I stop and think, “Huh, why don’t I just do this” and turn the situation around. But usually I am changing my behaviour in the dream and not waking myself up to attend to reality. That would be a good skill!

  6. Fiona

    What interesting dreams!! I’m fascinated by the fact that even in scary dream situations, you seem to be able to remain calm and in control. Many dream situations seem to be about the whole theme of being out-of-control, in a ‘safe’, imaginative sense. I would think your dreams mean you are happy with life and very competent / practised at dealing with ‘uncontrollled’ situations!

    I heard once from a psychologist on ‘Big Brother’ (ha – great source of info!) that there are surges in dream activity during periods of life change e.g. moving house. The psychologist on the show said it’s the brain’s way of processing information. I think maybe dreams are the brain’s way of practising things, as well. I also used to have lots of dreams as a teenager about actually being in an exam – dreams of my hand just writing on the page!

    I actually don’t dream at all now, as an adult (or rather, don’t remember the dreams.) But I had intense dreams as a child, some of them utterly terrifying (walking through an abandoned house carpeted with thousands of Huntsmen spiders.) But others were intensely beautiful. I had one recurring dream that I loved as a child, where I would float upwards to the roof of a warehouse surrounded by a thousands of rising, coloured balloons!

    • Human memory is such a strange thing, in which we can have memories of childhood dreams, as well as memories of childhood! I remember a couple of mine. Processing, storing, discarding – yes. It does make sense we’d have more to process during a life transition. I do sometimes hear that people who say they don’t dream, or don’t remember their dreams, envy the ability of others to have and recall dreams. I feel the opposite – I would prefer not to have them! Maybe you and others who dream less or remember less have processed everything much more effectively!

  7. Jo

    Like you Dar, I am an introvert, but being brought up in the Stiff Upper Lip school of parenting, I don’t process my emotions very well, so as an adult I have learned to pay attention to my dreams, because they tend to tell me how I am feeling – overwhelmed, worried, sad, excited..and that seems to be what I need to know about what my subconscious is telling me..

  8. Rusty

    I agree with dreams being more vivid at stressful times in your life. When my father died I was in my mid twenties and for a good year afterwards I had dreams where I found out he hadn’t really died, he would come to the house and we’d do things together, but at the same time even in my dream I knew it wasn’t real, that it was just a dream. It hasn’t happened since and I generally don’t dream of people I know at all, just that one time in my life. It was my subconscious dealing with letting go I expect, and it was generally a very bad time for me as I lost my job, my home and my boyfriend in quick succession that year too.

    Otherwise I have a standard dream when things (work usually) are getting on top of me, that I’m getting on a train (or sometimes off) with lots of bags and possessions all spread around and I can’t get everything on (or off) in time and the train is moving and I can’t get it all done,,, Pretty obvious how to interpret that one…..

    • That sounds like a tragic year, Rusty. Life-changing in the worst way. Tell me all is well now and that is ancient history? Do you actually take a train to work or has the train made it into your dreams only as a metaphor?

  9. todadwithlove

    You know, I have academic dreams up to this day: that I am totally unprepared for a coming exam, that the lecturer’s teachings were incomprehensible, that I am horribly late for an important test…In fact, I had the same one about exams last night.

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