Recurring Dreams And Their Meanings

03/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Does this sound familiar:

You arrive in the classroom and take your assigned seat. As you reach down to open your book the teacher says "Okay class, remember books away, it is time for the final exam!" Final exam, what is she talking about? Is that my boss sitting next to me? And where are my clothes? You wake in a cold sweat, still wondering where your clothes went.

One of the topics I get the most questions about is dreams. In my last post, we reviewed information about if we dream, why we dream, and one method for influencing our dreams (lucid dreaming). The content of most dreams seems to be dreamt once but many people can experience a repeat occurrence. Today I wanted to write about these recurrent dreams.

Recurrent dreams appear to fall into two main categories: stress related and full-on nightmares. Some of the more common dreams associated with anxiety and fear are:

Dreams of being chased -- Often you will feel like you are in slow motion (this may mean that you are having this dream while in REM sleep, when your body is paralyzed. This physiological experience occurs so that you do not act out your dreams).

Dreams of falling -- Some think that this may represent the transition from one sleep stage to another.

Dreams of being in a haunted house -- Some think that this could have something to do with your surroundings or sleep environment.

And most recurrent dreams are relevant to the person who is dreaming, according to Dr. Daniel Condron (Director and Dream Researcher at the School of Metaphysics). His theory is that the dream represents a question or message (often related to a limitation, habit, fear or doubt) to the dreamer. And he thinks that the dream will reach a conclusion (and may even stop repeating) once the dreamer understands the message and resolves to make a change.

There do appear to be some common themes in repetitive dreams for everyone:

(1) Being in school long after the dreamer has graduated.

(2) Being in houses that keep changing.

(3) Seeing a deceased person who is alive in the dream.

What these mean is still up for debate. You can interpret your dream and I can interpret your dream, and we could both be right or wrong -- no one can know for sure.

However, remember that the dreams are about the dreamer, as are any symbols in them, so when looking at your dreams (after writing them down in your dream journal) it is important to personalize your interpretations of them. As an example let's take a look at the three categories above and think about what a general interpretation could mean and then how to make it more specific to you.

In my opening dream report, the dreamer is back in school (one of the three most popular categories), what could that mean? It all will depend upon what school means to the dreamer:

• School may represent education to the dreamer, so maybe they have anxiety about a particular subject and need to learn something for work, home or with friends.

• School may represent a social scene to the dreamer, so maybe they feel anxious about an upcoming social event or party.

• School may represent a structured situation to the dreamer, so maybe the dream represents anxiety or stress about an upcoming training seminar or conference or time when they will need to take a test.

• School may represent a time of security to the dreamer, so maybe they feel anxious because they are in a situation which is currently dangerous.

Thus, an interpretation is best when the dreamer personalizes the content of the dream, by the theme, and then looks for things in the dream to help answer the question of why the dream occurs. Clues may include people, places or things that have meaning to the dreamer in particular. The higher the emotional attachment to the person, place or thing, the more likely it has a meaning regarding why the dreamer dreamt at all.

So in the above dream, the dreamer might have identified that they need to learn more about a subject that they fell inadequate about. Now for the Clues:

• In the dream they noticed that their boss was sitting next to them, so maybe this is a topic from work.

• Being naked is like being exposed, so maybe they are concerned that a colleague from work is going to find out that they need to learn more and expose it to their boss.

It is impossible to know if this is an exact and correct interpretation, but if the interpretation matches with the dreamer's thoughts, then there is something to be gained. Hopefully there is some insight into the message, or problem, and hopefully some type of resolution.

One of the most famous accounts of a recurrent dream is from Abraham Lincoln. While discussing the war with General Grant during a cabinet meeting he told the general that there would be big news from the warfront. When Grant asked why he thought this he replied:

"I had a dream last night; and ever since this war began I have had the same dream just before every event of great national importance. It portends some important event that will happen very soon."

That evening Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

What are your recurrent dreams? And what do you think that they might mean?