Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Linda Yael Schiller, author of Modern Dreamwork.
Most of have had recurrent dreams at some time in our lives. Some of them eventually just disappear, but sometimes they repeat over and over again. They may be simply intriguing or curious, or even fun (like if we have those recurrent flying dreams), but sometimes we feel stalked by a recurrent nightmare. What do all these mean?
- Jennifer dreamt that she was taking bus #22 up a winding mountain pass. Three days later she dreamt that a school bus was parked outside her house. The following week she dreamt that she was working as a waitress busing tables.
- Mark kept dreaming of his childhood home. Sometimes he was a child in the dreams, sometimes his current age as an adult.
- Serena kept dreaming of her alcoholic father who had been dead for several years. He seemed to be trying to talk to her in each dream, but each time she ran from him.
- For many years all my dreams begin, “I am in Israel and…” some story would unfold.
What all these dreams and dreamers have in common is the repetitive nature of their dreams. The first dream that Jennifer had even went so far as to offer a doubling: the number 22. We know that when there is a double in our dreams that it has special significance, so she had both the double number and a recurring image.
When we dream of the same theme, object, person, or place over and over, we are being called to pay attention. These dreams are showing us something that some deeper part wants us or do or understand, and our dreaming self is doing its darndest to get our attention. It is saying, “Hello, pay attention here!” Recurring themes indicate that there is something we need at least to notice or perhaps to resolve in our lives. Recurring nightmares are a form of SOS from our unconscious. They may not always come as exactly the same dream, but often repeat a theme or image instead.
Our psyche is a great punster as well. In Jennifer’s dreams, she dreams literally about a bus several times, and then dreams she is “busing” tables. This image or theme of “bus” needs some kind of attention. Her job is to figure out the meaning of a bus is in her life. Jennifer will need to contextualize these dreams in her own life and see what a bus means or symbolizes. Is a bus simply a means of transportation, or one that but she is not in charge of, since some one else is driving? What does it mean for her to “be on the bus,” or, “thrown under the bus?” Does she take a bus to work? What are her unique personal associations to buses? Some symbols resonate across people and cultures; others are idiosyncratic to the dreamer.
When we dream frequently of our childhood homes or a person from our family, we often have some unfinished business to resolve there. Depending on the emotional narrative that accompanies the dreams, we can discern if we need to grieve a loss, overcome a fear, or reconnect with someone we have lost touch with from our childhood. When I worked with Serena on her dream of her father, what stood out for both of us was that he kept trying to tell her something, and she kept running away. Knowing the old adage, “What we resist, persists,” I asked Serena if she would be willing to brave up and face him and see why he kept pursuing her night after night. Once we got her safe and resourced enough she agreed, and behold, her dream father was trying to apologize to her. She was thus able to get some resolution with him in her dreams that she never got in life.
Following a loss or a trauma in our lives, we may dream about the accident or loss over and over. In this case, our psyche helps us to heal by reviewing the events in the dreamtime until they no longer carry as much emotional punch. This is a form of organic desensitization that helps us to heal and move on. If our system is processing the upset well, over time the dreams will automatically lessen in frequency, in intensity, and in vividness until they just fade away.
Finally, shamanic wisdom teaches us that sometimes we have left a part of ourselves behind somewhere, and we have to go and retrieve it to become whole again. This may be literal or figurative. In my case, it was both. After having lived in Israel for several years, I returned to the States to finish graduate school. I settled in Boston, married, had a child, yet my dreams continued. It was only when I returned for a visit and reconnected with an integral part of my being on the land that my dreams gave me more varied and different landscapes to explore.
To continue exploring recurrent dreams, nightmares, and understanding your dreams, I invite you to read my book, Modern Dreamwork: New Tools for Decoding Your Soul’s Wisdom.
Our thanks to Linda for her guest post! For more from Linda Yael Schiller, read her article “Dreaming Beyond: 7 Tips for Connecting with Your Departed Loved Ones Through Your Dreams.”