When I ask people about their dreams, many times they will recount experiences of crazy landscapes where anything can happen (and probably will). But more often than not, what I hear about is the regularly recurring, repetitive dream that has haunted the dreamer their entire life; I hear over and over again from people that they "always dream of ______" (fill in the blank). It is not that these people have no dream imagination; it is much more about the effectiveness of the dream process as a tool for helping the mind achieve balance.
As an example, say you are someone who has a recurring dream of driving a car up a hill. The hill is steep. You keep going, only to get to the point where finally you are at such an incline your car can no longer move forward; you begin to slide backward, out of control. The feeling is terrifying as you completely lose control while the car careens backward, and you are left panicked and useless as you plummet to what is certain death. And then, of course, you wake up.
You dream this dream frequently, perhaps monthly, and have done so for years. This is simply a function of your mind's dynamic response to this particular image: it is perfectly suited to accurately express the various stresses of your individual life. It hardly matters what it is in your waking life that inspires the dream. An argument with a friend or a large credit card bill that you are worried about paying on time could both illicit the very same dream. Both waking-life circumstances are clearly very different in nature, but the dream that helps your restore your psychic balance is the same.
Recurring dreams are not necessarily the most common dreams that people have, but they are the ones that are most readily remembered and frequently talked about when I do workshops. I assume that this is because of the fact that they recur, keeping them in the forefront of the mind of dreamers. And this is, of course, what the underlying purpose of a recurring dream actually is. If a dream comes again and again, it is attempting to do something very specific: it is trying to get your attention.
Stress is a constant companion to us in the Western world. We are born into it, and for most of us, it is a way of approaching life that has become a macabre sort of paradox as an actual tool for getting through life. Presented with obligations and obstacles, we have grown to believe that the ensuing stress itself is what helps us to effectively meet those obligations and overcome those obstacles. This is, of course, a magnificent lie that is not only tragic in its utter fallacy; it is a misconception that is fatal. Stress kills.
There are all kinds of beneficial and scientifically proven stress combatants, from exercise, meditation, medication, yoga, breath work; the list goes on and on. However, there is one prominent, organic tool for reducing stress that is built into the human mechanism, one that is—without a doubt—the most effective one there is: dreaming.
The stress an individual experiences throughout their lives changes. The stressful areas of life that are causing anxiety will change as you age and move through various circumstances and stages of life. What will not always be different, however, is the way in which the unconscious mind will use dreams to regulate that stress and reduce it to non-lethal levels, allowing you to wake up each morning and do it all over again.
Because the human mind is economical, it will often turn to a recognizable image that has worked in the past to convey certain emotional states. We experience this in the form of a recurring dream. These are those pervasive dreams that trouble us from time to time, such as being chased, falling, or being naked in public, to name a few common ones. These are not usually filled with elaborate plots and characterizations, but are rather simplistic with a familiar theme.
Here are the five most common, stress-related, recurring dreams:
So the next time you have any one of these dreams, ask yourself where in your life might you be experiencing the stress that may have caused it. Your dreams are trying to tell you something; the more you pay attention, the more they can reveal. The most important thing to remember is that as disturbing as these dreams can be, they are happening for your benefit. You do, after all, survive the terrifying onslaught to wake up and do it all over again.
Dr. Michael Lennox (Los Angeles, CA) is a practicing psychologist and one of the most respected and soughtafter dream interpreters in the U.S. He has appeared on SyFy, MTV, and many radio shows, and has published articles in ...