Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Recurring Dreams

(Image from

How many of you remember your dreams? How many of you have recurring dreams, some repeating over years before they mysteriously go away? How many of you see your dreams as, among other things, a way your inner self is offering comment that might help you learn something?

I don't record my dreams every day anymore, but I did for years and I found them fascinating, no matter how I used them. Research on dreams is quite varied. I worked for a year, during my career as a Clinical Psychologist in a research center that studied pain, 'hypnosis', and dreams. Much of what goes on during REM, awakened dreamers describe as thinking...perhaps a recap of their day with no other significance attached. You can affect a dream by tickling a dreamer with a feather. The feather becomes incorporated into the dream in various ways. Again, no particular significance.

Of much interest to me personally and clinically has been the recurring dream. In my own life I've had series of thems at different times. During my first marriage, I dreamed at least once a month and usually more often about telephones. I was trying to get through to someone, but the telephone was broken, the telephone didn't take my change, the person picked up but couldn't hear me, I couldn't find the right number, etc. I never had a dream of a completed phone call. Throughout this period, I was trying in vain to get an indifferent husband to listen to me, kept thinking if I tired hard enough he would open the emotional block he'd put up after only a couple of months of our marrying. When I finally gave up and left, the dreams went away, never to recur. No, the dreams weren't magical signals. They clearly reflected what was going on, but they were also telling me to pay more attention. I wasn't doing that.

Another series of dreams I had for years was returning to school. Sometimes grade school. Sometimes grad school. Usually I didn't have my schedule and couldn't find my classes. I never did get a clear feel for those except there was something I still needed badly to learn, but hadn't. In doing some tissue memory release work in the nineties to recover memories of a high school head-on collision that I'd never remembered, despite the fact that I was wandering around on a broken foot in a field when the ambulance arrived and 'came to' in the hospital, sitting up talking to my paarents, another unexpected memory surfaced. This second memory had to do with something I 'knew' had happened but only existed as a shadow in my mind with no details and had plagued me most of my life. It had to do with molestation over many years by my grandfather (which my parents never knew about and my grandmother was too terrified of his temper to tell). When those memories came back and I had closure on them, the going back to school dreams disappeared. The dreams never told me what I needed to learn, but were darn insistent that I had something in there and wasn't finding the right classroom yet.

My last real series of dreams were grief dreams about my mother. For six months after she died I had repeated dreams that she was calling for my help and I couldn't reach her to save her. When mother first realized that her last hospitalization for a sudden (four month) onset of congestive heart failure really was her last, she was terrified despite her deep religious convictions. She also didn't want to leave me while I was still so sick with CFIDS. After six months, I started seeing mother calm, but behind a glass pane. I could see her, but not talk to her. After a year, she began entering my dreams normally, as if she were really there doing things with me and , this time, my father was often there, too. That was about the time my heavy grief over her death was easing up. Now I see her in my dreams and it's a happy event.

If you'd care to share a recurring dream and its meaning to you, I'd love to hear.


BTW, Some of you may wonder why I wanted to remember that accident. I knew it had happened. I wasn't driving. I was in the middle seat between the band director's son who was driving, and his mother, on our way back from band clinic. She and I had just changed places about 20 minutes earlier. She went through the windshield and her face was destroyed. The son had broken ribs and was pinned by the wheel. I had broken bones in my foot and hand and cuts. After that and into my adulthood, I had trouble passing cars on a two lane road if a car was even in sight in the distance. If it was necessary to pass and safe, I became extremely anxious facing that car, now in my lane, coming in my direction, until back in the right lane again. I hoped to get rid of that fear. It helped some to remember, but not enough to warrent the memory of Mrs. Mills lying on the car hood with blood everywhere and her son screaming while I banged my shoulder against the door trying to get out of there and run. Nope.


Poems N. Songs said...

Do you have any particular approach to understanding dreams? Freudian, Jungian, Artistic or whatever?

I've recently begun a blog about dreams - feel free to comment

meaningful dreams


Poems N. Songs said...

P.S. I use sitemeter - it's good!

Pris said...

I just commmented on your blog.

J. Andrew Lockhart said...

I'm coming back when I have time and will really read this. It looks so interesting!

DeadMule said...

Hi Pris,

Like you I have recurring dreams about going back to school. Sometimes one of my sons goes, too. I wander around trying to find my dorm room, classes, etc.

I also have dreams about houses. Huge houses that have many rooms. Someone has usually moved out and left their belongings for us. Some of the same house occur over and over. One begins from our childhood perches in the branches of a mulberry tree, then goes up with the rooms getting more and more mysterious as you go higher. Sometimes the tree is not in Joplin, where it was, but in Charlotte, NC, next to the administration building at a school where I taught. Sometime the house incorporates rooms in our church. The floors are all covered with burgundy carpet and have wheelchair ramps. I rote about this house in "The Mulberry Tree." see

There's another house with lots of single beds. Rooms in this house go down instead of up, maybe just a basement. There are rooms like closets full of clothes and toys. My parents and my kids are often the same age in dreams, or two people become one. Nothing about any of this is upsetting. I like these houses.

Am I nuts, Pris?

Poems N. Songs said...

deadmule: The house as the psyche? It sounds good to be partly the church.


Pris, thanks for visiting, I'll do a related post when I have time to do it properly :)

Pris said...

Hi Andrew..

and Helen, no, you're not crazy:-) It's true that a house often represents our selves in a dream...this of course can't be just asserted. You would have to work through associations to the parts of the dream, but the houses you dream about are fascinating and complex, just as you are.

And yes, I'd love to see a related article! Great!

pepektheassassin said...

Hi, Pris! If you are interested to see what I've done with my dreams, go to my About Me page and click on my mind's i.

Lyle Daggett said...

Hi, Pris -- I've had many recurring dreams for as long as I can remember.

Dreams in general have been, for me, a source of deeper feeling for my life, the things I want, the directions I want to follow, a kind of obscure oracle showing me things I've been unable to discern in more obvious form.

I've specifically also had recurring dreams of being back in school (high school, college, etc.), and always the building is different, I'm late for class, can't find the classroom, I have a "guilty" feeling that I'm not supposed to be there.

I've also had similar dreams about going to work at old jobs where I've worked previously. And dreams about going to my apartment, but the building is different, my apartment is different, I can't find the rooms, the furniture is different, etc.

Your comment about your dreams of going back to school really resonate for me. I'm going to spend time with this, the notion that I'm taking myself to school in my dreams because there are still things I need to learn that I haven't learned. (Or being back at an old job -- unfinished business, etc.)

All of the dreams of being lost in unfamiliar buildings also make me think of the myths of journeying into the labyrinth and to the underworld. Something in the baffling shadow world that I need to bring back with me into daylight.

Although I'm not strongly partisan to any particular approach to perceiving dreams, a couple of books I've found highly useful -- both for working with dreams, and for writing poems -- are "A Little Course in Dreams" by Robert Bosnak, a Jungian analyst, and "The Moon and the Virgin" by Nor Hall, also a Jungian analyst.

Bosnak's book is a kind of beginner's manual on the basics of Jungian dream work, talking about the concept of archetypes, some techniques for remembering dreams, and so on. He spends time in particular talking about sorting out recurring dreams, and gives example recurring dream texts. I've found Bosnak's book particularly useful in his suggestions for remembering dreams when you're starting from just the briefest remembered fragment or image -- some of the tecnniques he talks about have helped me find my way into poems I'm trying to write when all I have is a line or phrase or two.

Hall's book is an exploration of female archetypes, and deals much with sources of female archetypal images in mythology. She uses poetry throughout the book (by various poets -- Robert Duncah, Denise Levertov, H.D. come to mind offhand) to illustrate many of the concepts she talks about. I found the book deeply useful in understanding many unarticulated impulses and sensations through my own life.

The two most powerfully affecting dreams I've had each were centered on images of huge things rising or bursting suddenly up out of the ocean: in one case a massive tall tower shaped like a fist and made of ice, in the other case a whale. The first one (with the tower of ice in the ocean) happened with I was about 13 or 14. In more recent years I'm come to feel that the dreams took me close to how my body has stored the memory of being born. Bursting suddenly from water into daylight. Each of the two dreams occurred at a time in my life when I was going through something like an inner birth or rebirth.

Thanks for indulging this longish comment. This is a subject that interests me much.

Pris said...

Hi Lyle
I should've posted my reply to poems and songs here, too, instead of just on that blog, since the Jungian approach carries the deepest meaning to me, too. When I worked a summer between my first and second years of grad school at the State Hospital in Kankakee, Illinois, a man supervised me who had just returned from training at the Jungian Institute in Zurich. He worked there while he built up his private practice in Chicago. For the first time, my dreams opened and expanded for me, taking me into new ways of seeing things, listening to comments on my life.

You really have a good handle on yours and the birthing/rebirthing dream was expecially interesting since we know now that babies can encode memories from as early as the womb, pre-language, as well as the birth process...then to have that appear at such a time of import in your life....

Thanks for sharing all of this. I love to talk about how dreams work in our lives.


Anonymous said...

Gosh, it was only the other day that Berenice and me were discussing this...hmmm.

I have had one recurring dream for many years now, about 12 years in fact...the time I left nursing...earlier than I had ever anticipated.

I am a staff nurse on a busy hospital ward. I am always in charge on the shift but the ward varies, as do my colleagues and the hospital.

I am doing the job I have been trained to do with efficiency, but am wracked with guilt and anxiety because I haven't renewed my nursing registration and shouldn't in fact be working!!!

In each and every dream I live in constant fear of being caught out but haven't the courage to tell someone my secret.

I have always put this dream down to my yearning to return to my chosen career but not having the confidence. When I wake up after one of these dreams I always feel distressed. It's more of a nightmare than a dream.

There is a shortage of a million nurses here right now and I keep getting e-mails and literature telling me so, trying to recruit me again. Who knows, one day I might just return to something I truly think I was made for.

Poems N. Songs said...

Hi Pris, This post is turning into a short book! If you'd like to comment on a post related to ME, please do:

ME, Depression, calling and creativity .

I'm hoping for feedback so that my ideas (and friends') become clearer and based on more experiences than our own.

thanks, Peter