I’ve never had a recurring dream. At least not one in which the details and outcome are always the same. I guess that’s good, as those are almost always associated with something negative.
I have, however, had recurring themes in my dreams. Just like everyone else, I have the ones about being back in high school and realizing I’ve forgotten to attend a class all semester — on the day of the big test! I’ve also had many others like that, dreams where the situations and details vary, but the central idea is the same.
Here are some examples:
— Water trouble: I’ve had many dreams where a sudden surge of water comes out of nowhere and floods the area right outside my house, or wherever I happen to be. I never get caught up in the water, but I often watch it come right up to my window, sometimes halfway up the window, and wonder whether it’s going to overtake the building. I’ve also had dreams where I’m at the beach and a giant wave, like 500 feet high, suddenly becomes visible. There’s usually not panic, but more of, “Oh, I should get out of the way of that.” I’m usually also fascinated by it and continue to stare. In other versions, I have to get somewhere, but the main road is completely flooded by a rushing torrent. Sometimes I try to make my way through it anyway. I always wake up before anything bad happens.
— Heights: I don’t consider myself afraid of heights, but I’ve had many tense dreams where I’m somewhere high, such as hanging onto the wing of the plane as it flies through the air. There’s never a thought of, “Why the heck am I on the wing of an airplane?!” I’m always scared, but mainly just thinking, “Man, I hope I can hold on until we land.” Once when I was a kid, this dream had me sliding down the roof of the old Charlotte Coliseum (now Bojangles’ Coliseum).
— The opposite of anxiety: The back-in-school dream is supposed to mean you’re anxious about something. I’ve had many dreams where the opposite is true. For example, I might be back in high school (sometimes at my current age) and be about to make the baseball team, or maybe fill in as a spot starter — as an adult. It’s a great feeling. Sometimes in the dream I think, “Wait, I’m 40. This can’t be legal.” That’s usually when I wake up.
— Tornadoes: Similar to the water dreams, these usually involve me being out somewhere and spotting a tornado forming or approaching. I’m usually in some unidentified town’s commercial area. There are always buildings around, but they are always small. So there’s never a safe place to go. Sometimes I even tell myself something like, “Wow, you’ve had all those dreams about tornadoes, and now here’s a real one.” I’ve never actually seen a tornado in real life.
— Great accomplishments: In these, I dream that I’ve done something really great. Once I dreamed that I was back stage about to host “Saturday Night Live.” Another time I was back stage waiting to do a walk-on on “SNL.” I’m not sure what I did to earn those appearances, but it all seemed very exciting. In one version of the “famous Jason” dream, I was a retired Major League Baseball player. This one was real enough that I woke up and briefly thought to myself, “Wait, did I really play in the majors?” No, Jason, you hit .200 for the JV team in 10th grade and got cut in 11th grade.
— Alien invasion or the second coming of Christ: In these I usually notice something in the sky, look up and see a massive ship or something that convinces me that I’m witnessing the return of Jesus. In both cases, I think, “Oh, this is really happening.” I always wake up before anything else happens.
— Previously unknown rooms: In this dream, I discover a previously unknown room in my house, or someone else’s house that I’ve visited many times. It’s never a small room, either. It’s always a large, awe-inspiring space that causes me to think, “How have I never seen this before? I could do so much with this!” My all-time favorite version of this dream was one I had as a kid, where I came upon an underground ballroom-size room at my grandparents’ house. It made for an eerie/happy/surprised/confused feeling. In a related version, I’m in my house — but it’s not my house; it’s much larger than anything I’ve ever owned, but I’m not surprised by it. I just think, “Yep, it’s going to be cool taking advantage of all this space.”
— Naked and embarrassed: I think most people have experienced some version of this one. But I feel like I have an inordinate amount of dreams in which I’m about to leave some place — a hotel, the mall, school, a theme park, or even church! — and I suddenly realize I’m completely naked. “Oh no! I forgot to put my clothes on! I need to hurry back to the hotel/locker room/private space and put them on!” But I can’t find it. So I usually cover myself as best I can and try to find a place that will offer sanctuary. There are always lots of people around, but for some reason they don’t seem too bothered. Most don’t even seem to notice, and the ones who do are just like, “That’s weird, but whatever.” In some versions, I’m not completely naked, just in my underwear.
I don’t know what any of these mean. I’m sure there are legit psychological reasons for each one of them. Except for the happy/exciting ones, I’m always thrilled to wake up.
Maybe I have buried anxiety, a burden of unmet expectations, feelings of inferiority or of being a phony. Or maybe I just watch too much TV or eat too close to bedtime.
The answer is probably somewhere in there.