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Illustration for article titled Here Are Your Best (And Worst) Recurring Dreams

On Friday, we asked you guys to tell us about your recurring dreams, like the one where your teeth fall out, or the one where your gutters suddenly need cleaning again, or whatever unlikely scenario regularly terrorizes your subconscious. We noticed a few themes!

The one about being unprepared for school is fairly common. From reader ImTheOneWhoJohnnyKnox:

I know that mine is a very common one that a lot of people, albeit, with different variations.

You’re back in college, and you realize its day of a final exam for a class you either:

A.) Forgot you signed up for all together

B.) You only went to classes sporadically

I also have a high school version of the dream, as well.

A slight variation on that via Kandle55:

I actually realize it in the dream. The situation is usually that I’ve forgotten to attend a class I need to graduate from high school and I’m scrambling trying to find out if I could write some papers or do something to make it up (it always seems to be a writing class) and in the middle of the dream I’ll be like ‘why am I doing this? I’ve graduated from college so why do I need this high school class?’ I usually wake up shortly thereafter.


Another where the dreamer never even graduated at all. KitchenetteBurner:

Mine is that I have to return to high school because I have one last class I have to take. I’ve already received a Masters. I’m 35 years old! In the dream I am aware of these things but in order for my resume to not be a lie, I have to finish this one class. Though why would high school be on my resume? That is never explained. Ugh, I’ve been having these dreams for years and am over it.


Another common theme involves some sort of alien attack, and you have to protect your loved ones. As see our own Albert Burneko:

I have a few; sometimes they blend together.

In one I’m trying to keep a large group of people safe and together during some kind of global calamity, like the sudden outbreak of war or a natural disaster or whatever. In one particularly memorable instance, there was some sort of alien invasion going on and people were being herded en masse into a stadium and I couldn’t find my sister or mother. In another instance I was trying to find comfortable places for a large group of refugees to sleep in a huge, dank warehouse with puddles of water on the floor; a particular difficulty was that one of the refugees was Shaquille O’Neal and there weren’t any Shaq-sized dry spaces for him to sleep. These, I think, are a byproduct of experiencing the collapse of my parents’ marriage as a kid; thematically, that makes sense, and they started around then.

In another I’m by the ocean with family and suddenly the waves are impossibly, terrifyingly tall, like so high they blot the sun, and I’m sort of distantly aware that I’m making them happen and I don’t know how to stop it. I think the themes here are pretty easy to figure out.

One I had several times after my eldest son was born involved situations where I was being forced to do something horrible to him, or where I did something horrible to someone and then realized it was him, and I’d wake up sobbing hard, but those were so awful that I think my brain couldn’t handle it anymore, because I just stopped having them all at once, or maybe they just took a more metaphorical form after that so that I wouldn’t lose my goddamn mind. The worst of these was so bad that I would not be able to describe it without losing my shit.


Here’s a similar version from Pragmator:

Oh, shit, dude. I have had a similar dream. It’s always brief, but in it I “know” there’s some kind of alien presence and we’re being herded into a dome that might be a stadium, but the lights were mostly out. Everyone is murmuring about what they’re going to do with us. The despair is palpable. I’m trying to find my family but can’t. I think we’re dreaming the same dream together. Or was it a dream!?


And another. Kandle55:

I have the first type of dream but I am always having to round up my cats. There will usually be a tornado or big storm coming and I have to get my cats to the basement. I always debate getting a carrier or using a pillowcase to carry them down so I won’t get scratched. Then of course I either can’t find one or as I’m carrying one cat down, the other cat escapes and I have to go looking for it again. I haven’t ever gotten to the point where the storm actually comes. I also feel this is very much how I would behave in real life, oblivious to people but devoting all my energy to making sure my cats are safe.


Here’s a possible explanation for this theme (emphasis mine), plus a bonus dream about your fingers falling off. Saltalamacchiavelli:

This Rick Grimes scenario actually seems to be a pretty common anxiety dream. From my limited understanding, many people experience similar themes with slight variations depending on the individual. For example, I used to run an overnight paper route and routinely dreamt of either getting out of my car to make a delivery only to turn around and discover my car was missing or being unable to stop or control the vehicle and waking up just as I were about to crash. This feeling of confusion and helplessness is a personal twist on common themes such as falling from a great height, teeth falling out, fingers falling off, attempting to punch an enemy with the force of a wet noodle or losing something of personal importance and being unable to find it.

I also experienced the missing fingers scenario in which the fingers eventually grew back and were usable but were crooked and unseemly. What made it disturbing was that the very next day, I randomly viewed a documentary on Netflix called “Reindeerspotting” about a teenage suboxone epidemic in a remote Norwegian town in which of the featured subjects had a severed finger resulting from an unpaid drug debt. At this point, I was unaware of the methadone substitute or it’s addictive qualities. Long story short, I met an acquaintance who introduced me to it later that week. I got hooked, fucked my life up for a while and went on to manage it, though not without continued difficulties. So it’s pretty obvious what that dream went on to signify.

The last scenario you mentioned of harming a loved one in a dream is among the most disturbing that someone can experience, but common nonetheless. There have been cases where people have been so traumatized by this type of dream that they begin to experience these thoughts incessantly and involuntarily in a waking state. It’s good that you’ve ceased experiencing them but other’s have had to undergo serious psychotherapy and medication as that’s the sort of thing that will obviously make one begin to question their own sanity.


A lot of people dream that they’re some kind of wild animal. Owen Good:

I’m running low to the ground, like an animal. I’m reaching up ahead of me, practically grabbing the ground and throwing it behind me. I’m going really fast. It’s fucking awesome. This has been in my dreams since I was a teenager and I’m in my 40s.


This type of dream rules, actually, and I’d like to have it. ITATTRACTS:

I’ve had this one and a similar one where I’m running like that and then taking off into long, flight/gliding jumps from the speed. Awesome indeed.


Although the AAPharmClub version sounds frustrating:

Mine is similar to this, but I cannot run fast enough when I need to. It is like I am trying to run through five foot deep water, but on land. I think I even look like I am running through deep water. Horrible dream.


“I don’t give a damn because I’m a beast.” I love Pragmator:

Oh, hell yeah! I get these too. Thanks for reminding me.

It always starts out with me running upright, but I need to go faster, so I go to all fours ... and then I start grabbing the ground and throwing myself forward. The feeling is exhilarating and I feel almost maniacal. I’m blowing past people who have terrorized looks on their faces but I don’t give a damn because I’m a beast!


And then there’s the “potpourri” category. Stay away from JohnnyDangerously:

Recurring EXTREMELY VIVID anxiety dream that I have killed someone (how/why is variable), and I have to hide the body.

Sometimes it plays out lucidly and I hide it, and am getting away with it, but then something happens where someone is going to find out. Like, a plumber is poking around in the basement, or I have to sell the house or dig up the yard or whatever.

This dream usually happens right before I wake up in the morning, and upon waking up in a panic I have to think about it and remind myself it was just a dream. This happens a few times a year for years now.


Or maybe you have an elaborate fantasy wherein Game of Thrones meets SEAL Team 6 meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 2Dollarz:

Lately I’ve been having the same dream about The Mountain from Game of Thrones where he charges at me with that ridiculously huge sword but the just before cutting my head off he stops and picks me up and carries me out of the arena like Richard Gere while Joe Cocker sings and then I’m suddenly a navy pilot on a mission over Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden but my plane runs out of fuel and I have to ditch in Afghanistan but the only place to land is a field of poppies so when I crash the local tribesman are mad because I destroyed all of their poppies and they can’t sell any heroin this year so they make me a slave to repay them for the damage I did but it’s not enough so they try to stone me to death but for some reason the rocks bounce off me and hit the people throwing the rocks at me so they bow to me and let me go home but I for some reason I can’t walk so I have to crawl all the way to Kamchatcka and bum a ride on a Russian merchant marine ship to Alaska in return for providing sexual favors to the crew but when I finally get there I have beriberi and a salmon ejaculates on me but luckily the president is there and saves but not really because I end up in a VA psych ward where they say I’m bipolar and put me on medication and then I wake up IN THE VA HOSPITAL which is fine because they are mostly nice and let me use the internet for an hour a day.


And finally, here’s another one I’d love to have. Semi/Functional:

I had one through the end of elementary school up to like the middle of high school. It took place in three parts, or perspectives. It always started with the sense that the lifesize Eric Lindros Fathead on my wall was staring at me, causing me to exit my bedroom. In th hallway outside, the floor would be covered with papers, each with a single long division equation on it. I would sit down, feeling obligated, and begin to try to solve them.

As I slugged through the stacks, I would wipe and find myself running through ane endless gymnasium, chased by thousands and thousands of bouncing basketball, a deafening roar of ball-smack reverb and really nothing I could do but run on, a tidalwave of basketballs behind me, threatening to crush me or something.

From there, the dream turned into Frogger, a little 8-bit blob of me running through traffic, but as I got across the road, 8-bit blobs of basketballs would overtake me from the bottom of the screen. Then I’d flash back to the hallway, three steps deep in some division problem but completely lost because of the other two scenes.

This sequence would loop until my alarm rang, and pop up once or twice a month for years. Then one night it started, I walked into the hallway, and thought “I don’t want to do these division problems and I don’t know why I ever feel compelled.” And I woke up, big flat Eric Lindros still staring at me, but I was relieved, and never had that dream again.

Chew on that.

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