I had a dream

Lately my dreams have turned from dreams of frustration—usually dreams involving being unable to find the room of a final exam in college, or having to take an exam on a subject I know nothing about—to dreams of  sheer terror. Last night’s was especially vivid. I was taken to a torture center run by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge (perhaps the infamous Security Prison 21, about which I recently read), and was placed by the door, forced to watch the prisoners dragged in, kicking and screaming. Then I was taken inside and made to watch the torture. That consisted of prisoners being tied to horizontal metal poles by their arms. Then guards would apply blowtorches to the poles, which became red hot. Seared by the metal, the prisoners would scream horribly. And then I woke up.

I have no idea what this means, but torture with red-hot instruments was used by the Khmer Rouge. Of the 17,000 prisoners put in that security prison, only 7 came out alive.

Many people have recurring dreams, with academics especially prone to the “final exam: can’t handle it” dream. Please recount below either your own recurring dream, or your latest dream. And tell me what you think my dream of last night meant (yes, I know dreams may be random phenomena, but in many there’s often a kernel of truth: the “day’s residuum,” as I think Freud called it).


  1. bakagooner
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    My dreams always focus on me sleeping too much and missing the exam or being late and suffering as a result.
    I’ve never failed any exam I have written so far , but I have almost missed an exam because I forgot to set the alarm once . My procrastinating can get out of control sometimes

    • bakagooner
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      It’s a recurring theme – me sleeping and missing important events . Part of it is that my parents are pretty punctual and want me to be the same while waking up early(anything before 8) is really annoying for me

    • bakagooner
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      I have also had a dream where I could not find the exam hall (because I was late and was not along with the crowd ) so I can kinda relate to that

  2. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I have been retired from teaching for 16 years, and I still have the dream sometimes. Often, it is the first day of school, and I’m in a strange class and nothing is prepared. There are sometimes variation, but they usually involve lack of preparation. Thankfully, I don’t have them very often — at least not any more.

    • Merilee
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      I’ve been retired from teaching for 8 years and I still get the unprepared/wrong classroom/wrong set of notes dreams, often on Sunday nights or in late August. I also get the can’t remember my locker combo ones, and I think I only ever had a locker in grades 7 and 8! The scariest dreams are when I can’t find my kids…

      • Diane G.
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 2:51 am | Permalink

        “The scariest dreams are when I can’t find my kids…”

        That is scary!

  3. George
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    My dreams do not have a plotline – more like a snapshot. Biggest topic in recent years has been my mother. Recreations (not completely accurate, mashing different experiences together) of time we spent together. She had dementia and did not speak for the last six years of her life (aphasia). It was painful to see her decline. I think I must be trying to drive the most recent memories of her out of my mind and hearken back to better days.

    • nicky
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Yes, my mother died in 2013, she was very frail and had Alzheimer’s. She used to be a very strong and dynamic woman.
      I -not often, but regularly – dream that I’m with my mother again, fully recovered from her frailty and dementia, these are extremely realistic dreams, at least it feels like it. “They said you would not recover, but look at you now, they were mistaken”. it often ends with cognitive dissonance like telling how good her cremation…??? and then I wake up.
      I had the same kind of dream about my late beloved wife, but only once (yet).

  4. Doug
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I haven’t been in college since 1982, and I still have this dream: It’s my senior year, and as the last semester is ending, I suddenly remember that I signed up for a course and forgot to attend any classes, and I need it for graduation.

    I now manage a movie theater, and frequently have dreams where I arrive in the projection booth to find the projector dismantled–and it’s time to start the show. If I do get the projector running, then there’s another problem: the lamp won’t come on, or it’s the wrong movie, or there’s no sound, etc.

    • C.J.
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Yes! I’ve had the exact same dream about forgetting a class. I usually start out horribly embarrassed, and end up angry that no one, including the instructor, even sent an e-mail to check on me.

    • Rita
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve had that dream about suddenly remembering a class, with the final coming up in a couple days. And it was a chemistry class! NO chance of winging it.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I have the same type of dream about law school: I signed up for a class; I need the credits to graduate, but I’ve forgotten all about it. It’s the day before the final, and I’m running around, going to the bookstore trying to find the book, trying to borrow notes from a classmate.

      When I was in law school, I used to have dreams I was back working in a restaurant. I’d be in the weeds, with customers I hadn’t gotten to yet and couldn’t figure out where they were sitting.

      I still have the restaurant dream on occasion, and the law school one even more often. They both seem to crop up when I’m getting ready for a trial and haven’t had time to think much about any other cases. So I think the interpretation is fairly straightforward for me.

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Seems to be a common dream! I too have had the “I need this class to graduate but never went” dream. I also have the showing up for class having forgot that there was an exam – dream. And I was in college 50 years ago.

      Other recurring dreams are not being packed up and ready to go for a travel trip, and being in a strange town not knowing how to get about. One of my favorite dreams occurred decades ago but is still vivid – a seamless, chrome capsule space ship visited campus, as it hovered, a door magically opened up and I entered – and that was the end of the memory. I think that it actually happened and I was probed! 🙂

    • cherrybombsim
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      I went to college without actually technically graduating from High School, and I have a recurring dream where i have to go back and finish the last 3 credits of P.E. or whatever. Something always comes up to interfere and I have to drop the class because of being absent and try again next year.

      I had a spooky one last night. I had watched a documentary about some German soldiers who had been wiped out by the Russians in WW II in a forest. In the dream, Germany was threatened by somebody or other, and the spirits of the soldiers rose up from the forest with their weapons to defend.

  5. Karen Fierman
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I think you need to change your reading … ha ha.

    Keep in mind that spicy food eaten at dinner can cause nightmares (at least with me).

    I’m reading a beautiful novel set in Cambodia during & after the Khmer Rouge regime: Music of the Ghosts, by Vaddey Ratner, a Cambodia refugee who lives in the US now. Highly recommended!

    • Doug
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      I have sometimes dreamed that I was in a horror movie–I switch back and forth from watching it on the screen, and being one of the characters. Over the years, this has happened with “Night of the Living Dead,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Aliens.”

      • Doug
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        I mentioned this thread to my brother, and he said that he has a recurring dream in which he discovers a room in his house that he never knew was there. I have had that same dream more than once.

        • Merilee
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

          About a week after I moved into this house 30+ years ago I dreamt that there was still one empty kitchen cupboard. Lo and behold I discovered in the morning that I was right! This was particularly remarkable ( the existence of an empty cupboard) as I have always loved cooking and had a ton of kitchen equipment.

      • Richard
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:56 am | Permalink

        Yes! I get ‘Aliens’ dreams as well – possibly because it’s my favourite movie. 🙂

        Usually I’m one of the Colonial Marines, sometimes carrying one of the smartguns. Everything is OK until the ammunition runs out…

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          Those aliens turn up in my dreams on a regular basis too – I reckon it depends on your having watched either Alien or Aliens at a relatively early age*. Giger really hit upon something striking with the xenomorph. No monster in any other film has ever frightened me as much as it has.
          So if there’s a threat in my dreams the buggers usually turn up, pouring forwards on all fours, often coloured differently from how they are in the films( dark red, green, etc.) but always terrifying.
          I watched the latest film yesterday. The original alien is just as frightening as ever, although the storyline introduces some utterly horrible variants too. They’ll probably start popping up in my dreams from now on unfortunately.

          *I saw the first two when I was seven or eight.

          • Diane G.
            Posted May 28, 2017 at 3:55 am | Permalink

            “*I saw the first two when I was seven or eight.”

            What was your mother thinking?!

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted May 28, 2017 at 3:57 am | Permalink

              My dad…predictably. 🙂

              • Diane G.
                Posted May 29, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink


  6. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    we die for the beliefs of others, as did those in Pol Pot’s regime, as do the many victims of terorrism; Trump’s overseeing of many seemingly divergent policies brings these things into sharp and localised focus. Perhaps somewhere there lies the meaning of your dream. And I wish you sweeter reconciliations with the day for your next night!

  7. Craw
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Well if I am invited to play “psychic psychiatrist” and interpret the dream of someone I’ve never met, I’d say it’s connected to your growing disillusion with the state of the modern left, and that the long-standing failings of much of the left are preying upon your mind. The contemporaneous left covered for the KR, Chomsky in particular.

    That or something random :).

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      I think your interpretation warrants its own interpretation Craw.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. 😉

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Your response makes me think that when analyzing dreams, we learn more about the interpreter from the analysis than we do about the interpretee (as it were).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Stick to the stuff about the trains and tunnels, Dr. Freud.

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      I’m like Maru and placing boxes when it comes to spreading lies about people, whether it’s Dawkins, Harris or Chomsky.

      I just quote the Wikipedia article on Cambodian Genocide, with an argument from authority (not the best combination, but enough to throw a wrench into blatant falsehoods).

      But first, one needs to know that Chomsky/Herman’s “denial” was penned in 1977 — right in the middle of a war and propaganda war, and not with solid hindsight knowledge. Further, one needs to know that Chomsky explicitly acknowleged, and of course condemmed, the genocide later, e.g. on a documentary in the 1990s. Of course, it’s always brought up — can’t have one guy who has a somewhat clear picture of US foreign policy (he’s much more on track than the common “default view” which paints the US as a benevolent force in the world, which it simply isn’t).

      Journalist Christopher Hitchens defended Chomsky and Herman. They “were engaged in the admittedly touchy business of distinguishing evidence from interpretations.”[22] Chomsky and Herman have continued to argue that their analysis of the situation in Cambodia was reasonable based on the information available to them at the time, and a legitimate critique of the disparities in reporting atrocities committed by communist regimes relative to the atrocities committed by the U.S. and its allies. Nonetheless, in 1993, Chomsky acknowledged the massive scale of the Cambodian genocide in the documentary film Manufacturing Consent. He said, “I mean the great act of genocide in the modern period is Pol Pot, 1975 through 1978 – that atrocity – I think it would be hard to find any example of a comparable outrage and outpouring of fury.”[8]

      • Richard
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:58 am | Permalink

        And yet Chomsky still thinks that the most evil organisation in human history is the Republican Party.

        • Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:59 am | Permalink

          This is false. He stated the GOP is the most dangerous organisation. Interestingly, the reason is also always tactically omitted.

          “Look, this is a very outrageous statement. But it’s true. […] What does it mean to say not only are we not doing anything about climate change but we’re trying to accelerate the race to the precipice? […] The most significant aspect of the Trump election – and it’s not just Trump, it’s the whole Republican Party – is their departing from the rest of the world on climate change.” — Noam Chomsky

          The US is pretty much alone that has not ratified the Kyoto Protocoll. Look it up. Canada shamefully withdrew more recently. But the US never joined properly, and as usual, is outside global consensus (this happens more often than Americans think).

          The Clinton Administration brought it on its way, Bush and the GOP didn’t move it forward and effectively reversed the process. Obama didn’t do anything either, but he anyway would have wasted his time with the GOP majority. Trump makes it just worse. From the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (2001):

          “This policy reversal received a massive wave of criticism that was quickly picked up by the international media. Environmental groups blasted the White House, while Europeans and Japanese alike expressed deep concern and regret. […] Almost all world leaders (e.g. China, Japan, South Africa, Pacific Islands, etc.) expressed their disappointment at Bush’s decision.” — see Kyoto Protocoll, Wikipedia

          Still prepared to mock his statement, or could it be that it now begins to sound reasonable?

  8. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. Jerry, did you know that I was once trained in something called “projective dream work”?

    Anyway, in the style of dream work I know, every comment a person offers on a dream actually reveals something about the speaker–not the dreamer. But, the beauty of this method is that sometimes the dreamer gets a little “ah hah” from something someone else projects onto their dream.

    That said, I would usually ask the dreamer to entitle the dream. Jerry, what name do you want to give this dream?

    Second, I’d ask the dream to please say the dream again. I know Jerry just typed it out, but I’d ask him to think through it again. Type it again without looking at the first-typed version. Write or say the dream as if it were in first person (happening now: for example, “I am placed by the door”). Pay particular attention to what’s left out and included.

    After these questions are answered, I would ask clarifying questions. Jerry, can you tell me about the blowtorches? How do you know they are red hot? What do you see?

    This is probably enough for now.

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Can you say more about the prisoners? What age, gender, and race are they? What have they done? Do you know? Are they innocent? What about you? Why are you there? Why have you been chosen to watch the torture?

      If this were my dream, the prison represents social media and the knowledge of the recent attacks in Manchester.

      That’s one layer of meaning. There are simultaneously others.

      Who are the guards? Each part of the dream represents a part of the dreamer–and since I am now commenting, envisioning and having my own version of the dream, me. What am I forcing myself to do? To see? Why am I doing this?

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      If this were my dream and since the torture centre is observed by the dreamer to be close enough to Security Prison 21, I would take this as a death dream. Death dreams take on special importance in that they are thought to reflect processes so central to the dreamer that they can only be represented by images that primitively grip–like being eaten alive by a tiger. The dreamer does not herself (female because it is now my dream) actively kill anyone but witnesses torture that she knows will likely kill. And because she is being tortured, she knows she may also die.

      This dream reflects that parts of me are in the processing of changing and that the something core to myself is about to go. It could be that I’m literally facing my mortality, but more likely, it is that something about me is changing and the change is going to come from the outside as if it is not my choice for it to happen. I do not have control over this.

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Dream title: My Death in Security Prison 21

      I’ve been taken by guards to what seems like Security Prison 21. Others are here too, but there is some distance between me and them. The guards are forcing me to watch as others are tied up to horizontal poles. The poles are heated. I see them turn red. And the others are screaming. I’ve been taken inside at this point and I wake up as they scream.


      New association:

      –Poles reminds me of Poland. . .

      –The only color mentioned in the dream is red

      –The world watched as children died in Manchester

      • Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Well, if I’m honest, I could also detect an obliquely lewd reference in the dream:

        Being forced to watch people tied up to horizontal poles, sounds a bit like BDSM.

        If it were my dream, “Jerry” is both forced to watch some kind of BDSM activity and is a submissive, being himself an experiencer of the “torture”, though not to the severity of what he sees.

        Not that this is literal. In fact, I’d think it were emotional. Perhaps “Jerry” is forced to know about certain events in others’ lives and he/himself is also a “victim” of some kind of abuse, though to a lesser extent to that he has been forced to witness.

        Ah…forced to be a witness.

        An obvious trait the dream highlights for me is empathy with the suffering of others because one also suffers.

        It’s also a dream of social justice, no free will, and the implications of punishment for society.

  9. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    My most horrible nightmare is that i’ve returned to work at my previous employer (37.5 years). In these terrible nocturnal recreations, everything is exactly as it was!

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      That just about sums it up…. 21st century schizoid man.
      I do remember in the midst of one dream of late thinking to myself, this is just a dream, get a grip and bail out, this is just to much and woke up.

      That was an album of its time, great art work.

    • Larry
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Perfect album cover to capture the NIGHTMARE OF THE RECURRING DREAM! Well done.

  10. Michael Day
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    47 years old here, with college and graduate school well behind me, and I still have the “oh shit I haven’t attended that class” dream. It’s always a very realistic dream and the anxiety is certainly real; I don’t know why my subconscious feels the need to pile that anxiety on top of everyday worries. I can’t imagine what the red-hot implements dream means, other than a way to cope with general concerns about the intentions of those in charge (who shall remained un-named here).

  11. Steve
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I’m 70, and up until a few years ago I always had this dream I was running around campus looking for my exam room. Not only could I not find the room, but I was freaking out because I never went to the class during that quarter. Frenzy!!

    • Steve
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      I see that other people have had this dream of never going to the class.

      • Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        Yes, your exact description is very common.

  12. Joseph McClain
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I have a number of recurring dreams.
    • My version of the academic anxiety dream is that I have enrolled in a class, dropped it — but could never be arsed to do the drop-add thing. Now the semester is ending and I am still on the books.
    • A variation on this theme is that I have never settled up with the landlords of all the various apartments/houses that I rented and all that rent has been accruing.
    •Driving up an increasingly steep bridge until gravity takes over and the car starts to fall back. I get a little anxious driving over certain bridges in daylight.
    •Trying to control a car from the back seat. For some reason, this dream always takes place in a picturesque, historic-seeming waterfront location.
    • I grew up in a flood-afflicted area and so I have a number of dreams that involve flooding, often accompanied by an incursion of large, mutant-looking catfish.

    • C.J.
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      This reminded me of a a recurrent dream I had forgotten about. I’m driving a car down a hill that gradually gets steeper and steeper. The vehicle becomes less and less responsive to my controls (steering, shifting) as time goes on, and suddenly the brakes do not work at all. As the card careens recklessly out of control, despite my best efforts, it narrowly avoids hitting people, animals, and other vehicles, with each miss getting more improbable. At some point the car lifts from the ground and beings free falling because the road has become too steep. That’s when I wake up.

      • Joseph McClain
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Yes. My back seat dream is like that, but it’s at very low speeds. I am trying to keep the car from hitting people, buildings, etc. by just using the steering wheel and shifting from Drive to Reverse to Neutral and so on. I never really feel panicked, just that it’s a preposterous situation.

        • C.J.
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

          Yes, the car always starts off at low speeds for me too. Even when things get out of hand, I’m never panicked–as you said, if feels preposterous.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        I have the same dream, of the car losing its moorings and beginning to fall from a great height. Usually I’m up in the mountains of Snowdonia in north Wales, or the mountains around Manchester, and the road is running alongside a slow slope down to sea level. Always at some point the car starts falling. Then I wake up.

        There are some striking dream archetypes on display in this comments section – interesting exercise seeing how many kinds of dreams that people think are unique to them turn out to be fairly common.

    • Rita
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Driving up a steep bridge, but suddenly stopping for no reason, I just stop. Then I get out of the car to see if I might find a reason, and see I’ve stopped the car about 6 inches from the place where the bridge just ends! There are no signs to indicate that. About 4 years I did drive past a bridge under construction and it looked exactly like my bridge! It was in a place I had never seen before.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I have had that exact first dream on many occasions.

  13. C.J.
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I too, have had the “final exam: can’t handle it” dream many times as well as a related dream where I’ve forgotten about a major assignment that is due, with no time left to complete it, surely dooming me to fail the class.
    The only other recurrent dream I’ve experienced is being alone in secluded area and spotting a bear in the distance. I always try to pretend the bear is not there and remain calm. As time progresses, the bear always gets nearer to me with every step I take, no matter the direction I move. It is clear to me that there is no escape, but I never admit that to myself until the bear reaches me and I wake up.

    • nicky
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      In my ‘bear dreams’ -they come in clusters– I decide before going to sleep I’ll face them head on tonight, attacking them. If I succeed in facing them, the bear generally just disappears, if we clash, I wake up. If I do not face them, they become a protracted nightmare, waking up in sweat and high heartbeat rate.

  14. Mark Reaume
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    In terms of recurring dreams I have two types; the academic or work related frustration dream (like you described) and my teeth falling out.

    I’ve had some very memorable one-off dreams as well, topics include; alien abduction, killing big bird, and a work-themed musical.

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      I’ve had the teeth falling out dream quite a few times too. Very strange. I wake up and check my teeth …

      • C.J.
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        The teeth-falling-out dream is very common. When my girlfriend tells me about this the next morning, I usually recall that she was grinding her teeth in her sleep.

        • Mark Reaume
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          There is probably something to that, I used to grind my teeth a lot. I don’t anymore and I haven’t had these dreams in a while.

          • Steve
            Posted May 27, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

            Ha! I’m a dentist, and I’ve had the teeth falling out of my mouth dream. Very vivid for me.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      I occasionally have the teeth dream, usually when my sinus are bothering me, and my teeth hurt.

      I get the “can’t stop the car dream.” Not a speeding crash, but that I am creeping up to the light, and no matter how hard I push the break pedal, the car just keeps slowly rolling forward.

      • C.J.
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Our feeble attempts to push back against the onward march or time? Or perhaps our internal struggle to accept free will as an illusion? Nah. Just a reminder to get those brakes checked. /s

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          Or you fell asleep during a Pep Boys commercial.

      • Diane G.
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        This is the first I’ve heard of the teeth dream!

        I do get the ‘unprepared for a test’ and the “out-of-control-but-still-not-too-worrisome car” dream.

        It would be interesting to compare these commonalities with the recurring dreams of a very different culture.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted May 27, 2017 at 6:05 am | Permalink

          There is the ‘Test Dream’ episode of The Sopranos, which crams in quite a few dream ‘cliches’ into its twenty minute dream sequence, including the teeth thing. Tony Soprano’s teeth start falling out at the restaurant table(Annette Bening turns up in it too, in a nod to the way random celebrities insert themselves into our dreams) and the whole dream is about his anxiety about a task he needs to do but really doesn’t want to. The Sopranos has some wonderful dream sequences.

  15. Nicholas K.
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I had a long stretch in academia. My dream is always that it is the last week of the semester and I registered for a mandatory class and simply forgot to attend all semester, doing none of the required work.

    It is a slight variation of the academic panic dream, which is a fairly common symptom of generalized anxiety, I’m told.

    We do live in anxious times.

  16. Merilee
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink


  17. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    “usually dreams involving being unable to find the room of a final exam in college, or having to take an exam on a subject I know nothing about”

    “academics especially prone to the “final exam: can’t handle it” dream”

    From what I’ve read, pretty much every college graduate has this kind of dream on a regular basis. I know I do!

  18. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    My recurrent stress dream is negotiating a precarious precipice. Oddly, I have no fear of heights while awake.

  19. Randy schenck
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Would assume there are some of us who do not dream much at all. Have no idea why that is but probably something to do with how you sleep. Most dreams I recall always involved falling from some height but never hitting the ground. Someone said, oh, you can’t hit the ground in a fall or you are dead?

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:11 am | Permalink

      IIANM, studies show that most people do have dreams but some remember them much more vividly that others. It might depend on whether one is prone to wake-up mid-dream or not.

  20. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I’m no analyst, but here’s my take on dreams;

    It seems to me that you don’t need to go very deep to get to the “gist” of a dream. Just the subject and the context seem to define it. In my case, it was my dissatisfaction with, and reliance for income upon, a place i had to deal with daily for a very long time.

    If you’d recently read something that you dream’t about, i’d say it impressed you and so you projected yourself into the story… that simple.

    I’ve had the “unprepared/out of control” dreams too. It likely means that you’re concerned with being unprepared or unable to control a situation that you’re responsible for. It seems normal to me.
    (but then, i may not be the best gauge of what is normal)

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      There is a friend of the family(colossally arrogant and self-interested but still likable) who was utterly convinced that he could interpret dreams down to the smallest detail, and the interpretation was screamingly obvious, at least to him. So any car failing to start in a dream was anxiety about getting started in real life, any moving from room to room in a dream spoke of a change in a person’s career, etc. After he’d finished he’d turn to the people at whom he’d been talking and look at them expectantly, as though this kind of adolescent exegesis deserved a round of applause.

      I do think Freud has had a very bad effect on the humanities, and the quality of its arguments. For lazy intellectuals who aren’t interested in science, or actually getting at the truth, he’s probably the most influential thinker of the last century. He freely ascribed motives and biases and peculiarities to others based on completely unfalsifiable, made-up bullshit, and this has become a well-established tactic among the intelligentsia of the western world*.
      Freud gave intellectuals a very useful technique whenever they wanted to defeat an opponent in debate without ever dealing with their arguments – all you have to do is parse the text for ‘unconscious’ examples of their real feelings. It’s just a tarted up version of the ad hominem attack, but the imprimatur of respectability that derives from Freud’s reputation as a genius means we can all indulge in it as shamelessly as we like, without ever admitting to ourselves that what we are doing is intellectually bankrupt, and not much better than reading tea leaves.

      *There is surely a direct line from this kind of thinking to the craze among structuralists, po-mos, deconstructivists, etc. for reading through texts they don’t like and uncovering the ‘hidden motives’ animating their opponents. In this way you can read Newton’s Principia as a ‘rape manual’, and you don’t have to demonstrate that Newton was a rapist, or an advocate of rape, or that he had a penchant for sexual violence – all you have to do is ferret out the ‘unconscious signals’ that point in that direction. This is precisely what Freud did.
      This kind of thinking is ubiquitous in certain parts of the humanities; in many corners it wouldn’t even occur to anyone that they might investigate, say, a classic work of literature on its own merits rather than on where in the Great Flowchart of Oppression the writer of said classic would be situated if they were alive today.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        +1, as they say.

  21. Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’d have unusual or nightmarish dreams after eating something wrong, having a glass of wine, or when I was coming down with a bug of some sort. 🙂

  22. darrelle
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I rarely dream, or at least rarely have any recollection of dreaming. In fact trying to come up with a dream I’ve had I can’t distinctly remember a single one. I certainly have plenty of restless nights and generally don’t sleep very well, but I don’t typically remember dreams when I wake up.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Ahh, I do remember a recurring dream I had in my teens. More like a recurring theme as I’m pretty sure it wasn’t exactly the same dream each time, though I can’t remember any details.

      The basic theme was me being chased by Godzilla through a city, never being able to get away from him and thinking that it didn’t make any sense since I was so tiny compared to him that I should be able to easily hide. But he always found me. Never caught me, but always had me on the run.

  23. Benjay
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    You may be sleeping too much. Get more exercise? Dreams are meaningless…Ouspensky. I don’t have them. I fear things as I go while I am awake. You might be a genius, looking to be told your farts are significant? Tell us your hopes?

    Dreams are like farts. Share them freely…if that is what you can offer…where ever you may be, let your wind blow free.

  24. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    It seems(reassuringly for me) that a lot of recurring dreams revolve around school-time, and exams. I have the same dreams, although they’re not so much recurring dreams as they are the only dreams I ever have these days. I’m in my old school, and I cannot find my way around. I’m lost, and eventually I remember that I’m in my thirties, and I shouldn’t be here, and I’ve wasted my life. Often I’m trying to sneak back onto the premises(although the school had a sixth form I was ‘asked not to return’ after I finished my GCSE exams at age 16 – presumably this plays a part).

    A recurring dream I used to have, but not so much any more is of being desperate to get to the school football pitch at lunchbreak and have a kickabout with my friends – after I left that school I never really got to play much football, and one of the most intensely joyous sensations in my life was the exhilaration and freedom that came with playing football at lunchbreak there(in my last year that’s pretty much the only reason I kept turning up). For a long time afterwards I had dreams where I’d be watching the classroom clock until the lunchbell rang, then I’d try and fight through a kind of mental molasses in order to get up the small hill upon which the concrete football pitch lay. I never got there I don’t think.

    A recurring dream I had as a very small child was of walking on a desert road, like in Nevada or somewhere(the geography mush have been constructed entirely from film images, since I’ve never been to America), and of seeing a giant, dust-clouded juggernaut bearing down on me, and of being terrified. It would never occur to me to step off the road and let it pass me by. And I’m pretty sure it had some kind of connection to Spielberg’s ‘Duel’, which my father showed me when I was very young, along with many other classic films.
    These films my dad rented out for us(I think he felt it was kind of education in the classics – Taxi Driver, Withnail & I, Apocalypse Now, The Graduate, etc.) must have had a deep impact on me – he showed me ‘Alien’ when I was eight or so, and whenever the Cartesian director in my head requires a baddie to give the plot of a dream a bit of oomph Giger’s xenomorphs invariably turn up, crawling along the walls, spilling out of corridors and bearing down on me in a most unpleasant fashion.

    I don’t think much of Freud, but I do think that recurrent dreams are a signal that the subject matter of said dreams has had or is having a significant effect on your mental life and the way you feel about yourself.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:30 am | Permalink

      “I don’t think much of Freud, but I do think that recurrent dreams are a signal that the subject matter of said dreams has had or is having a significant effect on your mental life and the way you feel about yourself.”

      In my lifetime we’ve gone from Freudian dream interpretations to not-necessarily-Freudian-but-certainty-that-dreams-say-something-very-important-about-our-subconscious interpretations to, most recently, the idea that dreams really don’t mean anything–they’re just a byproduct of one’s brain discharging whatever stimuli it recalls at the moment…

      The fact that so many of us report similar dreams, the school-exam one being seemingly the most ubiquitous, seems to refute the latter hypothesis to me.

      Damn, we SO need to figure out how the brain does its thing!

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        “In my lifetime we’ve gone from Freudian dream interpretations to not-necessarily-Freudian-but-certainty-that-dreams-say-something-very-important-about-our-subconscious interpretations to, most recently, the idea that dreams really don’t mean anything–they’re just a byproduct of one’s brain discharging whatever stimuli it recalls at the moment…”

        Could it be that you and the people you talk to have just gotten more sensible as you’ve grown up, but that society as a whole is still fascinated by the idea that their every sleeping thought is worthy of interpretation?

        I still know people who think it’s self-evident that their dreams mean something very particular and specific, and that their latest dream is so obviously significant that they have to tell me about it in excruciating detail. It’s a kind of narcissism – the certainty that our own psyche is just different from everyone else’s, more interesting and more meaningful. Which it is, to us at least.
        Freud really hit on a psychological need. His theories are very attractive and pointing out that it’s just making stuff up doesn’t neutralise that need. It’s mainly growing up and realising how thoroughly average you are that does it.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:47 am | Permalink

          Not that you and I are average obviously. We are the exception that proves the rule, or something.

          • Diane G.
            Posted May 28, 2017 at 3:48 am | Permalink


            “I still know people who think it’s self-evident that their dreams mean something very particular and specific, and that their latest dream is so obviously significant that they have to tell me about it in excruciating detail. It’s a kind of narcissism – the certainty that our own psyche is just different from everyone else’s, more interesting and more meaningful. Which it is, to us at least.”

            I have this problem whenever I read literary fiction* that entails dreams. It bores the hell out of me; one of the reasons I don’t read as much literature as I should. Authors, write a story that shows, not tells. Fictional dreams are a cheap way of telling.

            But I digress…

            *or non-literary fiction, for that matter.

  25. jknath1
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    You are feeling tortured by the shenanigans of the tRump administration?

  26. jknath1
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Whenever I feel like my life is out of control I dream I am in an elevator that a
    Is spinning as it descends.

  27. JoanL
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Lived about 30 mi. from New York City as a child, back in the ’50s and early ’60s. A recurring dream that persisted for another 25 years or so was seeing the Manhattan skyline under an atomic cloud. I’ve got goosebumps now just remembering it.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      My wife has a similar recurring dream. We can’t watch things where we know there are atomic blasts, or, if I know, I warn her.

  28. DrBrydon
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I often have school-anxiety dreams. I remember one I had at the end of my first quarter at UC, when I dreamed that my Japanese language exam was that day, and that, of course, I hadn’t studied. (I even remember that I was walking across the Midway in the dream.) The kicker was that I wasn’t even taking Japanese (and never have). I often have dreams that I am back in school (highschool or college), but at my present age (52). I’ve spoken to other friend who do as well. I have one friend who still occasionally dreams he is back in the navy (he served in the 1950s), but at his current age.

    My “best” dream, though, was a few years ago. I dreamed I was back in highschool, and had an Algebra final the next day. In the mixed up world of dreams I was both in school and realized that I hadn’t taken Algebra in thirty years. I figured, how hard can it be. The real tension in the dream was that I also had to give a customer presentation the next day, and I didn’t know if the times conflicted. :-/

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Doug’s story reminded me that the Japanese language thing was that I hadn’t attended the class and the exam was that day. *shivers*

  29. Mark Reaume
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Nobody has mentioned lucid dreaming yet. I kinda, sorta think that I can maybe do this. I’ve noticed that when a dream is starting to become nightmarish in nature I can inject some silly imagery to soften the intensity.

    I’m saying ‘maybe’ because I’m not entirely sure that I’ve woken up and I’m consciously doing this and then falling back to sleep to continue the dream.

    • CB
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      I worked quite hard at lucid dreaming and got a bit adept at it.And I kind of kick myself for not continuing. The recurrent dream I describe below (in another post)is an excellent springboard for recognizing recurrent themes and becoming aware but haven’t managed it for quite a while.
      Lucid dreams can become quite silly or powerful. A silly one-I was dreaming I was having a shower and became lucid, but it seemed so real I could not believe it was a dream-so, as per instructions I thought-well, change some thing-so I thought change the water to cold and it immediately changed-wow-and then immediately rationalized that by recalling how small the hot water tank was.So, I continued to believe I was having a cold shower and then I woke up!

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Is lucid dreaming actually a thing? I’ve always wondered about that – I remember seeing some kind of contraption that you’d strap to your head when you went to bed which would project a red dot into your eye when you slept, and the sight of said dot in-dream would be enough to force the realisation that you were dreaming. At which point presumably you were free to take charge of the dream. But I realise I’m dreaming fairly often, and this never seems to precipitate a ‘take charge’ moment. Lucid dreaming is a bit like hypnosis to me – I don’t know enough to judge whether it’s pseudoscientific or not.

        • CB
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          Many people ask that question. It is indeed a real thing. I don’t keep up with ‘the literature’ too much- however there is(or was) a professor at Stanford who studied it and has written a couple of books and runs a lucid dreaming seminar in Hawaii yearly. Steven LaBerge. There is a also a website run by him lucidity.com which used to be a lot more interesting than currently.plus there is some neuroscience more recently which indicates which part of the brain becomes activated when a dreaming person becomes lucid. If I get around to googling that I will post the reference here.It is all very interesting.

          • Diane G.
            Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:35 am | Permalink

            I still don’t understand just how this can be proven. Dreams are already so related to what we experience and they already feel so much like reality, and like we have some agency in them…how would you distinguish these phenomena from so-called lucid dreaming?

            • CB
              Posted May 27, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

              I can only say-read the accounts and the scientific literature(not too much of it -but becoming more incisive and detailed And/or Steven LaBerge or more recent stuff. From personal experience I can say that it is a different experience from a regular dream which one recalls after waking up. Not only do you ”feel’ you have agency in them-you actually do have agency-sometimes with very unexpected and often hilarious results-but often the attempt at agency simply wakes you up. Sleep and dreaming are multilayered phenomena like most of biological stuff.

              • Diane G.
                Posted May 27, 2017 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

                Thanks again. BTW, in what field is the scientific literature published? Psychology?

                Nevermind, Google is indeed my friend. For those even lazier than me–it’s Psychophisiology. It does sound intriguing.

        • CB
          Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          Here is a good summary article:
          Allan Hobson. The neuro biology of Consciousnesss
          Int’l Journal of Dream Research. Vol2 #2 2009

          • Diane G.
            Posted May 27, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

            Nice of you to go to the trouble of providing that, thanks. 🙂

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted May 28, 2017 at 1:21 am | Permalink

              Ah! Hobson! I was itching to say something:

              I’ll recommend “the chemistry of conscious states” by J. Allan Hobson. A very accessible, fun, well-written read on the whole dream thing. Not a grueling academic text, but there are references.

              • Diane G.
                Posted May 28, 2017 at 2:05 am | Permalink

                You two are swaying me… 😉

    • Mark R.
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I’ve had a number of lucid dreams. They are fun. Sometimes I remember “I can do anything I want now” and usually start flying. When I was younger I always imagined a house ahead, knock on the door, a beautiful woman who I don’t know answers…of course, she is naked. I usually lose the thread then. Haven’t had a lucid dream in a while.

      • CB
        Posted May 26, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        The earliest lucid dream I remember having was when I was four years old. I asked my mother why I never dreamt about myself. She said I probably could if I tried. So I tried and woke up in the middle of a dream trying to manoeuvre my tricycle out of the back door of our house and coming up against the conundrum of how to see my body when I was inhabiting it. (Always been a bit philosophical).
        I submit that the very young brain is much more flexible and skills are more easily come by-much like learning languages until we acquire a set of habits that allow us to function in the world and learning at a later age is much more difficult.There is some data that suggest that the awareness component of lucid dreaming is in the left prefrontal cortex which is usually inactive in dreaming but apparently can be roused.

  30. Debbie Coplan
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I have a similar dream that has already been mentioned by many.
    I have a project or test in school that I am not at all prepared for, or even worse, don’t have the skills for, even though I have been going to the class for awhile. I wake up very anxious and feel terrible I can’t do the task.

  31. CB
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Holy mackerel, Jerry. Those are intense dreams. I have engaged in a lot of the same kind of dream training and analysis that Charleen describes. And it has given me,I think, quite a bit of insight.
    I have a recurrent dream in multiple forms, just before I waken involving walking thru a strange city or building trying to find a way that I recognize. It often begins with an academic building in an old city then I roam thru it and find successively the library, then an art space, then exhibits the can devolve into a classy mall with unbelievable merchandise then out into the street down to the harbour,not particularly perturbed just looking. The theme is the same ,the scenarios wildly different and I am very impressed with the endless detail and variety that my mind comes up with on the spot.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      “I have engaged in a lot of the same kind of dream training and analysis that Charleen describes. And it has given me,I think, quite a bit of insight.”

      I don’t mean to sound doubtful, but I do wonder how any of what is taught in such training can be shown to be based on fact rather than what the teacher believes to be the correct interpretation.

      • CB
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        More likely I learned the value of metaphorical and analogically thinking-poetry perhaps and how meaning can be found at many levels. This after a lifetime of scientific discipline where any word used has to have a defensible and catalogued meaning. I do have a PhD in molecular biology from a more than respectable I nstitution.
        So, I think you are correct in being sceptical. There is a whole lot of woo out there.
        Lucid dreaming however,is a real phenomenon. The brain and sleep and dreaming are multilevel activities like most stuff in biology. And it does not happen in the same ay all the time or for every person

        • Diane G.
          Posted May 27, 2017 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for the edifying elaboration and I hope I didn’t sound disdainful.

  32. Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Being late for something, and more and more distractions cropping up which have to be dealt with, while being aware that I am getting later and later, with an interminable number of chores to do before I can even make a start on leaving for my appointment.

  33. Terry Sheldon
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Being an (amateur) actor, my recurring dreams generally involve going on stage without knowing my lines, or, very often, even what the play is.

    • Andy
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      I like your answer. I also had related dreams, such as joining a rock band on stage in some huge venue to play lead guitar, stepping up to the mic and then realizing that I cannot actually play the guitar…

  34. Andy
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the relevant dream for academics is that back when I was doing a PhD I dreamt that I had solved a problem I was working on. I wrote down the answer and was showing it to everyone, who would then congratulate me and affirm that it was a great answer. At some point, because I hadn’t yet solved it in reality, i realized that i didn’t know exactly what the answer was, so i tried to see what i had written down. However the piece of paper was always facing the wrong way, or out of focus, or someone was obstructing my view. So I couldn’t ever quite make it out. I woke up feeling very frustrated.

  35. W.Benson
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    No repeating dreams, at least ones that I remember. Sometimes I have the feeling that I’m falling off a cliff as I drift off to sleep, but that is common in people. The nightmares start after waking up in the morning when I see the US and world news.

  36. Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    On the subject of Cambodia, Robert H. Lieberman has a new documentary–Angkor Awakens–about the rise and bloody legacy of the Khmer Rouge.

  37. j. baldwin
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    In the only recurring dream I have, and I’ve had it since I was a kid, and often, I’m playing baseball. I’m up to bat. I’m batting right-handed and always hit a single to right field. The only variation in the dream is that sometimes I hit a shallow, soft line drive and sometimes it’s a hard ground ball, but it always reaches right field and it’s always a base hit. A runner scores from third base.

    If this dream “means” anything, I certainly don’t know what. It could be a memory or an unfulfilled fantasy. Of course in situational baseball this play is called “going the other way” (as opposed to “pulling the ball”). It results in an RBI. It’s a difficult play execute. So maybe it’s my mind celebrating some small success or preparing me for an upcoming challenge.

    I’ve never had the exam dream or any variation of it. As for your dream, Jerry, maybe you’re feeling a bit tortured by the Regressive Left “logic” that is so counter to the liberal values you hold dear. You’ve drawn the analogy between SJWs and the Cultural Revolution on several occasions. Maybe this is your mind playing it out.

  38. jwthomas
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Since we have no libertarian free will and are wandering through life driven by unconscious forces it’s useful to see these kinds of dreams as
    messages from within about our
    helplessness, with implied urges to regain control of our lives. I have found mindfulness meditation helpful in many ways but others may not. At any rate I no longer have dreams like those mentioned above.

  39. Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Most of my dreams are sweet, for I rarely recall any of them. I also have a fairly accurate “clock” that wakes me for routines. Even after shocking experiences while working (street EMS, fire rescue) I sleep soundly. A habit I acquired in the military.

    Anyway the one most vivid, and today it’s still a fairly clear memory, dream was that I was Special Operator tasked with rescuing children that had been abducted and were held in a cave. I chased the brigand, with the nebulous children in a net, through a populated park in New York, until he disappeared into the cave. I lined up the shot, squeezed the trigger, followed the round, up until it hit the kidnapper, who immediately became ME, and I awoke clutching my chest.

    Full disclosure, I was a student at the time, prior to military service, happy, but not succeeding at my studies, and young (this was over twenty years ago).

    I still remember the impact of the bullet.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:43 am | Permalink


  40. Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Nixon’s name has been in the news lately, so has the Vietnam war. Could your dream have been stirred up by all this crap and perhaps some speck of buried survivor’s guilt of a sort? I know you were a consciousness objector, as I would have been, were I in your shoes.

    Just recently, I’ve had nightmares whenever my bedtime reading consisted of novels vividly describing torture and suffering. So I avoid that now. My recurring dreams involve childhood fears of the back door of our family home not being properly locked up at night. This is linked to reality since our place was a regular target of attempted burglary. I also dream about forgetting to feed my dogs.

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      … ‘conscientious’, i.e. (I wasn’t trying to be funny – funny how that came out!)

  41. athiest in a foxhole
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I’m a veteran, retired after 20 years of service, and served 2 years in Iraq. My recurring dreams are not pleasant.

    When I was first notified by my readiness NCO to get ready, that we were going to war, I started having nightmares but could never remember what they were about upon waking. Each night they got worse and worse until finally about 6 weeks after being told we were going to war,I remembered my dream upon waking.

    I sat straight up in bed screaming, heart pounding in my chest, sweat running down my face, the sheets were pulled loose from all the tossing and turning, the covers kicked off the bed. Everything was drenched in sweat.

    In the dream, one of the soldiers under my command had died and I had to inform their family.

    The worst thing I could ever imagine was telling someone that their son died and there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t afraid of my own death, I was afraid of someone else’s.

    Once I realized this my thoughts flowed automatically. Most of the soldiers in my platoon are married and have children. I have a dog. They all have someone depending upon them whose lives will be destroyed if they die. My friends will take care of my dog if I die. I will do everything I can to make sure my soldiers all come back alive even if it costs me my life.

    I lay down and fell asleep instantly. I’ve never had that dream again.

    I still have bad dreams, things I think most people would call nightmares – dreams full of bullets, explosions, blood and body parts. (I stopped counting at 24 times how close I came do being killed in Iraq after just 2 months in country.) I toss and turn, wake up and remember the dream. I say ‘that sucked’ and go right back to sleep with no problem.

    The nightmares used to be every night but now they are just every few days. But then some asshat like the Manchester suicide bomber kills a lot of people the same way they tried to kill my soldiers and me and the dreams come more often and are more intense.

    In my life, I tell anyone who asks what it was like to go to war. I want everyone to know that there is a cost to it that exceeds any dollar amount. Some soldiers sacrifice their lives, but all of us sacrifice some part of our humanity.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      I had a neighbor when I was in my 20s who was a WWII vet (45th Division). He started telling me about it one day. He was drafted, had been a mechanic, so of course they made him an infantryman, joined the division in Italy, where he was a company mortarman, and began describing what it was like. Then stopped and said “I better stop, or I’ll have dreams tonight.” Forty-five years later.

      • Diane G.
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:52 am | Permalink

        “In my life, I tell anyone who asks what it was like to go to war. I want everyone to know that there is a cost to it that exceeds any dollar amount. Some soldiers sacrifice their lives, but all of us sacrifice some part of our humanity.”

        Which is always why I’m still surprised that after the Enlightenment war still exists. How can anyone not picture the horror that is war and, upon realizing that, ever even contemplate warmongering as any kind of legitimate solution to inter-tribal (-national, etc.–it all boils down to tribes) conflict? It’s so trite to say this, but every generation has its war and every one vows to learn lessons from it and never repeat the same mistakes, but–here we go again–every generation has its war…

  42. nicky
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    It is said that dreams are your brains coping with/sorting out input acquired during waking times. There are some good arguments if favour: you read about the infamous security prison 21, you dream about it. When moving or getting into a new environment, dreams are more frequent.
    Does not explain the exam/failure dreams decades after the fact though. Luckily I haven’t had those for about 2 decades.
    My best dreams are those where I can fly (of course apart from those where my mother is her old self again), taking off is heavy, with a swimming-like motion, but once airborne it is absolutely great!

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:54 am | Permalink

      Ah, I posted pretty much the same sentiment as your first graf entails in some thread above, not realizing you’d already said it. We are on the same page.

  43. Vaal
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve had a few recurring dreams that have stayed with me since my teens. One though is a classic anxiety dream: I was a part time musician and used to play in a big funk music band. The multiple parts I had to cover on keyboard were always a challenge to pull off.
    Ever since that band ended, early 90’s, I’ve had nightmares about the band getting together again for another gig and, of course, suddenly it’s “that night” and I realize I’ve barely touched my keyboards for years, haven’t learned the parts, and I’m completely unpreprared…then it’s time to go on stage.

    To my horror, this nightmare almost came true. Just recently, ffter over 20 years I got the call my bandmates were re-forming for a concert and wanted me to play. I felt exactly the same anxiety as in my dream: haven’t played for years, forgotten all the parts, yikes! (I didn’t play the gig, due to my bad tinnitus).

    Also, I bet anyone here who has waited tables can empathize with “waiter dreams.” When you are waiting tables your brain is constantly trying to coordinate and remember which items need to get to which tables, and that is VERY hard to turn off once you arrive home. I try to sleep but my mind would be buzzing as if I were still waitering and often after 20 minutes in bed I’d bolt up realizing “Aaaggh! I FORGOT to get that side order to table 17!!”

  44. John Aylwin
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Speculation on your Kafkaesque dream:
    The prison represents your own state of mind – a trapped helplessly watching the ideologically motivated intellectual torture of others, and perhaps yourself, by the authoritarian left. The Khmer Rouge was such an ideological organisation. The ‘Rouge’ (red) reflecting the extreme left.

    The blowtorch might be a nice representation of the style of torture. “Blow” invokes such things as “blowback” and “blowhard”, whereas the “torch” aspect could represent an intense scrutiny. The metal bars transmitting the scrutiny could represent the rigid thinking, which itself metaphorically ties the hands of the targets.

    The recent focus on Boghossian and Lindsay’s hoax may be an example of the blowback scrutiny. In your description of the dream you said you were “placed by the door”. From your earlier posts you obviously had prior knowledge of the hoax. Perhaps you’ve also had contact with them subsequently, and I note that you were drawn into the line of fire by a piece critical of the hoax that mentioned your post.

    But I also note that shortly after posting your dream you’ve posted a piece on the regressive demands of the Chicago University students union as published by the student paper Maroon (another type of red). Both of these posts were early-ish in the morning, and presumably you were aware of the Maroon article last night.

  45. Claudia Baker
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    My recurrent dream:

    I see my father sitting on a low garden wall outside. He has on a familiar blue sweater. As I walk toward him, he gets up and comes to me, smiling, and gives me a long, warm hug. The feeling is of bliss.

    When I was about 35, my father died, while on holiday with my mother, in Portugal. They had been there about 5 weeks. I was very close to him, and the pain was intense. And, it took me a long time to accept his death, because I had not seen the body. Nor had I been able to way goodbye to him.

    I read that dream as my deep desire for a last goodbye and a hug. I gave him a blue sweater as a gift not too long before he died. And, he was an avid gardener, therefore, the garden wall. He does not say anything, ever, in these dreams. Just smiles.

    As time goes on, I have this dream less, as I have, obviously accepted his death. But when I do have one, occasionally, I enjoy the hug and love the blissful feeling. And I always want him to say something to me, but he never does. Just smiles. I guess there is nothing to say, really. We loved each other deeply. That is enough.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:58 am | Permalink

      That sort of epitomizes the plight of humanity, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing.

      • claudia baker
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Never thought of it in that way, but you are right. The human condition and all that.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      My eyes are watering. That is beautiful.

      • claudia baker
        Posted May 27, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        Thanks Saul.

  46. tubby
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Last night I dreamed that I was being held in a hospital for examination and tests and Rachel Maddow was my nurse. Not weird as the one where I was changing L Ron Hubbard’s fuses while he gave me a Scientology rundown which consisted of him asking me if I was OK over and over in Ben Stein’s voice.

  47. Steve Pollard
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    My version of the exam-anxiety dream is finding myself enrolled on a postgraduate degree course in my old college, even though I have not entered a chemistry lab (both in the dream and in real life) for over 40 years. No-one supervises me, I have forgotten how to set up and perform experiments, and I fritter the time away. With days to go before having to submit my thesis I have done and written nothing. At this point I usually wake up, although once I got as far as the room where I was supposed to defend my thesis to a panel of professors. This dream can leave me quite disconcerted for some time after I wake up.

  48. dougeast
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I have a similar recurring dream from my college days. Walking down a hall, mid-semester, in a building I’ve never entered before I pass an open door to a classroom full of students. Suddenly I realize this is a class I registered for and totally forgot to attend. The event just reinforces my belief that I will never graduate. I did. Lots of stress as a student and my brain never seems to let me forget about it.

  49. Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    For many years I had a recurrent dream about trying to get back into the house I grew up in, which, while I was away at college, was torn down to make room for I-5 in Seattle. The dream was progressive, in that each time I would get closer to being allowed into the house, but would always wake up before I could enter. Once a woman opened the door and invited me in and I said, “You don’t know what this means to me; I’ve had dreams about this for years,” but as soon as I mentioned “dreams,” I woke up. Then in one dream I finally got into the house and, ecstatic, ran upstairs to what used to be my bedroom and went into the closet where I kept my toy chest. I opened the chest and, after rummaging through the toys, said to myself: “There’s really nothing here you need.” I woke up and never had the dream again.

  50. eric
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Many people have recurring dreams, with academics especially prone to the “final exam: can’t handle it” dream. Please recount below either your own recurring dream, or your latest dream.

    For the first 10 years or so after I got my Ph.D., I would somewhat regularly (maybe once every month or two) have a vivid dream ending with me waking up suddenly at 4-5am, convinced I had to get up right then and finish my thesis. Typically I would be up, dressed, and have booted up the computer before it registered that I was no longer a grad student.

    I suspect such “mild PTSD” is pretty common in post-graduate students. Dreaming about your orals or defense or thesis or research is sort of like how someone who is in a car accident may dream about it afterwards.

  51. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    “being unable to find the room of a final exam in college, or having to take an exam on a subject I know nothing about—”

    me too.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      More though that I didn’t study all semester or I dropped the class but not really sure if the paper work cleared.

  52. Jeff
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    For the past 40 or so years I have been having recurring dreams about visiting my childhood friend’s father’s sculpture studio. It’s been about 2 years since I’ve visiting his studio in my dreams.

    • Jeff
      Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Oops. I should have edited my last sentence.

  53. Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    For years after mid-life college years I had nightmares of getting to the last weekend of class, needing passing grades to graduate and having 3 term papers to do from scratch in one day.

  54. karaktur
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Since so many academics share the same dream about the unfinished degree and the anxiety of being unsure how to finish it, is that some evidence of a common brain structure that comes from our shared evolutionary history? Or is it cultural in nature?

    • Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      It would be interesting to see if one can find any parallels amongst the non-educated. Perhaps a connection to a coming of age activity?

  55. Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I have two recurring dreams.

    One is the one I call the “lost her”, which involves me teaming up with the current woman (or originally, girl) in my life to do something of wondrous importance, but separately. We succeed, but it results in her death. I wake up telling her dying body that we did it … I notice this spikes in intensity when I do feel like I’ve moved on, etc. with someone.

    I also have two versions of what I can only call “Blanche Devereaux’s dream” – yes, the character from _The Golden Girls_.

    If you’ve seen the episode with *her* recurring dream, *that* one, analogously for my situation and the women in my life. It is sort of a parallel to the above one – except that she’s come back, after many surprises and disguises. It ends one of two ways, both like Blanche’s dream – in horror as I cannot quite get to hold her again, or the happy one (like in the episode), where I do.

    I had a friend years ago who claimed to be able to interpet dreams. I recorded a few for a few days and then interspersed them with dream-alike stories. She was not able to tell the fakes from the real better than chance. So much for Inuk-pseudoFreud. 😉

  56. Gareth Price
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    In my recurring dream I have been selected to play rugby for England based on one match I played for a minor local team where I happened to have a great game. I know it is all a mistake and I am not up to it. I am walking out with the team at Twickenham in front of 80,000 people and beginning to panic. We line up for the national anthem and I wake up….
    Curiously I have had variants on the dream including playing NBA basketball and making an Olympic swimming final. They always involve sporting events.

  57. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    On a more positive note than my reply to Joseph McClain above,

    There are recurring fictional landscapes (fairly idyllic) that recur in some dreams of mine, but I can’t be certain of the contents of the dream.
    They are often accompanied by an apparent sudden insight into one or another cryptic event of my own past (which may be a fictive past in the dream).

  58. David Coxill
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I dream a lot about being stopped by events from going wee wee ,i always wake up wanting to pass water .
    I think it is a safety device to stop me soiling myself.

  59. Mark R.
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    My recurring dreams are dreams of frustration. Can’t find my car after getting lost in a maze-like mall. Getting lost in general…I’m supposed to know some place but can’t find it. Also losing a dog who is running towards a busy intersection, I try to yell, but my voice doesn’t work. That happens a lot…trying to say something important but I can’t. Nowadays, I know when I’m in the midst of one of these dreams of frustration and wake myself up, usually saying something like “this is bullshit”. I can usually go right back to sleep.

  60. dargndorp
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Coincidentally, I just took a nap before coming to this thread. I dreamed that I have hair again, which was fun to comb (I’ve been bald for about 15 years).

    I have two noteworthy dream experiences in my life. I’ve lost two people which I was close to and hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye during their lifetime. In each case, several years after their death, I dreamed of having a nice conversation with them, both of us fully aware that this was the last chance to talk and feeling good about bringing things to a close. Nice feeling of catharsis.

  61. John J. Fitzgerald
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    As a retired teacher for 13 years, I still get the unprepared for class dream. I used to spend a lot of time preparing for class.

    Another variation is I forgot to go to a class that I was assigned to take as a student and now I am going to fail.

    Anxiety is fostered by real world conditions. Trump causes a lot of anxiety because he is such a colossal ignoramus and narcissistic ego maniac.

    John J. Fitzgerald

  62. CB
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    My ‘favorite’ anxiety/procrastination dream-having been a cell biologist for quite a few years is dreaming that I suddenly remember I haven’t even looked in the incubator for several days after having developed a cell line with some interesting characteristic, and then avoiding doing that just vaguely wondering if it has overgrown, gotten infected and then not wanting to open the incubator door for fear of what I might find and have to deal with.
    It is often related to something I have neglected in real life, not necessarily connected at all with the laboratory.

  63. Posted May 26, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream with such violent imagery. Usually my nightmares involve not being able to make it to a place I’m supposed to be on time because I can’t find it, am delayed until it’s too late, etc. I like Kafka’s novels because he takes these nightmares that everyone has, and amplifies them 100x.

  64. Jenny Haniver
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    A’udhu billahi minash shaitanir rajim! Oneiromancy on WEIT. Ecclesiastes was wrong. There is something new under the sun. I’m speechless. The comments are fascinating.

  65. Redlivingblue
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Had a reoccurring dream as an adolescent where I was in a complete white space climbing a very tall ladder. I always started from several rungs up and never remember a floor at all. I would climb, rung after rung, with no problems, or idea of why I was climbing. I would always reach the top of the ladder only to find that the ladder was not resting on anything and I would start to fall backwards. The feeling of falling would get faster and faster and I always held onto the ladder. Just before I reached the angle where I knew that I would hit the ground, I would wake up. Usually my hands would actually hit the wooden headboard of my bed. I figure it was just my subconscious manifesting my lack of control over my environment and my feelings of abandonment.
    A funny dream story: In my early twenties, I hooked up with a beautiful girl and we started spending a lot of time together. One of the first times that we spent the night together, in the morning, she told me that I was talking in my sleep. She said that she shook me and told me that I was dreaming and to wake up. She claims that I sat straight up in bed, looked her in the eye and loudly said something to the effect of “Damn it, you fucking bitch! Can’t you see that I’m cutting the guts out of this mermaid!!” I then laid back down and rolled over. Scared her to death! But I guess it didn’t scare her too bad, our 22nd anniversary is in June.

  66. Kevin
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Test taking.

    Preparation for teaching classes.

    Getting to the swim pool on time.

    Not being prepared for athletic performance.

    Pretty much sums up most bad dreams.

  67. Claudia Baker
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I still dream about my high school, which was a huge school, with several wings. Coming from a tiny elementary school building after grade 8, I was often “lost” and had to ask my way around. Some 50+ years later, still wandering the hallways in my dreams, looking for my grade 9 classroom. Sheesh…

    Also dreams of not studying for an exam that I have to take. Or realizing as I am about to take an exam that I didn’t attend one, single class. Or being late to defend my MA thesis (or not being able to find the room). (In real life, my advisor was late, not me!)

    And I still have teacher dreams, though I have been retired for five years: not prepared to teach a class with the kids sitting in front of me; unable to get to class on time where I know the students are waiting; unable to get all my work done on time; trying to get through marking a huge pile of essays, and the pile just keeps getting bigger the more I work. I always wake up relieved from these dreams. Ah…retirement. Bliss. Go back to sleep.

  68. Jeannie Hess
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    The recurring dream I enjoy is a trip to the coast. As I drive I notice that water is inundating the land. When I get to the beach, the sun is bright but the waves are huge–like 3 stories high. Sometimes I swim happily. Sometimes I lose my little girl and then find her swimming happily in these huge waves. Each dream is a different landscape but always with the huge waves engulfing the beach. Dramatic but not scary.

    And yes, I also have those horrible repeating dreams of troubles at work.

  69. haymanj
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Check to see if you have developed sleep apnoea.
    John H (MD).

  70. jrhs
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in a highly competitive academic environment, and I don’t remember dreaming about exams or student-related matters.

    I dreamed that I could fly when I was about 5 years old. It is the one dream I remember vividly. I sure wish to experience such dream again.

  71. Nilou Ataie
    Posted May 26, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had very clear dreams where my newborn babies died by accidents – one fell from the top of the staircase and the other drown in the ocean. After both dreams I became even more vigilant in the prevention of those events. I wonder if some dreams incite behavior changes. On the other hand, most dreams are forgotten or absolute rubbish, like the floating friendly moose alien dream.

  72. Posted May 27, 2017 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    As the Germans say, Träume sind Schäume – pronounced “troyma zint shoyma,” literally, dreams are foam.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 27, 2017 at 4:08 am | Permalink

      Yet foam is a real phenomenon stemming from turbulence…


  73. Benjay
    Posted June 8, 2017 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I dreamt that Paul Krassner was pissing on me, and when i woke up, sweating, George Carlin was on TV, and I had to take a shower. My Wife was abducted by Toto, same night, lugging keyboards off a van that had now end.

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