Talk about Buzzer-Beaters…
When it comes to dreams, sometimes I find myself in disbelief more than I do in wonder. I simply have very similar dreams the far majority of the time. The same cast of characters and the same anxiety provoking situations. The anxiety dream I obviously know is not exclusive to me. Showing up in high school for a test you forgot to study for. Showing up for a big work presentation and forgetting the presentation file. Hell, showing up to prom naked. I wonder why a big part of our default sleep mind drifts to something we generally try to avoid when we’re awake. Maybe that’s the point, there’s no real escape. Anxiety is such a big part of our day to day that we can’t shut it off, even when sleep is its own form of escape. It would be nice if you could download dreams to only be pleasant or to only seem as if it’s out of the book “The Secret.” Getting promotions or buying that new house. Maybe even your own *~classy~* selection of Rated R class crush dreams. I’d go to sleep even earlier than I unnaturally do if that was the case!
Here’s the themes that show up over and over in my dreams (That is, when they are not a bonkers mess like a scrambled TV which is maybe even more frustrating — let me at least watch my own documentary!). My first girlfriend is there. No, we’re not talking that first non-puppy love in college that you dated for two years and she considered moving to the big city with you before first jobs and long distance saw it break apart. We’re talking about sophomore year of high school her literally just turning sixteen for an impressive span of maybe ten months. Being from small town NJ, in which the group of people was so small that it almost took on an incestual vibe of everyone getting with everyone, I was lucky enough to call her a friend post that first in life crushing heartbreak. But the subsistence of her showing up in dreams well into my late thirties is simply impressive. Yearning for a simpler time I guess. Though yes, I don’t overly share this fact with a wife that I’ve been married to eleven years and known for two decades!
Another theme is high school sports, specifically football. My sport was ice hockey and yet football shows up at a near 4 to 1 ratio. My high school football coach was an ex-military powerhouse of leadership and work ethic. He shows up in my dreams in second place only to that sweet redhead first girlfriend. The interesting thing is that the dreams aren’t reliving my best plays or the romanticized high school miniseries of meeting said girlfriend waiting for me after the game (backseat, windows up!), the dreams are me doing something to impress my old coach. Talk about the need for validation. I do recall feeling this back in high school and its interesting to me that it has lasted so long in the subconscious. There’s also of course the looping one of me forgetting a piece of equipment just as the game starts and my old ball coach screaming at me. If I do have one about hockey, that is solely what its about. A missing skate or helmet or not being able to find a screw to attach my facemask to my helmet. Rich, smelly symbolism. Oh sweat-inducing deadlines and pressure, how I love thee. I do find a high prevalence of high school in general. I know a pivotal, transformational time that is often the source of both real life and movie nostalgia. I think that is it for me. The last time I was truly happy and/or didn’t feel as if something was “off.” That only happened when I got to college, all of a sudden I wasn’t a stud hockey player or popular dude, and all I had to do was classes. Performance pressure and the unidimensional life of trying to get ahead started.
The next fan favorite CONSTANTLY revisits what I still consider to be up there with my worst decisions of my life, studying abroad. This sounds extremely dramatic and a first world problem, as several don’t have the luxury. To this day though, the regret is very real. It’s because I was on the fence the entire time and never truly excited about doing it — and yet it was something I felt I “should” do. Enter a very real life-long issue of trying to do what looks good on paper and not in the bright complex colors of life. I thought it would look good on my resume (“International Finance”)and help for internships. I studied in bumblefuck suburban London and hated it. The British Pound was 2 to 1 with the dollar, a big deal to a college student. (My favorite meme — “Why is life so god damn expensive, I’m not even having fun!). I fell into a deep depression, the first in my life. I once went without sleep for two weeks. I was only there for 2.5 months and yet it felt like I was Tom Hanks in Castaway. I’m sure my several bouts of depression would have reared its ugly head without this tipping point, yet I have this initial “broadening horizons” experience to thank. My dreams have me replaying my decision or getting ready to study abroad AGAIN. I need to burn this memory in a dumpster fire the way that Rachel and Monica try to rid photos of ex-boyfriends.
Of course, given how my thirties went, a few years back a new dimension of dreams started emerging. The guilt around drinking. That sinking drowning feeling of not being able to remember something or someone saying something like “dude, you were wasted.” This happens in early sobriety a lot, where dreamland has you actually drinking and about to go overboard and then you wake up, relieved beyond belief it was just a dream. In one twist of subconscious fate, I was driving in a red convertible with my high school girlfriend in which she told me she was worried about my drinking. In high school! One doesn’t even need a therapist to break down the deeper meaning of that one. Its like trying to put a spotlight on the patterns and use that led to the eventual crossing of the line from partier/drinker to “uh oh.”
The last is revisiting the trauma in life of me being fired. In several dreams I am still working at the company and they let whatever happen “slide.” So its kind of me sitting there with a massive inferiority complex, but grateful to “survive” an extremely dark period. I want these dreams to tell me I wouldn’t want to be back there even if I could. I’m nervous all its telling me is there is unfinished business and I can’t move on in one realm if I don’t move on in a different one. These are dark and painful and are enough to throw off my next day.
I truly don’t have an eloquent way to tie all of the above together. I think I am writing this to see if anyone else has dreams that are simply dumbfounding in how often they are repeated. I obviously know dreams are about self-analysis, fear, and things we regret. Things we simply still need to work through and can’t seem to get away from. Is there a form of sleep therapy though? Just like you talk to someone to help your day to day spiraling thoughts and rumination, is there a way to find a dreamer life coach? I think the first thing this coach would do is say cut down on the melatonin! This is a relic of my insomniac wildly depressed days as well as my heavy drinking days. When you want to go to bed INSTANTLY to lessen a hangover or just to escape life. Although I’m trying my best to lower the dosage, it definitely has become habit forming. Hopefully, real life patterns can shape the dream world; a virtuous cycle of improvement both awake and at night. It would be nice to wake up in a more pleasant mood or constantly searching back in the mind to replay those HOT scenes and not those EXISTENTIAL DREAD scenes.
For now, it’s all a bit of a mystery. Need for validation, definitely. Transport to simpler times, for sure. A revisit to previous times where hopefully you changed things a bit to end up where you are now? Likely. Maybe dreams serve as a warning label. Revisit this painful trauma to avoid a different type of trauma. The same uncomfortable feeling that comes with stopping drinking or getting outside ones comfort zone. I still do like sleeping if nothing else because of that amazing feeling of waking up at 2am and looking at the clock with absolute childlike joy that you can sleep for a few more hours. Or, just like real life, there’s hope. Hope for improvement and a rosier picture. Not much else serves as in the mundane day to day. Keep dreams weird.
Update: I was about to submit this when “GQ” popped in my inbox this FASCINATING article. It’s about the role of a dream coach I questioned! Again, one of those serendipitous moments where you’re like “no way” and yet you only kind of notice because it was already on the mind. The article is “Why Everyone in Hollywood is Doing Dream Work” and it’s a quick read. My two favorite lines:
Dreams are so commonplace that we forget that they’re a wonder. Whatever you believe about them, they’re objectively fascinating: a self-generated movie your mind will play at night, a story that blooms with rich symbolism and narrative tension and surprise. No wonder, then, they have become something worth exploring by people involved in telling stories in their waking life.
Gillingham [dream coach] herself rejects any stereotypes about dream work being an airy, New Age-y discipline. Instead, she sees dreams as fundamentally grounded in the hard truth of reality. “A dream will kick your ass like nothing else,” she says. “The dream will wake you up. That’s why they’re here.”
Thank you for reading! I’m sorry for making this one so personal — I would really love to hear if anyone has any recurring dreams. If nothing else, it may help you to analyze them in the comments 😊