Cawley: Dream on and on

I graduated high school more than a decade ago now, but up until recently, I kept on having the same irritating recurring dream that I thought I was finished, but actually needed one more class to graduate.

The dream took on different forms over the years. In college, I would dream I would need to take high school classes concurrently with my college courses to make my diploma valid while still pursuing my degree.

Years later, I’d be back there again, being informed that I needed that one class to graduate even after receiving the diploma, graduating college and starting my career.

It’s been awhile since I had the dream, but the frequency of its occurrence stayed with me, leading me to think there might be something my subconscious mind was telling me.

It turns out, it’s a pretty common dream.

After finding out its possible meaning, I got curious and wondered if there were other things my dreams were trying to tell me. It’s become a strange hobby lately. If I wake up and remember what I dreamed about, I look up the symbols on Dream Moods, a site that interprets different parts of dreams.

It turns out I’m not alone in wondering if my dreams have any bearing on my life. There have been books written about dream interpretations by famous psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, who were both focused on the subconscious. Freud’s theory centered around the idea that dreaming allows us to sort through unresolved, repressed wishes, according to a Scientific American article.

This past week, I came across a New York Times article on the topic written by the author of a new book on dreams. The purpose of the article, an opinion piece like this one, was to argue that where our brains go when we’re asleep can help us while we’re awake, or that there’s a science behind our dreams.

The author argues that while dreams may be easy to dismiss because they typically make little literal sense, they might help us cope with our anxieties, practice for stressful events, deal with trauma or consolidate new memories.

At face value, dreams may not make sense but different aspects of them might. For instance, a co-worker reported dreaming about going to work in her pajamas, which could be interpreted as her needing to relax and get some rest. Dreaming about wearing them in public could mean being unaware of something important that may be right in front of her.

Another co-worker reported dreaming about being at his former job, which suggests that there may be an old lesson that he needs to learn or he may be regressing into his comfort zone.

As for me, thankfully that dream about being back in school hasn’t happened for awhile now. The repetition, according to one site I found, could have meant that I had the tendency to avoid what was difficult or embarrassing, such as I didn’t take the class so I didn’t get the diploma. Only by working through those things would the dream stop.

On the flip side, some argue dreams don’t mean anything at all. Scientific American cites a neurobiological theory, which states that dreams are merely electrical brain impulses that pull random thoughts and imagery from our memories. According to the theory, people construct dream stories after they wake up to try to make sense of it.

Who knows? At the very least, people dismissing dreams as not having any meaning can admit it’s strange that there are common ones many of us have had at some point, whether it’s falling, being chased or losing teeth.

Either way, dreams are inescapable. We may as well try to make some sense out of them.

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