A cenain theme may have begun in childhood and continued throughout our life—either without change, or as a gradually changing series of dreams. It might be that the feature which recurs is a setting, perhaps a house we visit again and again, but the details differ. Sometimes a senes of such dreams begin after or dunng a particular event or phase of our life, such as puberty or marriage.
Example: ‘This dream has recurred over 30 years. There is a railway station, remote in a rural area, a central waiting room with platform going round all sides. On the platform mill hundreds of people, all men I think. They are all ragged, thin, dirty and unshaven. I know I am among them. I looked up at the mountainside and there is a guard watching us. He is cruel looking, oriental, in green fatigues. On his peaked cap is a red star. He carries a machine gun. Then I looked at the men around me and I realise they are all me. Each one has my face. I am looking at myself. Then I feel fear and terror (Anon.).
The theme of the dream can incorporate anxious emotions, such as the above example, or any aspect of experience. One woman, an epileptic, reports a dream which is the same in every detail and occurs every night. In general such dreams recur because there are ways the dreamer habitually responds to their internal or external world. Because their attitude or response is unchanging, the dream which reflects it remains the same.
It is noticeable in those who explore their dreams using such techniques as described under dream processing that recurring themes disappear or change because the attitudes or habitual anxieties which gave rise to them have been met or transformed.
A recurring environment in a dream where the other factors change is not the same. We use the same words over and over in speech, yet each sentence may be different.
The environment or character represents a particular aspect of oneself, but the different events which surround it show it in the changing process of our psychological growth. Where there is no such change, as in the examples above, it suggests an area of our mental emotional self is stuck in a habitual feeling state or response.
Some recurring dreams can be ‘stopped’ by simply receiving information about them. One woman dreamt the same dream from childhood. She was walking past railings in the town she lived in as a child. She always woke in dread and perspiration from this dream. At 40 she told her sister about it.
The response was ‘Oh, that’s simple. Don’t you remember that when you were about four we were walking past those railings and we were set on by a bunch of boys. Then I said to them, ‘Don’t hurt us, our mother’s dead!” They left us alone, but you should have seen the look on your face.’ After realising the dread was connected with the loss of her mother, the dream never recurred. Another woman who repeatedly dreamt of being in a tight and frightening place, found the dream never returned after she had connected it to being in the womb.
Recurring dreams, such as that of the railings, suggest that pan of the process underlying dreams is a self regulatory (homocostatic) one.
The dream process tries to present troublesome emotions or situations to the conscious mind of the dreamer to resolve the trauma or difficulty underlying the dream.
An obvious example of this is seen in the recurring nightmare of a young woman who felt a piece of cloth touch her face, and repeatedly woke her family with her screams. Her brother, tiring of this, one night woke her from her screams and made her talk about her feelings. His persistence gradually revealed that she associated the cloth with the burial shroud of her grandmother. This brought to the surface grief and feelings about death she had never allowed herself to feel before.
The nightmare never returned. See nightmares; dream processing. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
• If a dream continues to repeat itself, it is worth exploring it’s meaning as it needs your conscious understanding and action in order to resolve something in your emotional make-up.
• Recurring dreams can be a trauma relieving response to the original event that triggered them.... The Premier in Dream Dictionary
Women tend to report recurring dreams more than men. For example, the thing young children fear the most is abandonment, as without the love and protection of their parents or carers they would die. Later, as they begin to crawl, then walk, then run, they fear bodily harm. Some dream analysts believe that these two issues—fear of bodily harm and abandonment—recur again and again in a person’s life. A forty-year-old woman who discovers her husband has had an affair may, for example, dream of an earthquake and her inability to find a place of safety. This relates to fears of being abandoned.
Recurring nightmare dreams may be an indication that the dreaming mind is trying to present troublesome emotions or situations to a conscious mind that is somehow stuck in a habitual feeling state or response. The dream is encouraging the dreamer to find ways of resolving the trauma or difficulty underlying the dream.... The Element Encyclopedia
If a particular landscape or setting of a dream reoccurs, it tends to illustrate the way something affects you or how it makes you feel.... The Element Encyclopedia
The theme of missing an exam, to take one example, commonly begins during college years, when the stress of performing well may be more intense than ever before. However, this theme may then carry forward as a recurring dream for many years, even as one moves on to a career.
The “missing the exam” dream may reappear the night before an important job interview or an evaluation at work.
The circumstances may change, but the same feelings of stress, and the desire to perform well, can trigger the relevant recurrent dream. Theorists suggest that these themes may be considered “scripts” (Spoormaker, 2008) or perhaps “complexes” (Freud 1950); as soon as your dream touches any aspect of the theme, the full script unfolds in completion. Dream theorists generally agree that recurring dreams are connected to unresolved problems in the life of the dreamer. In a previous post I discussed the idea that dreams often portray a Central Image, a powerful dream image that contextualizes a certain emotion or conflict for the dreamer.
The Tidal Wave dream is an example of a Central Image that represents overwhelming emotions such as helplessness and fear.
The Tidal Wave dream is a common dream to experience following trauma or abuse, and often becomes a recurrent theme that reflects a person’s struggling with integrating and accepting the trauma. Resolution of this theme over time is a good sign that the trauma has been confronted and adaptively integrated in the psyche. Empirical research has also supported findings that resolution of a recurrent dream is associated with improved well-being (Zadra, 1996). This is one way that keeping track of your dreams can be extremely informative and helpful in a therapeutic, or even self-help, process.
The dream repeats because you have not corrected the problem. Another theory is that people who experience recurring dreams have some sort of trauma in their past they are trying to deal with. In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time. Nightmares are dreams that are so distressing they usually wake us up, at least partially. Nightmares can occur at any age but are seen in children with the most frequency. Nightmares usually cause strong feelings of fear, sadness or anxiety. Their causes are varied. Some medications cause nightmares (or cause them if you discontinue the medication abruptly). Traumatic events also cause nightmares. Treatment for recurring nightmares usually starts with interpreting what is going on in the dream and comparing that with what is happening in the person’s life. Then, the person undergoes counseling to address the problems that are presumably causing the nightmare. Some sleep centers offer nightmare therapy and counseling. Another method of treating nightmares is through lucid dreaming. Through lucid dreaming, the dreamer can confront his or her attacker and, in some cases, end the nightmares.... About Dream Interpretation