Most people that have experienced recurring dreams have wondered – what do recurring dreams mean?
There are many schools of thought when it comes to dream analysis. Of course, we have to put Austrian founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud at the top of the list. He was the first person to suggest the importance of dreams. Freud believed dreams are a way of seeing into the unconscious mind. Another huge influence on dream theories was Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung. He saw dreams as a way of connecting our conscious and subconscious minds. But are recurring dreams different? And what do recurring dreams mean exactly?
Why do we have recurring dreams?
It’s a generally accepted view that recurring dreams are trying to tell us something.
“We dream about what concerns us most,” Dr Angel Morgan
What this something is depends on the actual dream. Once again, there are theories that can help us. For instance, Gestaltist dream theory suggests childhood recurring dreams are the most important for therapy purposes.
Nonetheless, they still recognise that any recurring dream indicates some imbalance in our lives. On the other hand, Culturalist dream theory recognise that frequent recurring dreaming is a sign that we need more positive changes in our lives. However, before we look further into the meaning of recurring dreams, let’s first explore a few facts about them.
It’s actually quite difficult to find information about true recurring dreams. I mean dreams that are identical in content and not just those with a similar theme. There are, however, a couple of unpublished studies that give us some interesting data.
What are the most common themes amongst recurring dreams?
For a start, the most common recurring dreams are:
- Being chased
- Back in school
- Finding oneself unprepared for an exam or test
- Nude in a public place
- Losing teeth
What is most surprising is that up to 85% of recurring dreams are described as unpleasant by the dreamer. It appears that the anxiety-provoking situations pop up more in recurring dreams. Before we start to unravel the question, What do recurring dreams mean? – let’s explore a little further.
For example, when do recurring dreams tend to start?
- Around 70% – 80% of dream study participants reported having recurring dreams in childhood.
- Of these childhood recurring dreams, between 86% and 90% were described as unpleasant or of a threatening nature.
- External agents (e.g., monsters, witches) made up 70% of the unpleasant content of childhood recurrent dreams.
Research suggests that recurring dreams don’t tend to start in adults. In fact, evidence suggests a mere 15% of adults report experiencing recurring dreams as adults for the first time. Furthermore, there is an interesting difference to adult recurring dreams to our childhood ones:
The difference between recurring dreams of children and adults
- As a person gets older, it is the dreamer and not external agents that are responsible for the dream content.
- For instance, feeling trapped or alone are common recurring dreams for adults. As are being overwhelmed by household chores.
- Studies show that as people get older, they experience fewer recurring dreams with threatening contents.
- Evidence suggests women are more likely to have recurring dreams than men.
So far we’ve heard that recurring dreams are most likely to be threatening and unpleasant. Depending on which theory you believe, they indicate imbalance and suggest a change as a way forward. But can they give us any insight into our personality?
What do recurring dreams mean when it comes to predicting personality?
According to one source, the answer is yes. Researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany discovered that those who experienced recurring dreams of murder tended to be more aggressive in real life. This is despite them tending to have more introverted traits. These individuals also tended to be more hostile and found it difficult to get on with others in the real world.
Other studies reveal different characteristics. For instance, Veronica Tonay has written extensively on the connection between personality and dreams.
- Those who are anxious and self-aware of their sensitivity will tend to have more recurring dreams about past and future events. People that repress their feelings will usually dream of the present.
- People who are driven and thrive under pressure (Type A personalities) will experience more disturbing dreams. On the other hand, those who are calm and relaxed (Type B personalities) will have less disturbing dreams.
- If your recurring dreams occur during just as you fall asleep, it’s likely that you’re a less anxious person in your waking life. You’ll be more poised and self-accepting. You won’t feel the need to conform to the wishes of others.
- People are authoritarian in real life behave as such in their dreams. They like conforming to a group and belittle those that don’t.
- If you have recurring dreams in exotic and unusual places, it’s likely that you’re a highly creative person yourself. Creative people also dream of loss more and overcoming obstacles in life. Less creative types tend to have more recurring dreams that revolve around the house and home.
- As for logical thinkers, surprisingly, their recurring dreams are full of emotional content. By contrast, sensitive types, who do tend to be emotional in real life, dream more about mundane and conventional things.
- There are even differences between the recurring dreams of introverts and extroverts. Introverts tend to remember the tiny little details of all their recurring dreams. Whereas extroverts only recall the big important stuff.
Why don’t we ever have pleasant recurring dreams?
You’ll notice I haven’t spoken much about pleasant recurring dreams. That’s because they’re surprisingly rare. Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of recurring dreams are unpleasant.
All things considered, we may never fully understand the meaning of recurring dreams. One thing for sure, we should be aware of them. Because our subconscious is definitely trying to tell our conscious mind something. And when we don’t listen, a recurring dream is one way to make us sit up and take notice.