Recurring dreams are seldom pleasant but sometimes they are, in retrospect, amusing. As a young man, I had this dream over and over again about waiting with some message and then being shot and waking up in a hospital bed with people gathering around. At the time, I thought it was a very scary dream, a nightmare. But when I look back on it, the hubris of youth shows through. There was never any blood. There was never any real pain. People gathered to pay attention to the wounded me and I guess that I liked or needed that enough to go back to that place over and over again. I was never sure who was shooting me, although I suspected it was a grandfather that I never met.
One sometimes wishes that the recurring dreams were happier, like the time that I dreamt that I was pregnant. I could feel the life moving in this warm, liquid balloon that was growing happily inside of me. It was pleasurable and sensual, but I never had the dream again. Obviously, once was enough and when I told my friends about it, they laughed at me. I would like to have that dream again, but I am passed my child-bearing years.
The one that has been waking me up recently is different. It actually happened. I was about ten years old and we were playing ball and the ball rolled between a concrete building and brick building. I shimmied in to try to get it and then got stuck. The fire department had to be called and it took a long time to get me out and I was embarrassed because I was filled with scrapes and people were angry and asked how I could have been so stupid as to get myself caught like that.
When I first returned to that experience in a dream, it was horrifying. I could feel the stone pressed against my body. I was trapped. As it has returned again though, the space has gotten a little wider and I can see that there is a way out, just one that I didn’t understand because of my fear and the panic that caused me to swell up until I was immobile.
This falls under the category of the “being trapped” dream. It is supposed indicate that I am in some kind of rut or life circumstance which will not let me go. It appears on the list of categories for most common types of recurring dreams, along with falling, being chased, having your teeth pulled out or fall out, flying, being submerged in water, being publically exposed in some humiliating fashion, wandering in a house that keeps changing, or having something stolen from you. Checking over the list again, I see nothing about being shot.
My most frightening nightmare was discovering that I had a consciousness that was eternal but that after death it was alone in a complete void forever. I still shudder when I recall that one. Thankfully, it did not return.
The film Ground Hog Day is a recurring dream brought to fictional life. Happening over and over again, until Phil figures out what he needs to do to make it stop. But suppose you didn’t want your recurring dream to stop? Suppose it became like a song that you wished to play and then replay? Would your dreaming self just give up trying to communicate the message? Maybe the experience is the message. Or maybe, like Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, the dream would bring you comfort before and after struggle.
Sometimes my dreams are very silly and happy. These are the ones where waking up can make you want to go back. They reveal us in ways that often expose places where we hold on to childhood dreams. A few years ago, Jackson Browne offered an item up for auction. It was studio time with him to work on a song of your own creation. I bid on it but got shut out at the end. A few weeks later, I dreamt that I met Jackson and that we became friends. That was the strangest recurring dream because it was like a mini-series with installments. But as soon as I told anyone about them, they stopped. Are some dreams meant to be kept secrets?
Shakespeare wrote, “we are such stuff that dreams are made on.” I wonder if he meant nightmares and recurring dreams too.
Finally there is that wonderful line from Bob Dylan, “At dawn my lover comes to me and tells me of her dreams with no attempt to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.”
Sometimes we need to know what they mean and sometimes we just need to sleep with them.