Dream interpretation anyone?

Ok, here’s the deal.
I am not into the new age-crystal-touchy-feely thing at all. Normally, I would not place much stock in something like dream interpretation, but this is starting to bug me.
But I have a weird recurring dream and figured all the smart people on the SDMB could help me.

I have been having this same dream for about 15 years. It seems to come in clusters; I will have it several times over a couple-week period, and then not at all for a couple months.
Just for the record, I am 36, female, happily married, 3 kids, a Kindergarten teacher, and quite happy with my life in general.

The dream is as follows, with about 4 regular variations.
I am back in high school. I cannot:
A. find my locker. I have NO IDEA where to go, and the hallway is teeming with hundreds of other kids and I am soooo lost, OR
B. I have found my locker, but can’t remember the combination. All my books and things are IN the locker, but I cannot for the life of me remember the combo, so I just stand there, staring at the lock, OR
C. It is between classes and I have no idea where I am supposed to go next. I cannot find my schedule and have absolutely no clue as to what class is next, OR
D. I am in class and the teacher is reviewing for an exam the next day and I realize I have not come to class at all and have no idea what is going on and know I am going to fail the test.

Any thoughts?

I have the exact same types of nightmares about school, particularly about a final exam in a class that I’ve skipped every day; I’ve been having the dream for at least 10 years now. Sometimes it’s set in high school, sometimes college. A friend of mine told me that dreams in school settings correspond to the development of your “spiritual being” and that my “spiritual being” must be kind of screwed up because I have these nightmares occasionally; obviously she is into the new age-crystal-touchy-feely thing–I’m not, and I think that explanation is BS, myself.

I think it just stems from the regular day-to-day anxieties we all have, whether it’s school, career, relationships, or whatever. I’m still in school myself, so I guess it’s natural for my anxieties to manifest themselves as nightmares about school, and you mentioned that you are a teacher, so there’s a definite connection. My dad’s told me that he still has the same types of dreams, too, and he’s been out of school quite a while. I would think the school dreams are quite common, since for many of us it is such a common childhood anxiety, not to mention that most of us have spent a good 13 or more years in school.

I’m in my forties and I still get the School Dream occasionally. It usually involves a test and a class I’ve never been to. The last time it happened, my conscious voice stepped in and said, “Hah! You’ve been out of school for years!” (my conscious voice can be so cruel) so I relaxed. I agree with Cabbage - it’s an anxiety dream. Don’t let it bother you; it seems to be a very common dream - every adult I know has had it.

You can stop having that dream if you wish. The next time it happens, just realize that it is a dream. You can do that in your sleep but I can’t explain why. Anyway, after that, if you have the dream again, you will be able to control the events.

The return-to-high-school dream is the single most common dream reported by Americans (I’ll do my best to find a cite for this). Typically, one finds that one has to re-take a class or exam in the dream–many experience the dream as being back in high school as an adult. There are many variations, and I myself have had the “where’s my locker?” dream, though not as recurring. Naturally, everybody has a theory about it. Suffice it to say your awareness is focused on this particular dream for some reason, because you can remember it (most people forget the vast majority of their dreams) and because you keep having it.

I believe tcburnett is talking about lucid dreaming, the practice of either retaining consiousness as one falls asleep or “awakening” to conciousness within a dream–concious meaning that you are aware that you are asleep and dreaming. Quite a bizarre experience if you’ve ever had it. Most people have, though most people wake up as soon as they do. If you’ve ever had the experience of waking straight out of a dream and feeling like you were rising to the surface, as though from the bottom of a lake, you were very close.

Recurring, thematic dreams are great opportunities to learn lucid dreaming. The most helpful practice is to keep a dream journal by your bed. When you wake, before doing anything else, write down everything you can remember about your dreams. Even if it’s one sentence saying you couldn’t remember. Even if you can’t remember anything for a week at a time. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll start to remember.

If you really want to work with the dream, here’s what to do. Take a blank business card, and write a keyword or phrase on it. A good example would be, “Where’s my locker?” Try asking yourself this several times per day. Take a moment at work, at home, right before you go to bed, and really ask yourself this–as though you really want to know. Then ask yourself, “am I dreaming?” Look around–make sure you aren’t, because if you do this often enough, sooner or later you’ll ask yourself the same question in your dream. If you do, chances are you’ll realize you’re dreaming, and as tcburnett says, you’ll be able to control details of the dream (as in the locker door flying open to reveal its mystery).

It could be anything. It could be nothing. It could be life-changing. It could be a jelly doughnut. Mmmmm…jelly doughnut. But lucid dreaming (I know, I know, no crystal-touchy-feely stuff) is a fascinating phenomenon and worth the (somewhat ridiculous-sounding) effort.

I’m 34, for what it’s worth.

I probably have this dream once or twice a month on average. Sometimes college, more often high school. It ALWAYS revolves around homework not turned in (when it’s a high school dream) and finals. I never have the locker issue.

These dreams are flashbacks in the sense that I never have the dream, wake up, and realize I never took “x” class. Furthermore, the classes I’m dreaming I skipped/blew off seem to bear no correlation to if I found those classes troublesome when I took them in real life.

I don’t seem to be able to have my conscious voice step in and end my school dreams (which are hardly pleasant but not sufficiently stressful to me to be called “nightmares”). However, I believe that I HAVE had my conscious voice step in and end other dreams I’ve had, though it’s pretty rare for this to happen to me, no matter what the dream.

There’s something distinctly comforting in knowing that this happens to other people, too.

Ok, first from a psych angle: the best way to interpret your dreams is to seriously think about what they mean to you and how they make you feel. While there are several common dream patterns and many things have similar meanings to most people, you’re usually your best guide to dream interp.
Now from personal experience: I used to get the school dreams (usually I hadn’t done my homework, as I got older I had no clue what my schedule was or I realized I’d forgotten to go to a class for a month or so) every single summer, about a week after the summer started. To me it seemed to be my psyche’s way of saying, haven’t you been forgetting to go to school? It didn’t seem to catch on to the fact that school wasn’t required anymore for a bit. Then they’d go away as I adjusted. Now that I’m out of school permanently, I still get them sometimes, sometimes set in college, but more often set in high school. Oddly, I didn’t get these dreams when I actually was skipping a class way too much or when I was very stressed about classes.
This is a very common dream-type, but it rarely seems to be a problem. I wouldn’t worry about it.
Oh, final note on lucid dreaming: yeah cool stuff. I taught myself to lucid dream long before I’d heard of the concept. When I was about 6 it worried me not being able to tell dream from reality. So I just started asking myself several times per day, “Is this a dream?” then I’d look around at where I was and remember backward every step of how I got there until I remembered back to waking up that morning. Eventually I asked myself that in a dream, started remembering backward, and realized I was in school without having taken the bus or any other method of transit, and I realized I was dreaming. I haven’t bothered to keep up the habit of lucid dreaming, but way back when it did become faster and easier to tell the difference between dream and reality. Eventually I could answer the question without thinking about events, dream and reality just had different feels, and I could tell from that.

Y’know, I actually had a back-to-high school just last night. It was weird, though… I was absolutely certain it was my high school (you know that certainty with no good reason you get in dreams), but it was co-ed (my school was, and still is, all guys). Most of the students were of about the right age range for high school, but I was my current age, and I saw one of my classmates from here in grad school there, too. I was a bit befuddled in the classes, having not been to the preceeding classes, and that was a touch stressful, but not nearly nightmarish. Then, with no particular stimulus from inside the dream or out, I suddenly woke up, wide awake.

As for lucid dreaming: Another way to tell is to look at something written down, look away, and then look at it again-- If you’re dreaming, it’ll usually change.
Or you can just take note of things like the fact that you’re flying around the top of Mount Baldy, wearing skis that occasionally disappear, in the middle of the summer.

Thanks for all your replies. Nice to know I’m not the only one having this weird dream. :slight_smile:
As for the lucid dreaming thing, I will have to try it. Sounds hard, but I’ll try.
Now if I could just find my locker…

hmm i had one in high school where i lost my backpack
after i started college i dont think i ever had that one again. maybe there is something causing stress in your life that is causing that…

Okay–here is my experience. Usually it involves knowing I have a final exam the next few days and I have SKIPPED every single class. God I hate that anxiety. Unfortunately, It wasn’t a dream :smiley:
Here is my recurring dream. It involves tornadoes. I don’t live in tornado alley, but tornadoes certainly interest me. Usually my dream involves seeing a tornado outside and running around the house like crazy trying to find some place safe. Normally it involves more than one tornado, for instance I will look outside and see 7 tornadoes in all different directions. If I were to take a stab a this dream interpretation, I would have to say that the tornado represents “disruption and chaos” in my personal life (duh!). The weirdest thing is that one night I got some absolutely devasting news about my family. That night I had a tornado dream and it “cracked” the threshhold of the house that I grew up in. Boy, the symbolism was eerie.

I have had the tornado dream several times, beginning when I was very young. There has never been a tornado within fifty miles of where I live. There would be several tornzdoes, and every hiding spot I found would have something wrong with it, ie full of people, or it would collapse when i tried to take cover. Usually this dream is scary enough to wake me up and leaves me distressed for a while afterwords. Usually I’m a kid in these dreams, I think they have to do with childhood fears that my psyche hasn’t let go of.

I have the school-dream very often. However, I have noticed a pattern over the years.

All my came-to-class-on-the-last-day-of-school-to-take-the-impossible-exam ones, along with others, occur in the same dreamscape, something I call the Universal School. It’s a giant combination high school and college with Escher-like properties - the exterior and interior of buildings don’t match, for example, and can expand or contract at will. It also seems to float through space and teleport to new locations - sometimes it’s in a suburb (my old high school) other times in the middle of a city (my college) other times it bends into a shape closely approximating reality. It’s the TARDIS of dreamscapes. :wink:

Knowing this in a dimwitted subconcious way, I can do some exploring on occasion. There’s a high-security UNIX terminal lab high on top of a skyscaper that’s my favorite place, though it’s a little hard to get too. And in the last few years someone added a swinging club under it that resembles the one in the beginning of ‘Austin Powers’.

Taxpayer dollars at work, I’m telling you.

Ok, here’s my recurring dream. I’m 20, and i’ve been having this dream for about 5-7 years i’d say.

The premise of the dream may vary, but it’s always involves me needing to use the phone to call someone. Sometimes it’s 911, sometimes it’s no big deal. Anyway, i start to dial and i push the wrong button, then i have to hang up start over, again and again. One time i got through to 911 and then it was just advertisers and it said it was busy.

A variation i’ve been having lately is that i am trying to call my boyfriend at his parent’s house (even though we live togetther now) and can’t remember phone number. So i look in the phone book and everytime i try to get to the C’s,(where his last name would be) the book starts over at M or something.

The constant hitting the wrong buttons on the telephone dream is honestly driving me nuts. It’s no nightmarish, just soooo frustrating. Sometimes it comes back to my in my waking life and i get anxiety about pushing the wrong buttons. And no i never had trouble with phones in real life before. Any clues about this one?

I had a similar anxiety dream last fall. I was dreaming that I was a professional hockey player. I was going through all of the motions getting ready for a game. The whole time I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind but I had to get ready for the game so I ignored it. As I am walking down the tunnel to go onto the ice, it hits me, I do not know how to skate! At least, not good enough to be a professional hockey player. I grab the coach and pull him aside to tell him. He assures me everything thing is fine and to get out onto the ice. I am obviously not getting my point across and the conversation becomes more heated up until the point that I yell, “But coach, I CAN’T SKATE!”

Then I woke up.

Realized a while later that it had nothing to do with hockey at all. I had just received a promotion at work from staff accountant level to senior accountant. While everything was going well enough, I realized through the dream that I was stressing out because I was not sure if I was equipped with the knowledge to do it.

Unfortunately, the only person who can ultimately interpret your dreams is you. Anxiety dreams about the exam you never studied for are about preparation. Kinsey said she was a Kindergarten teacher. Are you worried about not being prepared for something at school? Do you have to teach a subject you are not familiar enough with? Or not being prepared to adequately answer parents’ questions at parent/teacher conferences? Do you have some administrational duties you are not sure you are qualified for? Of course, it might not have anything to do with your job. It could deal with home, friends, whatever. Only you can answer that. Sit quiet (probably REAL hard to do with three children) and ask yourself, “what’s bugging you?”

Lunapark - What in your life frustrates you? What in your awake life gives you the same feeling(s) as the dream? In your dreams you seem to be making mistakes. Are you a perfectionist? Worried about “not getting it right?”

Anyway, once you find the answer, you will know. (Geeezzz… could I be any more cryptic?) The answer will just “feel right”.

Of course, I am an accountant, not a doctor… so take it for what it is worth.


I’m not into New Age-type stuff at all, but dreams really are important. They’re indicative of your mental well-being. The key to interpreting a dream is to think about what the dream (and elements of it) means to you.

Kinsey: there seem to be two key elements in your dreams:
feeling lost and feeling like something is missing. I’d say that, on an emotional or spiritual level, you feel like something important is missing from your life. Of course, I don’t know you well enough to speculate on what that might be, but that’s where you come in.

While only the person who has a dream can fully understand it, there are some symbols that are common to most humans. For example, having sex in a dream (with someone you know) often means that there’s something about yourself that you want to change. The person you’re having sex with represents some characteristic or personality trait that you want to emulate. Conversely, killing or hurting someone you know usually represents a desire to supress a certain part of yourself. In such cases, you have to ask yourself what that person means to you.

FWIW, I’ve had a stranded-in-the-desert dream. I’m at a little gas station in the American Desert; someplace like rural Utah or Nevada. I’m not sure how I got there, and I’m trying to get back home. Thanks to that strange dreamland logic, I never think to call home or anything reasonable, and I’m just about to steal the gas station attendant’s car when I wake up.

Hmmm, oddly when I have sexual contact with a person in a dream (I rarely actually have sex in dreams) it usually means I’ve been lusting after that person for a while.
I have had dreams along the same lines as the hockey dream. It’s usually a play though. It’s opening night of a play and I have a decent sized role, but I don’t even know what play we’re doing, much less my part or any of my lines, but the show is about to start, and there’s no understudy. I’ve been in several plays (mostly in high school) and love acting, so I figure it’s just a variant of the unprepared for school dreams that my psyche latched onto after I started acting.
I have had the tornado dream too, but only once that I remember. I remember it vividly. I was looking up at the stars, it was peaceful and beautiful and I noticed some falling stars. Then I heard a loud boom near me and I realized they weren’t falling stars but bombs. So I started running to take cover (away from the bombs) and then there were four tornados coming at me, one from each direction (it was a city setting and the tornados were coming down the streets). That was a rather disturbing dream. But kinda nifty in an apocalyptic way.

bean counter said:

First off, thanks for the response. I don’t really know what this dream could be because it’s been happening for so many years. I’m not a perfectionist, but i do worry about little things a lot. I’m going to try and do that lucid dreaming. Everytime i answer the phone i’ll think “is this a dream” and hopefully i’ll ask myself in a dream and i can finally dial the right number.
9-1-2 dammit! hang up
9-1-2 dammit! hang up

Originally posted by Diceman:
Kinsey: there seem to be two key elements in your dreams:
feeling lost and feeling like something is missing. I’d say that, on an emotional or spiritual level, you feel like something important is missing from your life. Of course, I don’t know you well enough to speculate on what that might be, but that’s where you come in. [/quote}

Diceman, I know! From what I remember from Psych 101, yes, that would be my first guess. What is missing from my life? Nothing, really! (other than a ton of money!) I like my job, everything is just fine…now. I was sort of floundering in my early-to-mid twenties, but things are great now.
That’s why I can’t figure it out.
Maybe it’s nothing more than just a dream.
Thanks again!

Diceman mentions hurting or killing people in dreams. In my waking life, I am a fairly non-confrontational person, but in my dreams I will get into physical altercations. The weird thing is, in twenty-two years, I don’t remember ever being able to hurt someone in a dream. If I try to hit someone, my arms and fists get heavy and slow, rendering my punches powerless, and even the guns I’ve shot folks with have no effect. Friends of mine report they too can’t hurt people in dreamland. Anyone out there able to do damage in dreams?
Also, whenever I have sex in dreams, it is with someone I know, but have never felt attracted to. Naturally, these dreams leave me feeling strange, particularly if I run into that person the next day.