Weird, but common, dreams

The current xkcd cartoon got me thinking about dreams that are weird (as in, they don’t reflect real life experiences) but are common, as in many people experience the same senario in their dreams, sometimes often. Popular examples are:

– Driving from the backseat / trouble driving
– Teeth falling out (these are both mentioned in the cartoon)
– Being in class/a test and realizing you’ve missed the whole semester
– Being in public naked/in your underwear
– Using the toilet in front of other people
– Flying

Are there any theories as to why these themes are so common in people’s dreams? Why don’t we all dream about (say) getting arrested, or being stranded at sea, or getting a really good deal on eBay?

The only one of those I’ve ever had is flying, maybe my parasites are under control.

A lot of those are anxiety dreams. I have the teeth falling out one kind of often (and it came up on the Sopranos once) and instead of being naked it seems like I’ve always, say, forgotten my pants and am trying to stand behind tables and such. People have a lot of anxieties, I guess.

Seems like people bring up that comic strip often, I guess I an one of the few people that does not read it.

It seems to me that the naked / no pants dream could just be the result of sleeping with no pants. Like I’m having a dream, and suddenly it occurs to me that my legs are bare.

There are a lot of theories about that. I do not mean to be snarky, but if you google “dreams flying falling” (without quotation marks of course) for instance, there’s a wealth of theories right in front of you.

They represent basic anxieties, but they are also so famous that people are aware of these types of dreams even if they don’t have them themselves. (I’ve had some of these dreams, but not others.) That popularity probably ensures people will keep dreaming them.

If you have ever driven a car, you’ve been stressed out and nervous while driving.

If you’ve ever been a student, you’ve worried you won’t know the answers on some important test.

A lot of people are insecure about their bodies and afraid of being embarrassed. And let’s not forget that a lot of us sleep naked or in our underwear. I don’t think I ever had a dream about being pantsless or naked in public until I started sleeping that way.

I recall having the out-of-control car dream when I was a child, long before I started driving. In my dream, I’d be in the passenger seat with no idea how to stop the car.

Hmmm I thought I was the only one who had the driving from the back seat dream, man I hate that one.

I have a couple of uninformed theories that I had concerning some of the others.

First, regarding the pants dream, I would agree with Rhodes, in that I tend to dream that I forgot my pants only when I go to sleep in my underwear.

As for the class you never attended, I always thought that it starts as a mundane dream about having to go to class, but then when you start trying to recall facts about the class, such as what the previous lectures were, what work you have done for the class, you have no memories to fall back on, since you never actually went to this class in real life. As a result your mind comes to the conclusion that even though this class has been going on for a semester you, must have forgotten to attend. From there panic ensues.

My variation of the backseat driving dream is trying to use the telephone and it’s either an interface that is bizarrely complicated or I keep misdialing the number or I pick up the phone to dial and there are other people on the line.

I stopped having the teeth falling out dreams after I switched dentists and my six-month cleanings/check-ups always ended with my dentist telling me that everything looked good, keep doing what I’m doing.

I don’t sleep naked but I still have naked in public dreams.

Fair point. Add “If you’ve ever been in a car, you’ve worried about being in an accident.” I’ve never had this backseat driving dream - in fact I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed about being in a car crash - but it seems like a pretty straightforward representation of feeling inadequate and unable to take control of the events around you.

I have a weird variant on the teeth dream where my mouth becomes so full of extra teeth, I’m chewing on them like a mouth full of marbles and begin spiting out teeth. Eventually I run out of teeth to spit out and I wake up. Ugh.

I’ve only ever had the “haven’t been to class all semester” dream, and my college study habits were such that it was sometimes very nearly true. :smiley:

I don’t get sex dreams either. I feel a little cheated with that one.

I get the bathroom dream when I need to wake up to pee, for whatever reason the bathroom is unsuitable to use, either no privacy or the toilets are too nasty to use.

I get the loose tooth dream, but I also get a chewing gum dream (it is gunking up my mouth, and I keep having to reach in and peel it out a little bit at a time)

I occasionally get these two - but only occasionally:

– Driving from the backseat
– Being in class/a test and realizing you’ve missed the whole semester

I find it somewhat amusing that even in my dream world I am confident (arrogant?) enough to say I guess it won’t matter if I pass or not, I’m good enough to get a job anyway.

I often dream that I’m on stage and have no idea what’s in the script. I’m betting that’s a common one. (Is it?)

I also often dream that my jaw is just on the tip of becoming dislocated, and I have to shift it around just right to get it back into place–and the slightest screwup will make it dislocate. 'Sanyone else get this one, I wonder?

One that strip missed:

I have recurring (not often, but probably at least once a year) dreams of this nature:

Something is chasing or pursuing me. Something that means to kill me. I try to run, but my legs just don’t work. Well, they kinda work, but not nearly well enough.

I try to run, but my legs are either impossibly heavy or rooted to the ground. Either way, I know something is coming after me, I can laboriously move my legs but it’s not nearly fast enough. I need to run, but the legs are so heavy I can only stumble a step or two before my pursuer catches up. I always wake up in a state of panic when the pursuer finally catches me.

God, I hate these dreams.

– Being in class/a test and realizing you’ve missed the whole semester

I’m 47 and haven’t been in college for 22 years and I still get this one all the time. What’s also really irritating is how long it takes me to realize that I don’t actually have to take a test after I wake up.

The interesting thing is that, if these dreams are caused by anxiety, that they manifest in almost identical dreams for most of us.

I’ve been out of college for 10 years and still get the “missed the semester” dream every so often. Usually for me I am walking down a hall toward another class and pass up the classroom of the course that I am not attending. It then dawns on me that I am registered for this class and the final is in 10 minutes. Of course, even if I ace the final I would still fail b/c I missed all the other tests…HORROR!

I’ve heard if you die in your dream, you die IRL. I’ve never died in any of my dreams. :slight_smile: