Though it’s been almost thirty years since I went to college, I still regularly have the finals-week dream (or rather, nightmare). In it, it’s finals week and I’ve just discovered that there is a class I am registered for that I forgot to attend all semester long. It’s always a science or math class—one that I can never just figure out on my own by skimming through the textbook—and the textbook is always huge. There is absolutely no way I can read the textbook, make up my missed work, take all the tests, and hand everything in before the final—which I am sure to fail anyway—and of course it’s too late to drop the class. In a variation of this dream, I realize that the class I forgot to attend is the same class I forgot to attend the semester before (thus blowing my chance to replace my “F” with a better grade), and I can’t believe I forgot to attend it again!
Studies show that we dream, on average, four to six times per night. Here are some interesting facts I learned about dreams on dreamdictionary.org:
We forget 90% of our dreams.
Babies do not dream about themselves until about age three.
Dreams prevent psychosis.
Blind people dream.
Not everyone dreams in color.
And apparently, a lot of people have the failing-to-show-up-for-a-class/test dream. This dream can signify that the dreamer is feeling anxious or unprepared (doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out), and this type of dream most often appears when a person is under more stress than he or she can handle. (Hmm, what does it say about my life that I’ve been having this dream for nearly thirty years?) Another common dream, one that I have fairly often, is that of being chased (in my version of the being-chased dream, I’m always trying to phone someone for help, but I keep dialing the wrong number). According to some dream analysts, the being-chased dream means that the dreamer is running away from his or her problems or is repressing emotions that need to be dealt with.
And did you know that a dream about losing your teeth could signify that you said something you shouldn’t have? Some dream interpreters say that teeth falling out in your dream means that you have lied or gossiped or hurt someone’s feelings; in other words, you let something out of your mouth that you shouldn’t have, and there is no way to put it back in.
If we pay attention to them, dreams can help us work through our fears, pinpoint our stresses, identify and resolve tensions in our relationships, and maybe even help us shift directions or make a life change. Dreams can also contain spiritual guidance and revelation. In the April 2012 general conference, Elder Richard G. Scott talked about how to tell whether a dream contains revelation: “Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost. However, He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect” (“How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Ensign, May 2012, 46).
But even if our dreams don’t contain spiritual revelation, per se, they can still provide us with valuable information. In her memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd says, “I think of [dreams] as snapshots floating up from a mysterious vat, offering metaphoric pictures of what’s going on inside. Sometimes the images suggest where my soul wants to lead me and sometimes where it does not, giving me input and guidance about choices I might make.” Sue recommends keeping a dream journal, a notebook in which we record our dreams and then study them, watching for significant patterns. It takes time and practice to decipher dreams, and writing them down is the first step.
So here’s my latest dream, one that has been occurring with more frequency the past five or so years: I am on stage, the star of a play, but I have never even looked at the script, much less learned my lines, and I’m trying to make it up as I go along. At first I manage to fool the audience with my ad-libbing, but as time goes on and my made-up lines become more inept, everyone catches on that I have no idea what I’m doing. During one version of this dream, which I had just after I was called to be a Relief Society president several months ago, the audience was booing and actually throwing cabbages (yes, cabbages!), and my husband had to bring the car around to the side door of the theater, which I hurriedly dashed out of, my coat over my head, before we sped away from the scene, the audience’s jeers still ringing in my ears.
I have some pretty good ideas about what this dream means—fear of being unprepared, fear of being found out as a phony, someone who is only pretending at her job but who actually has no clue what she is doing (this may have a lot to do with the fact that I am currently mothering teenagers and young adults), fear of ridicule, and possibly fear of cabbages. If I think about it enough, I’ll be able to pinpoint some issues I need to work through. And that’s the beauty of dreams: they contain little nuggets of truth, waiting to be unearthed. All it takes is a little digging.
What recurring dreams do you have? Has a dream ever helped you figure out important truths about yourself? What is the most significant dream you’ve ever had?