If we keep a record of our dreams it will soon become obvious that some of our dream themes, characters or places recur again and again. These recurrences are of various types. A certain theme may have begun in childhood and continued throughout our life – either without change, or as a gradually changing series of dreams. It might be that the feature that recurs is a setting, perhaps a house we visit again and again, but the details differ. Sometimes a series of such dreams begin after or during a particular event or phase of our life, such as puberty or marriage. There are several types of dreams such as recurring body dreams, recurring sex dreams, recurring death, etc. These are all similar in how to deal with them, but you might find other information under – Dream Body – Body – Parts of – Body Dreams -Sex and Dreams – Sex and Identity – Energy, Sex and Dreams – Sex – Dreams of Death and Beyond – Dreaming of Death – The Archetype of Death – Rudolph Steiner’s Philosophy of Life and Death
The theme of the dream can incorporate anxious emotions such as the example below, or any aspect of experience. One woman, an epileptic, reports a dream that is the same in every detail and occurs every night.
In general dreams recur because there are ways the dreamer habitually responds to their internal or external world. Because their attitude or response is unchanging, the dream that reflects it remains the same. It is noticeable in those who explore their dreams using such techniques as described under Practical Ways of Understanding Dreams – processing dreams, that recurring themes disappear or change because the attitudes or habitual anxieties that gave rise to them have been met or transformed.
Also we often dream about the same place again and again. It is because we each have an inner life that is real in its own way. We built and revisit such places again and again because we learnt or experienced something connected with it, and so gradually add to it or need to revisit it. See Inner World
People often dream about a place they knew over a period of years, like a school, college, the house they grew up in or experience things that are marked in their memory. They have recurring dreams about these places because we are all largely created as a personality by the things we experience and remember. It is out of such memories that our dreams are created, and the recur because they have contributed to things we face in the present, for from them we develop attitudes, skills or even negative feelings, all that influence us.
Sometimes people are puzzled by dreams about a country they lived in during their youth and now have lived in a totally different country and environment. In our youth or in the past we have absorbed so much and experienced so much that laid the foundations of our responses and behaviour, so dreams use the place again because there are problems from the past we need to review, or simply because we are always upgrading the past from present experience.
Example: ‘This dream has recurred over 30 years. There is a railway station, remote in a rural area, a central waiting room with platform going round all sides. On the platform mill hundreds of people, all men I think. They are all ragged, thin, dirty and unshaven. I know I am among them. I looked up at the mountainside and there is a guard watching us. He is cruel looking, oriental in green fatigues. On his peaked cap is a red star. He carries a machine gun. Then I looked at the men around me and I realise they are all me. Each one has my face. I am looking at myself. Then I feel fear and terror.’ Anon.
A recurring environment in a dream where the other factors change is not the same. We use the same words over and over in speech, yet each sentence may be different. The environment or character represents a particular aspect of oneself, but the different events that surround it show it in the changing process of our psychological growth and experience. Where there is no such change, as in the example above, it suggests an area of our mental emotional self is stuck in a habitual feeling state or response.
Some recurring dreams can be ‘stopped’ by simply receiving information about them. One woman dreamt the same dream from childhood. She was walking past railings in the town she lived in as a child. She always woke in dread and perspiration from this dream. At forty she told her sister about it. The response was, ‘Oh, that’s simple. Don’t you remember that when you were about four we were walking past those railings and we were set on by a bunch of boys? Then I said to them, ‘Don’t hurt us our mother’s dead!’ They left us alone, but you should have seen the look on your face.’ After realising the dread was connected with the loss of her mother, the dream never recurred. Another woman who repeatedly dreamt of being in a tight and frightening place, found the dream never returned after she had connected it to being in the womb.
Recurring dreams such as that of the railings, suggest that part of the process underlying dreams is a self regulatory homeostatic one. The dream process tries to present troublesome emotions or situations to the conscious mind of the dreamer to resolve the trauma or difficulty underlying the dream. An obvious example of this is seen in the recurring nightmare of a young woman who felt a piece of cloth touch her face, quoted under nightmares. See: nightmares; processing dreams.
But recurring dreams can arise because there is a need to learn something. Also the growth instinct is incredible powerful one and pushes us through growth, sometimes unwillingly. And if we resist it can cause recurring dreams. Here is an example
A young girl kept coming up to me and placing my hand upon her breast. She was just developing her breasts, and they felt so very beautiful.
Still asleep I asked myself what the dream meant, and saw that the young girl is the divine female that I long for. At present she can only relate to me as a young girl whose breasts I caress, due to the fact that my sexuality is still developing. In other words, I have not yet developed out of my sexual stage of growth. But if I simply allow this stage to go on being experienced, it develops into a new relationship with her. She herself develops or grows as I grow, and this suddenly threw a new light on all my sexual dreams in the past.
recurring body dreams When we have recurring body dreams it can point to a psychological problem, because the body is often used parts of the body to represent such problems. See Body – Parts of to find the psychological meanings.
Problems we have not resolved show up in our dreams first. If the mental problem is not dealt with it may then show as a physical difficulty.
recurring themes If there is an overall activity such as walking, looking, worrying, building something, or trying to escape. Define what the action or theme is and give it a name, such as ‘waiting’ – ‘searching’ – ‘following’.
Example: Feeling tired – exhausted – just lying drained of energy. I am conscious of people talking, saying I was ill. I thought I was just tired. Then asked what the matter was. I was told it was my heart, ‘dry and hard like a boiled egg’ they said. Found I couldn’t talk. Tried to write, wanted A. to know that I loved him, but the pen kept drying up. Finger and feet began to get cold. An icy coldness slowly spread all over my body. A liquid warmth was then all around me. I thought I was hemorrhaging. A needle was stuck in my left arm and my chest was being cut open – it didn’t hurt. There was a lot of activity. They said I had gone. I was trying desperately to let them know I was still there. Then I was in a bag and sliding off a table. The bag was tied above my head. Then from the confined darkness I was free. There was a brilliant light all around. I could still see the sack with a body still in it far behind me. I was incredibly happy and full of energy. Trish L.
Well, what do you make of the dream? What is suggested by Trish’s hard-boiled heart? What does it imply that Trish is ‘gone’ but still there?
There are several themes here that are worth noting. The first is the theme of tiredness. Then there is the theme surrounding her heart and the inability to express her feelings. Perhaps we can contain those two by saying it is about ‘emotional dryness’ or coldness. Then there is the theme of death/life, neatly packaged together. And something that we might miss is that overall an enormous change is going on. Trish changes from feeling exhausted and dying, to being ‘incredibly happy and full of energy’.
So if such themes recur often it suggests there is something needing attention because you are stuck somewhere. If you feel stuck in your life in some way see Stuck in Life
recurring nightmares Are those that happen again and again, weekly or even more frequently, and have the same basic plot. These are of course the same as ordinary nightmares. Their recurrence however is something to consider.
Dreams appear to present clear indications of what you are facing in your present life. They reveal past experience that through trauma may need to be met in order to live your life more satisfyingly or efficiently. There is neurological evidence that brain cells undergo a learning process during dreaming. In the area of personal growth, inquiry into dreams such as recurring nightmares shows them to be an attempt to bring to consciousness and release past traumas such as abandonment in childhood, involvement in war environments, or car accidents.
Hundreds of ex-soldiers suffer recurring nightmares about battle scenes. The dreams re-presented the original experience, often accompanied by the original body movements made to escape the horror being faced.
Example: ‘I dream night after night that a cat is gnawing at my throat’ Male from Landscapes of the Night, Coronet Books.
The dreamer had developing cancer of the throat. These physical illness dreams are not as common as the other classes of nightmare.
A young woman told me she had experienced a recurring nightmare of a piece of cloth touching her face. She would scream and scream and wake her family. One night her brother sat with her and made her meet those feelings depicted by the cloth. When she did so she realised it was her grandmother’s funeral shroud. She cried about the loss of her grandmother, felt her feelings about death, and was never troubled again by the nightmare. The techniques given in processing dreams and Being the Person or Thing will help in meeting such feelings.