Sunday, October 1, 2023
October 1, 2023

Nobody Asked Me But: Top terrifying dreams for all of us

Okay. You’re about to write a final examination, but you can’t find the exam room. Or, you found the right room but realize that you studied all night for your history final and the exam in front of you is for algebra. Or, you’ve got the right room and the correct subject, but the exam date was yesterday.

You start to panic and break out in a cold sweat. You feel like you are about to pass out. Then you suddenly become aware of something. You don’t have an exam to write; you’ve been out of school for over 30 years. Letting out a gasp of relief, you realize it was all just a dream.

Dreaming yourself back in school and being completely unprepared is a particularly common recurring anxiety dream. Although these dreams occur most often in the first year or two after school is no longer in the picture, they can still pop up occasionally and haunt the pathetic dreamer for decades later.

Oneirology is the name given to the study of dreams and their interpretations. Even though many people deny that they dream, the truth is that everybody dreams. In fact, the average person spends about two hours each night dreaming, but most forget their dreams as soon as they awake. Dreams can come in many shapes and sizes but about 65 per cent are based on the awake experiences of the dreamer.

If you dream about a train about to enter a tunnel in the side of a mountain, you are probably having a sexual dream. If your dream has you stuck in the tube of an MRI body scanner, it’s most likely something else. Sigmund Freud, a psychology icon, thought that all dreams were sexual in nature and all symbols were phallic. He interpreted dreams as reflections of hidden anxieties. It’s hard to give Freud’s theories much credence these days. He probably would have interpreted a wet dish rag hanging off a sagging clothesline as a denial of adulterous cravings.

Dreams are generally separated into five classifications, although some dreams belong to more than one category. The first of these are recurring dreams. These are often caused by ongoing unresolved issues. The aforementioned “back in school” dream is an example of this type. Another is being stuck in the dish pit with the scorched pots and pans piling up faster than you can wash them. If this dream doesn’t resolve, it might be time to see a shrink. On the other hand, you might try clearing away the stack of dirty dishes covering every square inch of your kitchen counters.

Daydreams make up another grouping of dreams. These occur when you think you are awake but part of your brain has fallen asleep while other parts are functioning normally. There are some of us who spent all of our school lives in this state.

A third type of dream is a false awakening. Here you feel like you have woken up and are back to your normal consciousness, but instead you are still in your dream. These usually occur during REM sleep when your brain activity increases and your dreams are the most vivid. These kinds of dreams can be quite dangerous, especially if you feel that this would be a good time to go to the bathroom.

Another category of dreams is the lucid dream. This is when the dreamer realizes that it’s only a dream, but chooses to stay in the dream. A special kind of lucid dream is a directed dream where the dreamer tries to take control of the direction the dream is going. The Vancouver Canucks have won many a Stanley Cup in my directed lucid dreams.

Nightmares make up the last of the five categories of dreams. Everybody knows about nightmares and there are people who cannot fall asleep because of their fear of these kinds of terrifying dreams. The one that scares me the most is when I’m stuck in the dish pit of the Titanic after having studied for the wrong exam.

Some types of dreams are more likely to occur than others. According to a mattress advisory survey carried out by Amerisleep of over 1,200 American adults in 2022, there are five dreams that are the most common.

Number one in popularity, although second among women, is the kind that involves falling. According to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist famous for his archetype theories, falling dreams are compensatory for people who think too highly of themselves and secretly wish to be brought down. They are also common to depressed people who live with letdowns and disappointments. Our old pal Freud interprets falling dreams as symbolizing giving in to sexual temptations. Whatever, Sigmund.

The second most common dream, although first among women, is the feeling of being chased. This dream can be attributed to compensating for procrastination and avoiding confrontation in normal waking life. Freud misunderstood the concept and thought the dream was about being chaste.

Third in line for popularity is losing your teeth or having your teeth fall out. Although this dream can be caused by dental problems or psychological distress, it can point to communication problems such as blurting out things that should have been left unspoken. And no, don’t expect the tooth fairy to show up every time you have this dream.

Believe it or not, a full 23 per cent of U.S. adults have dreams about cheating or infidelity. The cheating may be done by you or your partner. The interpretation is that you feel that one of you is paying too much attention to someone or something other than you. It’s something you need to talk about, but both of you are too afraid that you’ll say the wrong thing and go back to having those dreams where you’re spitting out your Chiclets again.

Lastly among the top five is the dream about appearing naked in public. Twelve per cent of dreams fit in this category. Unless you are an exotic dancer or a sumo wrestler, there is probably some issue that has left you feeling exposed, vulnerable or embarrassed. What’s surprising about this dream is that although the dreamer feels anxious about being naked, nobody else in the dream seems to care. An interesting sidebar to this dream is that exotic dancers and sumo wrestlers have similar dreams about being fully clothed.

Nobody asked me, but your dreams and their interpretations can shine a beacon of understanding on your life issues. After all, dreaming is only a continuation of the stream of consciousness going on in your daily life.

Who knows where your next dream will take you? Hopefully there will be no falling teeth in it. With any luck, maybe you’ll be on that train heading for a tunnel.


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