Monday, May 6

My Reoccurring Nightmare--What Does it Mean?

Over the past six or so months, I’ve had this dream. It’s more of a nightmare really. In it, there are no terrifying monsters, or evil bad guys, or end-of-the-world scenarios. No, no. I’m sad to say it’s far worse than that. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My dream begins with me in high school or university (it seems to be interchangeable in my subconscious). I’m a good student with very high grades. Everything seems great, until I suddenly realize I’ve missed class for several weeks, or I’ve failed to do a huge assignment. The consequences are never small or insignificant.

In these dreams, I’m forced to drop a class, fail an entire semester, or sometimes I’m even kicked out of university. The panic becomes so real that I actually wake up on the verge of tears. It’ll take me several minutes to calm down enough to realize that it was just a nightmare. I was a top student in both high school and university. I didn’t fail or drop out of either. Everything’s okay. And yet, the panic remains long after the dream ends.

The funny thing is, when I was in school I never had these nightmares. Not once.  So why now? What’s changed? What is my subconscious trying to tell me?

After having the dream on Saturday night, I really stopped to ponder these questions. I’ve always been worried about letting people down. I can’t fail—I simply can’t. If you knew my family, you’d understand why.* You can never do anything correctly. It’s a never-ending cycle of negativity. I’m sad to say I’ve based a lot of my decisions on how to prove to those people that I can succeed at anything I set my mind to. While the concept is fine, I know I put too much pressure on myself.  I’ve been called a workaholic before, and I suppose in some ways it’s true. I do know how to relax and do nothing, but when I do get up to get stuff done I power through my list like there’s no tomorrow.

To me, I think the nightmares represent my fear of failure. Right now I’m focusing on my marriage (which has been wonderful so far), my new health regime, and my writing. The last two fell to the wayside when I was finishing up school, so I’m really trying to work on those. It’s a lot of pressure, but I’m not sure how else to accomplish things. I have learned new tricks to slow down and take my time with things, but I fear I'll always be a bit of a workaholic that way.

Do you guys ever have nightmares like this? What do you think they mean? If you don’t agree with what I said, or if you think my nightmare might mean something else, feel free to share! I’d love to hear from you!

*This is my extended family, not my parents or my husband’s family. They’re both supportive.
*Picture is The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli


  1. I think you hit it, Nat. You're dreaming about your fear of failure. And your brain is using a big accomplishment to do that. Sorry you've had six months worth of it. I'm guessing it started after you moved to VA and once you started to settle in. That might be part of it, too. You're settling in, relaxing - and probably for the first time in years, you're not working toward something big like graduating high school or getting your degree. As crazy as it sounds, your subconscious might be freaking out because it's never been without all that pressure before. A fear of failing at being more relaxed perhaps?? :shrug: Just throwing ideas out there because I'm a firm believer that once you figure out what's causing the dreams, they usually stop. Good luck. :hugs:

  2. B.E. gives good advice!

    Interesting - I've had that dream before, too, Natalie! But my usual reoccurring nightmare is teaching and the kids never listening to me, never having any control (and, yes, I know exactly why I keep having that dream, but it never goes away :( The sad thing is I've not taught in over 7 years AND never plan to go back to teaching!

    Dreams/nightmares are indeed puzzlers!

  3. Beth- Yep, that's exactly when it started. I agree completely. I'm very busy and I'm accomplishing a lot, but the end goal is fuzzy, whereas in university it was very clear.

    I guess I'm feeling a bit adrift, so I'm placing a high level of importance (read: stress), on things like writing. Unfortunately, many aspects of publishing are completely out of my control, so it makes it difficult to actually have a goal in mind. Unlike university, where I could say, "Once I'm done this class, only three more to go and then I'll graduate!" With writing, it's more like, "Okay, after I'm done this novel it could be The One, or I might have twelve more to go before an agent wants to sign me--if they ever do."

    My mum has said recently that I need to have as much confidence in my writing as I did in university. After all, it wasn't a guarantee that I would pass all of my classes. In my mind, however, there was never any doubt. I would pass and get my degree. Perhaps I need to look at it that way? Who knows!

  4. Janet- Yes she does! When I lived on campus I would send her nearly daily emails venting about such and such, lol. She made university easier for me ;)

    Hmmm, interesting. I've always found dreams fascinating. I'm not one to put complete stock in them (after all, we're writers and we dream up some crazy shit), but when they keep happening it's hard to miss.

  5. Oooh, yes. I've had dreams like that or just days like that where I felt like I'd missed or forgotten something hugely important and everything is WRONG! Let me know if you figure out what causes it. Because right now I just attribute it to PMS.

  6. Katie- Yes! Exactly. It's very disruptive to productivity. LMAO! It could be PMS, who knows. I think writers might face this issue more than others, since our brains are constantly looking for new story ideas. I think it would be interesting if someone did a story about dreams. *shrugs*

  7. Well said, B.E. I agree completely.

    Nat, I understand why you place a high level of importance on writing. I do too, for similar reasons. We want to be successful. We want people to appreciate and respect us and our hard work. It's difficult to relax and not stress over our paths to publishing, because so many aspects of it are out of our hands. So what's a girl to do?

    Focus on the only thing you can control right now: writing the best book you can write. Your mum is correct when she says you need to have more confidence in your writing. You are extremely talented!!! You will be published one day, I have no doubt.

    Be proud of your accomplishments. Be ready for the countless adventures to come. Relax and enjoy the changes life brings. Work hard at what you love, and you'll find success.

  8. Jen- Yes, I think we're both very similar in that regard (and many others too lol).

    Yep, I agree completely. I think that's why it's my new mantra now: I will do everything in my power to make this book successful. The rest is up to Fate/Luck.

    Aww, thank you!! *beams*

    You're right. Thank you!! I don't tend to worry about it much during the day, but I guess my subconscious is pointing it out to me.

  9. I haven't read any other comments, BUT...I think the lack of school is throwing you off. You are so used to deadlines and studies that it's almost as if you don't know how to cope with not having those things pushing you forward. I think you'll stop having them soon. Once your new routine feels like normalcy. *shrugs*

  10. Tina- Yeah, I agree, and that's what everyone else said too. The only other thing I can think of doing is setting deadlines as if I was in school. I'm not sure how I can accomplish that, since I know that I'm really the one setting those goals, but we'll see ;)


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