Recurring dreams
I've been trying to think of all the patters of recurrent dreams I have over the years.  By recurring, I mean that I revisit the same topic or themes.  I have never had the same dream over again in the exact same form.  Here are the subjects that have come up more than once, though at least some of these are no longer recurring.



Mystery

The woods.  I occasionally dream about being back in the country, which was where I grew up.  However, but it is always very different than the way I remember it.  In particular, there is almost always a huge mystery in the woods like the way the Pet Semetary was in the movie of the same name.  A lot of the time this is something supernatural with very much of a Blair Witch feel to it.  The dreams also involve discovering secret, hidden trails that only a few people know about.

Much of this comes from the fact that I moved to a rural area from the suburbs.  When you live in a subdivision, pretty much everywhere you go is urbanized.  Behind that house over there is another street full of houses, and beyond them, more houses, and so on.  There is no mystery about the setting itself.  There were woods at the end of the street I grew up on, but you didn't have to go back in them very far before you were on another street.  I assumed that was the way the whole world was set up.

However, when I moved to the country, the woods were absolutely endless and full of surprises.  There were snakes and bee hives, old abandoned shacks rusting and rotting away and overgrown behind acres and acres of woods, all completely forgotten for decades.  Streams ran for miles and sometimes opened into what seemed like great gorges to us.  We found barns that were practically ancient that we could climb around in, and there were places where the trees grew in such a way that it seemed like there was a cave running straight through the woods.  You cannot begin to imagine the effect this had on a 12 year-old's mind after a childhood in the relatively stagnant environs of suburbia.

End of the world/last man on earth scenario.  This dream is always different, but it always has a set-up like Stephen King's The Stand or the Charlton Heston movie Omega Man.  Most of the population has left the earth and there are only a handful of people left.  Where everyone went varies: killed by a virus, wiped out in the war (although nothing is visibly damaged), taken by aliens, whatever; I don't even know most of the time or even bother to question it.  Rather than there being a big adventure story, everything is very calm and peaceful.  I don't know where this comes from.

Tunnels. This is a case where I found something in real life that was really amazing and mysterious.  It was always an adventure to find new tunnels and to be one of the only people to have been through them while the rest of the world walked obliviously over them.  When I was in college, I started friends exploring the drainage systems under and around the campus.  Later, my roommate and I started exploring still other places.  Before long we were finding our way into buildings through access points from boiler rooms into basements.  We found places where we could access rooftops on a number of buildings. It was a whole secret world.

There was a break for a while after college, then my partner and I got into urban exploration heavily for about five years.  In almost every one of these dreams, the tunnel leads somewhere amazing, as though it is a passage more than just a means of drainage.  They almost always end up leading into complete industrial complexes, like secret hide-outs from old James Bond movies.  Of course, we (whoever that is in a given dream) are spotted and have to make our way back in a hurry.  The feeling is very intense and the imagery is very vivid in all of these.  If you could climb inside my head for one of these, you would probably understand my drive to always explore.  I dream about abandoned places too, but the tunnels feature more often.

There's a murder.  I've had several dreams in which I'm somehow connected to a murder.  I didn't actually commit it, usually only finding the body after the fact, and I didn't even know the victim especially closely.  However, somehow there is a good chance that I'll end up taking the blame for the killing.  This dream has only happened a handful of times, but one of them was among the most intense dreams I've ever had.


Relationships

Restored relationships.  These are ways of dealing with unresolved conflicts or outright disappearances.  For example, bad bosses, friends who moved away, deaths, etc.  Some specific examples include an ex-girlfriend who I had a falling-out with turned up in a dream once.  I remember realizing that we were hanging out together and wondering, "Oh, I guess we're just friends now."  Interestingly, I dreamt about my ex-wife in the months after we split up, but by the time we got a divorce, I almost never dreamed about her.  I think she only showed up twice in the last ten years, and one of those was prompted by finding a home video she had made that was among my dad's things.  Another example was that at least a couple times I remember teaching at the same school as the administrator I used to work for.  She was a terrible person and a big factor in why I quit.  I am always confused in the dream why I am in the same building as she is.

Finding my soulmate/the "perfect" woman.  I occasionally dream that I meet a woman who is absolutely perfect and I fall in love with her immediately.  Maybe I just have an overdeveloped sense of romanticism.  It isn't just sexual or something superficial.  I immediately know that we are meant to be together forever.  The plot in these dreams is always incidental.  I just meet this girl and we are together from then on.  It's almost completely about a feeling and that's all.  The girl is never the same from one dream to the next, but she has some common features: She is small in a number of ways.  She is 2 or 3 years younger that I, and would be described as "petite."  She is thin with small breasts and limbs.  She isn't muscular or especially athletic.  She has an overall "plain" appearance, no make-up, etc.  A lot of the time she is wearing small, wire-frame glasses.  She's usually someone I would actually be attracted to in reality, only a little shorter.

Missed encounters.  This is the lusty version of the above.  Instead of falling in love (and having it immediately requited), I frequently meet women in dream and then want to have sex with them (or vice versa), but it doesn't lead to anything.


Pop culture

Shopping.  This actually falls into two occasionally overlapping categories:
Hanging out with a celebrity.  This is another strange one.  I don't particularly idolize celebrities in that I don't hang posters of them everywhere or keep up with their personal lives.  However, I probably spend a lot of time thinking about how their talent and style developed as it did.  Perhaps as a result of that, I end up dreaming that I am at a particular celebrity's house and just talking with them.  This has happened with Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Trent Reznor (NIN), John Pertweed (who played the 3rd Dr. Who when I was a kid), Frank Herbert (author of Dune and loads of other books I read growing up), and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.  These celebrities are always very accessible in terms of conversation and willingness to go along with whatever I want to do, although generally I just follow them around in their daily lives.

For example, the Clapton dream stands out because it was so strange.  I dreamt that he had a 3 bedroom house in the 'burbs, a wife and 2 or 3 small children.  He had a few guitars strewn about the place, and he was walking around in his boxers and a t-shirt.  I just came over to have him show me a few guitar licks.  He was really sleepy looking and just sat down and played little bits of guitar for me.  The reality is that he has 100+ guitars, only just recently had a new baby (I think he has a few older kids), and has at least one mansion in England and (at least until his son's death) a highrise condo.

Some of the dreams are more mundane, but others are pretty wild.  The one with Trent Reznor had us living in a great big complex (again, a la James Bond) underneath a graveyard (duh, it's Trent we're talking about).  We were "roommates" and this was nothing out of the ordinary for us.  For fun, we ran around and did Fight Club style pranks in parts of the city surrounding our secret hideout.

I also dreamt that I helped Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) organize and play in a huge concert.  I think this was after his Berlin concert in 1990, so that would explain this, but this concert was even bigger, if such a thing was possible.  The stage itself was larger than most entire concert halls.  There were marching bands and things like that, people were in giant carnival costumes like it was Rio or something.  It was insane.  But no one showed up.

Star Wars sequels.  This goes all the way back to the late '70s.  In many cases these sequels are impossible (i.e., contradict the events of the films) or at least don't make much sense, but they're always immediately recognizable as coming from the Star Wars universe.  They always feature characters and the styles from the film in terms of spaceships, techno interiors (e.g., inside a Death Star or on the bridge of a star destroyer), or on alien planets.

Rocky Horror.  For me, this movie was a major rite of passage because, the first time I saw it at midnight, I was a senior in high school.  Whereas most people can see a movie just a few miles from home, the theater showing Rocky Horror was quite a ways away for us rural kids.  The first few times we saw it, we went to a party at another friend's place who lived about 15 miles away, then, around 11pm, we all hopped on the Causeway and went to Metarie (another 30 miles away).  Since the movie didn't let out until close to 2am, I didn't get home until as late as 4 in the morning. This was a huge deal because my folks were fairly protective of me. Also, arranging the party and getting everyone ready to go (since we were car pooling first to the party and then to the movie, and then the reverse of all that) was a major undertaking.

As a result of that collective experience, I've had innumerable variations on the typical anxiety dream of seeing the movie. Even though that was 12 years ago (as of this writing; 22 years ago as of this update/revision), I still occasionally dream that I try to get to the movie but can't make it on time or that I get there and it's the wrong show.  Sometimes the movie is completely unrelated to Rocky Horror, sometimes it's a '50s sci-fi and/or horror movie, sometimes it's a Rocky Horror sequel, and so on.  Some of these are incredibly interesting dreams in that they produce very involved plots and visuals that my conscious mind would never have generated on its own.  That's true for a lot of my other dreams too, in fact.


College

Dorms.  A lot of my dreams involve me living in dorms as though they were apartments; the rooms are always much larger and actually have multiple living areas.  The architecture is also much more complex, but that ties into the Themes section below. 

Missed classes.  A common anxiety dream has me somehow forgetting to go to class all semester.  In the dreams I almost always show up for a final I'm not prepared for, but it isn't just that I don't know the material; I wasn't even around to take the class.  This doesn't make much sense since one might reasonably forget to go to a class on a given day, but not for several months!  And yet I somehow remember the class only at the end of the semester and try to play catch-up just before the final (No mention in the dreams how I could still pass if I missed previous exams, which I almost certainly must have!).  Late addition: I recently found an entry in a journal I kept in grad school in which I mentioned these dreams, so this phenomenon dates back to even when I was still in college!


IN MOTION

Hang gliding.  Ever since Dani and I took hang gliding lessons, I've always wanted to get back to doing it on a regular basis.  The fact that it's an "unresolved relationship" (i.e., no closure; it's a project I just haven't gotten back around to) means it keeps turning up in my dreams.  In them, hang gliding is the easist and most natural thing in the world.  There are no limitations or natural restrictions either.  I can launch just standing in a field.  It takes absolutely nothing to get off the ground or to stay in the air.  Landings are very easy as well; you can descend without having to slow, then land on a dime.  The glider is almost weightless, so you can just walk away with it or have it fold up like an umbrella.  It's an impossibly idealized version of hang gliding that is actually more like flight without a glider.

Traveling.  There's no common elements or direction to my "traveling" dreams; it's just that I'm going somewhere.  I'm on the move.  Usually I'm in a town between where I'm moving from and where I'm going.  It isn't just a vacation either; I'm moving someplace permanently and all at once.  There's no moving van; I'm on a bike or more likely in a car.  Nothing is familiar, and it isn't even someplace where I would like to move like, say, California or anywhere in Europe.


Themes

Rather than recurring dreams, these are overriding characteristics of all my dreams.

Identity

Architecture

Bonus: Tips for good dreams

Two-part recipe:

1) Get lots of sleep.  The longer I sleep, the more dreams I have and the more intense they are.  It helps if I'm really tired when I go to bed since that ensures I'll need more sleep, obviously.

2) Wake up slowly/naturally.  If I'm woken abruptly by either an alarm or screaming kids, that's my first concern.  However, if I get to gradually come back to consciousness, I'll arrive with all my dreams popping into my mind.  I may even wake in the middle of one.




Copyright Alexplorer.
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