The Value of Recurring Dreams (2024)

Baffled by a seven-year-long recurring dream that forever left him wondering what he didn't say, Joseph homed in on one recent example and discovered his dissatisfaction with a repeating pattern in his professional life. Bolstered by the analysis, Joseph resolved to change some of his behaviors and turn the pattern around.

The Dream

“I have a recurring dream in which I am surrounded by former coworkers and bosses,” Joseph told me. “They are all still in the role they had when I knew them, but I am in my today life. They’re doing their jobs, and I am just there, observing. Nothing of substance happens in the dream, and then I wake up.”

The Discussion

I inquired, "Has this dream recurred over a year? Two? When was the last time you had it? I would also ask how you feel in the dream.”

Joseph responded, "The dream always leaves me feeling like things are unsaid. To answer your first question, I had this dream last week, but I've had it intermittently over the last seven years. As my roles and coworkers have changed, they’ve been added to the dream."

I continued, "Please tell me a few things about the people in the dream. For example, when you worked with them, how did you feel?"

Joseph replied, "The people in this dream go back to my time in Oregon. I had to resign from that job and leave the same day, but I wrote goodbye letters to all of my leaders and two people who had had a significant impact on my career.

"It was hard for me to commit to saying goodbye properly, which is why I resigned and left the same day. I spent 15 years of my life and professional growth there."

Seeking a waking situation that triggered this dream, I asked, "Has something recent happened in which you feel things were left unsaid?"

Joseph answered with a question. "Could the trigger be a phone call with a former coworker who calls to complain about the people from that job?"

I smiled and encouraged him, "Please say more."

"This person and I had frustrating experiences, and we were both motivated to leave. He has allowed his motivation to fester. I’ve used mine to get to a better place, and I have strong relationships with the people from my former company.

“He calls me to complain about them and brag about how much they are struggling without him. I just let him vent.

"I guess I do have something left to say with this former coworker, but it's not worth the drama. This guy has an ego a mile wide. He doesn’t know that I am aware of some not-so-nice things he has said about me. He’s immature and seeks guidance from me, so I run with it and offer him the best advice I can.

"As far as leaving other things unsaid, I try to say what I need to say today because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I feel a strong desire to teach people and help them be better, so I write and publish daily."

I offered, "I’d like to suggest that this dream, in addition to evoking what you’ve left unsaid to others, might raise what you leave unsaid to yourself!

"In the current situation that triggered the dream, you say it’s ‘not worth the drama’ to express yourself. However, you continue to remain available for the complaints and boasts of someone who, besides being immature, speaks badly about you behind your back.

"I propose that you aren’t expressing an inner conversation about saying goodbye properly to those who don't offer what you feel you deserve. Your wish to teach people and help them be better can include how you treat yourself: Who you choose to spend your time with and what you feel you deserve. Do these ideas resonate with you?"

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Joseph responded, “This all resonates with me and on a deeper level as well. For the better part of a year, I have been wrestling internally with the fact that I was doing a lot of work for free.

“When I started to push back and inform people they would have to start paying, a lot of relationships ended abruptly.

“Your suggestion leads me to see this goes deeper than just leaving things unsaid. It connects me to my resentment of those who have taken my time for granted.

“Back in Oregon, where these recurring dreams began, was where I started feeling underpaid for the value I was bringing to the organization."

I continued Joseph’s thought. "So, this time, your dream was triggered when you helped a guy who doesn't deserve even a minute of your time. He's the perfect opportunity for you to try on saying 'goodbye.'

“As you practice stepping away from relationships in which your time and expertise aren’t valued, you can become more comfortable with this approach."

Joseph commented, "Next time I get a call from that guy, I'm going to decide to not be home!"

What We Can Learn

When a dream repeats itself over months or years, it becomes like a favorite expression to yourself. Life situations that leave you with the same recurring feeling are a perfect breeding ground for a recurring dream.

Repeating dreams grab your attention around a repeating interior conversation. When you analyze such a dream, you bring your concerns into the light of day, where you can discuss them and find solutions.

The Value of Recurring Dreams (2024)

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