Why You Have Stressful Dreams About School (Even During the Summer) and What They Mean
It's something we've experienced more often than we'd like to admit, so we reached out to a dream expert to find out. Lauri Loewenberg is a certified dream analyst and the author of Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, and she was able to tell us exactly what our school dreams mean, and how to use that information to improve our lives.
Sweety High: Why should we listen to our dreams, and what can they tell us?
Lauri Loewenberg: It's important to pay attention to your dreams because they're a thinking process. When you're dreaming, you're thinking, except you're thinking in a different language. Instead of thinking in words, like you do during the day, you're thinking in symbols and emotions and metaphors.
When you dream, you're thinking about your day and about your current issues, failures, goals and hopes. Everything you dream about is going to be something that you need to correct or work toward. Our dreams show us what's really going on in our lives. They show us our issues in a brutally honest manner so we can get better at every aspect of life. When you pay attention to your dreams and understand them, you are on the path to living your best life and being the person you're meant to be.
SH: Why do people dream so much about school, even in the summer or once they've graduated?
LL: The funny thing about school dreams is that you're going to keep getting them for the rest of your life. If you get them when you're still in school, particularly while you're on summer break or other time off, the main thing you want to look at is the particular stress you're feeling in the dream. Our dreams use school settings and situations to comment on different areas of our life because school is such a big part of it.
SH: What are some of the most common school-related stress dreams, and what do they mean?
LL: If you get the one where you're naked in class, it's likely that you're concerned about everyone looking at you and really seeing every aspect of you. You think a lot about how people see you, and what they might be saying about you. It's a very self-image driven dream. But the thing is that if you pay close attention to the dream, you'll probably notice that you're the only one freaking out. No one else in the dream notices or cares that you're naked.
Your subconscious is trying to show you that, whatever you're stressing out about in real life, you're the only one giving it any thought. No one else cares, so it's time to let it go. We're our own worst enemies and our own worst critics, and we have to learn to get over that.
The next most common school dream is that you're running late for class. When you're in school, this makes sense, since you always have deadlines with projects or homework, but if you're getting this when you're not currently in school, ask yourself what's going on right now where you feel like you might be missing out on something.
Is there a social gathering or a party you really want to be able to go to but don't think you'll be able to make? Maybe you're in a band or have another activity you're working on and you're having stress over not being able to complete it in time. Maybe you're trying to get into some social or sports club and you're worried that you won't be able to get in. You're worried about not being included, so that's something you need to address.
Another common dream is that you can't find your classroom or your locker. If you're getting this during the school year, it can be connected to a sense that you don't feel you're fitting in. Your locker and your class represent where you're supposed to be. That's your place in school—your real estate. To the dreaming mind, that may represent that you don't feel you belong somewhere. Maybe you're not fitting in with your friends anymore, or don't feel that you're generally fitting in and that you're uncomfortable in school or some other social group.
If you get this dream even when school isn't in session, it can represent that you don't feel you're getting where you're supposed to be, whether that's in life or your career. You may also dream that you can't remember your locker combination. I still get that one, and I graduated decades ago. But not getting the combination right is a play on words. You don't feel like you have the right combination to accomplish something important in your life.
SH: What are your recommendations for people who experience a lot of stressful dreams?
LL: You don't want to avoid upsetting dreams. You want to embrace them and explore them, examine them and figure them out, so you can get the message and make a correction in your life. The more upsetting the dream, the more important the message.
There are two big secrets to figuring out your dreams. One is to look at what happened the day before your dream. Let's say you had a really upsetting dream last night. Look at what disturbed you in the dream, then look at yesterday's biggest stresses. Something that happened that day caused that dream. Look for the things that feel the same, whether it's being held to a tight deadline, or being scrutinized, to find out the problem and how to address it.
Another way to figure it out is to ask yourself what the biggest issue is right now in your life. What is your biggest struggle? What's the hardest thing going on? Odds are, that's what the dream is trying to help you with, so listen to it.
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