Stress Dreams

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have stress dreams.

For many years, my stress dream was the same as everyone else’s. The typical one of showing up in a public place, usually in class, or at work, or at church, in my underwear or with even less on. And what’s interesting is that that dream is pretty common. Millions of people have that same dream.

Then it progressed to the stress dream of sitting down to take a test that I haven’t prepared for. Recently the dream has been amended to one where I have my PhD (which I do), but it’s been revealed that I haven’t passed my freshman math class from many years ago, and I have to take the test. Everything I have learned and earned since then is about to be taken away from me because of something I missed out on forty-five years ago.

Lately, I’ve been having a different stress dream. A week ago, I dreamed that I was trying to finish my work as an editor and was supposed to review a program by a local physician. I needed to get home, and was rushed and scanned hastily through the program, thinking it just needed to get rubber stamped. I wrote a letter approving it, and later the whole world was scandalized that I approved it. Last night, the variation on this was that I was on my way to get married and had to approve a letter. What I didn’t realize was that it needed proofreading, and I sent it on with all kinds of misspellings in it. Again, scandals and shame abounded.

Stress happens. Even when you’re retired. Well, I’m not officially retired until June 30, but for all intents and purposes I am. But even so, I still have responsibilities and obligations, and those things catch up with you.

The trick to understanding stress dreams–and dreams overall–is to go from the specific to the general. Showing up in a public place in your underwear is a fear of being embarrassed, of people seeing the private side of you. The test dream is a fear that your mistakes of the past will catch up to you. And I imagine the stress dreams I am having these days has to do with a conflict between my career life and my personal life.

I don’t have an answer for stress. If I did, I wouldn’t be stressed like I am. If you have one, please let me know. In the meantime, the only thing I can do is try to understand it.