6 Common Recurring Dreams & What They Means

If you find yourself having the same dream more than once, you’re not alone because recurring dreams are common – and often, they bring with them important messages from our subconscious minds.

However, understanding why we have these sometimes distressing or unnerving dreams can be a challenge – so in this post, we talk about recurring dreams meaning to help you make sense of what you keep seeing.

What are recurring dreams?

Recurring dreams are those we seem to have over and over. They might involve us experiencing almost exactly the same dream many times, or they might show up as variations on the same theme.

And one thing we know about them is that they are very common.

It’s estimated that around 60-75% of adult Americans sometimes experience recurring dreams, and in addition, around 77% of these dreams are reported to be negative in nature.

It’s also thought that recurring dreams are more common in children – according to one study, around 35% of 11-year-olds reported having a recurring dream in the last year, with this figure falling to just 15% in 15-year-olds.

Interestingly, it seems that recurring dreams of a sexual nature are on the rise – although this could also be due to the fact that people feel more comfortable reporting such experiences nowadays than they did in the past.

But the thing is, since science hasn’t established what dreams are or why we have them, nobody really knows why many of us have recurring dreams either.

Some theories

Although nobody can definitively prove the purpose of recurring dreams, there are some theories.

Most research has found that recurring dreams seem to be more common in those with mental health-related issues such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression and past trauma.

Indeed, people diagnosed as suffering from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or general anxiety disorder (GAD) are known to experience more recurring dreams than people unaffected by such conditions.

Evidence such as this has led some researchers to suggest that recurring dreams may play a role in dealing with unprocessed emotions or troublesome feelings that need to be resolved.

This is supported by the fact that many recurring dreams feature negative emotions such as helplessness, sadness, vulnerability, fear, anger or guilt.

As a result, if you find yourself experiencing recurring dreams, it could be an indication that unresolved issues in your subconscious mind are spilling over into your dreams.

Furthermore, since the dreams keep repeating, it’s an indication that whatever is bothering you is something important that needs to be dealt with rather than just ignored.

The continuum theory

One interesting theory about recurring dreams proposed by William Domhoff, an American researcher and psychologist, suggests that there is a kind of continuum of recurring dreams.

At one end is the type of recurring dream that mirrors events we experienced in real life. Essentially, in this kind of dream, we find ourselves endlessly repeating often traumatic events we lived through as a kind of nightmare.

This type of recurring dream is common in sufferers of PTSD – indeed, it is considered a symptom of PTSD – and is closely associated with having experienced a traumatic event.

Domhoff then suggests that the next type of dream is those where we experience the same events – but the meaning is more metaphorical since the events in the dream are unrelated to anything we have experienced in real life.

After this come dreams that are different but have a recurring theme – something like being chased, for example. And finally come dreams with a recurring feature like a particular place, person or action.

According to the theory, as you move down the continuum from the first type to the last, it represents you coming to terms with the trauma, stress or anxiety that is causing the dreams – and eventually, when you are fully healed, the dreams will stop.

Of course, this is just a theory, but it’s one suggestion for the mechanism our minds use to process our negative emotions through our dreams.

Some common recurring dreams

Another fascinating aspect of recurring dreams is that there are a number of extremely common ones that many people will be able to relate to. Here are some of the best-known:

  • Falling
  • Flying
  • Teeth falling out
  • Being naked in public
  • Being unprepared for an exam
  • Being unable to speak

According to some dream experts of the past – most notably Freud – the images we see in our dreams have certain universal meanings.

However, nowadays, it’s more commonly thought that the interpretations of our dreams depend just as much on the dreamer – so, for example, the meaning of a car crash dream could have a considerably different meaning for one dreamer compared to the next.

This means to correctly interpret your recurring dream, you need to identify the underlying issues that caused you to have this dream.

That said, let’s have a look at some of the most common recurring dreams to see what they might mean.

  1. Falling

A dream about falling can mean many things. First, it can tell you that you feel vulnerable or that you feel you are losing control of a certain aspect of your life.

Alternatively, it can be about a new start, fear of the future or even something much more positive like freedom and independence.

  1. Flying

Like falling dreams, flying dreams can represent many things, including independence, a need to escape or a desire to be unique or special.

They can also represent achieving your goals or the mastery of a new skill.

However, dreams about not being able to fly well can also be about the anxiety you feel about not being able to master a new skill or not being able to do something as well as you should.

  1. Teeth falling out

A dream about teeth falling out is usually interpreted as being related to a loss of control. Another possibility is that it is about a loss of identity or a loss of power.

  1. Being naked in public

Another very common recurring dream that many people experience is one of being naked in public.

This can often be interpreted as expressing a lack of confidence. However, if you dream you are naked in public but aren’t shy or embarrassed, it could mean the opposite – that you are confident and happy in your skin.

  1. Being unprepared for an exam

Another common dream, this one could tell you that an event is coming that you are not ready to face.

For example, you might have an important job interview or perhaps you are about to move to a new area.

Events such as these can cause emotional distress, but often, this is because we try to suppress our emotions rather than facing them directly. However, if we face our anxieties and work through them rationally, it can help us accept what we are afraid of.

  1. Being unable to speak

This dream can have many meanings, but it’s most often related to the feeling that people aren’t listening to us.

A group you are part of could be about to take a big decision – perhaps at work or maybe in your family life – and you feel that your voice isn’t being heard.

Alternatively, perhaps you have something important to say, but you are afraid to speak up or can’t put it into words.

Dealing with recurring dreams

These are just some of the most common recurring dreams, but others include being back in a previous home, being chased, being attacked or being in a car crash.

However, there are many others that could be added to this list, and many people also experience recurring dreams that are unique to them.

The most important thing, though, is how you deal with these dreams.

If you experience recurring dreams, especially negative ones, it should be taken as a strong message from your subconscious mind that something isn’t right.

Although above, we gave a few examples of how to interpret some common recurring dreams, what’s more important is that you work through what the recurring dreams mean to you.

This is because while having a dream once is an indication that your subconscious mind is trying to tell you something, having the same dream many times tells you that the message is urgent and that you haven’t yet dealt with the underlying issues.

Consequently, you should spend time in deep thought, meditation and self-exploration to try to identify what the dream means to you and why you are having it.

Then, when you find the source of your anxiety, anguish, stress or other negative emotions, you can try to find the healthiest ways to process the emotions behind the dream.

At the same time, if you think you might be suffering from a more serious condition such as PTSD, GAD or clinical depression, you should also consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

Important to understand recurring dreams

Recurring dreams often represent important subconscious thoughts, and it’s critical to try to understand them, especially if they are negative, unpleasant or distressing.

The first step is to apply what you dreamed about to your current life situation and the challenges you have been facing recently – and then, by following your intuition, you will be guided to the true meaning of these dreams.

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