Dear Claire,

I have read your article in the Vail Voice several times and wanted to reach out about the dreams I often have. I have reoccurring dreams almost nightly and have my whole life. Most of these are reoccurring nightmares. I also often have dreams that are a continuation of a previous dream, or dreams with the same people (who I don’t know) or the same location (where I have never been). There are a lot of crazy components to these dreams. Also, almost all of my dreams result in me being terrified, injured, and many times I die during these dreams.

Often, people can have what would be termed as a “signature” dream. It is their own personal and recurring dream or nightmare (just like their personal, written signature)–something which is theirs and only theirs. These “signature” dreams can be prompted by specific situations, experiences, and emotions–similar to a nerve being touched–and are usually triggered by events or feelings which seem similar in context or experience to significant and/or traumatizing events and feelings from the past.

For example, there was a very young woman who was in an emotionally abusive relationship which continually left her feeling extremely rejected and/or humiliated. Whenever she was subjected to this negative treatment, it always resulted in little to no sleep and nightmarish dreaming—and, unfortunately, these nightmares happened quite often. In addition, these bad dreams were often recurring ones—or contained recurring themes which reflected the rejection and humiliation being experienced in her waking world. When she finally took the necessary action to put an end to this unhealthy relationship, the bad dreams eventually stopped. However, even after moving on in life and having many, many years pass, any time a situation or individual caused her to have a similar feeling of being unwanted, rejected, or humiliated–even if it was to a much smaller degree–the same bad dream would recur. It is the belief of many dream experts that these negative, recurring dreams are created by the brain as a means of self-protection–a personal warning system designed to call attention to, or bring about an avoidance of the particular individual or situation which triggered it (or, at the very least, to create an awareness that could motivate the dreamer to work towards a solution for dealing with the situation or individual).

Constant emotional upset and trauma in our waking lives is, obviously, not mentally, emotionally, or physically healthy for us–and neglecting to confront and find a solution for chronically distressing situations or relationships can be seriously injurious to our mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result, nature gave our subconscious the important office of keeping us as mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy as possible–and it will send us strong messages, by way of our dreams, in order to force an awareness and facilitate and accomplish this mission. Sending the same dreams and painful dream themes whenever dreamers are found to be in a similar, potentially negative situation is merely the brain’s way of protecting us and prompting us to take action.                                 

As to this dreamer’s recurring death theme, it can have multiple meanings in a dream. However, a dream death rarely signifies an actual, physical death (although the brain could use this particular symbol as a warning of existing health conditions which threaten the life and physical wellness of the dreamer). For the most part, a dream death is usually a symbol for the death of something rather than someone–i.e. the death of a relationship, an enterprise, a personality, an identity, an emotion, and etc. The death of someone in a dream can also symbolize the dreamer’s fear for a person’s health or wellness—or a fear that a person will physically leave (as well as a symbol for someone who has actually left). Death can also symbolize the desire to punish or shun a person for betrayal or unconscionable behavior in the waking world–or can indicate a dreamer’s desire to eliminate certain personality traits or negative behaviors being displayed by that person. Without having more information, it would be difficult to say exactly why the above dreamer dies in his/her dreams.

However, the initial reaction to all of the negative themes described in the above dream situation would be wanting to know what type of situation the dreamer is living in–for example, is he/she in an environment that uplifts and supports? Or is it an atmosphere where he/she feels threatened, suppressed, and unable to be “true to self”? If the home environment is positive and supportive, could there be outside situations or people who are not allowing free and open expression—or who are terrifying or somehow injuring the dreamer? Furthermore, could the dreamer be imposing restrictions on him/herself which create these negative feelings–or could the dreamer have lost aspects of his/her life or identity which were once vitally important and which have left him/her feeling injured, lifeless, and afraid?

Any of these situations could be reflected in a symbolic dream death—and the above dream description definitely appears to be the subconscious mind’s way of instigating the change necessary to feel secure, stable, whole, and alive. However, if life is good–and none of the above applies in this dreamer’s life—then he/she might want to look in the physical realm. There could be some physical issue which is causing these recurring dreams and negative, recurring themes (for example, there are individuals who have the same nightmares every time they are sick or have to take a certain medication). And while many professionals may dismiss this theory, many others have proposed that nightmares and “night terrors” could be caused by allergies (food, drug, and otherwise) or digestive issues. For this reason, if nothing situational or interpersonal can be found to explain the recurring nightmares, it is best to seek thorough and expert medical opinions.

Dreams are fascinating and are not to be ignored. Therefore, as a last suggestion, always keep a log of these repeating dreams–noting what days and times of the day, as well as what conditions, people, foods, drinks, medications, and etc. were present during the period leading up to the dreams. This can often reveal a definite pattern as to when and why these dreams occur. 

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