Possible to nuke the most annoying dream?
November 3, 2017 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I woke up today after yet another episode of The Most Annoying Dream, wherein I have failed to either graduate high school or college because I don't have enough credits. After about ten years of this dream, I am tired of it. How do I get it to go away?

I did, in fact, have trouble graduating college and had to take two extra classes for a semester before graduating. Ten years ago. And that went just fine and I graduated, hooray for me.

Recently my dream self is at least partially aware that I have a job and a bachelor's degree, so am unsure that I really need to be taking these extra classes (that are so hard, and usually end up being math, and that I have stopped going to so I am doomed, and I am failing, even though I never got a B in math IN MY LIFE). Sometimes I do have a bachelor's degree but for some reason I'm taking high school classes.

Once in a blue moon, dream self gets the right idea and says "if I have a bachelors degree, then it doesn't matter if I go to these high school classes" or "it doesn't matter anymore if I have a degree and I have a good life." Somehow this never translates to this dream going away.

I know this dream is not uncommon, but I hate it and I'm tired of it. Have you ever succeeded in getting such a recurring dream to stop bugging you? I want to have about 10 years of happy graduation dreams to make up for this garbage dream.
posted by sacchan to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: you might find this radio lab episode helpful. a man has the same reoccurring nightmare and gets rid of it through lucid dreaming.
he asked himself throughout the day whether or not he's dreaming. if you do it frequently enough, you'll ask yourself this while dreaming and you'll be able to control the dream better.
posted by finally at 8:07 PM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I wake up from my version of this dream, I go pull out my diploma, the actual physical object in its folder. It's real and the dream is not, here's proof I conquered that anxiety, so go away. It puts a stop to the lingering dream-panic, and has decreased the frequency and intensity of recurrence for me.
posted by Princess Leopoldine Grassalkovich nee Esterhazy at 8:14 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you wake up at all, during/after the dream? If so, plan to flip over your pillow and think to yourself, "I'm so glad that dream is over now."
posted by unknowncommand at 8:52 PM on November 3, 2017

I have a version of this dream. I find it almost always occurs when I'm anxious about something (usually work-related) in real life. Once I've resolved that, the dream stops.

If you're someone who (like me) tends to not be super-aware of your own emotional state at times, this is useful. I find it a helpful clue that my anxiety is past a certain threshold level, and I should put more effort into dealing with it well during real life. It doesn't make the dream less objectively annoying, but it becomes annoying-but-useful in the same way that a fire alarm is useful. You shouldn't get rid of your fire alarm; instead you should look for smoke.
posted by forza at 8:55 PM on November 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

The last time it happened -- awhile ago -- dream self blew off the classes and told everybody that high school was stupid, grades were stupid, and told everyone to get bent. Maybe that made it go away, or maybe I'm guaranteeing myself another episode tonight.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:56 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I’ve had this dream, it’s been during stressful times in combination with imposter syndrome and a flare-up of the mostly low grade but relentless requirement to prove myself worthy as a woman in a male dominated work environment, again and again. Like for forza, it’s a sign I need to resolve something at work. (By the way, I like your version of the dream better. In mine, I do remember that I have several academic degrees, but they will become invalid because it turns out I did not finish that HS math class. Then, there’s also the unsuitable toilet dream, sigh. Both thankfully not happening often anymore. Less tea before bed and taking a hard look at current stressors to find out which are actually serious and which are manufactured helps.)
posted by meijusa at 10:11 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Without getting too deep into the details, I had a series of dreams a few years ago about a general topic (employment), that were mostly centered on a specific example of that topic (a previous job). It was no trouble at all to recognize that I was anxious about employment; I was conscious of employment anxiety before the dreams started. But the awareness didn't end the dreams, and the weird focus on that one particular job got annoying enough that it eventually drove me to therapy, because clearly I was trying to tell myself something and I couldn't figure out what.

So I'm in therapy for weeks, and then one day the therapist says that it sounds to her like (because of when and how it happened) the one particular job was sort of symbolic of my freedom and adulthood and ability to get my shit together. Which were all also things I had been concerned about at the time, but I'd been focusing on the surface content of the dreams because they were so obviously focused on employment, and I already knew I was anxious about employment, that I hadn't tried to read any more into the dreams than that because it was so obvious.

Anyway. So she says that, and the dreams stopped. Immediately. I don't think it was coincidence.

So. Maybe ask yourself if the dreams have symbolic details that you've been overlooking. Why is it math, rather than political science? Why are you taking high school classes, and not trying to meet a family or work obligation? Etc.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:23 PM on November 3, 2017

Best answer: I got rid of a pesky recurring dream where I encounter an ancient man petting a rat in an abandoned house by visualizing almost everything about the dream but changing it at the right moment.

So, in the original dream, I am lost and decide for some insane reason to climb a hill leading to obviously decrepit Nightmare House to ask for directions. I knock on the door, enter without an invitation, and then, like a Typical Horror Victim, climb the stairs and have the encounter with the ancient dude.

For my visualization, I get lost and climb the hill but decide not to enter the house when there is no answer to my knock. Instead I return to my car and drive down the street a ways until I see a lovely, well-kept home with children playing in the yard. I get out and go to their front door to ask for directions.

It really helped. For awhile I had variations on my visualization as a dream and then it just faded away. (I graduated to a recurring dream about being eaten by wolves, but that's another story.)
posted by xyzzy at 12:25 AM on November 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Do you dream in black&white or in color?

In your dream, there's a new kid at your high school, and you become friends, and he has a car that's this crazy beautiful color (you'll have to fill in the precise color yourself), and you and he go for rides after school and have a great time, riding around, talking, laughing, listening to tunes. His name is Winston, Winston Churchill. Your friend Winston has many cute sayings, and one of his favorites is "Success is stumbling from failure to failure with loss of enthusiasm".* There's a taco stand that y'all drive past sometimes on your afternoon cruisin', but have never stopped at. Perhaps one time, you'll stop there and check out the food, and the scene.

* In googling to get the quote right, I find that Churchill did not, in fact, say this. Dang! I'm not going to let facts stand in the way of a good quote.
posted by at at 7:12 AM on November 4, 2017

I have a sporadically reoccurring dream that's similar to this where I've been signed up to take (usually college) classes that for what ever reason I am unable to attend. I usually deal with it by being lucid enough to realize that it's OK, these are not classes that I need, I am fine without them.

The last time this dream happened I was able to recognize an IRL trigger for it: I had a couple of interactions with someone I used to be close to who has very strong, very narrow minded opinions about how adults, specifically women, should be living their lives. That helped me to see that I needed to better distance myself from this person, since they fundamentally did not get me, were not capable of being supportive of me, and could be subtly undermining. So sometimes these things can be useful in that they help alert us to something we need to address. Addressing the thing gets rid of the dream since it's served it's purpose.
posted by jazzbaby at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's the method I got told to resolve recurring dreams: when you wake up, make up a happy ending to the dream. In your case, wake up, realize you have a degree (as someone said, maybe put the diploma by your bed) and remind yourself of that. I used to have those dumbass dreams about going back to high school and wandering around the campus being perpetually late (why?) and I haven't had one in years!

Also, I can say from experience that PLENTY of people have the same situation you did back in the day about finishing your course work. I know of worse stories about people taking decades to graduate because they didn't notice they were short one unit or didn't bother to fill out the paperwork at the time, crap like that. You're fine. You're typical, even.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:27 AM on November 4, 2017

Last time I had this goddamn dream I was racing to this seminar that I was fifteen minutes late to and suddenly realized that I was barefoot. So then I was making all these plans, like, "maybe I can groove on in and sit indian style in my seat and pretend I did it on purpose" like, what, it's 1968? I realized in the dream that it would never fly because I'm an "over traditional age" student, and I'd just look like a crazed old bat. Next time I'll come up with a happy ending. Like the class change will happen and all these students will pour out and stare at my feet and tell me my pedicure is incredible and ask where I got it and I'll gaze off modestly and admit I did it myself.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:17 PM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a lucid dreamer. Most times, if I find myself in a bad dream, I can empower myself within the dream, take it in another direction entirely, or start up a new one with a favorite theme. I still have recurring nightmares, but they aren't frequent, and they don't have nearly as much impact when I catch and turn them. I come by it naturally, but I've read that people can train themselves to it.

Back in the heyday of the U.S. "duck and cover" drills and terror of nuclear war, when the neighbors were building bigger and safer shelters and her family had none, my mom developed a recurring nightmare that she was hiding from soldiers who always found her. When she got married and moved into a trailer with a counter that lifted off, she thought, "that would be a great place to hide if somebody broke into the house." Next time she had that dream, she dreamed she hid under the counter. The soldiers never found her, and the dream never came back.
posted by moira at 8:58 PM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

(Wanted to add - the nightmares started when she was a little girl.)
posted by moira at 9:05 PM on November 4, 2017

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