What a Nightmare
For some reason, you forgot to wear pants and your underwear is showing. And if that’s not bad enough, you just realized that you might lose your job because you never took that last final back in college. Wait, you’re still in college and you have a final today, but you haven’t been to class since the second week. You were going to drop it but you forgot and now it’s too late. Even if you leave now, you still won’t make it in time for the test. And it’s freezing outside—you’ll be cold in just your underwear. This is a disaster.
That’s when you wake up.
Okay, maybe you haven’t had that exact dream, but chances are that you’ve had something like it when you’re naked, unprepared or otherwise in a devastatingly awkward situation.
“If we have been experiencing stress, our brain may dredge up an old scenario in which we felt stress and overlay that narrative over our current feeling of stress to try to make sense of it,” says Madison clinical social worker Amy Mosher-Garvey, who says she subscribes to a pseudo-Jungian/Freudian approach to dreams. “It’s not the content of the dream that’s important, but rather the feeling state underlying the content.”
While some of these dreams do seem prevalent, they aren’t exactly archetypal, says Dr. Kathryn Middleton, a Dean sleep specialist. Americans dream about tests and degrees because those are common cultural stressors here. “Those dreams are not that hard to figure out,” Middleton says. “We all went to school. We all had those kinds of stressful experiences.”
Jennifer Garrett is a Madison-based freelance writer. She blogs about wellness in Health Kick.