I did a radio interview last week that focused on the coaching I do to help people achieve their dreams. After we finished recording, the host and I had a conversation that started out about dreams and goals, then progressed to the subject of nighttime dreams, and finally to recurring nightmares. Like when you’re running away from something and you keep falling down, or you’re making an emergency phone call and you keep misdialing.

I mentioned that when I have upcoming speaking events, I often dream that I’ve lost all my notes. Or I forget what I’m supposed to be speaking about, just as I’m being introduced. He said that for radio announcers, a recurring nightmare is of “dead air” – not being able to break the on-air silence from a technology failure or other reason.

I decided to ask others about recurring nightmares relating to their jobs or other aspects of their lives, and I got a flood of responses – from the driver’s ed instructor who dreams about spinning around multiple times after being hit by a truck, to the experienced traveler and travel blogger who dreams about having her suitcase fall apart, or being on the wrong side of the tracks as her train is about to leave.

What I found fascinating – in addition to the dreams themselves – were the insights, observations, and responses people had regarding them. A woman who dreamed about still being married to her ex-husband believed that her subconscious mind was actually affirming her decision to leave him. A speaker who dreamed that she forgot to bring the iPad on which all her notes were stored for an upcoming out-of-state speaking engagement decided on waking up to print out her notes for the program, just in case.

The most profound – and reassuring – example came from a teacher who had a recurring and common nightmare about not being able to find the classroom she’s supposed to be in. Or missing several weeks because she didn’t know she was supposed to be teaching the class. In real life, she recognized these as performance-fear dreams.

This “nightmare” actually happened to her once in real life, when extenuating circumstances caused her to forget a one-time community-event class she was supposed to teach. As soon as she realized it, she called her contact person, apologizing profusely and offering to more than make up for it at a later date. It all ended well, and the most interesting part of the story is that after this happened, she never again had a dream about forgetting a class. She figures that once she realized she could respond appropriately if the worst-case scenario ever happened, she no longer needed to fear it. Or have nightmares about it.

And maybe that’s the secret. If we asked ourselves, “What’s the worst that could happen?” in the face of our fears – and nightmares – we’d probably realize we have more control over the situation than we thought. If we plan and prepare for the worst, we can rest easy, knowing we can most likely handle whatever comes up along the way.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February26, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

Do you have any recurring nightmares related to your occupation or another specific aspect of your life? I’d love to hear about them, and about any insights or observations you have regarding them. Please be aware, though, that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog, in order to protect all of us from unwanted spam.