Don't Try To Purge Your Stress Dreams

Photo: Oscar Keys

I don’t wish that I’d finished university. I dropped out one semester early, for exactly the kind of media job that I’d hoped to work toward after graduating. So why have I had the same dream for years, where I’ve gone back to school for one last semester, moved away from my wife and into a dorm, and I’m already late for class? And how do I stop having that dream? Apparently I can’t.

Science journalist and Why We Dream author Alice Robb tells The Cut that trying not to dream about something can make you more likely to dream about it. She points to a study where subjects who were told not to dream about something then dreamed about it.

Instead, Robb suggests dealing with whatever real-life factors might trigger the dream, such as confronting a co-worker who stresses you out, or patching things up with a former friend, or finally saying hi to the horse that chases you through your grandma’s house until your teeth fall out.

Sleep researcher Antonio Zadra gave us similar advice last year, suggesting you try to tweak your dream instead of eliminating it.

How To Stop Having That Awful Recurring Dream

In my recurring nightmare, I have done something awful, truly heinous. What that dreadful thing is is unclear, but what is certain is that I'm about to be caught for it - so I'm running. And running, and running, and running and always just about to be caught.

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I’ll admit, my dreams about returning to university died down a lot when I got a job (this one!) that better fit my desired career path. Now I tend to dream about missing blog deadlines and getting in trouble over Slack. Hooray!

Why You Keep Having the Same Work Stress Dream Over and Over | The Cut


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