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13 Recurring Dreams And What They Actually Mean

According to a dream analysis expert.

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Many people have a dream that comes to them more than once (and sometimes many times) in a lifetime. Some common themes are fairly straightforward metaphors — teeth falling out = difficulty communicating; feeling trapped in a dream = feeling trapped in real life — but others' meanings are more mysterious.

In order to get a better understanding of what some of our recurring dreams might *really* mean, BuzzFeed sent 13 staff dreams to professional dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg. Loewenberg is the author of numerous books on dream analysis, including Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, and the founder of whatyourdreammeans.com.

1. The End of the World As We Know It

"Mine are often apocalyptic, and I can never reach my loved ones because there's always something wrong with the phone. Either the numbers are muddled, or the device is broken, and so amid the drowning planes and fireball Earth times, I can't get to my mom. (I'm an only child and check in with her daily since she and my dad are the only family I have in the States.) The majority, including the catastrophes, also take place in some iteration of my childhood home."

Lauri says: End of the world dreams are fairly common because they are usually connected to some big changes going on in your personal world. You'll find you will get these dreams when a major portion of your world is ending or changing such as moving out of town, getting a new job, breaking up, quitting smoking, etc. It's a rather dramatic way our inner mind bids farewell to our old world so we can better embrace the way our new world is coming together (what can I say, our dreams are big drama queens!) Your inability to use your phone is likely symbolic of your inability to either communicate your concerns, or it could be that there are certain things you simply can't communicate to your parents because it is too personal, or because you know, deep down, you need to handle it on your own... even though we all get those "I want my Mommy" moments.

2. The Field and Jim

"I'm standing in a field, and a man called Jim (I don't know how I know his name) drives a van to a shed in the middle of the field. He gets out of the van and goes into the shed, and a single firework comes out of the shed. It goes up into the sky, explodes, and when it explodes, it expands and expands until it takes up the whole sky. And then I wake up."

Lauri says: Ooh! This is a good dream. Dreams love to use word play and puns and such, so the field in this dream could really be about your career field (or it could be about dating if you are "playing the field"), but I think it's more career related because of the shed. The shed is where we keep our tools, so that is the place in your psyche where you store your skills. The man is your ability to be assertive — "man up", "grow a pair" — and handle your business. He has a name in the dream because you have identified this part of you, you recognize this within yourself. The single firework is your one goal and ability to get noticed, to put your skills on display and wow the pants off people. I love how the explosion expands across the sky... the sky is the limit for you! Holla!!

3. Oh No, My Teeth

"I've had a recurring dream about my teeth falling out in my mouth. They'll feel loose and strangely shaped at first (in these dreams, they're almost always too large for my mouth, and sometimes growing out at weird angles), and then they detach themselves and I have to spit them out. I'm always SO EMBARRASSED in these dreams, and try to hide what's happening from other people."

Lauri says: The teeth falling out dream is one of the five most common dreams that gets reported to me, so you are in very good and plentiful company. This dream can almost always be connected to loose speech — saying things without thinking about it first, or allowing things out of your mouth that should have remained in there permanently. But notice how the teeth in your dreams are too large for your mouth, strangely shaped or growing at weird angles. Look at your dream teeth as though they symbolize your words. Do you tend to say things you feel embarrassed about later? Do you get in awkward conversations, come across wrong to others or simply say way more than you should (teeth being too big for your mouth)? This dream is actually trying to help you polish your communication skills. Of course, that's not to say you're a bumbling, incoherent numbnut... You may, like so many of us, get the occasional foot-in-mouth episodes. Like I said, you are in plentiful company.

4. He's Trying to Kill Me

"For my entire life I have dreamed that someone is trying to kill me. Sometimes he has a hat like Freddy Krueger, but most times I can't see who he is. But I know it's a man. And the same man will chase me in the same few locations — my grandmother's house, where I try to hide and am never successful; outside of the church behind my grandma's house; and in a big empty warehouse type building that has lots of stairs."

Lauri says: Recurring dreams are typically caused by two things: 1. A recurring behavior pattern; whenever you exhibit the behavior, you get the dream connected to it, or 2. An ongoing issue; for as long as the issue continues or fails to get resolution, so will the dream continue. Your recurring dream is lifelong, so it is more likely that it is connected to a recurring behavior (unless something happened as a child that you never dealt with properly). Being chased in a dream usually means you are trying to avoid something in real life such as a confrontation, an obligation, a difficult situation, etc. Whenever you avoid or procrastinate you may find you get this dream. Why always grandma's house? Grandmas are typically big softies and let us get away with things, so she may represent what you feel is the easy way out. But notice how you are never successful in these dreams?This is your wise dreaming mind telling you that you can't hide from the issue at hand. May as well face it and deal with it already!

5. Hitler and the, uh, Cyclops

"When I was a kid I had a recurring nightmare — in it, my family was visiting Hitler's summer house and was staying the night in a motel at the foot of the mountain where Hitler's house was. There was a big storm and the motel was booked, so we had to share the rooms with a cyclops. Instead of an pupil in his eye, though, he had a large rotating ruby cube. We were awakened in the middle of the night by him screaming in pain and yelling "the stone is splitting" over and over again, while the ruby slowly pulled apart into two cubes, causing his eye socket to also pull apart into two separate sockets."

Lauri says: Ummm... Where to start with this one, sheesh! Well, since you only had it as a kid, it is connected to something you were dealing with at the time. As a kid, you probably knew Hitler to be a very, very bad guy, so you may have gotten this dream whenever you were in trouble, or in a situation that felt bad that you could do nothing about. The storm suggests it was something turbulent and, again, beyond your control. The mountain indicates you felt something was looming over you. I can't help but think this dream may have had to do with divorce or some other sort of separation going on at the time. The cube for a pupil suggests you saw this as a confusing and difficult situation and the pain the poor Cyclops was screaming about was more likely YOUR emotional pain over it all. Since the dream was only for a period of time in your childhood, the situation either resolved itself, or you matured to the point that you were able to better understand and process it.

6. Mouth Full of Glass

"I have this recurring dream that my mouth is stuffed with shards of glass and I have to pick them out of my tongue and inside my cheeks."

Lauri says: Any dream focusing on the mouth is usually all about communication in real life... things you have said at the time of the dream, or need to say. When you have to remove something from your mouth it is usually because you have to force yourself to speak up about something in real life. What you need to say is being shown to you in the form of broken glass, because you may feel the various situations you have had to speak up about are somewhat fragile. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or cause any drama. Just as you are carefully picking the shards out of your mouth, so should you carefully pick your words.

7. The Falling Elephant

"I had a recurring dream that partly inspired one of my tattoos. During my senior year of high school I had one dream about a large white elephant slowly trotting along a building that had similar architectural features to the Taj Mahal. It was a really balmy and sunny day. I was standing at a distance, watching the elephant walk along the curvature of the top of the structure. Then, as it traversed down the other side, it fell. And as it fell, it shrunk to the size of a white peanut, and speckled the ground underneath."

Lauri says: This is a very interesting version of the falling dream. When you or some character in your dream falls, it can usually be connected to some sort of let-down you have experienced in real life, something you had high hopes for not working out or something in your life going in the wrong direction. The elephant may have symbolized something that was weighing heavy on you at the time. Since it was white, I can't help but wonder if it had to do with your new life after high school, as the color white in dreams often represents new beginnings. Whatever it was, the elephant fell, so that suggests it didn't work out or you were disappointed by it in some way. It's a really good sign the elephant shrunk because that shows us that the weight of the situation quickly diminished in your psyche.

8. The Tiger

"It takes place in the parking lot of the apartment complex I lived in when I was younger... maybe seven or eight years old. In the dream, I'm trapped in the parking lot being stalked by a huge white tiger, who is hiding behind cars and buildings and not letting me get away. As I've gotten older, the dream has changed a little, and I've become less afraid of the tiger, and more capable of 'defeating' it, although as far as I can remember, I've never made it out of the parking lot."

Lauri says: Hmmm... trapped in a parking lot. These are two tell-tale signs that you are feeling stuck somewhere in your life. This could be an ongoing stuck-ness (such as anxiety or depression that may tend to always hold you back) or it could be that you get this dream whenever you get stuck with various issues/decisions. However, the hiding, lurking tiger makes me think it could be more along the lines of anxiety or depression because those sort of conditions hide and lurk in the recesses of our minds. None the less, whether this lurking tiger is depression or anxiety, or even a fear of your own aggressiveness, you seem to be getting a better handle on it. But you're not out of the parking lot yet, so to speak, so keep working on your coping skills and stepping out of your comfort zone until you tame this beast!

9. The Turtle Problem

"I lift up my turtle and there are smaller turtles underneath. They keep going. I need to find additional tanks for all of the turtles."

Lauri says: This dream indicates that something in your life is growing and multiplying. Are you getting more writing assignments? Are you overflowing with ideas? The need for additional tanks points to a real life need to capture and nurture all these ideas or all these new friendships, or whatever they are. I am also assuming you actually do have a turtle which would underscore the element of nurturing in this dream. If you don't actually have a turtle, then it may symbolize that all these things you have going on are kind of slow-going at the moment.

10. Bro, Watch Out

"I'm standing at the top of a hill that surrounds a pond that sat next to my childhood home, and watching my two younger brothers swim in it. (Which none of us ever did in real life, because it's not actually suitable for swimming.) As I watch them swim toward one end of the pond, I notice two alligators poke out of the water, and they're swimming right behind them. I always wake up before I find out what happens."

Lauri says: Usually, any creature with a large mouth and lots of teeth in a dream tends to symbolize someone in waking life who dishes out criticism and sharp, biting remarks. At the time of this dream, were your brothers under scrutiny or intense criticism? Or perhaps delving into a dangerous situation you feared would come to bite them in the ass? It's also possible that your brothers aren't playing themselves but instead symbolize a part of yourself that fears criticism or someone around you that you consider to be family. I also think this particular pond is an important symbol as it likely represents an unsuitable situation that you or someone you care about needs to get out of. Also, you've got two alligators and two brothers, that's important. It means there could be two areas of concern for you or one issue that has two facets to it.

11. Slaying the Witch

"When I was young, maybe between the ages of six to 10 years old, I used to have a recurring character in my dreams. She was an old witch, bent over, gnarled, always wearing a velvet back cape and hood so I couldn't really make out her face. I would be having a normal, uneventful dream when all of a sudden I'd hear this rhythmic whooshing noise crescendoing like whoash. Whoash. WHOASH. It sounded almost like men chanting very far off in the distance. When I heard that I knew she was coming. I would see her ambling towards me and I'd be too paralyzed with fear to get away. I don't know what would happen if she ever got close to me because I'd always wake myself up before that part. The dreams stopped when I one night had a dream I willingly broke into her lair and smashed all her potions on the ground."

Lauri says: In my research I have found that when children dream of witches it can usually be connected to a woman in their life whom they are sometimes afraid of, such as a mean older sister, a mother with a temper, and angry grandmother, etc. Anyone like that in your life back then? I love that you eventually ended the dream by breaking all her potions. That tells me that you finally stood up for yourself or you matured to the point that this person no longer had an effect on you... or rather, no longer has a spell on you!

12. The Worst Dress Ever

"My recurring nightmare opens with me in the middle of a dense forest wearing a wedding gown with an excessively long and heavy train. Though there are no markers of the time period, it somehow feels like it takes place outside of time, as in a fairy tale. The earth in the forest is a dense and deep mud that it becomes clear that is was made by mixing soil and blood when I look at the bottom half of the filthy dress and must keep trudging through to my destination. At some point in the middle of the woods, the train of the dress begins to move and I hear a faint whooshing sound of fingernails on silk. Suddenly, the train rips open and a woman is visible inside of it, she had sewn herself into the train of the dress at her ankles and I'd been unknowingly dragging her toward my wedding. Her face and head are covered in burn scars and she has only patches of hair on her head. She shrieks insults at me and keeps trying to stand up and strike at me with blood-encrusted fingernails but she keeps falling again because her feet are sewn into the gown. I have to move more quickly through the mud despite being exhausted because if I stop, she can gain her footing and attack me. She never gets me but I never make it to the other side of the woods in the dream either."

Lauri says: WOW!!! Admittedly, this one creeps me out a little. Are you currently planning a wedding? If so, this is one helluva bridemare, and I would suggest that you have very deep concerns about bringing something from your past into your marriage. If there is no wedding in the works, this dream may be connected to recurring bouts of depression, or a depressing situation you are having a hard time moving on from. Mud in dreams almost always points to depression and negativity that is dirtying up your psyche. And blood is wasted energy, time and emotion. The wedding dress is most likely a commitment you have made to yourself... perhaps a commitment to overcome this upsetting situation or to beat your depression. The ripped dress may mean you are feeling torn about something or this upsetting situation is tearing you apart. The scarred woman inside the dress is probably you, the part of you the bares the emotional scars from the past. The pain has been sewn in to fabric of your life... it seems because this must be a very difficult thing to move on from. She insults you because you probably beat yourself up over this. You are still in the woods in your dreams because you are still living — to a degree — in the painful past. Your dream is trying to show you that the ugly painful past is not naturally a part of you but rather something that was forcibly and unnaturally attached to you, just as the woman was sewn into your dress. You CAN remove this from who you are just as you could essentially rip her out of your dress in the dream. The past is not part of you.

13. It Takes Two

"I'm in a situation where I'm meeting Mary Kate and Ashley (not kidding) and I'm *finally* so excited that it's happening. These dreams ALWAYS end by me figuring out that it's a dream and being bummed about it."

Lauri says: I got to meet them in real life when they were two! They were afraid of me. Anyhoo, there's a nifty little trick I use when trying to figure out what the celebrities in my dreams really mean. Ask yourself, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of that celebrity. Is it a TV show they were in? A particular role they played? A song they sing? You can usually find something relevant to you within the title of the show, move or song. Mary Kate and Ashley are best known for being in the show Full House. Do you have a desire for a big family? To always dream of meeting them may represent your desire to someday meet that goal of a large family. But they are also twins, so that could be where the meaning is. Are there two goals you'd like to meet that are equal to each other, such as being a writer and a performer? It is also very interesting that you figure out you are in a dream. That is called lucid dreaming, and it is a very coveted thing for those of us in the dream research community. When you realize you are dreaming you can DO ANYTHING! So I strongly suggest that the next time you get this dream and become lucid you ask Mary Kate and Ashley a question, such as, 'what do you symbolize to me?' You will get an answer!

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