I’m about to take a nursing exam, but I know for certain I’m going to fail it. I haven’t studied at all, and I didn’t attend any of the classes. I feel ashamed, and I regret not trying harder.
I never failed any of my nursing exams, and I no longer work as a nurse, but I’ve had this same dream hundreds of times over the last few years. I now see my subconscious was sending me an important message, but I didn’t listen so it kept on repeating.
Do Dreams Contain Messages from the Subconscious?
It can be tempting to dismiss all dreams as just meaningless nonsense – random images, sounds, and emotions triggered by things we have seen and heard during the day. It could be most of our dreams do fall into this category, but this doesn’t mean there is nothing useful in the content.
I’m not suggesting that there is anything supernatural about dreams – I’m agnostic about all that stuff – but I do believe they allow us to access material not usually available to us. My evidence for this is purely anecdotal, but I’ve gained valuable guidance that has improved my life by listening to my dreams.
I’ll give you an example of how dreams have benefited my waking life (I talked about this episode in an old blog post called ‘Powerful Dream Lesson on Letting Go Powerful’)
I had this dream every night for a week in December 2012:
I’m in a relationship with this girl, and I’m obsessed with her. We share a group of friends, but they are more her friends than my friends. She tells me that she wants to go somewhere for the day with one of the lads from this group. It is an innocent enough request, but I’m horrified because I know that if she goes with him they are going to have an affair. I get angry, and I try all types of manipulative tactics (sulking, tantrums, accusations…) to stop her from going. I feel bad doing this because I know that my behavior is unreasonable. All of our friends think I’m being a jealous prick, but I just know that if they go on this trip they are going to have an affair. In the end I give her an ultimatum, if she goes anywhere alone with this guy we’re finished, but she calls my bluff. I am in the depths of misery and my world is spiraling out of control.
This dream upset me because it reminded me of things that actually happened to me during my years of being a drunk – I had some disastrous relationships. The fact the dream kept repeating suggested to me that my subconscious was trying to get an important message through to me. I went for long walks and tried to figure out what it could mean. I treated the dream like a puzzle. I considered alternative ways I could have reacted to the situation, and I eventually worked out that my best response would be to just let her go – I had no control over this girlfriend, and she would only become more resistant if I tried to manipulate her.
I then realized this dream had nothing to do with girlfriends. I’d been trying to micro-manage the universe, and I was suffering because things were not going my way. The dream was telling me that I needed to let go of things beyond my control. I got the message, and I haven’t had this dream since.
What is the Subconscious?
The subconscious refers to a part of our mind that we are not fully aware of. There are lots of theories about the subconscious, but it does seem reasonable to assume there are parts of our mind that remain hidden to us. After all, we couldn’t function if we were suddenly aware of all the data in our brains because we would be overloaded with information.
We humans are renowned for our ability to deceive ourselves – we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. We are able to repress stuff we don’t want to consider, but this information is still there banging around inside of our heads somewhere. When we are dreaming, we are less able to deceive ourselves, and this is why this material is able to appear.
Dreams Can Provide Feedback on Your Life
I did some research online. I discovered dreams of failing an exam usually indicate excessive stress. I’ve had lots of work problems in recent years, so it makes sense. During the last few weeks I’ve been focusing more on self-compassion, and this improved my ability to handle stress. I’m still having the same dream, but there has been one important change – the realization that I can still pass the exam.
How to Benefit from Your Dreams
• Keep a dream journal
• Write down the contents of your dream as soon as you wake up or otherwise you are likely to forget
• Pay attention if dreams keep repeating
• Try to look for recurrent themes in your dreams
• If you have handled a situation badly in a dream, think about how you could have handled it better
• Learn to lucid dreams because this can give you the ability to face your inner demons