How to Stop a Recurring Dream
Years ago I started having a recurring dream. Not an exact scenario, but a theme that kept popping up. I would be driving, but when I hit my brakes they didn’t work. It’s not as though the brake lines were cut, but more like they didn’t totally finish the job. I would slam them down but only slow down without coming to a complete stop. It was as if I was driving on ice and I kept drifting even when my wheels weren’t moving, though there was no ice to be found. It was an unpleasant feeling and therefore an unpleasant dream. It happened every couple months or so, which was manageable even if it was annoying.
A Sense of Urgency
But then it started happening more frequently. The dreams would come only a month apart, and then only a week. At one point I had this dream three times in a single week. It was starting to really stress me out, so I began reading up on theories about dreaming and recurring dreams. This wasn’t unfamiliar territory for me, as I’ve had an interest in learning about dreams and lucid dreaming for years; but this was the first time in my life that I had experienced a recurring dream whose persistence began affecting my waking life, forcing me to take dream interpretation theories more seriously.
Although no one fully understands the meanings and implications of our dreams, many psychologists and scientists agree that they contain symbolic representations of our subconscious. In this way, they can provide insight into thoughts and feelings buried deep within us, effectively becoming a channel for our deep subconscious to communicate with our waking mind. While there are some universal “archetypes” in theory, the true meaning of a dream is best left to the dreamer and not a dream dictionary.
With this in mind, I decided that the next time I had the dream I would write down everything that popped into my head immediately after waking, when the details were fresh in my mind. Maybe then it would reveal something to me.
The Waiting-Not-Too-Long Game
I didn’t have to wait long to give it a shot. A few days later I had the most intense, nearly-lucid episode of the dream yet and woke up immediately afterwards with my groggy, logically-impaired mind full of words ready to leap onto paper. I first wrote a quote that was said by my friend who was sitting in the passenger seat, but the sentence really only makes sense to me, so there’s not much use in writing it here. But here is the rest of what I scribbled down (slightly edited so as to make a bit more sense):
"Life doesn’t slow down, and I can’t stop it
but I can choose the direction
sometimes there are accidents
sometimes it’s good to have someone in the passenger seat
sometimes there are tight squeezes that look like you’ll never make it through
or even feel like something’s going wrong
yet you emerge scratch free
sometimes it seems like there are scratches even when there aren’t
and it turns out it wasn’t so bad
sometimes you have to improvise and go in a direction you didn’t expect, to avoid danger
but you can still get where you’re going.
It never stops exactly where you want it to
Don’t want to hurt anyone along the way
I’m worried about things being too perfect,
so I lose a little control while going with the flow."
I still remember one particular scene of that night’s dream that was more vivid than just about any moment I’d ever dreamed before (or since). I was driving down a street near my childhood home, through a forest of brilliant deep green with piercing, warm sunlight filtering through the leaves. Though I was driving, my consciousness was outside any confines of a vehicle, free to see and feel the atmosphere in 360 degrees as I moved.
I took what I wrote to heart and began working on letting go of the illusion of control, among other newly-prioritized lessons. I have never had the dream again since the day I wrote that down.