An interesting interpretation of recurring dreams & nightmares


You are being chased, but you are not sure by what or who. It feels like something very evil is behind you. You better not look over your shoulder. Your legs turn to jelly, your breathing becomes heavy.

Or maybe you’re actually really late and it seems like you’re never going to get to your destination, no matter how fast you go or how big your steps are. You fail to understand what is happening, you just know that stopping is not an option. So you run and run and run until your legs give out. And then you wake up.

Luckily it was just a dream , although you still need some time to get rid of the feeling.

The dream of being chased is one of the most common themes in dreams—along with dreams where you fall, have sexual experiences, and all sorts of dreams about school and studying. In fact, one study found that the theme of the chase was the most common dream among participants, and that it was most often cited as the earliest example they could recall.

These common themes can often be found among people from many different cultures and geographical backgrounds. What could be behind this wondrous mystery of the human mind, and are we looking at it from the right angle?

Unresolved Issues

Dream theorists often assume a psychological interpretation of recurring dreams. Certain images, such as standing naked in front of a class or running down long corridors, give context to the dreamer’s powerful emotions or internal conflicts. For example, being naked is associated with feelings of shame and helplessness. So the image can come from your subconscious because you suppress these feelings when you are awake.

These kinds of explanations may feel intuitively correct for many of your dreams.

Perhaps in your dreams you often find yourself back in class, failing an exam, or trying to get yourself out of trouble. And if you think about it, there are plenty of options where that could come from. Perhaps you haven’t dealt with the trauma of your school days and are suffering from the fear of what will happen if you are not good enough. Maybe you’re going through a stressful time and your subconscious stress connects to the classroom by default, even if you’ve been out of school for years.

These kinds of images and childhood experiences are buried so deeply in our minds that they become hidden themes in our adult lives, whether or not we sleep. That’s what psychoanalysis has shown for decades. But giving meaning to these images blurs the line between the mystical and the overly literal, making it easy to deceive yourself.

Give context

It is important to understand that there is no definitive answer. That is, a particular theme can usually be interpreted with a similar meaning, but our own experiences and personality always give it context. Carl Jung suggested that ” dreams integrate our conscious and unconscious lives ” in a process he calls “individuation.” Thus, they do not need to be interpreted to perform their function.

A recurring dream can give you insight into a trauma or problem that you need to resolve for your own well-being and mental health. But on this journey to better understand ourselves and our subconscious, many obstacles stand between us and the clear, liberating dream interpretation we seek.

How we approach our dreams

If we look at the phenomenon of sleep paralysis , we can clearly see that we cannot come to answers about the mystical world of dream experiences with scientific explanations alone. And actually the same goes for all dreams and nightmares.

From psychological to physiological mechanisms in our sleep, there are all kinds of factors that shape our dream experiences. Therefore, our perspective cannot come from one side. For example, the often dreamed dream that your teeth are falling out can have a symbolic interpretation, for example a shared fear of the dentist. Perhaps this type of dream is more common among people who grind teeth , which again would be a physiological aspect.

The physiological aspect may sound painfully banal for something as spiritual and mystical as the dream world, but we would miss out on a lot of knowledge if we underestimated (or overestimate!) it due to its mundaneness. For example, each sleeping position affects how you sleep in a different way because you put pressure on parts of your body and internal organs in different ways. I find myself most often started from nightmares when I lie on my left side. In my research, I was surprised to learn that there is even research that points to the correlation between sleeping on your left side and scary dreams.

Yet there is one very important aspect that is all too often overlooked: the cultural factor.

The shared nightmare

When it comes to the cultural factor, it’s impossible to skip the globally shared nightmare: The Man in the Hat (The Hat Man).

This mysterious shadow with a hat appears to many people during episodes of sleep paralysis. When I say he appeared to them, I mean it in the broadest and most ambiguous way. These terrifying episodes, starring a man in a hat who comes to harm you when you’re at your most vulnerable, feel as real as can be to the dreamers. It’s so realistic and poignant, one who was troubled by this vision started a blog, The Hat Man Project , after his research found others see a similar figure during their sleep paralysis. The blog now provides space for others to share their experiences and thoughts about this terrifying figure.

How is it possible that all these people dream about the same menacing figure? And if the state of sleep paralysis is a kind of portal to worlds that exist within our reality, is it really possible that the reality that parallels ours is such a dark version?

According to one explanation, people who confront something totally unknown look for the most culturally available explanation, even in their subconscious.

A state of paralysis in your sleep is something unfamiliar, to say the least. It is an extremely vulnerable state and triggers your natural instinct to panic.

Evil spirits sitting on your chest while you sleep, as this phenomenon has been depicted in art for centuries, is one possible explanation for your psyche. The man in the hat himself sounds a lot like Freddy Krueger. The movie The Nightmare on Elm Street is also based on the experience of sleep paralysis, with Freddy symbolizing the terrible feeling of fear. It doesn’t matter which came first. The man in the hat has become very real in the perception of the dreamers.

What does that mean for us? What is behind your recurring dreams and nightmares?

Probably a little bit of everything, and maybe something we don’t even know about yet.

The lesson

The dream world is a domain we know very little about, which is exactly why we need to open our minds to all possibilities. If we want to understand our dreams and ourselves, we have to tune in to our dreams and collect all the information bit by bit. If we dare to jump in, the unknown may feel less terrifying. Perhaps we are opening the door to new realities.


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