All dreams help to move the individual dreamer toward a greater understanding of confusing emotions, greater expressive strength and clarity, and a greater integration and conscious focus of scattered personal energies. The recurrent dream is particularly helpful in healing deep personal psycho-spiritual injuries and resolving individual emotional dramas.
Anything worthy of the noble names dream and symbol is, by definition, a carrier of multiple meanings and multiple layers of significance. Some of those layers will necessarily be intimately personal and unique to the individual dreamer. Other layers will echo and resonate beyond the personal into the collective patterns of universal human striving and experience. The recurring dream itself is a manifestation of the deep, shared evolutionary imperative that wells up spontaneously out of the unconscious depths of our being. This deep developmental urge and the energy that fuels it is shared by all humans and all dreams. The recurrent dream is a particularly important manifestation of this collective drive to grow and evolve, not only as individuals, but as a species.
As a long-time dream worker myself, I always begin with the assumption that whatever dream the dreamer has is, in some important sense, the best possible dream that person could have had at that moment. There is always a kind of best fit quality to dreams; they give symbolic shape to the deeper truths of the dreamers life in a way that is uniquely reflective of the dreamers true circumstances, above, below, and beyond his/her conscious convictions about life. The old folk tales say it best: the Magic Mirror never lies. In other words, if there were a better dream for the dreamer to have at any given moment, she/he would have it.
The dream can do anything it wants. It doesnt have to come in under budget. It doesnt have to follow the laws of physics. It doesnt have to respect the opinions of society, or even conform to the dreamers own waking conscious beliefs and opinions. All the dream has to do is tell the truth about the deeper reality of the dreamers life in a symbolically compelling way. In so doing, the dream also reveals connections to the deeper evolving life of the species as a whole. This means that every time a dream, or a dream image, or situation recurs, it is not only the best thing the dream could have done the first time it happened, its the best thing the dream could have done each time it recurred.
The recurrent dream experience also points out that some important element of the dreamers life is exactly the same as it was the last time the dream occurred. The longer the period of time over which the dream experiences repeat themselves, the fewer things remain on the list of things that are exactly the same as all the other times this dream recurred. I have had the opportunity to work recurrent dreams on people in their late 80s, dreams that have recurred since the dreamers early childhood. In those instances, I have been particularly impressed with the implication that there is in fact only one thing remaining on that list of unchanging things in the dreamers life, and that is the dreamers deepest authentic self, your true self, or as the Zen Buddhists are fond of saying, your face before you were born. The recurrent dream is particularly reflective of the dreamers deepest genuine character.
There is another fascinating implication in the recurrent dream, particularly the recurrent nightmare. Each time such a dream repeats, there is the implied invitation woven into the fabric of the dream to become lucid. that is, to recognize while the dream is taking place that it is, in fact, a dream. It is always only a very small step from saying to oneself in the midst if the dream, without waking up, Oh, Im dreaming this again...!, to saying, Oh, Im dreaming this again! Once lucidity has been achieved, the range of playful, creative response to the experience of the dream is greatly enhanced and expanded.
Originally written as an Introduction to Kathleen Sullivan's book Recurring Dreams: A Journey Into Wholeness.
© 1998 Jeremy Taylor