Anxiety dreams occur when the daily stress and insecurities of our lives go all Freddy Krueger and infiltrate our unconscious minds. Frankly, I’d take a good old-fashioned nightmare over an anxiety dream. A quip-spouting, blade-fingered guy in a sweater has nothing on these distressing dreams of relentless unease and horrible apprehension, with a constant undercurrent of foreboding dread. Here are four I’ve been suffering through that indicate I have enough issues to help a psychoanalyst finance a new beach house.
1. I’m falling.
From where? I have no idea. Why? Who knows? Much like porn, this dream doesn’t bother with plot, and gets right to the action. It starts abruptly with me in the air, miles above the earth, plummeting downward as if I’ve jumped from a plane without the benefit of a parachute. The feeling is both terrifying and exhilarating, with that semi-nauseous pit in the stomach that I get in real life on a rollercoaster ride. Except there’s no rollercoaster, just me, rushing through space toward a beautiful expanse of rural landscape that I’m inevitably going to spoil with my splattered organs. Then, in the split-second before I smack the ground, the dream ends.
2. I’m enrolled in a class I haven’t attended all semester.
Unfortunately, this one does have a plot. I’ve been going to school and the semester is coming to an end, which ordinarily would be great aside from one discomforting detail: I had a math class that I never once set foot in. What was I thinking? How did I let this happen? What do I do now? Will I be able to resolve this in a comical way, yet still learn an important lesson like Zack on Saved By the Bell? The dream wears on, seemingly for days and weeks, as I continue to avoid attending the class and agonize over the hopelessness of the situation. I can’t go to the class now. I’ve missed every lecture and assignment. But I have to go. My graduation depends on completing this course. The tension builds, with no sign of Kelly or Screech, and I wake up with a lingering sense of shame and dismay.
3. I’m naked in public.
Act One, Scene One opens with me in my birthday suit, usually at work, but sometimes at a party or other event with lots of people milling around, and for some reason I have to get to another part of the room or building. As I navigate through the crowd, I am utterly mortified by my own nakedness, yet no one is reacting to me at all. I appear to be the only one shocked and offended, creeping along, hunched over, twisting this way and that to hide myself and make failed attempts to conceal my junk with spreadsheets and pieces of cardboard that are in my hand. At this point the dream resembles that visual gag from Austin Powers where Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley’s naughty bits are shielded by cleverly placed props. The scene in the movie is hilarious. The scene in my anxiety-addled dreamscape? Not so much.
4. My teeth are falling out.
I experienced this one for the first time recently, and hopefully it will be the last. David Lynch would be right at home directing this disturbing bit of REM sleep phantasm. In the dream, I was discussing something with someone, and during the course of the conversation my teeth began to loosen and slide right out of my gums. A few here, a few there, and I would catch each one, casually collecting them in my palm as if they were shells from pistachio nuts. During this bizarre dental ejection, my manner was closer to disaffected fascination (“Hmm, my teeth are falling out. How odd.”), rather than the “Holy Shit!” horrified reaction you’d expect from someone whose bicuspids are cascading into his lap like an upended box of Chiclets.
Maybe you’ve had similar unsettling images from your own late night brain activity. I’ve heard of other dreams, such as riding in an out-of-control car, losing an important item or being chased. When it comes to insecurity and stress-induced fear-fests, the possibilities are endless!