The little dream that doesn’t mean anything (part 3 of 4)

Part 3  “My Teeth Are Falling Out, The Bathroom is Filthy and I Cannot Find My Class!”

There are a number of dreams that fall into the category of collective dreams. Here are only a few examples:

  • Appearing in public naked
  • Having to eliminate in a filthy public restroom
  • Teeth falling out.


If one searches on the Internet, the “answer” to these dreams will be easily found. One interpretation after another is given as a recipe from the dream cookbook. The problem is that the interpretations can be almost anything and are all over the map—here is a partial list of what your teeth falling out in a dream “means”:

  1. The dreamer is conflicted about aging and has an unhealthy desire to be young.
  2. A change of consciousness is coming.
  3. The dreamer is using faulty logic about something.
  4. The dreamer has been gossiping too much.
  5. The dreamer is angry.
  6. The Dreamer is facing a major milestone
  7. The dreamer is experiencing loss of childhood innocence
  8. The dreamer fears loosing sexual attractiveness
  9.  The dreamer fears that life is out of control
  10. The dreamer fears becoming a victim
  11. The dreamer needs to be heard, to express oneself.


Let’s take a stab at amplifying the ‘Lost at College’ dream from a Jungian perspective. Here is verbatim dream:

scaredI dream that I am back in college, and it is time for finals. I wander around quite awhile and finally find my classroom only to realize at the last possible moment that I have forgotten to attend any classes this semester. I awaken horrified.

What is clear in this dream is that the dreamer is feeling tremendous pressure and anxiety. So, the dream calls for a question: “How am I feeling that I can’t meet my responsibilities, that I am totally unprepared or that I am trapped into failing? Typically, the dreamer will not have an immediate answer, but after thinking about it a bit, something will come to mind that the dreamer didn’t realize was bothering him or her so much.

One reason this dream is so common is that feeling pressure and even hysteria in our modern world is a condition that many face. Most of us are trying to find a way to pay bills, exercise, meditate, write in a journal, carpool, clean the house, service the car, fix meals, find time to sleep, commute, read, and still go to dinner with friends. We impose nearly impossible demands on ourselves, and our current culture is fond of screaming messages at us that we have to do all of these activities perfectly or be failures.

In the case of the “I Missed My Exam” dream, more is at work here than just reminding us that we are in a pressured culture that brings many to a breaking point. Again, one has to be scientific and curious about all images in dreams and ask, “Why is the dream setting always a college campus?” We don’t dream frequently that we drive to a restaurant only to find it closed or go to our library to find it burned down, or that we find we have forgotten to pay all of our bills—and the possibilities are endless. Why, then this specific image so prevalent in adult dreams? I can only speculate that college, especially the first year is a haunting horror, a frightening—place where freedom and expectation are put together like fire and ice and one is forced to mediate this chaos.

Additionally, the engine that drives our educational system is one of fear, punishment, shame and blame. From the earliest school moments a child realizes he/she has to “behave” which is one of his first exposures to societal conformity. Here mother’s sweet voice, or father’s warm lap are gone, replaced by a stranger who may yell, threaten, punish or wield power in destructive ways. Even in cases where one is lucky enough to have the kindest teachers, rules abide and a type of oppression ensures in spite of a teacher’s best intentions.

Quickly the child has to determine what the norm is—is it ok to talk without raising a hand, is it ok to sharpen a pencil without permission? Many rules have to be learned correctly or the child is punished—by ridicule, by overt humiliation where the teacher reprimands the child in front of the class, by eliminating recess, by calling a parent, by harassment from the other children, and so on. Additionally, pop quizzes, test grades, report cards, state exams all begin early and are gravely anxiety producing for children.

Children catch the panic of the teachers and parents and know that performance will insure their affection and regard from the authorities, failure can feel like love is being withheld. For a small person, this is life or death. And this pattern, one that is kept in place throughout the educational system is brutal and abusive. Here the dream tells it over and over in so many individuals’ nighttime dramas—not just “an anxiety dream” (whatever that means) but a societal mistake portrayed in the collective dream.

Trauma and terror mark the beginning of education and continue throughout schooling—coming to a crescendo by college. There the stakes are high—perform or flunk. Flunking is a financial, emotional and professional failure that can wound a person for the rest of life. Education is frightening for most people, even the smart ones. And in the freshman year of college a person usually faces his greatest freedom and his greatest pressure. The conflict is daunting. Do I study or take drugs? Do I write a paper or have sex? Do I read my assignments or stay out late partying? Let us not forget this is the onset age for schizophrenia. Many young people are deeply traumatized by college, even when they do not consciously know it.

This dream becomes clearer after we have followed the process of working with dreams. The only difference in the amplification of the waking context just written is I used the culture as the dreamer, not the individual. At the end we are faced with a blistering confrontation about education and how it is approached in our world. So perhaps we can begin to see how this dream might come to so many people on so many on occasions?

1 Responses to The little dream that doesn’t mean anything (part 3 of 4)

  1. Renae C. says:

    The anxiety is certainly up at my house with testing looming large next week and teachers amping up the stress in senseless and threatening ways, because I’m sure they too are feeling the pressure from above. And the collective trauma shows up in my office every single day. How does one impart hope in such a dominant and pressured collective paradigm – in a system that creates a never ending collective nightmare experienced both sleeping and awake? The dreams wave warning flags as vividly and visibly as they can, but onward we hurtle, paying no attention at all.

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