This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares what your reoccurring nightmares might mean in your real life.
I have a repeating nightmare that haunts me all the time, where all my teeth crumble and fall out. I wondered if you knew what this meant, as I assume it’s fear related because I am scared of that. My husband has another repeating dream of missing a class in school for a whole year and being in trouble. I’d love to know what that one could mean too. Any idea?
Some studies that show 70 percent of adults have a nightmare at least once a month, and nightmares or dreams might be a subconscious way to process emotions, stress and fears in our lives. The stuff in our nightmares can be symbolic of what we are battling all day.
They are not literal though. You are not actually worried about your teeth falling out, you are having anxiety around something though.
"Nightmares are a mix of memories, recent information you were exposed to and visual representations of your emotions," Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Science told Buzzfeed Life.
These nightmares create real fear reactions in your body though because researchers have found they happen in the visual cortex of your brain, which affects your amygdala, the emotion center. So, your body responds as if the situation is really happening, and you can get out of breath and sweat just like it's real.
It’s interesting that some experts believe women have more nightmares than men. Dr. AJ Marsden, assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, told Prevention it "might be correlated to the finding that women also have more issues with anxiety, and nightmares are often a reflection of our worries and anxieties."
Studies have found anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses can increase nightmares, too, along with many antidepressant medications, antihistamines and other drugs. You might ask your doctor if any of your medications could be making nightmares worse.
Below are some of the most common and recurring nightmares and what experts think they might mean. Just remember symbolic ideas mean different things to different people, so you should ask yourself the questions below each nightmare to explore other possibilities.
Your teeth cracking or falling out
This one is so common there is a website dedicated to it www.TeethFallingOutDream.org. They suggest all kinds of meanings to this nightmare fear of poor appearance, looking bad, powerlessness, losing things like your money, your youth, security, or that you are just going through a big scary change in your life and afraid of it falling apart.
Ask yourself: Am I afraid of what others think about me and how I look? Am I feeling helpless or powerless in any way? Do I feel I have no control over my situation? Am I having trouble speaking my truth or feelings about anything? What do my teeth represent to me?
Being late to something important
This could mean you are afraid you aren’t enough, adequate or prepared. It could mean you need to take care of something you keep forgetting or that you are afraid you will miss a big opportunity in your life.
Ask yourself: Do I have too much on my plate? Am I overwhelmed? Am I procrastinating doing something that needs to get done? Am I being responsible for myself or dropping the ball anywhere? What could the appointment I’m late for represent in my real life?
Being stuck or paralyzed
You might feel stuck in a situation in your life. You could feel helpless and out of control, or you might be ignoring a situation that you need to deal with.
Ask Yourself: Am I being honest with myself about my current situation? Do I really want to be there? What am I afraid will happen if I try to make a change? What will happen if you let fear keep you there? Am I speaking my truth and why not? What am I afraid of?
Being lost or losing something important to you
If you can’t make a hard decision you might have this nightmare, or your subconscious mind could be showing you that you aren’t focused or paying attention. It could mean you don’t know how to function or what to do in some situation. It might mean you are losing yourself and not being true to yourself, or that you are going to lose something if you don’t make a change in your life.
Ask yourself: Am I feeling lost in any real aspect of my life? Do I feel powerless to change anything? Am I losing anything important if I keep going the way I’m going? Do I need to make any healthy changes, that I’ve been afraid to make? Why am I letting fear stop me? Do I know where I’m going in life and what I want next?
You can’t find the bathroom
It might mean you are not taking care of yourself and your needs. It could mean you are frustrated because you can’t create the life you really want to be happy. It could also mean are afraid of not having the life you really wanted.
Ask yourself: Am I struggling to take care of myself and my needs, do they come last? Are there things you really want in life, but you aren’t making them happen? What changes do you wish you could make if you were braver? What could the toilet I’m seeking actually represent in my life?
Being chased by something or someone dangerous
This is a very common nightmare and it usually means you are avoiding something, often processing your emotions, speaking your truth or something like that you are scared to do. It might be time to deal with your real feelings and make a change. It could also signify anxiety in your life and frustration that you can’t have the life you want. You might also be overwhelmed by all the tasks on your plate right now.
Ask yourself: Am I overwhelmed and afraid of failing? Is there a problem, emotion or truth it is time to face and deal with? What am I avoiding dealing with? What am I currently afraid of that I might be running from? What could the thing I’m running from represent?
Being naked in public
This is another very common nightmare that signifies feeling exposed or afraid of judgment. It could also mean you have anxiety around self-worth or vulnerability. It could also mean that you are hiding something you don’t want others to know or see.
Ask yourself: Is there anything I am hiding and don’t want anyone to know? Am I keeping a secret that would be healthy to reveal? Am I afraid to be myself with others? Am I uncomfortable in my own skin and unhappy with who I am? Am I afraid of what others think of me? Is it time to get some help and work on that? Is the fear around being seen naked and what could that represent in my real life?
Failing a test or missing a test or class
This nightmare can mean you are overwhelmed and just can’t do it all. It could mean you are scared of dropping the ball and handling everything on your plate. It could mean you are scared of being irresponsible or making mistakes.
Ask yourself: Am I overwhelmed with too much on my plate? Are there things out of my control, I need to let go of? Am I overly task focused and afraid anything I miss means I’m not good enough? Is there anything the test or class might represent, that I’m afraid I’m going to forget?
This usually represents anxiety about a situation you can’t control. It can mean your life is out of balance and you need to look at your priorities. Some experts say if you are falling straight down, it’s a fear of failure issue; if you are tripping, it’s a fear of mistakes; and if someone pushes you, you feel threatened by someone or something.
Ask yourself: Do I feel insecure or threatened by any situation in my life right now? Do I feel out of control or helpless? Where and why? Am I trying to control things I cannot control?
Sleep experts suggest not dealing with stressful issues like paying bills, resolving conflict or discussing emotional issues right before bed. You will sleep better if you do calming activities right before turning in. Listen to meditations or soft music and lay down in trust that everything in your life will work out for the best in the long run.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles owns the Claritypoint Coaching academy and certifies people who want to be life coaches www.claritypointcoaching.com and owns www.12shapes.com to help people have healthy relationships.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.