How Do You Interpret Recurring Dreams?

Over the years, I’ve written about both kinds of dreams, awake and asleep. I’ve always believed our sleeping dreams have some deeper meaning and purpose than entertainment; when my husband gave me a book about interpretations of dreams, my belief was solidified.

There’s a lot of research about dreams, and many don’t believe they have any kind of meaning. The book I read proposed that our dreams are made up of our subconscious observations and that the purpose of some dreams is to prepare our conscious minds for situations that may occur in our waking life. The dreams aren’t necessarily direct messages from subconscious to conscious minds, actually, they rarely are. And that’s where interpretation comes in.

One recurring dream I wrote about was from when I was pregnant with our older son. My husband and I were living in Washington DC, and I had a great career in front of me. I was commuting at least an hour each way to work throughout my pregnancy, and when we were well into the second half, I researched and hired a great nanny to stay with the baby after my maternity leave ended.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I started to have a recurring, very unpleasant dream that I had twins.

From my teen years until I was almost 30, I had no intention of having children. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I considered the idea. Because I’m somewhat impulsive, considering the idea didn’t last long — I was pregnant just a few months later. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I started to have a recurring, very unpleasant dream that I had twins. One baby was much bigger than the other, and I kept dropping the big one. People would give me dirty looks as I quickly picked up the baby, who was always fine and did my best to manage the weight and awkwardness of holding both of them. After a few weeks of this dream, I realized what the dream was telling me: I was concerned about being able to balance a career and a new baby. It never came clear to me which was the big one I was dropping, career or family, but once I interpreted the dream and started to address my anxiety through conversations with my employer, my husband, and our nanny, the dreams stopped.

Others I wrote about were my recurring exposure dreams. A few evenings before or after I step out of my comfort zone, either on stage or any type of performance, I’ll have dreams that I am trying to shower or go to the bathroom, I’m naked, and there are no shower or stall doors. In those dreams, I’m exposed as people are walking by as if nothing is wrong or awkward.

My recent interpretation of a recurring dream prompted this article: Spider webs.

I’ve been uncomfortable at best, terrified at worst, around spiders and spider webs for as long as I can remember. I’ve never really been afraid of things, but spiders definitely get my heart racing. Also for as long as I can remember, I’ve had awful dreams of being down in a basement, surrounded by spider webs/cob webs. In my dreams, I walk down to get something, and when I turn around to get out, there are webs all around me. They rarely have visible spiders on them, but I know they’re around. I try to find a space big enough to squeeze myself through without touching the webs, and in some cases I push my way through, feeling the webs on my skin and hair, terrified that a spider is on my head or body somewhere, and I wake up shaking. In other cases, I just wake up, never having gotten through the webs, and with no resolution.

It finally dawned on me (pun intended), that these recurring dreams aren’t that difficult to interpret. Maybe it’s because my family is facing some real challenges with potential long-term consequences, or maybe it’s because I finally have the insight to understand them.

Those webs are the fears and discomforts I’m facing. I know walking through them will be unpleasant, or even dangerous, and my subconscious mind is making me go through those webs over and over again. It’s trying to prepare me to face these fears, and know that somehow I’ll get through them. It’s also acknowledging the nature of the fears — that they’re just spider webs, which are generally pretty lightweight and breakable, but that they have the potential for danger because of the poisonous black widow spiders that may be lurking on them.

I’m hopeful that with this interpretation, my spider web dreams will change in some way, and that maybe they’ll even stop. But I’m not in denial, I know these dreams serve a purpose, and as long as I’m living, growing, and taking risks, I’ll be followed by them.

Do you have recurring dreams? Did you ever consider how, or if, they can be interpreted? Do you believe in dreams as subconscious messages? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Sarah Elkins
Sarah Elkins
Sarah is a communication coach, Gallup certified Strengths coach, keynote speaker, writer, and professional musician. Sarah uses storytelling as the foundation of her work with management teams and individual clients to improve communication and relationships. Her podcast, Your Stories Don’t Define You, How You Tell Them Will focuses on storytelling themes, the primary concept being that the stories you choose to tell - and how you choose to tell them - impact your internal messages and the perception of those around you. Her podcast was named in the top 50 in the category of emotional intelligence on Her passion for connecting people and helping them learn to better connect with others is embodied in the events she hosts, No Longer Virtual, which are small, interactive conferences based on the theme of connecting beyond the keyboard, recognized twice by Forbes as “Can’t Miss Events for Entrepreneurs” in 2017 & 2018.

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  1. Wow, Sarah. I’m so glad I found my way to your article. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Our dream lives are fascinating to say the least. I have one recurring dream about being in a relationship that ended 30 years ago. It was not pleasant… I had the dream every 1-2 months for 18-20 years. I often woke up feeling trapped, hopeless, and helpless. Over time when I woke up I was more curious than anything, like “This again?” I just had it again recently, after a long reprieve. After processing it with a trusted colleague it feels right that I have this dream when I feel disempowered. It was disconcerting for a long time. Many were vivid.

    In regards to seeing dreams as subconscious messages, I have had a few where I was clear I was to meant to take notice of the message. I willed myself to wake up and make a note more than once. One message I received was in a dream about being in an elementary-level classroom with my message presented in the alphabet/cursive writing border across the top of the wall. The message was surrounded with glitter. The words were in language I am not familiar with. Fast-forward, IRL it led me to a teacher who offered great insight in a work situation I was experiencing.

    I appreciate the study and science around dreams, and believe that in many cases only we as individuals know what they really mean for us. So glad you raised the topic!

    • I love how you figured out your recurrent dream message and “trigger” Mary Schaefer.

  2. Interesting topic and insight, Sarah. Do you always remember your dreams when you wake up or is there a time lag? Sometimes, I find, that something will trigger me to remember something that I dreamt about during the night – and it might not be until a few hours after I wake up. I dream about a lot of different things, including loved ones who have passed away. Oddly, however, my mom isn’t in many of those dreams; although she was in one recently. My mom, my Aunt, and my father-in-law were all sitting together at a table. They seemed at peace, and there was conversation taking place. I’m not sure why they were all in my dream that night, and I didn’t wake up with a foreboding feeling. Just a “Huh, that was interesting.”

    Dream interpretation is fascinating. I enjoyed reading this, Sarah. Thanks so much for writing about this.

    • Thanks for adding to the conversation, Laura. Sometimes I wake up with a vivid recollection of my dreams, and other times, like you said, it takes something later to trigger a memory of a dream. My dreams generally are very vivid, and I know there are a few things that trigger certain kinds of dreams. My guess is that something during the day made you feel connected and safe, and your brain was supporting that sensation…

    • Laura, that was a beautiful “family” dream. Is everyone just chit-chatting like the good-ol’ days?

    • Thanks, Kat. Well, yes and no. My mom and aunt would always sit at the table chatting, so that didn’t strike me as odd. What did, however, is adding my father-in-law to the mix. My in-law’s lived in a different state, so there wasn’t a lot of mingling. But, both my mom, aunt, and father-in-law are no longer with us. My mom passed away five years ago, my father-in-law four years ago, and my aunt almost a year ago.
      All this aside, they were having what seemed like a good conversation. I feel like my mother-in-law showed up in the dream, too, and she is still living. So, that was strange. Regardless, dreams are intriguing to me even if I don’t always understand what they mean.

  3. Sarah, what a great article. I so enjoyed reading it. I agree with you that we dream for a reason and also don’t believe that all dreams are just random firings or entertainment from the sleeping brain. Dreams are Inner-guidance-information as you realized when your recurrent nightmare of dropping one of your larger children stopped when you addressed it in your waking world. Recurrent dreams are messages that we did not get the first time so our inner-selves keep giving us the message until we respond to it. Many of the authors in my book Dreams That Can Save Your Life had constant Precognitive Recurrent Dreams that would not stop until they addressed them in their waking world. In their case, it was going to the doctor and requesting specific tests to find an illness mentioned in the dream that was then validated by pathology reports. The dreams were validated by modern medicine. Addressing the dreams in their waking world saved their lives. My question to you is, did you dream of your son in those recurrent dreams before you actually had a male child? And how did you actually resolve the issue of “dropping the ball or the baby?” If it were my dream I would see the baby as a job I loved and nurtured. Again, wonderful article. I invite you to share your dream articles on the Women of Facebook Create page on Dreamy Mondays or the Weekend Blogs.

    • Very cool, Kat, I’ll check out the FB group. The dream was over 20 years ago, our son will be 21 in October, but it feels very vivid to me still. I knew we were having a boy at that point, so it wasn’t prescient in any way. After finding a nanny I liked and trusted, the dream faded. I think I was worried about finding someone to care for him. When he was six months old, we moved from Washington DC to Helena, Montana so I didn’t have to work as much. The dream definitely didn’t follow me there.
      Thanks for this addition to the discussion, what great thoughts here!

    • Sarah, it sounds like you are very good and understanding your dream messages. And we’d love to have you on the Women of Facebook page. Feel free to post your dreams AND Dream articles on the page for additional comments and readers. It is wonderful meeting another dreamer on BIZCAT.