The dreaded and common “back in school” dream
We’ve all been there: In the dream you are back in school. The scenes are often surreal. You can be anxious and wonder why in the world you are back in school, even all the back to grade school or junior high. You have missed classes or didn’t graduate or show up unprepared and bewildered on the day of a test. It’s a common dream theme.
In the following dream about junior high we can learn how dreams connect the past with the present and give us valuable information for living our lives:
I was back in my junior high classes but as me today. I started to tell my teacher shit for some reason and she sent me to the office with a note. Everyone in front of me would hand in their note with their name and receive in-school suspension. My note simply said “PROBLEM.” I handed it to the secretary and told her we needed some cleaning supplies restocked. I end up walking to a hall I don’t belong in, looking for my first ex. At this point I knew it was a dream and I thought if I can change something here then maybe things would be different in the real world.
I couldn’t find her and then my most recent ex showed up and I asked for her help in finding my other (ex). None of them knew who I was but I had all my memories of them. She showed me to her room. I went in and one of my teachers made some cracks about being a soapy romantic. As I was walking out, my first ex mouthed at me to wait for her outside. I was thinking this was my chance to change everything and then I woke up.
Last night I was thinking about my ex for some time before I fell asleep. It’s my birthday this month and I was thinking how none of them will bother to say happy birthday to me.
The DREAMS 1-2-3 approach to dream interpretation is to break the dream-story down into parts and piece it back together using the dreamer’s associations. With this dream we begin with the setting. A classroom environment suggests that the dream is trying to teach something, imparting a lesson through story. Because the dreamer is his present age while revisiting junior high school in the dream, I suspect that the dream is speaking to some issue that began back then and continues to affect him presently. Because of the ex-girlfriends, the issue is probably related to his relationships.
Next, the dreamer is sent to the school office and is identified as a “PROBLEM.” Here we have a clue that the dream is working on a personal problem, probably telling him why he won’t be hearing from his ex girlfriends on his birthday. The reference to cleaning supplies could symbolize the need to clean up something, like “clean up your act” or “clean up your life.” It leaves the impression that the relationships ended badly. The part about in-school suspension could mean that the dreamer’s dating life is suspended until he learns what he needs to avoid making the same mistakes, or that his life is somehow in a state of suspension.
All of the details of a dream tie together, including the dream’s characters. The dream we’re analyzing features two ex-girlfriends, and their presence suggests that the dream is telling a story about what went wrong in those relationships. Going to the one ex’s room is a way of saying that the dream is visiting the part within dreamer where his memories of her are still alive. His former teacher is there, again suggesting that the dream is teaching something with this story. The part about being a soapy romantic could reference cleaning something up (soapy), or could be a suggestion that the dreamer needs to be more romantic, show more feeling.
A dreamer’s reaction to the dream-story while dreaming can reveal more about the meaning and symbolism than anything else. In this dream the reaction of wanting to use the opportunity to change the mistakes of the past points right to the heart of the story. His dream is advising him how to be more successful in his future romantic relationships.
A key piece of information comes at the end of the description: With regret the dreamer had been thinking about the past and why his or her birthday will be a little less special. Now we know what sparked the dream and how it connects the past with the present.
So you see, the dream really has nothing directly to do with school, and everything to do with learning. Quite often, we have dreams about being back in school because we need to learn something or we face challenge for which we feel unprepared. Think expansively about what that means. There could be a lesson in life to be learned, a lesson about love and relationships, or even a straightforward lesson about a subject that’s school-related. While writing my first book, I dreamed about being back in school and unprepared for a test. It connects with feeling unprepared to write a book!