Do you dream about your job?

A friend of mine made an interesting comment in facebook last week, in response to my post about the ants on the rat.

She said, ‘Since working at the vet’s, I am having a lot of animal dreams!!!! Am just thinking of places I wouldn’t want to work!!!’

I hadn’t really given much thought to work-related dreams, probably at least in part because most of my job these days consists of day-dreaming.

But I straight away realised that lots of people do report having workplace-related dreams, and not just big-ticket dreams about interviews or major projects; often these dreams feel like a continuation of everyday routines.


It struck me that this could be a double whammy, if you were doing a job that didn’t fire you and then having dreams about it that didn’t fire you either.

Which brought me to the wider question – is one way of making your dream-life more satisfying by trying to inject more fun and challenges into the day? I’ve seen this suggestion in a number of dream books over the years, but never felt convinced by it.

It seems to me that although the things of the dayworld are undeniably reflected in dreams, the practical, objective, outer life is very much the minor part of what the dayworld is. You can have a waking life which seems narrow and small, with very little variety and travel, yet your dream life be rich and amazing.

The day world is much more than external events; it is also the inner world of ideas and imagination, and dreams reflect the objects and qualities of both outer and inner daytime experience.

Therefore, although working at the vet’s might make me dream more about animals, so might reading animal stories or surrounding myself with animal pictures.

And if I got my nightmare job, taking the money in a toll booth say, then maybe listening to adventure stories on the ipod or grabbing a few pages in quiet times or jotting down ideas in my breaks might save me from dreaming, ‘One-fifty, please… thank you… one fifty please… thank-you…’

This suddenly makes me think of William Carlos Williams scribbling his poems on the back of a prescription pad between patients.

Confession coming up.

I didn’t have a medical problem when I was working in my various ‘proper’ jobs… I had the lid down, reading!

6 thoughts on “Do you dream about your job?”

  1. I don’t think I dream about my work, Jenny. I don’t dream about my teaching, but I have occasionally dreamt that I am narrating in my dreams, so the world of writing and dreams merge. I’ve come to realise lately that what I dream is more affected by my mood and emotions than anything else. If I’ve had a particularly anxious, stressful time, it’s almost as if my subconscious recognises I need a break from this and will provide me with reassuring dreams – contrary to what you’d imagine. At other times, those anxieties manifest themselves in less pleasant dreams. I think that the state of mind I am in prior to sleep is the biggest influence over the dreams I will have. Another very thought provoking post, Jenny!

  2. Yes, I think emotions are the key to understanding how dreams link to waking life. Jung said we connect with symbols by ‘the bridge of the emotions.’ My next two posts will be about dream interpretation, starting next week with ‘Why symbols dictionaries don’t work.’ Thank you for your comments, Abi – they’re always thoughtful and grounded in your own rich dreaming life 🙂

  3. As usual your post was thought and memory provoking. Initially I thought ‘I just don’t dream about my job,’ then I began to remember those dreams of unpreparedness for teaching a lesson. They have peppered my career as a teacher and were probably fuelled by the first – and last time it happened (really?). I was abroad for a year on VSO teaching African girls. I was only half way through my teacher training – it was a sandwich course with Zambia in the centre of the sandwich. I remember the empty feeling in my head as I crossed the dry, worn, grassy square in front of the classrooms. Three minutes before the lesson and I hadn’t a clue what I was going to teach those poor patient girls. It is the only lesson I remember giving that year – or perhaps I should say ‘not giving’. I gave them a test. Oh dear. If I am unprepared these days my conscience wakes me up and doesn’t let me sleep until I have enough notes scribbled in my book to give a decent lesson.

    1. Hi Tessa – you make an interesting point about dreams as a call to action – I think quite often, conscience or other inconvenient thoughts we’ve been pushing to the back of our mind, fuels these kinds of nudge dreams. I loved reading about your teaching in Africa. My son taught in Ghana for a few months after he graduated – wonderful, life-changing experience.

    1. Commiserations, Rumpydog – if you often have nightmares about work, it could be worth thinking about how you might change or improve things? I think dreams always pull us towards balance, and repeated dreams may flag up places where our lives need rebalancing. Or, of course, these could be, like Tessa’s, simply driving you to do your job even better.

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