The great ancient dream interpreter, Artemidorus, insisted that the meaning of a dream symbol is connected to the life situation, and especially the occupation, of the dreamer. Losing a tooth or having sex in a certain position means something different depending on whether you are rich or poor, a scholar or a laborer, a seaman or a farmer.
I’ve noticed that every profession seems to have a typical anxiety dream. If you’re pharmacist, you dream that you give the customer poison instead of medicine. If you are a minister, you dream you forgot the text of the sermon and can’t improvise. If you are a farmer or gardener, you dream of drought or early frost. If you are an entertainer, you dream that you’re in front of empty seats, or seats that empty as the audience walks out in the middle of your act.
A musician tells me her standard anxiety dream is that she forgets her instrument or leaves her music at home – and sometimes picks up an unlikely object (a plastic bag, a sock, a pan) in front of an audience in order to have something to play. A family therapist reports that her recurring anxiety dream is that she can’t manage all the clutter, which often takes the form of a mess of fast food wrappers and boxes. A school teacher’s most frequent anxiety dream is that when she gets in front of the class she finds she has not lesson plan. A radio producer dreams that his equipment malfunctions, or the switchboard blows up as he’s trying to handle calls for a live show. A wilderness guide dreams a rope snaps as he’s trying to get a group up a rock face.
Let me be quick to note that such profession-specific dream jitters are not only “anxiety dreams”. Pore over the details of a dream of this type, and you may find that, while it reflects a common motif, it may also contain specific clues to a coming situation that can help you handle that better.
In itself, the dream may be a rehearsal. You screwed up or froze in your dream, but now you’ve got that behind you, perhaps you can move forward more decisively and successfully in regular life. Maybe you’ll be able to re-vision those empty seats as space for the huge audience that is going to join you for a coming event that will be very popular.
So: what do you recognize in your night life as the most common anxiety dream related to your work? Let’s discuss these themes in the Comments thread.
Empty seats: a common motif in the anxiety dreams of entertainers and public speakers – yet maybe also a space of possibility, a space ready to be filled.