What does it mean when I dream about …

“I’m back in school and…”

Dreams about being back in school, or in a previous school (a college student dreams of high school or junior high) or even level (someone who is a buyer and seller for a major grocery store chain dreams of being the bagging boy) are extremely common. They are often perplexing and because of all of the stigma placed on “regression” and things of that nature, beginning to understand this symbol can get confusing.

Without the context of anything else, going backwards to a school or previous level setting indicates that the dreamer in waking life (whether true or not) is under the impression that they do not have the capacity or tools needed to move forward in a situation. The context, more often than not, will clarify which situation needs to be looked at more closely. For example, if a person is back in school and they have failed an important English class, it could indicate that they are not communicating or articulating themselves well with others, that others are failing to communicate with them, or even more simpler, a recently read book failed to make an impression on them. Another common variation is failing to remember a locker combination, which reinforces the idea that there is some sort of secret code that you should have learned but didn’t or need to learn which leaves you at a loss for getting the tools you need – or you should have access to but don’t. Another variation is missing a specific class to graduate (again, the class usually indicates what area of life that the dreamer may want to examine more closely), or even more bizarre, the introduction of some ridiculous class that the dreamer has never heard of (which is actually more helpful as a dream since it usually nails the situation right on the head).

And the above is usually the most common indication of that specific dream circumstance. Except when it’s not. And when it’s not, deviating from the norm with dream symbols is not “freakish” by any means, but just another way that the human brain uses creativity to enhance our understanding.

Other things the school setting indicates: A desire for learning, sincere interest in the self or another person, the school might be the back drop to revisiting a past problem that keeps occurring in waking life, the school setting can mean a very different thing to someone who was chronically bullied that it would mean to a person who chronically bullied others and now finds remorse. Going back to a previous time period can also indicate a desire to cut-free from the struggles of adulthood responsibilities. Going back to a school setting and acing every test can indicate that the dreamer is recognizing that it seemed easier back then to succeed. A past school setting can also come up with dreamers who have had a recent brush with someone who they remember from grade school. Maybe there was an unfortunate death of a person the dreamer remembers as a classmate. Or maybe the dreamer has reunited with a grown woman who he remembers having a crush on in 6th grade. Anything from the media (school shootings, school bullying, school fires) to our own personal situations (feeling as though there’s something crucial to learn in order to perform) can affect how our dreams of school play out.

Another common variation: the parent goes back to school. Going back to school can also indicate a parent’s concern for their own grade school children. In these dreams, the child may not even be present, but the parent is in a classroom setting because in waking life they may want to help their child with their homework, they might feel embarrassed because they no longer can help their children with their homework (how many of you guys can actually still do long division? Never mind, don’t answer). It can also pose a very awkward dream situation because the parent knows, on some level, that they don’t belong in this situation, it’s their children that belong in this situation. Regardless of how it plays out, if the dreamer is a parent of a school-aged child, from pre-school to post-graduate school, dreams about school can reflect anxiety about a child’s performance, anxiety about the child becoming independent, anxiety about the school setting being safe (on a cerebral learning scale, or on a social scale), and anxiety about whether the child is getting a good education or not. It can also reflect a parent’s anxiety over their children becoming smarter than they are (which goes back to gaining independence). It might seem horrific for the dream parent to wish failing on their children, but because a dream world lacks the “rules” of the waking world, the dreams are a safe place to express these thoughts. In actuality, the parent who is more apt to dream of the scenario of the child passing them in intelligence is a parent who is aware of and celebrates the child’s aptitude in waking life and simply plays out the consequences in their dreams.

At a glance: Dreams about going back to school usually indicate gaining tools in order to perform better in waking life or the feeling of being incapable of performing in an area of life. The context of the dream indicates which area of the dreamer’s world there might be a lack of knowledge. Upon waking from a dream about going back to school, be aware also of the feelings and what school meant to you while you were in it. School can also be a setting that one associates with anxiety (being bullied) or safety (escaping troubles at home). Parents are prone to dreaming about school settings especially as their children move through school levels. A parent dreaming of being back in college the night their “baby” leaves to go to college can mean that they parent doesn’t know how to handle the separation, or that they wish they could go with them.

- K. Kennedy, available for dream interpretations starting in mid to late July.

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