failure to graduate

THE CORRECT ANSWER IS... B. Current waking life challenges

Hi Cheryl—

Back to school dreams are incredibly common. If you survey a group of your friends, you will be surprised (and relieved) when about half of them say, “Yeah! I’ve had that dream!”

Curiously, back to school dreams do not reflect a desire to return to school, nor do they reflect emotional trauma from our school years. Instead, the dreams reflect challenges in our current life—usually in a career or social context—about whether or not we will “graduate to the next level.” What’s the connection? The pressure we feel today reminds us of how we used to feel back in high school or college before we took an exam: nervous, and wondering if we will “make the grade.”

Back to school dreams occur when we are stressed about completing a project at work, for example, or if we are switching careers, experiencing money problems, or are trying to “graduate” to a new position in our romantic lives. Because family plays such a starring role in your dream (you always are in your home town) we know you are feeling pressure to succeed from the watching eyes of your parents. Your second dream, of your mother being mean to you, reflects the oppressive nature of her high expectations. Will she ever think you are “a success?”

Back to school dreams let us know that we are feeling uncertain of our ability to “graduate to the next level” in our lives, but they also are reminders of the goals we value and accomplishments we seek to achieve. Your dreams reflect a desire to advance in your career, and also to demonstrate your success and independence to your parents. If you continue to pursue your own definition of success (and not your parents’) these dreams gradually will recede, like a long forgotten mid-term exam!

Dear Dream Doctor—

I know it’s my desire to get to the next level. I sometimes feel like I’ve failed with the Career phase of my life. I am 28 years old and I am feeling like I should be in a more fulfilling career by now. And I definitely want to make my mom and dad proud, especially my family in Georgia. I have to prove that I have succeeded away from home. I am the oldest child. I'm searching for a life that is meaningful and worthwhile.

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