In your dreams, anything can happen. What’s real merges with the imaginary and all the information taken in during the day is projected onto the canvas of your subconscious. Among the most common dreams are those involving high-speed heart-thumping car chases, ones where you are falling endlessly or passionate love stories with random celebrities. But people also dream about work and those can be the real headliners at this late-night cinema. This is hardly surprising given how much time we devote to our jobs and the fact that remote working has turned the notion of work-life balance on its head. So nothing could be more normal than to continue thinking about your job, consciously or not, beyond the hours of a working day. But what does it all mean?
We asked Louise-Frédérique Sainker, a psychotherapist and expert in dream interpretation, to decipher five common work-related dreams to help you to better understand what your subconscious is trying to whisper to you at night. Here is an overview of what she said.
A changed state
When you dream, you are in a modified state of consciousness. In other words, it is actually your state that is modified––since you’re no longer awake but asleep––and not your consciousness that has changed. This state is all the more significant because it allows you to integrate all the new information and activities acquired during the day into your long-term memory. Questioning your dreams can then be useful, insofar as there is proper continuity between your daily thoughts and the dreams you have at night.
On a side note, there are no standard dreams. Strictly speaking, each dream can have several interpretations depending on the dreamer and the context. So it’s not about simply taking the interpretations below at face value, though they can still help you to ask yourself the right questions. Indeed, patterns can be repeated from dream to dream, and it is these patterns that carry meaning. “Not only can they provide information about dysfunction in your relationships or about work itself,” said Sainker, “but they also encourage you to dare to do what you won’t do when you are reasoning consciously.” You shouldn’t deprive yourself of this.
Tell me what your dreams are and I’ll tell you who you are
Scenario number 1: the repetitive one
In this recurring dream, you have to perform a boring, repetitive task at work over and over. You are sitting at your desk, switching on your computer, looking at your emails or making photocopies. There is nothing very exciting about what you are doing and this seems like a pretty useless dream. Except that this is the sixth time you have had it this month.
Interpretation: Dreaming several times of the same somewhat banal subject is all the more disturbing as what it reveals is the emptiness and repetitiveness of the actions. It reflects a weariness and exhaustion that can be swept under the carpet during the day for a whole lot of conscious reasons: maybe because you have to work, you have to earn a good living or because there is growing unemployment. “But this dream lets you know about a psychological saturation regarding your job, which can have serious physical consequences on the body,” said Sainker. “If these dreams become too invasive over a given period of time, it means that there is a degree of anxiety that requires an imminent change. Perhaps this is an opportunity to really become aware of the need to change something in your professional life?” Without going so far as to start a whole new career, this may be the time to talk with your manager or to consider new projects?
Scenario number 2: the one involving a love story with your boss
You often dream you are having a romantic affair––more or less––with your boss. It’s all the more disturbing because you’re not remotely attracted to them. (That’s not for lack of having observed them closely during the day and from all angles, just to be sure.) However, it is proving impossible to remove it from your unconscious at night.
Interpretation: Depending on the context, dreaming about your boss can mean many things. If it involves romance or even eroticism, it may mean that you would like to feel appreciated at work. “When we look for physical contact with our boss in a dream, it’s usually their admiration of your work that you are missing in real life,” said Sainker. “This dream informs you of a need for recognition, so listen to yourself.” Perhaps you could talk about it in your next meeting with your boss?
More generally, your superior in a hierarchy reflects authority and therefore often refers to the father figure. “And conversely, if you dream about your father, it can mean it’s about your boss,” said Sainker. Perhaps there are issues you need to resolve with your father or with the image you have of him? Or is it his approval you are looking for? So there’s lots to think through during any lockdown.
Scenario number 3: the one where someone close to you takes the place of your colleague, Michael
You dream that someone close to you has barged into your professional life in a completely justified way. They become your colleague and work with you as if they had been doing so all their life. This surprises you as you can see absolutely no connection between their personality and the job they now have. So what the hell are they doing here?
Interpretation: Here again, seeing a loved one show up at your office in your dreams can be interpreted differently, depending on the context of the dream in question. “If it’s a friend, it’s a good thing because the colleague represents partnership and collaborative effort,” said Sainker. “If the person is none other than your romantic partner, don’t panic, it’s also a good sign! As for friendship, it highlights the great harmony that must exist between the two of you.” If these dreams take place when working remotely is the norm, it can also be related to the lockdown and the fact that the context has deepened your intimacy. If you have not been locked down together, it may instead symbolise a way for your unconscious mind to fill in this absence in such a way that the relationship in the dreams will last, despite the notion of work-life balance at the moment.
However, if the relative in question is one of your parents, this complicates things a bit. “All the more so if it is your mother,” said Sainker. “Indeed, a mother [figure] has absolutely nothing to do with the professional arena. Because this one, of all the arenas that are yours, belongs only to you.” It may therefore reflect the somewhat invasive nature of this parent, and more generally, the fear of being supervised.
Scenario number 4: the one where you are naked as the day you were born
Like every other morning, you’re at the office ready to start work, or at least to hang out by the coffee machine with the other regulars. All of a sudden, a colleague subtly points out that you forgot to put on any clothes this morning. You’re stark naked!
Interpretation: As amusing and light-hearted as this scenario may seem, this dream isn’t a good sign but is often a very negative one. “Nudity in public or inappropriate places is almost always a bad sign, because it brings back the idea that you no longer have any useful and necessary defences against the outside world,” said Sainker. *“This scenario expresses great vulnerability for you, especially around others, and therefore a fear that they will swallow you whole.”* If this dream becomes recurrent, be careful as you may be edging close to emotional overload. It may be necessary to do some work on yourself in order to rebuild your self-confidence.
Secondly, being naked in front of others in a professional setting can also mean that you tend to give too much of yourself and don’t keep enough distance. “Even if you are looking to blend in with everyone,” said Sainker, “it is important to keep some distance between you and other people, especially in a professional environment, in order to protect yourself.”
Scenario number 5: the one where you become a firefighter
You dream that you’re doing a job that isn’t your own. This isn’t a job that’s close to what you do in real life, it’s literally nothing like it. But then what do you do, give up everything to become a firefighter?
Interpretation: Dreaming that you’re working in a job that isn’t yours is completely normal, and it happens quite frequently. This dream doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to move in that direction and change your life in the process. It’s just a good reminder that you’re overflowing with other talents. “In fact, it tells you that you have resources that you’re not using. Or even that you don’t realise how much talent you have in you,” said Sainker. “So don’t limit yourself to what you already know about yourself and get to know yourself better.” Who knows how many untapped skills you may have that are just waiting for you to discover them? It’s up to you to figure it out.
There are as many dreams as there are ways to interpret them and to decipher the messages from your unconscious so you can make adjustments in your daily life. Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be concerned about if you dream about your job, though you should pay attention if any of these five dreams start to pop up regularly. A recurring dream about the same professional situation is rarely a good sign and often signals that something needs to be dealt with––so keep your eyes open.
Translated by Kalin Linsberg
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