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The nightmares of life


Richard Shaw

By Richard Shaw

The workplace offers many rewards to a person: remuneration for their work and time, benefits beyond the paycheck such as health insurance and vacation, a satisfaction of accomplishing things, a feeling of belonging and many more.
A person’s dream job, if they can get it, also often completes one’s life.
Problem is, even with dream jobs, sometimes things turn into nightmares, literally.
According to Psychology Today, “Nightmares are lengthy, elaborate dreams with imagery that evokes fear, anxiety or sadness.”

What about work?

I have often wondered how many people have nightmares about their work, and if they do, what does that reveal about their situation?
Having nightmares about my daily routines has happened to me more than once. They seemed so real, yet I knew they were not, even sometimes within the dream.
Nightmares tend to be a reaction to stress of some kind. Kids have nightmares, and according to studies, females tend to have more nightmares than males. But most children “grow out” of nightmares as a normal part of getting older.
Still almost everyone has one–at least once in awhile–even in adulthood.
What I get, and have for a long time, are startling moments in dreams; something comes at me fast, an unseen attacker jumps on me, someone leaps out at me. These dreams tend to make it so I can’t go back to sleep. Neither can my wife because someone yelling in their sleep and pretending to perform kung fu on her while she is slumbering tends to make one wary of the person lying next to them for awhile.

Sometimes they’re real

The word nightmare has a number of definitions too, and we use it in many different ways. Obviously what I have been talking about is a frightening or unpleasant dream. But the word can also mean a real experience that is upsetting (“The way they did things was a nightmare”) or a situation or a person that is difficult to deal with (“The child in her class was a nightmare”).
Teachers understand this last one well, and usually there are a couple of other nightmares that go along with it, called the parents of the kid.
When I was a child, I remember I had nightmares, but at this point in my life I can’t remember most of them, just like I can’t recall where I laid down my car keys five minutes ago. But there was this one recurring dream I had in which I was in this factory and there was this large machine with a zillion big gears, lots of levers and a hundred pulleys on it. The gears teeth ground together, as the levers moved and the pulleys rotated powering something in another room though the means of a large belt.

Squished by gears

Somehow in the dream I fell into the gears and was being squished between the teeth and was moving from one to another. In most of these dreams there were friends of mine that were standing there watching me, and they were pointing and laughing while I screamed out in horror. I would wake up all twisted up in my bed sheets, sometimes so restrained that it took me some time to get them untangled. I usually couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. This dream started occurring when I was about eight years old, and I had it numerous times up through my early 20s. It ended when I married my first wife. It is pretty obvious, now looking back years later, that she was the embodiment of that dream, so instead of imagining it, I was living it.
I am sure there is someone out there that is a professional that is reading this and saying to themselves, “This guy has real problems.” Funny thing about this dream though, as scary as it was, I have always been drawn to machines with lots of gears, levers and pulleys.
Once I was past that, I began having nightmares that weren’t exactly scary but made me anxious or uncomfortable. Most came from my circumstances of employment. I worked for Coca Cola as a merchandiser, route driver and accounts manager for a little over a year and at night I would dream of stocking shelves with soda. The next day deja vu set in when I was doing exactly the same thing in reality. Go figure. There was no rest for wicked me in that job.
When I was a facilities manager for a big organization, I would continually dream that on a very cold night pipes would freeze in multiple buildings at once, break and large floods would ensue, not only causing a lot of damage but endless work for everyone involved. Right in the middle of my tenure in that job the winter of 1983 came and exactly what I had dreamed happened in 10 buildings I was managing over a period of two days. With that I started to consider myself the Nostradamus of leaky plumbing.
However the biggest and worst nightmares I have had over the years concerned employees. In my dreams they would all quit one day, and I would have to do all their work or they would revolt, wielding torches and pitchforks. They would march to my office and pound on my office door yelling to me to let them in while I cowered under my desk. In the dream the uprising was usually led by an employee who was giving me some kind of grief at the time.
I never did open the door for them though, not even once. I wonder what would have happened if I had?
Of course, I have had the dreams we all have when I have been knocked out for a surgery or had a little too much to drink. By the way that was when I was much younger. Now in my old age I always have too little to drink. I was so happy one time in a dream that during my recovery from an ankle surgery my wife took a photo of me smiling with her cell phone and she texted it to the people at the Sun Advocate. When I got back to work a couple of days later it was plastered on large format paper on my office door. It think it was a hint that they realized there actually were times when I was not grumpy.
So what does this have to do with anything important? Just this. We all have dreams, both while we sleep and the ones we hold in our mind that we hope will someday come true. Not all dreams are good, in either case, because we can be misled by them so easily. The horrible ones can haunt us, or the cause of them can. The ones we hold up as what we want often come with unforeseen problems, particularly those that have to do with only material things. Just ask any big lottery winner; they will tell you that all that money they won may solve some problems, but it also creates some, often major ones for those affected by the sudden influx of cash.
The best dreams to have are of stable, happy relationships, with a loving family and a real purpose in life. There will always be a few nightmares along the way, ( i.e. those that try to derail your dreams, circumstances that seem to make your dreams impossible to achieve, etc.) but if you believe in your dreams, you can overcome much of the adversity. A friend of mine once told me that if people were happy all the time, they wouldn’t understand what happiness really was.
So I guess there is a place for nightmares, after all.

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