work dreams


One recurring theme in the fragmented dreams I’ve been experiencing for the past few years has been work scenarios. They rarely possess a meaningful narrative that I can capture in words, but rather everyday situations attending meetings, commuting, interacting with co-workers, etc. Last night it was the annoyance of having my desk relocated – twice in one day – without any notice or rationale. Just the subconscious reminder that I’m another cog in the wheel.

A decade or so ago I experienced frequent night terrors, waking up from a sound sleep screaming as if I was about to die. These episodes were often preceded by a work-related nightmare in which I’m paged (remember pagers?) in the middle of the night; and indeed, I would bolt upright in bed as if convulsing from an electric shock. After going through some sleep studies, I was prescribed anti-seizure medication, which clearly made the situation worse. I stopped taking the medications, and the night terrors eventually went away on their own, although I will occasionally startle awake as if to remind me that I’m still alive.

In many ways, the humdrum work dreams are worse than the night terrors because they tell me that my subconscious can’t focus on the things that relax me and bring me joy. They instead remind me that as much as I try to leave work at work, it follows me into the quiet places of my psyche, chasing me into a 90 square foot cage of quiet compliance.

Please tell me this isn’t how the world ends.

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