Work-Related Dreams Are Common

Alberta Jensen of Aniwa has nightmares about botching a job on the assembly line at Federal Mogul. Bao Yang of Wausau always is late for work in her dreams. And Jennifer Smith dreams about overcharging her customers at Gander Mountain.

Though these women have no idea why, they are not alone in having work-related dreams.
Monster.com cites a 2003 survey of 1,000 adults conducted by British bank NatWest in which 80 percent of women and 60 percent of men said they dream about work. What’s more, 65 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported waking up in a cold sweat, worried about their jobs.

The jury is out on how north central Wisconsin sleeps, but an informal poll of some residents turned up some unique sleepy-time stories based in work life.

Jensen says she has two recurring work-related dreams. One dream relates to her job at the Langlade County Humane Society, where she takes care of animals in the shelter. The other dream is of work at Federal Mogul, where she makes piston rings.

In the humane society dream, Jensen enters the animal shelter and finds animals everywhere. Not one four-legged creature is in its cage, and no one is there to help her get things under control.

“That’s a scary thing,” she said.

As for the Federal Mogul dream, “Every now and then I have a dream about making the piston rings wrong. … Just one ring can cost $3, and we make thousands of them in an hour, so making a mistake like that would be very costly,” Jensen said. “I wonder why I worry about that constantly. I’m always trying to figure out why I have that dream.”

Dream analyst Layne Dalfen of Montreal said she can’t say for certain what’s prompting Jensen’s recurring work-related dream but suggested Jensen should think about what else has been going on in her life to help her figure it out.

“In that dream, (Jensen) can’t seem to get the job done right,” Dalfen, 53, said in a telephone interview. She has spent 30 years studying dreams and is the founder and director of the Dream Interpretation Center in Montreal. “It sounds like she has done this job dozens of times and probably knows exactly how to get the job done. So she needs to ask herself what’s going on at work that she can’t seem to get right.”

Maybe Jensen can’t get promoted or can’t get a raise, Dalfen said. Or maybe the dream isn’t about work at all.

“Very often a dream might look like it’s work-related, but it’s about something else altogether,” she said.

Dreams not always meaningful

Carol Wesley, a Wausau marriage and family counselor, thinks people need to be cautious about taking their dreams too seriously.

“A lot of times, dreams just don’t have any meaning,” said Wesley, who works at Associated Counseling Services in Wausau. “Sometimes all they are is interesting and fun.

“One problem in taking dreams literally is that we may be misinterpreting what’s going on,” Wesley said. “If you’re going to analyze your dream, it’s important to look at the overall theme of the dream … instead of just looking at the setting of the dream.”

Veronica Hope, 39, of Wausau said people she works with pop up in her dreams, but beyond that, her unconscious is void of work-related dreams.

“My co-workers are never the star,” said Hope, who teaches welding at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau. “They’re like the co-star, or an extra. They show up out of context.”

Then again, she doesn’t dream a lot, either.

“I feel like there’s nothing that goes on in my unconscious mind, because I haven’t had a dream in so long,” Hope said.

Work dreams can seem real

On the flip side, Sara Novitzke, 21, of Edgar said her unconscious always keeps her thinking, and she has lots of dreams about her workplace, Whey Cool Cafe in Washington Square in downtown Wausau.

“My most recent dream was about throwing away the gelato,” Novitzke said. “We clean out the freezer and throw the gelato away on Wednesday, but in my dream, I throw it away on Tuesday.”

Yang, her co-worker, an 18-year-old Wausau resident, said she often dreams about “being late to work,” she said. “I don’t know why. I’ve never been late.”

Smith, the Gander Mountain employee, said her dreams can be so stressful that they can keep her awake at night.

“If I spend a day working the register, I dream about customers who are angry and about charging people too much for what they buy,” said Smith, a 20-year-old Rothschild resident.

Working on a dream
The following are the work-related topics most often dreamed about, in order of frequency, according to a 2003 survey:

1. Arguing with the boss.
2. Being late for an important meeting.
3. Lusting after a colleague.
4. Having to make an unexpected presentation.
5. Going to work naked.
6. Losing files in a fatal computer crash.
7. Getting fired.
8. Killing the boss.


by Amy Kimmes