During most of my adult life, I have had recurring dreams. I'm not talking about having a dream a few times but about the same dream occurring for a decade or more. Many people don't remember their dreams but I often do. I've also been capable of lucid dreaming in the past and often used to wake myself from nightmares by realizing that I was in a dream and the terrible things I experienced couldn't happen in real life so I must be dreaming. I don't have many actual nightmares anymore and my ability to lucid dream may be related to that or it could simply be that fear is a very different animal when you're older than when you're younger and doesn't tend to manifest itself so obviously or elaborately as you mature.
In the past decade, two recurring dreams have stood out. In the first one, I'm looking for a best friend from high school. Often, I have his phone number and I fail repeatedly in my attempts to dial the phone to contact him. It's as if I lack the dexterity to dial the number properly and therefore constantly push the buttons in the incorrect order repeatedly. This experience in the dream is immensely frustrating. Sometimes, I can't find the number at all. On occasion, I find him and he is cold and indifferent to me or too busy to talk to me. The other dream is one in which my husband has done something which makes me so furious that I am apoplectic with frustration at his response. In this dream, he is either utterly indifferent to my reaction or cold and cruel.
Lately, I've been having a third recurring dream in which I either plan or want to go back to my former company. Sometimes they ignore me and sometimes they make it clear that they don't need me or require my services. This topic is at the forefront of my mind because I had this particular dream last night.
All of these dreams have a few things in common and that's that I'm either out and out rejected or seen as unimportant, or that I can't get what I want or need. Depending on how you view dreams and if you embrace the notion of dream interpretation, this is either very significant or utterly useless information. However, given where I live and some of my life experiences, the notion that I'd feel deep down that I was being constantly rejected or useless isn't such a stretch. After all, I will never fit in in Japan and am reminded of that on a daily basis.
Depending on who you speak with, dreams serve different purposes. Psychologists usually tie them to suppressed feelings or issues. Sleep researchers tie them to a need to have the brain in a certain type of sleep in order to maintain health and mental stability. Some people feel dreams are messages from other selves, realities or entities. The truth is that no one really knows why we dream. Oh, researchers can tell you what happens if we don't dream and psychologists can theorize a relationship between the conscious and "unconscious" mind as a rationale but no one really knows what compels us to dream or what they mean.
When I was studying psychology in university, I wrote a paper on dream interpretation which gave an overview of the various theories and methods for analyzing them but the bottom line is that dreams are such a personalized experience that the only one who can really interpret them is the person who is having them. Personally, I think that not all dreams serve the same purpose. Some of them are psychological messages from your inner self to your outer self. Some of them are messages. For me, some of them have also been moments of absolutely mundane precognition of little experiences or events.
For awhile, I took the time to write down my dreams but I found that it took too long to do so. My little dream notebook would contain dreams with a level of detail requiring 6-8 pages of writing. I simply remember them too well and feel it's pointless to write out brief summaries when I can remember them anyway. However, I do feel that writing them down can be very useful, particularly if you have troubling dreams or quickly forget your dreams. They have the potential to tell you at least as much about yourself as your waking thought processes do.
As a final note, I'll also mention that I have had recurring dreams where I smoke and I love it. The sensation of smoking and the pleasure I derive from it is extremely real in the dream. It's not some abstract experience where I stand aside and witness myself smoking and think I'm having fun. I am in a body putting the cigarette in my mouth, inhaling and exhaling smoke and holding the cigarette in my hand and my nervous system and mental needs are very satisfied. When I have this dream, I find it the most natural experience in the world and do not feel any sort of guilt or need to censor the pleasure I receive from smoking. In real life, I hate smoking and haven't smoked since one clandestine cigarette offered to me by my cousins at the age of 10 which sent me into a painful coughing fit. I thoroughly detested that experience and hate second-hand smoke. Of all the recurring dreams I have, this one puzzles me the most. Though I'm sure there are wags out there who will attach something Freudian to the dream, I'm just as sure sex has nothing to do with it.