Recurring dreams are those intangible threads of your subconscious wrestling with issues bothering you. Retirement is a major life event and it’s not uncommon for retirees to dream about their days at the office.
Repeated dreaming about work after retirement generally indicates unresolved conflict. These might include an unwillingness to move forward, the need for a new direction or greater acceptance of self. Once those issues are addressed, these dreams usually disappear.
Our subconscious minds are very powerful. Think of something which might have perplexed you and how after a good night’s sleep, you felt clarity.
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The flip side is when we have a bigger issue for which there isn’t a simple answer. This can manifest itself as a recurring and troubling dream.
The crazy part is these dreams are usually full of symbolism with little relationship to life. For instance, dreams about falling are often thought to signify fears of failure.
Thus, falling into a chasm might represent frustrations of not getting a promotion. Of course, everything’s open to interpretation.
The majority of the time, our emotions dominate and not much of anything makes sense. All we recall is how unsettling it was. When they persist, this can be our unconscious wrestling with an issue we’ve chosen to ignore.
Is It Normal to Have Work Dreams After Retirement?
Having work dreams after retirement is common and perfectly normal. Your career was a big part of your life and your subconscious may be sorting things out for years to come. This only becomes an issue if you suffer recurring nightmares and sleep disruption.
With work making up such a big chunk of our lives, it’s understandable many have dreams about it. In fact, an estimated 60-75% of the adult population report dreams about work.
Just because we retired doesn’t mean we’ll not continue dreaming about it.
Part of the reason is our identities often become intertwined with what we do / did. Also, any insecurities or perceived slights remain real. These often reflect unresolved issues we’ve chosen not to address.
What Can We Learn from Our Dreams?
The scary thing is most of the time we don’t even know what’s really bugging us. The fact is dreams are about you and your personality and the subconscious is highlighting any issues.
The reason for recurring dreams is your subconscious is trying to get your attention.
For the most part, we’re aware of a troubled sleep. We might remember feeling upset or scared. After fully waking up, most people have but a vague recollection.
When the dream is recurring, you’ll want to make a conscious effort to remember it. Have pen and paper by your bedside and write everything down. This is critical as dreams dissipate like smoke.
As you document things, you may notice a pattern. Such as, is it the same dream or are they different? Do they have anything in common? Then you need to cut through the symbolism to determine what’s really bothering you.
This TEDx video raises some interesting points on the things we can learn.
Even after retiring, work related dreams can persist. They usually mean there’s something we haven’t dealt with. In effect, your subconscious is holding you back until the issue is addressed.
What Are the Work-Related Dreams After Retiring?
Entire books have been written on dream interpretation and it’s far from an exact science. Each and everyone one of us perceives things differently and there’ll be countless variations.
Having stated that, we’ve attempted to capture some of the most common dreams and what they might mean.
1. Dreams Of Still Working at Your Old Job
This dream might be of still working at your old job. Possibly the office or building is now deserted and you’re the only one there. This could be disturbing, to say the least, especially when you keep on working.
What It Means
One possible meaning is that you're clinging to the past and unable to move forward. Especially, if everything is deserted. No one likes change, especially when forced upon us.
In addition, you may not have properly prepared for this life-altering transition.
The majority of people assume retirement will be great. And, the first months of the “honeymoon” period are like being on vacation. Then reality sets in and you’re faced with challenges you never anticipated such as:
All these challenges can cause you to reflect on when you felt comfortable and in control. Our post how to write a retirement plan provides guidance on preparing for retired life.
2. Feeling Completely Unprepared
You might dream of feeling completely unprepared. This could be a big presentation, an important project or other event. You’re simply not ready and feel panicked. Your dream might leave you feeling anxious and dreading what’s about to happen.
What It Means
Generally, people who have this dream are always well prepared for everything and, now, feel like they’re being judged. This may be connected to an upcoming event or something you feel nervous about. It stems from anxiety and how things will be received.
These individuals worry everything won’t be perfect. If this continues, it might indicate a lack of confidence or letting others down. The resolution might be calming down and realizing you can only do your best.
3. Dreaming About Money
How disturbing would it be to see all your money go up in flames or the banks going broke? Even worse, being homeless or begging on the street. Or, it could be seeing your “older self” forced to work at a menial job you hate.
If your sleep is filled with visions of money disappearing, who wouldn’t wake in a cold sweat?
What It Means
Money is symbolic for almost everything!
However, with the continual upward increases in cost of living, outliving your savings is one of the most common retirement fears. Oddly, even well-off individuals seem to be the most susceptible to this. In a very real sense, they have the most to lose.
Often, this is triggered by spiraling costs of living or overspending. All this further heightens anxieties over financial security.
The first step is understanding why this is affecting your sleep. Perhaps you do need to rein in your spending. Alternatively, it might require creating a more comprehensive budget and investment strategy.
The amount of money you have in your dream is driven by your subconscious not reality. That being said, it symbolizes your ability to have choices and how content you are.
The more you have, the more choices you have and you’re much more content with your life.
4. Dreaming About Your Old Boss
Chances are if you’re going to dream about an old boss, it’s going to be one you didn’t like. And these will be more like nightmares. Some scenarios could be he / she reprimanding you, criticizing your performance or even firing you.
What It Means
In this situation, usually there’s someone or something leaving you feeling judged or unappreciated. In all likelihood, you're expected to behave in a certain manner and resentments have begun to fester.
Some examples might include:
In effect, instead of doing something good, you feel taken advantage with your efforts taken for granted. This might harken back to an old boss who didn’t value your contributions.
If you find yourself in this position, you’ll want to get to the bottom of what's causing this and find a way of addressing it.
5. Dreaming About Your Co-Workers
Some folks have vivid dreams about their co-workers. Perhaps being in the boardroom talking and laughing with others. In effect, re-living all the camaraderie and good times you miss about work.
While this might seem a pleasant dream, it can also be disturbing.
Alternatively, it might focus on a specific co-worker. Someone you didn’t like and, possibly, avoided. In your dream state this could escalate into an argument or much worse. Something about them or what they represent deeply troubles you.
What It Means
In the first scenario, there’s a good chance you miss your co-workers. This is one of the most commonly reported comments of new retirees. We discuss this in more detail in our post loss of work friends. This might also indicate a weak social network.
The reality is work friends make up a major component of our social interaction. Unless you’ve developed strong friendships outside of the office, you’re vulnerable to loneliness and even social isolation.
Our post how to make friends after retirement provides insights on how to expand and deepen your social circle.
The second scenario is a little more complicated. Why does that one individual stand out for you? For some reason, they're stuck in your subconscious mind. This might indicate someone in your life reminds you of them.
Perhaps they said something hurtful you’ve been unable to deal with. Whether real or perceived, this obviously still bothers you. The only way to resolve it is getting to the bottom of what’s really bothering you.
6. Dreaming Of Being Stuck in An Elevator
One of the classic interpretations is of elevators and escalators. One of the most terrifying would be being trapped within an elevator by yourself.
Escape is impossible and no one can hear you. There are many variations of this revolving around the sense of being trapped.
What It Means
In general, an elevator’s up and down movement represents life’s ups and downs. When you’re trapped, this likely reflects you feel stuck in life. For someone still working, they might perceive they’re in a dead-end job.
In retirement, this could be interpreted as being stuck in a rut. Everyday seems much like the last one with nothing of any real interest to look forward to.
This is when you’ll want to shake things up and find meaningful activities. Our post the ultimate guide of things to do shares lots of thoughts on this matter.
7. Dreams of Being Chased
Dreaming about work after retirement can manifest itself as a bizarre nightmarish pursuit. You’re running as fast as you can and can’t get away. You’re being hunted down by an attacker(s) or wild pack of animals.
What It Means
Dreams of chases generally signify, at an unconscious level, you're avoiding somebody or something. Often this stems from your previous work life where you felt helpless in certain situations.
The human mind has a fight or flight response, depending upon the perceived danger.
One of the most important things to identify is who or what was chasing you? Was it a male, female, animal or unknown entity? Understanding this can provide a clue as to what's troubling you.
For instance, being chased by a person(s) could represent your frustration with a person in your life. a former supervisor who took credit for your work and / or marginalized your contributions.
Your mind correlates this to a more recent situation of someone taking advantage. Effectively masking your current issue.
When you have no idea of who / what is chasing you, it could be your yourself. Unchecked emotions can be powerful and you may be avoiding something annoying, scary or hurtful. Such as dreading the results of a medical test.
8. Dreams Of Being Naked at Work (Or in Public)
How mortified would you feel if you walked into work totally naked? And, the weirdest part is no one even notices or says anything. Meanwhile, this would be the most uncomfortable experience imaginable.
One of the biggest fears people, often, have is exposing either their physical or mental side
What It Means
Metaphorically, clothes acts like a shield. Without them, we would be vulnerable and exposed. In real life, many people fear showing their true self.
Somehow, they believe others, either, won’t like them or judge them harshly. We all have fears, insecurities and anxieties. And the last thing we want is to be laughed at.
During our working years, seldom do we fret about not being accepted. We’ve been doing the same job for years and surrounded by people we know. We’re highly comfortable.
After retiring, everything changes and these are uncharted waters. Seeing yourself naked at work is considered a sign of vulnerability. The underlying fear is people won’t like the real you.
9. Dreams Of Falling
Almost everyone has dreamt of falling at some point in their lives. Whether it be falling off a cliff, out of a plane or some other endless descent. Time slows as you plummet ever downward. The most terrifying thought becomes how will it end.
So, how does it correlate to dreaming about work after retirement?
What It Means
Common beliefs are it’s about feelings of inadequacy or loss of control. Things most of us have dealt with throughout our careers.
For instance, all those projects which hit obstacles or outright went off the rails. Some of these are beyond our control.
After a while, everyone has some self doubts and their ability to manage things. Just because we’re getting older, doesn’t mean there won’t be setbacks. It just means learning new ways of dealing with them.
10. Dreams About Needing a Fresh Start
Your dreams are filled with newborns, kittens / puppies or a shiny new sportscar! That’s all you seem to be able to think about. All these wonderful signs of regeneration and rebirth.
What It Means
When you were working, this could represent you either started a new job or are thinking about starting one. Getting a fresh start in your career.
When you retire, this symbolizes something new or exciting may be added to your life. You might’ve just signed up for a dance class or started some new hobby you’re excited about.
It’s your subconscious indicating you need a breath of new energy and direction to bring you back to life. This’ll help you live your best life in retirement.
Closing Thoughts on Dreaming About Work After Retirement
Dreams tend to be highly symbolic and not easily understood. They’re an expression of your subconscious mind working through the many challenges your conscious self is faced with. They only become a problem when there’s unresolved conflict.
This is the stuff of nightmares haunting you night after night. Only when you understand what’s really bothering you, can these be resolved.
Retirement is a life altering transition which can create fear, doubt and uncertainty. These in turn can manifest themselves as disturbing dreams.
Unresolved conflict can occur for those who cling to the past. They’re fearful of the future and what might come. In most situations, they should be considering a new direction and finding a way to embrace this next chapter in life.
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