For the last six months or so, I've had a recurring dream that goes like this:
I'm standing in a room of people. Sometimes, it's the Mamamia office. Other times, it's a nondescript social event or family dinner. I'm aggressively grinding my teeth, and can't stop. When I go to open my mouth to speak, my teeth fall out. In slow motion, they move through the air, twirling and sparkling like perfect pearls, before landing one-by-one in my hands. I look up to see the blank expressions of those around me and feel overcome with shame—positive that this is the most horrific thing to ever happen to me.
I have this dream every week without fail. Each time I wake up in a flurry of anxious movement, profusely sweating and hyperventilating, all before I realize my teeth are exactly where they were the night before—in my mouth.
(My boyfriend is such a lucky man to share a bed with me every night. Poor fella.)
When I told some friends about my recurring dream and inevitable 2:00 a.m. breakdowns, their response took me by surprise: it just so turns out they've dreamed about their teeth falling out before too.
Because I hold onto things longer than I should (I probably need a hobby) and find myself with a lot of time in the middle of the night, I just HAD to know what this bizarro teeth dream means and why so many women in my life are having it.
This is where dream analyst and author of Dream Alchemy Jane Teresa Anderson stepped in and blew my preconceptions (It just means I'm sick! It's probably stress!) to smithereens.
Why? Because the explanation is so much more interesting than that.
“Dreams always reflect the last one to two days, because when you dream, your mind’s job is to process your conscious and unconscious experiences," Anderson, who studied science and neurophysiology at university, told me.
“Recurring dreams occur because of the same issue. Your dream started six months ago, so you can look back to that time and link it to something else that started around then.”
Well, yes, I told her. A couple of big things changed around the precise time my teeth dream started popping up.
About six months ago, I was put in a new position at work. Then about a month after that, I was moved again. Basically, my new position as Weekend Editor means I'm in more meetings, where I have more opportunity to make a royal fool of myself on a daily basis.
And that has everything to do with the dream, Anderson said.
"In general, the feeling of a teeth dream, of being horrified or embarrassed, normally comes after something you’ve said in the last two days."
Anderson explained teeth-dreamers fall into two camps: "It's either because you’ve said something you’re worried about, that people may take the wrong way, or that you’re so worried about saying the wrong thing, you don’t say anything at all."
As someone who tends to say exactly what's on my mind with no filter, I land squarely in Camp One—the camp where I have at least one foot placed firmly in my mouth at all times.
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Actually, worrying about my verbal dribble—in my articles, to my colleagues, to my friends and loved ones—troubles me on a daily basis.
And my concern that what I say or what I write will embarrass everyone who has ever known me is precisely the reason I keep having this stupid, gross dream.
"It’s a dream around confidence or lack of confidence," Anderson told me. "Your dreams show you what you do know about yourself, your conscious self, and what you don’t know about yourself, your unconscious self."
The good news is, if you're a teeth dreamer like I am, there are ways to "rewire" your brain that may help the dream disappear.
"When you wake up, close your eyes and imagine yourself back in the dream," Anderson advises.
"Imagine yourself smiling back at everyone with big teeth, sparkling white Disney teeth. It sends a message back to your mind and makes me feel more confident in the future."
So there you have it. If anyone sees me on the train with my eyes closed and a maniacal grin on my face, you know why...
You can check out more of Jane Teresa Anderson's work here. For more from Michelle Andrews, follow her on .
This post originally appeared on Mamamia, Spring.St's Australian sister site. You can read it here.