Dreams Without Symbols: A Slice Of Life

Not every dream is symbolic of something, though many are.

People tend to ignore the dreams without symbols unless they’re an instance of deja vu where one has the feeling they’ve been somewhere or done something before.

Dream journalers tend to talk about dreams with symbols more often. They’re more interesting because we learn from those dreams. They help us grow toward our goals.

The surest way to tell if a dream isn’t symbolic of anything is to consider the landscape or setting of the dream. Does it exactly match real life? If it exactly matches or comes close, it may be a “slice of life” dream.

It’s not always apparent if it’s a slice of life when you’re still hypnagogic, sliding from the sleepy dream state into wakefulness.

What you do in a slice-of-life dream?

In a slice-of-life dream you do what you did recently in your everyday life.

If it’s about something you used to do, there’s a reason why you’re thinking about it. The reason varies.

In a prosaic dream like the slice-of-life, you’re mulling over recent events. Maybe they’re interesting to you. Maybe not. Maybe your subconscious has decided that you have to think about something when you sleep and it might as well be that particular activity or event.

It’s called a “slice of your life” because it centers around a scene from your own day-to-day life.

If the slice it shows is from someone else’s life, well, that’s a lot more interesting. Also, if it’s a slice of life that hasn’t happened yet, that’s very interesting too.

Your basic slice-of-life dream consists of an event in a setting from your everyday life. The dream can be so lifelike and uninspiring that you can mistake the dream for being awake when you’re asleep. These kinds of dreams can be especially challenging to remember because they’re so forgettable.

You’re doing something that you do every day. Maybe it’s taking out the trash, brushing your teeth, wiping the counter, or opening the refrigerator.

If it takes place in the bedroom where you’re sleeping, you can be fooled into thinking you weren’t dreaming.

Dream researchers don’t really study these dreams too much, but they are pretty common. They’re not commonly found in some research because people who participate in dream studies sometimes make up their dreams. They’re college students who are sometimes required to complete certain course objectives for a grade. For some of these studies, students were required to participate by journaling their dreams.

They make their dreams up. It’s easier right? They’re just completing the assignment for a grade. Getting it done.


Differences between real life and the slice of life

It can be hard to tell the difference. This kind of dream is so normal and uninspiring that it can be hard to do.

It can be difficult until you notice the minor differences. For example, the dog in your dream was standing to the right of your bed. When you wake up, in real life, he’s more to the left. He could have moved between the time you sensed him and the time you stirred awake. However, if you know you were as sleep, you know your eyes were close.

Yes, you dreamed your dog was standing at the foot of your bed.

Slice-of-life dreams are the very definition of prosaic. If you had to clean a bunch of pots in real life, you could be cleaning more pots in your dream.

It’s a terrible feeling to wake up and find you’ve got to go back and clean some more.

If you dropped your car keys in real life, and do so again in your dream that night, you might be having a slice-of-life dream.

If your foot brushes against an imitation-fur blanket that feels like your cat and you dream of your cat brushing against your leg, that’s a slice-of-life dream too.

The subconscious doesn’t add or take away from the physical scenery in the dream.

You should distinguish this type of dream from a dull dream, like one where your subconscious makes a point tediously or repetitively. Parts of the dull dream mimic real life in specific ways, but they’re not scenes from your life.

Having this kind of dream indicates a focus on the current reality of your life. You’re not letting your imagination wander. You’re preoccupied with the here and now.

This isn’t necessarily a personality defect on your part. Perhaps you are merely bored. You might not even realize how you are finding the events of your life.

Years ago, in college, I had a temporary job folding little boxes for the gem and mineral show that my community put on every year in February. I spent all day folding the small boxes. When I went to bed that night, I spent all day folding them in my dreams.

As soon as I got other things to occupy my mind, I had better, more engaging dreams.

Hard, physical work typically makes you too tired to dream in much detail. Boring, light work tends to produce these kinds of dreams.

Sensing something different in your sleeping environment will also produce these kinds of dreams. For example, the family dog sitting at the foot of your bed urgently wishing you’d get up to play or let him out.

As always, when trying to understand what any dream means, you’re the best judge. 

When you try to understand this kind of dream, it may be honestly puzzling.

If the scene was a bit out of your everyday life, it may only be a slice of your life. Your brain repeats them occasionally because it helps build connections between the synapses. It’s probably not worth contemplating any further.  

Updated Feb. 21, 2021

For further reading:

What does it mean when you dream about everyday life?

4 reasons you’re forgetting a whole lot of dream details quickly

Nagging dreams are like mandatory training from HR.

Write down your dreams

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