Dream Interpreter: Shrunken kids in a Tupperware container

The Journal's dream interpreter analyzes a dream about first-day jitters

Journal File Photo

I’m Meryl Sleep, Queen’s resident dream interpreter. I analyze dreams in an effort to decode the symbols in each Queen’s student’s subconscious. Today’s dream involves a discussion about stress, and suggestions on how to cope with those anxious feelings.


I volunteer on weekends with children at a cooking class, and before my first session I had a dream that I was assigned five kids to work with. (Usually, you’re paired with just one). In my dream, about halfway into the session, all the kids hated me and then proceeded to shrink in size. I then lost them all and began to panic.

Eventually, I found them. They were in a container, so I had to return these five shrunken children to their parents in a Tupperware-like container.

Dear Dreamer,

The timing of this dream suggests that it’s simply the product of how much you were worried about starting your new volunteer gig.

When you spend a significant amount of your waking hours thinking about something that’s causing you stress, it can easily cross over into your dreams through related imagery or actions. In this case, your volunteer role requires you to interact with children in a capacity that places great responsibility on your shoulders. That’s a stressful situation to jump into.

As this dream is so closely linked to real-life stress, the images likely don’t carry any symbolism that’s worth analyzing in depth.

Instead, this is a good opportunity to make a note of what happened in the dream in order to identify the stressors in your life. In your dream, your brain seems to use the narrative as a means of playing out the various ways that the experience could go poorly: the children don’t like you and suffer a physical ailment under your care, and you have to own up to what happened through a face-to-face confrontation with a bunch of adults. It’s a classic first-day-of-work nightmare.

When reflecting on that dream sequence of events, there are a few major stressors that stand out in your dream, including a fear of not connecting with the children, being unable to keep them safe, and having everyone know that you screwed up.

Jan. 29 is Bell Let’s Talk day, putting the topic of mental health at the forefront of everyone’s minds this week. It’s also a good time to suggest that dreams can be helpful indicators of what’s weighing you down, because they’re so often based on the real things happening to you. When you wake up after a particularly emotional dream, write down what happened and see if it resembles any recent events in your life.

To avoid dreams like this one, which play off your fears and contribute to your nerves, it’s important to address the things causing you stress. It can be helpful to write your daily thoughts in a journal, share your concerns with a trusted friend or family member, or use meditation to confront the problem and clear your mind.

If you feel like you’re unable to cope with your stress or could simply benefit from talking to someone with professional training, remember that it’s always okay to reach out for help. There are a number of resources available on campus, including Student Wellness Services’ 24/7 online mental health counselling service Empower Me.

That way, once your head hits the pillow, your mind is free to wander into happier, more peaceful scenarios.

Sweet dreams!

Meryl Sleep

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