Wednesday February 25, 2004

Dreaming

The inspiration for this essay came from a comment on the Purple Ink list group, to wit:

I dream in colour when it suits me.
To which I responded, "Does this mean you also dream in black and white when it suits?"

And then I was inspired to write this:

I'm not a happy dreamer; if I could turn mine off I would.

I kept a dream journal for several years in High School and College, diligently recording, upon waking, every dream I'd had that I could remember (and I've always been quite good at remembering my dreams). They were weird then too. I stopped when it occurred to me that I wasn't "getting anything" out of the exercise :)

I've never believed in "dream symbolism" (at least, not in any generic symbolism). I believe that each person's dreams are individual, that their symbology is also highly individual. I believe that my dreams are mostly products of my creative subconscious let loose (and it really shouldn't be allowed to run around loose!) and that my dreams are less symbolic than pure, casual, entertainment (stream-of-unconsciousness). That said, they are also weird and not, on the whole, very entertaining.

My dreams generally have Very High Production Values - with big sets (often an "indoor set" will have ceilings 14 or 20 feet high!), vivid colors, far too many props, very ornate architecture, lots of rooms, large casts (many times I wake thinking "who _were_ all those people?!"). I _always_ dream in color (well, except for one time, when the dream plot included watching an old movie or program on television and the movie in the dream was in b&w :-)

Calvin_dreams_72dpi

The plots are generally convoluted. The one thing I don't get is good lighting. For some reason most of my dreams have suboptimal lighting; perhaps because I dream at night? ;-)

I often feel like Calvin in the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. There was one Sunday full-color strip in which Calvin was dreaming. His subconscious self (depicted as small Calvins inside his head) was showing movies (his dreams). When they realized the next film reel was missing, they simply grabbed a random reel from the basement. Calvin woke feeling very confused. My dreams are often like that.

I don't have recurring dreams so much as recurring sets; for example, I have dreams set in the house I grew up in, dreams set in one or the other grandmother's houses (oddly, one house matches reality, the other does not but I know it as "Gram's house" in the dream). I have many dreams that take place in some nameless City. I can tell you how to get to the Mall, to downtown, to the area with the shopping center and the motel where I usually stay. The other night I dreamed I was there with my sister, telling her how to get to the other side of town. As is often the case, I knew it was a dream; I was faintly amused to be giving my sister directions to landmarks within my dream landscape.

I rarely have what could be termed "nightmares" (for example, although I often dream that my car is going off the road, it always "floats" over the lake or whatever after that and I tend to get back on the road again with a strong rush of relief. Weird, huh.) Then again, I rarely have what could be called "good dreams" either, that is, dreams I enjoy having, wish wouldn't end so soon, and want to remember when I wake up. I do have those, just not very often.

Instead, my dreams tend to be big, active, and not really anything I want to recall later. I've taught myself to expunge the dream from my mind upon waking and _not_ to try to capture any remaining threads. It's generally not worth it. ("Who _were_ all those people? And _what_ were they doing?"... "Never mind, just forget that, it's time to get up"). When I wake in the night I'm more diligent about actively forgetting; else I'm always a bit concerned that I'll go back to sleep and right back into the dream.

Although I am often aware that I am dreaming, it's more like being aware that I'm watching a movie; I don't gain much control from the knowledge. I can sometimes "nudge" a dream along, for example if it's one of the rare ones that I am enjoying, I can give it gentle nudges to keep it on the enjoyable plotline. Otherwise my dreams have a tendency to go off on tangents; if I don't maintain a loose "hold" on them I lose them.

Researchers claim people "need to dream" to get the best sleep. I'm not convinced. When I've been dreaming, I tend to wake exhausted and groggy. Sometimes I'm "caught" in a dream in the early morning hours. I'm half-conscious and half asleep. I can't wake up because I can't get out of the dream. I really hate it when that happens.

If I could find a drug or hypnosis or something that would ensure a dreamless sleep without nasty side effects (or even something that would promise me smaller, less "interesting" dreams with much lower production values and smaller casts!) I'd try it in a heartbeat.


What kinds of dreams do you have? Do you remember them? Do you keep (or have you ever kept) a dream journal?

Dreaming ( in category Gemisch/Gallimaufry ) - posted at Wed, 25 Feb, 12:26 Pacific | «e»