Never real and always true – Antonin Artaud
Dreams fascinate me. I dream deeply and often. Last night was a confusing mash of visists from dead friends, vague acquaintances, family – some terror, some fun, set in the twilight between the past and the present. There was no depth, no message, no psychic foresight. It was all just a dream …
I recently read Richard Wiseman’s Night School, a great account of sleep, dreaming and psychological research. On the subject of dreams, I’m none the wiser. Am I deleting unused or unnecessary information? Am I processing difficult thoughts and feelings? As I entering my subconscious? Am I entering some shamanic dream world denied to me during the waking hours? Am I seeing warnings of the future?
At some time, nearly all of these have been true. I’ve had dreams of foreboding, and sometimes acted on them. I’ve had dreams prompted by anger, injustices, or trauma of the days and weeks beforehand. I often find I’m flying, and always have done since being a a child. I have dreamed lucidly, knowing it was a dream, and being able to choose which direction to take – not often, but sometimes. More and more, dead friends visit me in my dreams – one in particular. It’s never frightening, and sometimes I know that he’s a spectre, and sometimes it seems we’ve just met up again as we used to. Invariably, he has some sort of message or some discovery or revelation to bring. Mostly, I feel comforted that he has visited because I cannot reach him any other way. For a while, he is real to me.
For a time, following surgery and medication, in the midst of anxiety or depression, I lost my dreams. These were the most unsettling times. I knew of their absence, and begged for their return, no matter how frightening or terrifying they might be, because the loss of them was worse than the truths they brough. They have always returned.
There have been brief times when my dream world and my real world have interacted. Immediately after my heart surgery, my world was populated with Chinese nurses, vengeful caretakers, hippos created out of paper mache, and Arabian princes. I believed them all, and it took years for me to be dissuaded of their reality. I daydream easily and often, my mind wandering off into half created worlds and futures, passing minutes or even hours.
On and off, I have kept dream diaries. I ask for dreams, and sometimes the requests are granted – answers to life decision, ideas for stories, characters, plots and projects. I can always remember at least some of my dream when I wake – although often feel frustrated that I haven’t recollected enough, or got to the end. But my dreams don’t have endings – mostly, the waking is its own end. I have often died in dreams, and dream in colour, destroying at least two popular myths.
I don’t (largely) snore – so I am told, and have never talked or walked in my sleep, the thought of which disturbs me greatly. My dreams are entirely private, and acting them out in some way in public fills me with a self censorship my dreamland has always freed me from.
I’m not a Jungian, or Freudian, and don’t really believe in dream symbols or interpretations. Occasionally , counselling clients discussed their dreams with me, and therapeutically I have found it most helpful to ask what emotion the dream brings up for them, as well as any special meaning they might attach to the dream. Invariably, we are able to find some understanding of the dream, although this is most probably simply interpretation rather than a ‘real meaning’. But dreams have never been unhelpful for me or for clients, and as a writer I am always surprised and welcoming f the worlds created by my dreams.
I wish I knew more. For someone who spends so much time dreaming, I know instinctively that it must be important. I cherish my dreams, and wish you all the best, and sweetest, of dreams…