It is said that we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, yet science is only just beginning to understand how very essential sleep is to our mental functioning and overall well-being. We recognize sleep disorders as “real” and sleep is can be studied in any number of clinics across the country. I don’t have to tell you how great a good night’s sleep feels, or how awful it is to try to get through a day on little or no sleep.
One part of sleep that I want to focus on here today is dreams.
Did you ever wake in the morning feeling like you were a part of something very important as you slept?
Have you ever had a dream that felt “real” in a way you recognize on a gut level but cannot validate?
Have you experienced a repeating theme or recalled having the same dream over and over?
Do you always know the people in your dreams, or are they sometimes strangers? Are you in places during dreams that you’ve never been in your waking life?
I can answer “Yes” to most of these and I bet I’m not alone. The feeling from a dream can sometime be fleeting and other times stick with you through a whole day, a sort of constant, hard to dismiss or explain.
I was taught in my college psychology class that dreams are an expression of unconscious desires or fears. Nightmares certainly fall into the fear category. And the dream journal I kept briefly for that long ago class taught me most of my dreams had subconscious symbolism. A bit of hard reflection usually brought it to light.
Recognition didn’t do me all that much good, I still struggled as much as anybody. Still worried too much and suffered fruitless angst. Even today, years later I have some of the same dreams, knowing what’s behind them is about as helpful as explaining why a certain disease ravages the body.
Understanding changes nothing, stops nothing. Offers no protection or assurance.
Dreams fascinate the novelist in me. I wonder if there isn’t a reality to dreams that all of us aren’t aware of in waking life. As if, in our dreams things happen in a different (but somehow still binding) reality. In this place those in comas or with intellectual disabilities thrive, live on, have purpose and power while the rest of us are nothing, tolerated but never fully accepted. I’m guessing this must be the plot of some sci-fi movie I’ve seen.
If you want to do a bit of self exploration with dreams as a tool I highly recommend keeping a dream journal. This doesn’t have to be fancy (unless you want it to be) so long as it is an easy to write on pad along with a working pen that you keep by your bed. Here you’ll write your dreams down before your feet hit the floor. Not kidding on that — you can sit up but do not get out of bed before you write down your dreams each morning — you will lose key details the moment your feet hit the floor.
Trust me on this.
Write down all you remember and don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or style, you can fix that later. Focus on getting down the idea, capturing the scene or key details or dialog, getting the story of the dream from beginning to end. No judgement on what is sensible or acceptable. Note what remains with you now that you are awake and how you feel.
It’s a fascinating subject you’re studying, yourself. Do the hard work and you’ll be amazed at what you learn.