What are dreams?
This question has haunted mankind since primitives woke up laughing – or screaming – in the middle of the night.
There are plenty of websites, books, and discussion groups that offer theories and facts about the ethereal state of the human mind. I leave it to you to peruse the wavelengths to find your own technical explanation.
I would rather talk about the magic of dreams. The sensations that linger long after you are on with your day (or night). The memory that hangs at the edge of your thoughts that whispers … I can almost remember… and I remember feeling… but the words won’t come. It’s the world that you can almost reach – if only you could stretch farther, remember harder, sleep a little longer.
Dreams are the involuntary conjuring up of images, sounds, ideas and feelings as well as other sensations during sleep. Of course, it is possible to wake up, have a conscious moment of reality, then fall back asleep, either continuing the same dream path or steering it in a different direction.
I know that I am a direct participant in my dreams – it’s not like I’m watching a television show – I am the television show. I conjure up faces I’ve never seen, faces I used to know, and faces that don’t belong with the bodies I see. I go places I’ve never been, experienced things I’ve never experienced, and often wake up wanting more.
Studies have shown that dreaming is important to our health and well being. Not being allowed to dream can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of coordination, and more. Not being allowed to dream is different than saying we don’t dream. We all dream. It’s just that some of us sleep harder than others, our dreams deeper and harder to recall.
What about nightmares, then? Are they part of the normal processing of life’s hardest lessons?
Nightmares are almost the other end of the tunnel. We get stuck, we can’t change course, and so we wander through the world of horror and emptiness and terror. Upon awakening we realize we are safe, but tell that to me when’m driving down a cliff side with my son in tow or I hear monsters in the room below making their way up the stairs. We try and reason our way out of our terror, mostly by telling ourselves it’s only a dream. Other times we burst into the waking world with our hearts pounding and our heads swirling, glad to have escaped the talons of the night one more time.
Researchers say nightmares are often caused by stress, conflict, fear, emotional problems, and medication, among others. In this day and age, who doesn’t suffer from anxiety? Kids yelling, spousal conflicts, traffic jams, attitudes at work – it’s hard not to take the ebb and flow of life as an insult half the time. So we seek refuge – or expression – in dreams.
What I would like to do during the month of October is explore this world through the eyes of others who have been here. Writers, poets, artists – both the heavenly and the ghastly – and experience this mysterious, elusive world through their eyes. Their dreams. Their creativity.
And as the month goes along, feel free to share your own dream worlds. Authors you enjoy, websites that fascinate, music that sends you into that world where no one can follow.
And yet where everyone you know exists.