Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Most Annoying Dreams

Those who easily become bored with a shrink’s self-analysis or might possibly be disturbed by a bit of the same may be excused now and leave without loss of honor.

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.” In the past few weeks I have come to understand this famous line differently than I believe that The Bard initially intended it to be interpreted. I earlier saw these words as “only” a contemplation of suicidal death, the possibility of an afterlife in which one is conscious, and the ramifications thereof.

Recently, however, I have been considering another, somewhat more concrete and less final interpretation of that question. I cannot be certain that Shakespeare did not have this meaning in mind as well when he penned his famous lines. The depth and breadth of his knowledge and his ability to communicate it in multifaceted ways continue to fascinate me. I doubt that he was addressing my current distress, although he may have also been exploring the subject of disturbed sleep in addition to suicide in his speculation. He certainly did so elsewhere with Lady Macbeth.

Dreams have intrigued me since I was a teen. My understanding matured somewhat as I studied them from various psychological and neuropsychological viewpoints, and I have come to recognize many idiosyncratic elements, symbols, and themes in my own dreams. I virtually always recall my dreams as I wake from them, and if I jot down a note about them, am able to recall them later. When I start to analyze them, I am usually able to find what aspect of myself they relate to, what problem or joy initiated them, what wish they fulfill, or even what I am panicking about in my sleep.

My dreams do not literally guide my life. They most certainly do, however, often reveal to me connections between or among thoughts, acts, plans, concerns, and events of my past, present, and future. (There were eight commas in that sentence. That’s probably too many.) I have almost always been able to relate some part of the dream to waking life and understand at least a small bit more about myself in the process. I certainly do not like some of the things that I discover about myself, but they are most often real bits of information which I need to understand. At times the RNA-DNA transfer process awakens a previously safely buried repression and some unpleasantness results. Sometimes my deepest fears get a poke in the ribs and a panic dream results. Despite my self-taught ability to subdue the feelings released by such dreams immediately upon waking, there are moments of terror which may seem much longer in the dream than they are in real time. Still, upon waking I can turn off the switch.

Recently, my dreams have been worse than usual. How do they get worse than a dream within a dream in which one believes that they are dying and “wakes up” into another dream to find that it is true and tastes the blood in one’s throat? (That one was 45 years ago and I still remember it.) They get worse when seemingly every incident in the dream which is intended to go right does not, the dreamer knows that it will somehow go awry but proceeds anyway, and the dream then morphs into a situation where one is dealing with people in the opposite manner one would choose in waking life. I recognize that this is cryptic to anyone reading this rather than having dreamed or lived it themselves. Examples are my Nolan family driving to the boonies to rescue me, my scraping the side of their new car on a metal highway railing, and then going into a rage when they suggested that I should calm down (I cannot recall ever raising my voice in that manner to them.) Another dream was about flying another person’s expensive RC Cross Country sailplane and crashing it after not wishing to fly it in the first place (I always refused to fly others’ models) and watching them mutely walk away without accepting any apology, payment, or offer to replace it – only emanating disgust with me. A final example was this morning’s episode of the continuing series of the bizarre. I’ll pick up at a point where I was lost and dreaming of standing at the crossing of two dirt paths in a forested wilderness, not knowing what was down three of them but knowing that my Ex was on the known one which I had traveled to reach that point. Despite my distaste for that path, I took it and events spiraled hell-ward more than expected. She and a particularly irritating fundamentalist preacher she had “befriended” not only refused the help I needed, but essentially mocked me for needing it and left without getting medication I believed I needed to prevent a seizure. I surmise that I did not actually scream as I thought I did, because Bittle remained asleep less than two feet from my head when this dream awoke me.

I would be somewhat less than insightful, bordering upon stupid, if I didn’t recognize several obvious and disturbing issues in what little I have written. The dreams are much more detailed and include vivid related imagery and feelings as they occur. Additionally, they do not seem to employ my usual symbol sets or themes. Finally, everyone in the dreams is dead, fictional, or “dead to me.” Several other dreams similar to these have occurred recently and I even believed I might be having a heart attack a few moments after awakening from one. (A tingling feeling in my arms led to that belief as it was originally closely associated to my first panic attack, which at the time I believed to be a heart attack.) Quite likely I was hyperventilating during the dream.

Why are these dreams so frightening to me? They are different than my average nightmare, especially regarding imagery and subject matter. They occur after sufficient sleep and as I am due to wake. They do not “feel” related to occurrences of the day or my major waking concerns. I thought I knew myself fairly well (whether I liked me or not) but these dreams have me questioning that. They almost seem to be imposed from outside rather than being initiated internally. I clearly recognize myself as me in every one and feel that it is me “behaving” in the dreams (as far as I can recall, I have always dreamed in the first person, not as someone watching me or as if I were someone else.) The singularly different aspect is that I have little or no idea why these subjects, these people, or these situations occur now. I shall have to dig a bit deeper, I suppose. Perhaps I am trying to get my own attention by scaring the bejesus out of myself. It certainly would be nice to have a satisfying, wish-fulfillment dream again but they're gone.

Peace, Doc

Copyright © 2009, Thomas A. Blood, Ph.D.

"Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end." – Stephen Hawking

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