Dreaming of Dead Ends

Sometimes I put myself under an enormous amount of pressure to succeed. It’s a good trait to have, but the stale sense of doom that whips it into motion can be oppressive.

Lately I’ve been dreaming of, you guessed it, dead ends. The sort that keep sleeping-me confused in blobby dark places and waking-me feeling like I haven’t taken a breath in minutes. The imagery I can gather from my journals is a bit gruesome:

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I remember sitting in a barber’s chair getting a haircut by a large foreign man. I was distressed because I knew I had already received a haircut recently and didn’t want him to botch it. He told me I had to stay for the shave but I complained I had no time, there was work to be done. I left only to be chased through a dark mall by zombies. Circling around the building, I found myself at the barber again just in time to see him use his blade to cut the scalp off his next customer. I was validated in my earlier fears, but also resigned to my doom to zombies and apparently Sweeney Todd. 

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For the most part I’m struggling to remember the fine details of these dead-end dreams. It’s frustrating to know how self-perpetuating these kinds of dreams can be. But I’ll be out of this dreary period soon. Earlier today I had a dream with vibrant color and if that’s not a blessed sign I don’t know what is.

It can be hard for me to post in this blog when I’m not recalling my dreams as well. However, I fully intend to be the pondering hub for all your wiggly dream things. I’d like to thank my small community of followers, every ‘like’ and ‘view’ encourages me incredibly.

Dream on little dreamers,

EB

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What Do We Seek From Dreams?

In essence, dreams are our personal window to the subtle mechanisms that underlie our everyday self. Sometimes these insights are inspiring, other times they are frightful. But the question I seek to answer is: how do these ephemeral movies reveal their worth in a tangible way? There is no worth to this practice of journaling unless I can prove that it makes a positive difference in my quality of life.

I’ve just made the five hour drive from Miami to Gainesville, and I listened to the audiobook Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse along the way. The book, published in 1922, depicts the spiritual journey of the character Siddhartha as he seeks the meaning of worldly existence. It was amazingly written, to say the least, but the point of interest came not from Siddhartha but from Hermann himself.

Hermann Hesse was a german-born novelist who, by virtue of his birth in 1877, lived in the interesting time of the two world wars and the rise of psychoanalysis. His commitment to psychotherapy, the practice of dream analysis, is credited with helping Hesse move past periods of writers block caused by the intense strain of his time period. It was through his dreams that Hesse was able to recapture the value of his waking life’s work, and thus continue to work on highly appraised literature such as Siddhartha.

Through our lives there will be many sources of anxiety and stress that will lock us away from the drives that fulfill us. It is difficult to achieve our actualizing goals, and easy to forget about their importance in the tumults of life. Dreams are the key to these inevitable locks. It is in our dreams that we cannot ignore the necessities of our eternal witness. Whether you attend to them or not, dreams will remind you of your virtues and your failures.

The thing that we seek from dreams is luminescence on the path of our lives. If we can better see the past and future lain out by our innermost self, we may be better prepared to act upon that wisdom when the opportunity arrives.

What do you want from your dreams? I’m surely missing quite a few potential uses. When was the last time a dream made an effect on your reality?

Dream on Little Dreamers,

EB

Hanging On to the Day as I’m Fading Away

I’ve approached an interesting point in my lucid dream career where the memories of dreams are often as poignant as those in my day to day life. The nightly occurrence of vivid dreams is a boon that I find difficult to resist at times.

I’ve recently whipped my sleeping schedule back into shape after about a week of sleeping 12 hours a day. As I slept-in my circadian rhythm creeped closer and closer to the sunrise until the morning birds were chirping a concerto before I made it to bed. There was a certain peak moment in that binge of dreams where I was recalling up to three dreams in a night, but it was soon drowned out by the grogginess and work-stress that comes with a terrible sleeping schedule.

It is with this that I present the advice: hang on to the real world, no matter how tempting it may be to fade into your dreams. It is only with the experience and turmoil of the real world that dreams have any significance or substance. As I slept every sun-lit hour out of the day I sensed the quality of my dreams decrease. It was as though I had processed all the important bits and my brain was just running through the motions of mediocre falling dream, mediocre running dream, and mediocre underwater dream.

My sleeping schedule is back under control and my dreams are at a healthy one recalled per night. It’s unnerving to think of the temptation of my unconscious mind as a legitimate drive from living my life but there are worse things.

Dream on Little Dreamer,

EB

I Dream of a World of Dreamers

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” -John Lennon.

I dream (figuratively) of a world that prioritizes the substance of dreamer’s visions. These dreams are not the backwash of our daily lives but rather a vision of our possible futures. I refuse to believe the materialist excuse, which dismisses dreams as a mess of neurotransmitter firings left amok in the absence of a conscious overseer. Mastery of dreams equates to mastery of the self.

The path of psychotherapy is deeply appealing to me. I find its progress greatly inspiring and wish the best for those who advance this science. However, with all the assertion of an undergraduate psychology student I feel that there are some structural flaws in its practice. Subjective analysis, an interpretative approach vulnerable to personal biases,  in psychotherapy is its downfall.

Why can’t we nail down the reactions of the unconscious the same way Pavlov could condition the salivation of a dog? It’s extremely difficult to study, sure. It’s made of a smorgasbord of influences from the environment and genetics and dietary influences, sure. It’s a big scary question mark that has brought many psychologists careers to a shrieking halt, sure. Why don’t we try anyway?

Allowing subjectivity to be a core tenant of your scientific theory is the equivalent to sending a man to the moon with no spacesuit. It will fail and when it does it will be a tragic loss.

I want a version of psychotherapy that focuses less on interpretation and more on causality. One that is purpose-driven in its goal to make dream analysis both a valid and reliable science. Why not experiment on the plasticity of the unconscious mind? Give me ten hours of hanging out in the New York subway system and see if I dream of large crowds and rats, I volunteer!

I just want to see people care about their dreams again. Too often I bring up the conversation only to be met with “I haven’t had a dream in years.” Oh but they have, every night they’ve fallen into REM sleep (unless there’s some sleep apnea going on) they’re dreaming so many utilizable things. It’s so very sad they don’t know it.

Dream on Little Dreamers,

EB

How to Respond to Dream Dissatisfaction

Just a short post today, I think I’ll revisit this topic later.

Sometimes we have dreams that we just plain don’t like. It seems like the easiest way to get back at an unpleasant dream is to forget it, and “just leave this one off the books” so to speak.

I’ll admit that I’ve done this countless times (literally countless because there is no record of the times I’ve done it). Earlier this week I had a friend ask me about whether I have dreams that are too dissatisfactory to record. I answered: “Of course! But I do everything I can to fight that urge and record them anyway.” I provided the example of a nightmare I had where I was the victim of an alleyway rape. It was extremely difficult to motivate myself to record the details of this dream but that struggle paid large dividends on my post-record satisfaction.

From that dream there were many deep-seated themes that I felt were not often approached by my dreams. It seems to me that unpleasant dreams are pockmarked with meaning, which may be part of why they’re so distasteful to wake up from. I find that I’m usually quite grumpy when I wake from these dreams.

It’s a much healthier approach altogether to approach the troubles of your unconscious mind than to repress them. It is a natural product of dream recording that you’re going to have unconscious experiences that are extremely unpleasant to offset the pleasant ones that will also come. Each time I asses one of these dreams I find that I am deeply fulfilled by studying them.

deeply-troubling-Grumpy-Cat

So try to think of Grumpy Cat next time you want to grumpily toss aside your journal.

Dream on Little Dreamers,

EB

A Recording Revolu(a)tion

Recording dreams is hard, like sorting a grocery bag full of Magic ™ cards under a dose of morphine hard, but damn is it worth it. So lets talk about how to see the forest for the trees and how to equip yourself for ease.

In the past five months I’ve been experimenting with using an audio recording device to supplement my journaling practices. It’s been extremely effective for extracting dreams from days where grogginess or morning responsibility would leave them to exile. The audio plays out like a yawn-fest ramble, but the point gets across. Personally, I have a lot more peace of mind hitting the snooze button after taking a few minutes to note that space alien that was just about to eat me moments before.

I want to stress that there is no cost barrier to entry for this style of dream recording. To quote our Apple overlords “there’s an app for that.” There are free audio recording apps in abundance on smart phone and tablet app stores.

On my IPhone I’ve used the free Voice Memos app and was satisfied with the quality; my only complaint is the transferred file defaults to entering your iTunes library. I’ve dabbled more with audio apps in the Android app store and would recommend the free Smart Voice Recorder app. I’ll often switch between my Android tablet and my Sony device depending on which is closest when I wake up.

Let’s lighten up and talk about wiggly dream-stuff. I find that dreams recorded with audio have a different feel than written ones upon review. Audio has a way of catching the discreet details of dreams at face-value while words tend to capture higher themes and roll with them. As an alternative metaphor, on a canvas audio dreams would look like water colors applied with a spoon while written dreams would look more like acrylic applied with a window wiper.

There are strengths and weaknesses to both, but using them in conjunction is a good way to adapt to your morning circumstances. The greatest danger to someone seeking to lucid dream is burnout when a few dreams are forgotten. Why wouldn’t you equip yourself with more tools to catch your inner self before it slips from you?

I’d like to finish this post with an experimental dream record analysis of something on my Sony from last night, which may give you some idea of the dialogue.

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I had a dream that I woke up in a computer chair in the middle of a Renaissance fair. My chest hurt and I wondered if I had slept incorrectly [a pain that I attributed on record to weight-lifting strains]. Everyone was in costume and I knew I had to blend, I grabbed a heavy blue blanket and tied it as a cape as the start of my own costume. I needed a mask and saw a stand with a child’s Transformer mask that was also blue [on record I grumbled that it wasn’t cool enough for me]. I met an old friend Kristina and her fiancee Rene [on record I mused how radiant she looked in her pregnancy, talked briefly about how beautiful her baby bump and her enchanting happiness].

[[[At this point there is a nearly incoherent section about a damaged wedding-cake, a black child facedown on the floor, and a large group of costumed people — this apparently was a bad dream sign that I decided not to express to Rene in the dream]]].

Rene [who I noted I’ve never actually met in real life] and I got along well in the dream, I asked him about his experience in the peace corps as we walked down some royal-looking white stairs. Kristina interrupted his answer by bounding down the steps 2-3 steps at a time [above Rene’s head I saw a thought bubble that expressed 5/5 stars, a concept that I have trouble describing in writing even now]. We get to the bottom of the steps and all start running through this gorgeous mansion: the floors made of checkered peach/black marble, the walls etched with “long dead important people.”

They ran past me towards another staircase that was wider at the bottom than the top, it lead to heights I couldn’t see. As I tried to catch up a decrepit woman appeared from an airport walkway [I had great trouble describing this object in audio, and bumbled my words for awhile] off to the left and told me “Turn back! this is a museum, you’re not supposed to be here.”  I considered whether to tell her that I wasn’t the only one there, but as I looked up and saw them holding hands walking up the steps [they looked so happy, I can almost hear myself smile], I decided against it – apologizing for my transgression and walking away.

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As you can see there’s a certain monologue that takes place alongside the dream. It can be difficult to extricate the observations of my grumpy morning self from those I experienced during the dream. I hope this gives you some idea of what an audio record feels like and that I’ve made you a bit curious to try it for yourself.

Dream on little dreamers,

EB

Fairytale dreams buried in the database

Today I discovered a treat of the imagination. I have been meaning to use the databases available to me at the University of Florida to find dream research that I could review for the sake of interest. Yet, as I began my first forays into searching the digital collections database I was quickly sidetracked by this curious piece from 1890: Dreams by French Firesides by Richard von Volkmann and translated by J. Raleigh.

Essentially it’s a book of fairytales inspired by the dreams of a bored German soldier stationed in a fort during the long siege of Paris in the Franco-German war.  I read the first four tales, fruitlessly trying to maintain a semblance of professionalism, enraptured by the wonderfully woven stories that seem to be there just for stories sake. The preface of the book doesn’t seem to differentiate between the final product of the book and the direct dreams of the author but I have some reservations about believing that someone could dream so intricately.

Despite the likelihood of some creative liberties being taken with the original dreams, I think the author did a great job of illustrating the wacky characters with great detail. One story in particular that I have read so far would be The Invisible Kingdom. Here’s a quote that had me rolling with laughter as the author described the dream-kobold, a trick-playing creature from the land of dreams:

“He runs into the nearest house, picks up the first man he sees out of his featherbed, sound asleep, carries him to the top of the church tower and throws him over head first. Then he leaps down the tower stairs like lightning, reaches the bottom first, catches him, carries him back home…Then he [the sleeping man] rubs his eyes, looks about in great surprise, and says: “Good gracious, I felt exactly as if I were falling down from the top of a church tower. How very lucky that it was only a dream!” (Volkmann, 1890, p. 23)

I would love to be able to utilize my dreams in such a way. It seems wasteful to have so many diaries of dreams past without drawing some sort of inspiration from them. While the child-like fantasy format seems very appropriate for some dreams, I think that others would have to be given very careful transcribing to be translated into full-fledged stories.  It could be a long time before I’d be able to write so elegantly, but hey a guy can dream. 😉

So I’d like to ask you all, potentially using this book as an example, what do you think of stories written from dreams? Do you think they would help or hurt an individual trying to forge into the world of lucid dreams?

 

Dream on little dreamers,

EB