“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.” -William Dement
My dreams are such that I have to question the “quietly and safely” portion of the above quote, which is written in the front of my dream journal. Insane is fairly accurate.
Many people rarely remember their dreams. If they do, the elusive images dissipate like smoke shortly after they get out of bed. Not me. I’m in the somewhat unique position of vividly remembering my dreams almost every night. The details aren’t hazy, and they usually leave a lasting memory and impression that haunts me throughout the day.
This would be much more pleasant if my dreams were lovely, but I don’t dream about flying or fields of daisies. My nighttime adventures are rife with conflict, confusion, anger, sorrow, and sometimes death. Even when the images are clear in my mind, I often struggle to find words to describe my experiences. They are so convoluted, so disjointed, so disconnected from reality that I can’t easily explain what’s happened. Despite their surrealism, my dreams are almost always vividly realistic to me. I wake up overwhelmed by the emotions and concerns of the dream, and have to orient myself to the fact that my dream world has no connection with the real world.
Bring on psychoanalysis. Why are my dreams always so troubling? I wouldn’t consider myself to be an unhappy person. My life is relatively stable and successful. I don’t think I worry or get anxious as much as many other people. Or maybe I do, and I unconsciously internalize all of my anxiety into a subconscious pandora’s box that is torn openly nightly when I shut my eyes.
Whatever the reason, it is mentally exhausting. To start with, I’m a moderate insomniac. On nights when my mind isn’t wandering through tumultuous dreamlands, I’m laying awake unable to drift off. The combination of the two leaves me feeling utterly bereft of rest.
My dreams seem to be following a few formulas the past couple of weeks. Common themes: being lost in dark, crowded, unfamiliar places; trying to work through a vague, indistinguishable problem with an ominous sense of urgency; being stalked, chased, or hunted by an unfamiliar man. The other night I incorporated a news story I read about a man who shot and killed his 5 children in their beds after finding out that his wife was leaving him. He then killed himself. What a horrible story! You can imagine how awful the dream was. In it, I was babysitting the children and responsible for trying to protect them from their dad, who was a raging lunatic a la Jack Nicholas in The Shining. What a great night.
I hope I get a peaceful night’s sleep soon.
BTW, since I linked that story, here is a version offering the mother’s point of view if you are interested.
Note- I stole this post’s title from a collection of short stories by Stephen King, but there’s no connection. The name just seemed appropriate.