Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Stuff of Dreams

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

In my life, sleep has often been the stuff of which dreams are made of. During the years of small children and sleepness nights, I dreamt of sleep even when my eyes were open. I fantasized ways I might score a nap, minutes I might steal from my days for a few blessed minutes of slumber.

Dreams, in those years, were hard to come by.

Before kids, I had an active dream life. I swapped stories of my dreams with friends. One friend was deeply envious of my frequent flying dreams, while I in turn envied her dream orgasms. We both practiced lucid dreaming, and each of us attempted to have the other's favorite dreams.

Lucid dreaming (the practice of knowing that you're dreaming and making conscious choices in the dream state) turned out to be fairly easy. Once I'd established the habit of knowing I was dreaming, my dreams were never the same. I didn't believe them the same way I had before. They no longer seemed mystical and special, but became another mundane part of my life. Although I could control the actions of my dream self in my lucid dreams, the dreamscape itself was beyond my control. As I went on with lucid dreaming, my dreamscapes got duller and duller.

My subconscious was clearly better at the business of designing and implementing dreams than I was. Eventually, I realized this and ceded control of my dreams back to the part of me who knew what I was doing.

In recent months, my dreams have been especially lively and interesting. The characters and settings have been pleasantly varied and the plots have left me smiling.

I've never completely shaken the lucid dreaming, though. I am almost always aware that I am dreaming, and I often catch my subconscious self arranging the scenes and characters. I can almost hear the gears grinding when my subconscious self reaches into the grab bag for a random plot element or character. I can identify the points where my subconscious self changes the dreamscape on the fly to improve some aspect of the dream experience.

Take last night for example. I was driving a small car home through Ben Lomond. I parked outside the video store. The car immediately decided to run off without me. (Cars in my dreams have always had free agency. The cars in my husband's dreams behave like real life cars, but mine tend to act more like naughty puppies.) It drove around the block and crashed into a tree. At that point, my subconscious mind said "Whoa! That's too intense, so let's turn this car into a bicycle."

The car became a bicycle. Then, because my subconscious obviously saw the problem with a bicycle driving around on its own, it pulled a random person out of the grab bag and put him on the back of the bicycle. Asleep, because the bicycle still had to act out the free agency element from the car version. Having achieved a logically consistent plot, my subconscious stopped tinkering and continued the dream.

Naturally, the bicycle had to go around the block and crash into the tree again. It did this without waking the sleeping passenger. The bicycle emerged from this sequence undamaged, so I climbed on again and continued north. The passenger, who had fulfilled his role, vanished.

Most of the people in my dreams are generic. They're not people I know in real life, although they sometimes explain themselves in relation to real people who don't appear in my dream. I find this especially convenient when the dream has sexual content; I am much more comfortable enacting a steamy scene with a generic stranger than with someone I might bump into at the grocery store.

When real people do appear in my dreams, the dream content tends to color my feelings for the person. I have sometimes gotten angry at my husband for the way he behaved in a dream. Once awake, the feeling is hard to shake. I know that he didn't actually do the thing that made me angry, but I still feel guarded and suspicious, just in case.


ogre said...


Twice I've had people close to me act very testily because of "my" behavior in their dreams.

Rather awkward. Particularly when you're still in the stage where they've not admitted that there's a dream haunting the interaction (and you're busy wondering WHAT is WRONG with this person?).

Anton Sherwood said...

Whenever my dreams have a scene set at "home", it almost never resembles any real place where I've dwelt.