The science of dreaming fascinates me, the limits of it more so. There are dreams that I can readily identify as being my brain just sorting out what has come in during the day. When I learned to crotchet recently, I was crocheting the fabric of my dreams for some nights. I can also spot the dreams that are born from suppressed emotion – usually anxiety. Not least because they tend to take the same forms all the time.
But there are other dreams, rare and strange ones that I can’t rationally explain. Dreams that have such deep resonance it feels like they are telling me something. I remember waking from just such a dream in which my father was trying to contact me, and knowing that he would phone that morning. He did. My Nan had gone into hospital and she died a short time later. Not all of the resonant dreams are that clear and coherent though. Sometimes I wake with the sense that a profound thing has happened during my sleep, and no real idea what it was.
In my teens I studied my own dreams enthusiastically, and was managing a little lucid dreaming. In my twenties my dreams reduced down to a small number of scenarios, obsessively revisited and laden with anxiety. The return to good dreaming has been very much a part of my return to more creative and happy mental states. The quest for re-enchantment has me looking hard at my dreams again.
After all, we spend a fair chunk of our lives dreaming, they are part of our experience, and that gives them a reality of sorts. They may well be windows into the unconscious, they certainly have the capacity to bring fresh inspiration and to help with problem solving. There are dreams that incline me to feel I have really been somewhere else, and that something real has happened to me. Dreams where the emotional content is so affecting, that by influence, the dream itself becomes real in important ways.
We used, collectively, to be far more open to the idea of dreams as messages from god, or the gods, and of the potential of dreams to be prophetic. The rise of rationalism has done away with this as superstition. But I don’t think that’s entirely fair. We take in and process far more information than we are conscious of. The capacity of the human mind to make connections and find patterns in apparently random things is phenomenal. Magical, even. It underpins so much of what we are able to do ‘rationally’. Dreams are all about the mad juxtapositions, the great intuitive leaps, maybe they are the bits we reject as other parts of our mind go through the available information to see what might be useful. Dreams are testimony to the sheer wonder of both our consciousness and our unconsciousness, to the imaginative potential within us all, and the dashes of chaos and irrationality that go into making us human.
Rational, logical thought only takes us so far. Intuition and inspiration are not logical (I pause once again to nod to Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance). Invention, problem solving, and creativity all depend on that more irrational thinking. Dreams are part of that process, a nightly eruption of the kind of thought that shows no respect to boxes, laws, or consensus reality.
Last night I dreamed about going to court, and finding there was no real hearing, just lots of people gathered together to sing, organised by a portly woman of advanced years. Explaining this to Tom he said ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings?’
She sang. Perhaps it’s a good omen!