December 22, 2008


It is a commonplace that other people find it tiresome to hear about your dreams. I find this odd --- what gives more of an instant insight into the subconscious than dreams? What can more quickly express the mood or hidden longing or compressed anxiety of the dreamer? I agree that quite often dreams are mundane: you dread going back to work, so you have a dream in which your boss is continually finding fault with you. Or you fall asleep hungry and dream about having cake. (I have, rather pathetically, recently had both of these dreams.) But it seems to me to be indisputably true that dreams can tell us more important things...not prophecy, but things that we might know already, on a subconscious or unconscious level, but haven't processed yet. How fortunate we are, that our minds can do the heavy lifting while we slumber away and get some rest!

The downside of always remembering dreams is when
a bad one can linger over you all day.

All this to say that I'm always up for listening to a good dream! Though of course it's more interesting when it's someone you know.

I've kept dream diaries on and off for years, though not in a long while. The definite dream book is not the sadly ubiquitous 10,000 Dreams, which I think puts a lot of people off dream interpretation, with its one-size-fits-all symbolism (e.g. to dream of a fox means you are engaging in a risky love affair), but Ann Faraday's The Dream Game. She offers some great advice on learning how to remember your dreams and decode their symbols.

I've realized over time that whenever I dream of pregnancy, or a baby, it's always at a moment when I'm in the process of realizing a large project. Once when I thought things were going badly with a manuscript, I dreamed I accidentally sent my baby to Brazil. When things are going well (or more specifically, better than I could have believed), I have dreams of driving cars. I don't know how to drive, I've never even sat behind the wheel of a car, but in the dream, none of this matters --- I'm revving and turning corners without a hitch.

In the book Seven Nights, a translation of seven lectures delivered by Borges in Buenos Aires over a few months in 1977, Borges discusses dreams in a lecture on nightmares. As you can imagine, there is no more eloquent or suitable advocate for the importance of dreams as a kind of improvisational fiction. He says, "We don't know exactly what happens in dreams. It is not impossible that, during dreams, we are in heaven, we are in hell. Perhaps we are someone, the someone whom Shakespeare called "the thing I am." In dreaming the dream, in clutching at its fading remnants, in recounting it later, in all of this we are making fiction.

One of my recurring nightmares is about an escalator.

Are there any famous stories inspired by dreams? It seems to me that dreams are mostly the place in which to work out the anxieties created by writing. I recently borrowed and flipped through David Lynch's recent book on creativity, Catching the Big One: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity (an easy afternoon read, though be warned: it is *mostly* about meditation), and he has a short section on dreams in which he declares his love of dream logic (no surprise), but says that only once has he gotten an idea from a dream --- the sudden recollection of a dream solved a problem for him with the end of Blue Velvet.

What do you dream about?


Jonathan Ball said...

I was also disappointed by all the meditation stuff in the Lynch book. I promptly threw it in a pile of books I am going to give away or sell. It lasted all of an afternoon. But there was still enough interesting stuff in there that I can say I'm glad I spent the afternoon reading it. Yeah, the "dream logic" part is the best part of the book.

I have decided to abandon all previous blogs for my website blog, at I haven't yet written in that blog since Dec 2, until today that is, when I decided (one of many new year's resolutions) to actually write in the damn blog. So that's updated as of today, and I will promise to write more, as I see you've kept up your end of the bargain, with some sporadic-yet-interesting blog posts.

Hope the New Year treats you well!

saleema said...

I think my favourite random part of the Lynch book is the section on Badalamenti ("He's like my brother.") where Lynch describes berating him until he stops playing "badly":

"...I like to sit next to him on the piano bench...Then I say, "No,no, no, no, Angelo."

I like picturing this happening.

Jen said...

I didn't realize that people generally dislike, or are bored by, listening to others' dreams.

My friends seem to get a kick out of the one I had when I was seven (or so) in which I was at the circus, wandering under the bleachers, going towards the carnival part, when I look down to discover asparagus growing out of my arms. This was before I had ever encountered asparagus.

I used to have a recurring one that involved vampires (and me trying to fit in). That dream was related to self-esteem I strongly suspect. Haven't had it in years though.

saleema said...

That's a great one! Did the asparagus look like asparagus or did you just know that that was what it was?

Were you a vampire or were the other people vampires? I'm sad to say that in spite of years of Buffy obsession, I've never had a dream with a vampire. Or any kind of fantastic being: no unicorns, goblins, fairies. Kind of disappointing.