Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Realm of Night (Part 2)

My new habit with Lean Eating is centered on sleep, so it really is time for me to finish the other part of my sleep post.

In Part 1 of my sleep post, I wrote about my experiences in the waking world when I was unable to sleep. I found ways to amuse myself over the years when I can't sleep, but the sleeping world is far more amusing.  The places I go when I can't sleep can never compare to what goes on inside my brain when I do sleep.

I am always fascinated, haunted, and amused by my dreams.  A good dream can put me in a happy mood for hours after waking. A scary dream can make me afraid to go back to sleep.  There are dreams that make me feel sad.  There are dreams that make me feel guilty.  Some dreams are so bizarre I spend the day trying to figure them out. Do everyone's dream affect them the way they affect me?  Why do I care so much?  Why does anybody?

For example, I had a dream recently where I found myself in an animal shelter.  All of the animals were in one big cage in an office.  I opened the cage and a small cat or large kitten wandered out.  It immediately crawled into my lap and began purring.  I felt this overwhelming love for it.  Then a puppy or very small dog came bouncing out.  It had similar coloring to the cat (they were both white with dark patches on them).  It began playfully bouncing around me, climbing on me for attention. I told the shelter worker, "I'll take them both."  Later in the dream I began to realize I might have made a mistake.  I had no idea how old that puppy was and what its level of training and housebreaking was.  I certainly didn't have time to take on that kind of responsibility.  I didn't know how I was going to tell them at the shelter that I couldn't take the animals after all.  I'm the one who always preaches how people should adopt pets after all.

I'm sure anyone reading this will say the meaning of the dream is obvious.  I want a pet.  I also know having a pet isn't practical.  What fascinated me most was not what the dream meant, but the intensity of the emotion I felt even hours after waking.  I could not stop thinking about how I felt when that cat crawled into my lap. I was hopelessly in love with an animal that didn't exist, and equally heartbroken that it couldn't be mine.

What is a dream? It's a random firing of neurons during a period of sleep.  A dream can feel as if hours have passed, but on average lasts only 20 minutes. Dreams take bits and pieces of all of your thoughts and all of your experiences, and then rips them apart and puts them back together.  They remind you of your secret desires.  They expose your deepest fears.  They are made up of every memory you have, but put you in places you know you have never seen before and introduce you to people you have never met. 

I have a fairly regular series of recurring dreams.  I can interpret some of the them, although others leave me wondering exactly what they are supposed to mean and why I have them.

Whenever I have a project or important event coming up, I will often dream I'm getting married and I'm trying to make sense of the wedding.  It's a simple interpretation in this case. I was the girl who always dreamed of having the perfect wedding, so weddings in a dream are a representation of any difficult project I'm facing where I'm concerned about the quality of the outcome.  It rarely ever matters who I am marrying in the dream.  Sometimes it's someone I don't know in real life.  Sometimes it's someone I do know in real life, but I have no romantic attachment to.  If I am dating someone, the current boyfriend is the groom, but an ex can show up as the groom too.

I remember one time in college I had this dream around the time I was stressed about a major presentation I had to give.  My boyfriend played the part of the groom in my dream.  My roommate thought it would be amusing to tell him that.  That made for some awkward moments when he confronted me about it!  Just because I'm married now doesn't mean the dreams have gone away.  I'll just dream that something happened and Kevin and I need a do-over. 

No need to say how bad those dreams were when I was actually getting married!

I have dreams about school, but they aren't the stereotypical dreams of having to take a test in my underwear.  I have one of two dreams.  The first is that I am in high school and need to go to class, but I don't know what time it is.  I'm not sure if I'm late or early or what period it is.  I keep desperately searching for a clock.  I try to peek into classrooms, but somehow the clock is always hidden from view, or else I think I can see it, but another clock contradicts it.  My second school dream usually takes place in college, although sometimes it's high school. I have a particular class that only happens once a week at an odd time in my schedule and I keep forgetting about it.  I even forget the time and the classroom and have to dig up my old schedule to find it (not always successfully).  I have no idea how many classes I missed and am terrified I won't be able to make up the work and will fail the class.

I had another really funny school dream the summer between my junior and senior years of college.  I dreamed that it was discovered I had failed kindergarten and had to go back to summer school for it.  I figured it would be an easy summer since I had come pretty far in my schooling without passing kindergarten in the first place.  I could pass the basics the second time around.  I'm not sure what that dream meant.  Was it an expression of my fears about whether or not I would graduate college or was it simply a desire to go back to the beginning and never have to graduate college?

I also have my own version of the "actor's nightmare" which is very similar to my school dream.  I don't dream of being on stage and not having anything to perform.  Instead I dream that I have been cast in a play and I keep missing rehearsals. Just like with the school dreams I have no idea how many rehearsals I have missed and if I will ever be able to learn my part. What's worse is when I show up for rehearsal, it goes on without me and no one seems to notice or care that I'm there. Whatever my part is, no one is working on it.

Houses and apartments figure prominently in my dreams.  I'll often dream of a place that seems decrepit or small, only to find that inside it's much larger and often much nicer.  I remember a particular dream of being in a very old, run-down house and the stairs were out and I climbed a ladder to the second floor.  At the top of the ladder was the coolest loft apartment ever.  One time I dreamed of a house that was haunted and initially tried to flee.  Then I had a reason to go back inside and I went to the attic where I found the most gorgeous atrium. Sometimes the building is a place I'm just visiting, but there are times when I am learning that I am about to move into a really gorgeous and spacious new apartment.  So do houses in your dreams represent your life (the standard interpretation for house dreams), or simply your wish for a different place to live (or a bigger one anyway).

The most common dream I have is the vacation dream.  I'll dream that I am in Chincoteague, or some other location with a beach, or even a pool, and my goal is to get there, sit by the poolside or on the beach, go for a swim, and just enjoy the typical summer vacation experience.  It always ends up that something distracts me. I'm constantly being pulled away from enjoying my vacation.  Obstacles are thrown in the path when I simply try to get to my destination.  When I finally arrive at the beach, it has turned into a field, or the water has become muddy and murky, or has frozen over.  Sometimes the beach has moved inside a building and the water has been turned off for the night.  At this point I usually wake up.

That dream has a pretty straightforward interpretation from a Jungian standpoint.  Water is simply representative of subconscious and the dreaming world. Plus it reminds me that as much as I want to go on vacation, I'm not there yet and I might as well face reality.  When the dream begins I get pulled under by a wave - in other words I am falling deeper into sleep.  When I'm about to wake up, the water disappears.  I'm emerging from the dream state.  The funny thing about these dreams is that they are some of the rare times I'm lucid.  I have this dream often enough that I suddenly realize what's happening to me and become determined to make it to the beach before I wake up.  As stubborn as I am about it, I never make it. 

There are dreams though that are quite disturbing and don't run on any themes.  They only happen once, but the stories and images they produced have stuck with me my entire life.  I don't know why I had these dreams or why they have stuck with me so much.  Just to amuse myself (because at this point I don't think anyone is still reading and probably isn't amused anyway) I will enumerate them.

The Most Disturbing Dreams of my Life

1.  As a toddler obsessed with Sesame Street, I had a dream of being in a room with scores of animatronic Muppet-like characters.  They were the human variety and not the monsters.  I didn't know how they were operated.  The moved seemingly without any human intervention.  There was a noise in the room.  I don't know if it was music or simply the sound of motors inside the puppets working.  One puppet with blond braids approached me.  She extended her hand as if offering to shake  I didn't know what to do about it.  I was both frightened and charmed.

2.  When I was six I had a definite fear of authority (if you knew my grandmother, could you blame me?) .  One night I had a dream that I went to buy ice cream at the school cafeteria as I always did and the lunch aide who sold it wasn't there.  Since I figured she just stepped out, I placed my money on the counter, reached into the freezer, and took my ice cream.  Although the rest of the dream was a jumble, I remember much of it was about how it was perceived that I had stolen the ice cream.  I had this never ending dream I was in trouble.  At the end of the dream I was sitting on the front steps of my grandmother's house with my mother and grandmother explaining what had happened.  I remember saying to them, "So I left Mrs. Scirrocco the money and bought the ice cream."  I thought I was forgiven and that I had properly explained everything.  Then a police car pulled up in front of the house.  A cop came out. I remember what he looked like.  He was bald, beefy, and bespectacled.  He marched up the walk very determined, came up to me, and slapped me in the face.

3.  As a teen I worked as a day camp counselor.  One summer I had a dream that the camp had a special family weekend outing at some country campground.  The camp part of it wasn't the disturbing part.  In one part of the dream I took a walk into the nearby town with some of the mothers of the kids.  The town had a charming little chocolate store.  I went in and started feeling tempted by everything.  I selected some chocolates in a glass case.  Then I saw on a shelf a bunch of small chocolate animals.  I found them so endearing I asked for one of each kind of animal.  When I saw them in the shelf they were small - like those little ceramic figurines you used to get in a box of tea bags.  To my horror I found that I had filled an entire shopping cart to the brim with chocolates.  The chocolate animals had grown to more than triple their size.  I remember at the top of the cart was a chocolate horse that had become the size of a Breyer model.  I felt like such a glutton and yet I couldn't have them put back since I had just asked for them and they were in my cart.  I couldn't bring myself to say I didn't want them anymore.

I woke up really embarrassed by my gluttony and desire to have so much chocolate.  The dream really brought out the twin demons of shame and desire.  I, the ultimate chocolate lover, could not eat chocolate for a week.  I remember walking into a real chocolate store a few weeks later and saw shelves full of beautiful chocolate sculptures.  One of them was a Breyer-sized chocolate horse.  It made me sick to my stomach.

4.  I once had a dream where I ate my cat.  I don't know why. I was hungry and decided the cat was a readily available source of protein.  I picked him up and put him on the counter and he instantly became cat chunks in gravy.  The remorse kicked in right after eating him.  I realized what I had just done.  I had destroyed my beloved pet in the name of my own gluttony.  Didn't we have other food in the house?  I was convinced that what I had just eaten couldn't possibly be my cat.  I set out on a quest to find my cat whom I was sure was just hiding somewhere.  I eventually ran into a little boy who had a cat that looked just like mine.  I told him he had my cat.  He insisted it was his cat.  I attempted to take the cat from him and the cat bit me.  I knew it wasn't my cat then since my cat was sweet and docile.   Then I woke up.

5.  In 2004 I had a dream that I was trying to seduce G.W. Bush.  I said I would have sex with him if he promised he would not seek re-election.

6.  I once had a dream where I was working with a troublesome horse.   I decided the horse needed to be punished.  I made a fist and took a huge swing at it.  There was a wall behind me blocking the backward motion of the punch, so the blow had little momentum and the horse really didn't feel anything.  The more this happened, the more determined I was to punish the horse.  I began trying over and over again to hit this horse.  At some point logic kicked in and reminded me that since my punish didn't come swiftly after the misbehavior, the horse would no longer understand why he was being punished.  I still was determined to show this horse who was boss.  The horse was gray/white, but it wasn't Baby.  It was bigger and more like an Arab (Nicky?).  I really felt terrible after waking up from that one.

7.  In one dream I befriended a new neighbor who was this lonely loser guy.  I found myself unable to say no to him when he wanted to become intimate.  I felt so sorry for him that I never had the heart to tell him I was married.  Then he asked me to marry him and even gave me a ring.  I was now horrified that this guy thought I had sincere feelings for him and I pitied him even more.  Later on his best friend came to visit him and it turned out to be my ex boyfriend.  The last thing I wanted my ex to know was that I was engaged to his friend that was an even bigger loser than he was.  I was more than happy to let my "fiance" and his friend know I was married to someone else, although I never had a chance to before waking up.

So many of my strangest dreams center on guilt, impulsive choices, gluttony, and abuse of animals.  The realms inside my brain are as disturbing as they are fascinating.  Are such things better left unexplored, or should I bring them to light and decide how to best deal with them?

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