Do You Dream?

And by that I mean night time dreams, not ambitions. Dreams are one of the most disturbing and fascinating aspects of consciousness and awareness, and I might go so far as to say they are a form of alternative existence.

What do I mean by that? Let me tell you a story. When I was studying at Manchester Polytechnic I headed out one morning and pulled into the petrol station. The station had only recently been upgraded, but on that morning the old petrol pumps had been put back. And so had the price totem at the side of the road.

Anxiety soon took over when I couldn’t make sense of what was going on; too vivid to be a dream, too illogical to be reality. I sat in the car and asked myself what am I supposed to do if this is a dream? How do you ‘wake up’ from reality. I decided to test the situation: if all the cards in my wallet are identical I’ll know I’m dreaming. My wallet contained nothing but identical TSB credit cards. I was dreaming.

Then I woke up.

I had no idea what had happened and only came across the phenomenon by chance when Chris DeGarmo of rock band Queensryche wrote a song about his experiences of lucid dreaming. For anyone who has never had a lucid dream, these are not vivid dreams, you are conscious of your surroundings and in full control of your thoughts and actions, but you’re still asleep.

Think about that for a moment. If the brain can recreate reality in such detail that you can’t tell the difference, what is reality in the first place? Does it exist? Can we unzip ourselves and climb out of our bodies and ‘see’ what that reality actually looks like without the brain recreating it for us?

dreams antonia de pereda the knight's dream
The Knight’s Dream – Antonio de Pereda

I often dream about people in all sorts of scenarios, but they’re not memories; I’m seeing people carry out activities for the first time. Again, how does the brain produce what are effectively animations? And just lately another conundrum has raised itself.

For three years now I’ve been writing about a fictitious rock band. With stock photography I have been able to visualise them, portray them on stage, in posters and on magazine covers, and yet, in spite of three years when barely a day goes by when I’m not thinking about them, they have never appeared in a dream, no brief appearances, not even a mention. It’s as if the brain doesn’t dream about anything that only exists in the imagination!

Half way through my second year at Polytechnic the year head told me I could expect a lower second class degree. He was quite kind about it and suggested if I make the effort I might obtain an upper second. Having discovered the power of dreams as a problem solving tool I did make the effort and the world of landscape architecture opened up to me. (I even understood Derridean deconstruction.) At the end of the course I was one of three students who gained a 1st with Distinction.

‘You came up on the rails,’ one tutor told me at the end of year exhibition. ‘None of us saw that coming.’ I nearly said ‘none of you have dreams like I do.’

But how do I know what other people dream about. In fact how do I know you even exist; I’ve never dreamt about any of you…

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13 thoughts on “Do You Dream?

  1. I tend to have violent, terrifying nightmares. Ones where people die brutal deaths or I’m somehow involved in the brutality. I’ve woken up with my heart racing from being so scared and it would take 15 minutes or more to try and calm myself. Because of this, I try to avoid scary movies, just not worth the terror they can inflict on my mind. Not sure what that means about me, but seems disturbing. I’ve also had dreams where my back hurts and then wake up with my back hurting, mainly because I’ve been sleeping on my stomach for too long. Not sure if that would be considered a lucid dream or not. I guess I suffer from vivid dreams…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very bad dreams like that can be a sign of some underlying issues, but I’m no expert. Some dream therapy books deal with confronting the events in dreams in an attempt to reduce their impact and leson the aftereffects.

      And the link between dreams and some physical experience like the back pain, could come about during REM sleep when various parts of the brain are ‘waking up.’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There was a time my dreams were nightmares. Then again, I was averaging two hours a night. Now, I sleep like a baby. I dream quite extensively. The only problem is I don’t remember any of my dreams. Apparently, after reading about dreams, it’s a good thing. It means I fall into REM sleep, which is the deepest sleep, and I’m not supposed to remember my dreams.

    The nice part about it all is not waking up in a cold sweat like I was a few years ago. Those were scary times back then. Thankfully, they’re over!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m lucky in that I rarely have nightmares and I can’t remember ever having the type of ‘wake up in a sweat’ nightmare. But I do dream about frustrating things like not being able to climb a steep slope, or riding a bike that won’t move, or I’m running and not getting anywhere. Very symbolic!

      But anyone who can’t sleep or constantly has bad dreams must find the inability to relax soul destroying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I almost never have a nightmare that doesn’t end with me trying as hard as I can to get myself to wake up. My dreams are fourth wall breaking: I always know I’m dreaming, somewhere back in there. I can’t necessarily control the dream (wake up from a nightmare, make a better decision, etc.) but I know it isn’t real. Most of my dreams are story-formed, too, and rarely involve people I actually know. I’m often not even myself in dreams.

    I like your picture. It’s pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s very interesting stuff, especially the lucid dreaming. Sometimes I am able to control situations in dreams. For instance, I have fallen off so many dream cliffs and off so many dream roofs that my subconscious mind now knows I am not going to kill myself. In fact, I have intentionally thrown myself off dream cliffs, knowing I am dreaming and therefore not going to come to any harm. The trouble with this is that, when I reach a certain age and not able to distinguish between dreams and reality, I am going to throw myself off a nursing home roof.
    What fascinates me is that the sleeping mind is able to surprise and astonish itself. I remember going into a room (in a dream) at a place I used to work, and closing the door behind me. And there revealed, on the back of the door, was a life-size, full-colour image of a Native American chief in his full headdress and war paint. I was absolutely astonished. But why should my sleeping mind have been astonished by something it created itself?
    Once, in a dream, I worked out a series of guitar chords to a song by The Move. I’d being trying for months to work them out in the real world. Did it in a dream. Bloody C major 7. Who the hell starts a song with C major 7?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, someone in The Move must have dreamt about C major 7 and later thought, ‘this’ll confound them.’

      You ask the same questions I do. How does the mind create that sense of reality? As I said in the post, these aren’t memories flashing by like a photo album, they’re animations. And if the brain can recreate astonishment it can do anything, and that’s pretty un-nerving. Who/what controls the brain?

      And I’ve also considered the conundrum of controlling dreams with such ease that you drop your guard and then realise you’re on Blackpool prom and not Madison Square Garden, and you’re really not the guitarist with Rammstein. There’s something horribly inevitable about it.

      Liked by 1 person

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