Alphabet Challenge Day Four

Day four of my blogging challenge and I’m slightly panicky having had ‘slippage in the schedule’ after computer failure yesterday.

But today

the letter is D

and the subject is DREAMS

Everyone dreams, but some people seem to remember them much more vividly than others. Or, at least, they enjoy recalling and describing them. I prefer nights when I’m not aware of my dreams, when I go to sleep and wake up the next morning without the disturbance of this ‘other’ world.

And yet, I recognise that dreams are important. Our conscious selves wear masks. We greet the world (and often ourselves) with a veneer that conceals much of who we really are. The subconscious is rarely allowed to make its voice heard. But through dreams, the submerged, often ignored, layers of our personality – rich and multi-dimensional – can live. Plato said ‘The unexplored life is not worth living.’

There’s no doubt that dreams are a source of creativity, literature and discoveries. We have all experienced waking in the night with a brilliant idea, which if not written down, will usually have fled by the morning. We’ve all gone to bed thinking about a problem, a difficulty we need to resolve, only to wake up the next morning with the answer in our heads.

It’s surprising how often dreams are a mish-mash of things that have happened during the day. Clearly they help us sort through the debris, sorting, collating, absorbing, rejecting.

Then there are the nightmares. Those painful dreams when you find yourself falling, unable to move, torment of some kind. Years ago, when I was going through a painful period of my life, I dreamt constantly of a house. It was always the same house – huge with loads of rooms. But I couldn’t never decide which room would have which function. There was nowhere to settle in this house. I used to rush from room to room, trying to work out if it should be a sitting room or a bedroom, and never being able to decide. Every time I dreamt about the house, I had to go through the same torment. I didn’t need to be told by Freud –  ‘dreams are the royal road to the unconscious’ – to work out the psychological significance of the dream.

Dreams play huge part in literature, being used to reveal a character’s psychological state – ‘When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin’. (Kafka Metamorphosis) and ‘I sometimes dream of devils. It’s night, I’m in my room, and suddenly there are devils everywhere. In all the corners and under the table, and they open doors, and behind the doors there are crowds of them, and they all want to come in and seize me. And they are already coming near and taking hold of me, But suddenly I cross myself and they draw back, they are afraid, only they don’t go away, but stand near the door and in the corners, waiting.’ (Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamazov).

Dreams have also generated stories or been the stimulus for novels. In 1816, Mary Shelley was eighteen years old when she spent the summer with her lover (and future husband) Percy Shelley, at Lord Byron’s estate in Switzerland. One night, as they sat around the fire, the conversation turned to the subject of reanimating human bodies using electrical currents. Shelley went to bed that night with images of corpses coming back to life swirling through her head; as she slept, she clearly saw Frankenstein’s monster and imagined the circumstances under which he had been created. Next morning she wrote a short story which she later turned into the novel Frankenstein.

In 1960, Jack Kerouac published  Book of Dreams, an experimental novel, based on the dream journal he kept from 1952 to 1960. In it Kerouac tries to continue plot-lines with characters from his books as he sees them in his dreams.

I suppose the message for a writer, or anyone who wants to tune into their creativity, is – keep dreaming, dream big, use your dreams. So I guess I’d better let go of my ‘quiet nights’ – bring on the dreams!

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  1. polly says:

    A good read Lindsay but I find that I have little to say about dreams. I remember dreaming in my younger days but don’t seem to have them now. I ca’t remember my last dream but remember those from childhood. Many people have received wisdom about how we all dream and some people are unable to recall their dreams. Someone put forward a ‘scientifically proven’ (this phrase tends to bring out the cynic in me) article suggesting that we would go mad if we did not dream. All this, of course, relates to dreams dreamt at night whilst tucked up snugly.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your third and fourth paras where you reflect that we sort issues out when we sleep, I don’t think this is due to dreaming per se but rather the brain sorting through the paperwork and doing the filing so that the jumble of the previous day becomes easier to access.

    Now if this were about daydreams, well, then there would be scope to think about wishes, ambitions, things that are likely never to happen, things that might … but it’s not, so I’ll finish here ~ my goodness I wrote lots more than I thought I would!

  2. Lindsay says:

    I don’t feel as if I often dream, Polly, and when I do, it always seems weird or distressing. But as you say, the received wisdom is that we all dream, but some of us don’t remember them. I think daydreams are as valid as nightdreams.

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