Wednesday, February 11, 2009

All That We See Or Seem Is But A Dream Within A Dream

I love dreams and I love dreaming.

Aside from a period during my childhood when I suffered a recurring nightmare for 7 years (which I now realise was caused by carrying the measles bug around with me until such time as it manifested properly – but that’s another story) I don’t as a rule have bad dreams. Ambivalent and ambiguous, yes, but rarely bad.

Which apparently is unusual.

Last night’s episode of Horizon probed the nature of dreams – why we dream, how we dream, the meaning of dreams. It was fascinating stuff. According to research 75% of people’s dreams are negative. The theory is that while we sleep our survival instinct kicks in and attempts to mentor us in the art of coping with bad shit. Hence we have bad dreams as a sort of trial run for real life – a virtual reality shit sandwich if you like that puts us through our paces while we catch some Z’s.

It’s an interesting theory and plainly I’m either already fully prepared or my mind has just decided to give up trying to prepare me for anything.

My dreams are just weird rather than overtly negative, the symbols as yet too obscure even for me to analyse usefully.

I do know that I dream of flying quite regularly – something Karen is quite jealous of as it is something she never dreams of (a fact I find deeply unusual). In my dreams I have flown across oceans – usually to America for some reason – and several times I have even left the gravitational pull of the earth and visited other planets. I’m not sure what this means.

Alien invasion is also a recurring theme but is never shocking or threatening. The skies are usually full of alien ships and I’m swept along with the spectacle but never feel particularly scared.

Most of the time I dream of my childhood home – the place I lived in for a good 30 years (and more) of my life. It was sold a few years ago and plainly I’ve had trouble letting go of it. Usually when i dream of it I know I shouldn’t be there and am nervous of the new rightful owners returning... and yet I can’t stay away from it.

Bizarrely (or perhaps normally) I find that there is a definite, fixed geography about my dream world. Various locations in Leamington Spa are contained within my head and seem to hold their shape and detail in between my somnambulistic visitations. Occasionally I’m even aware of having visited them in dreams before and even more occasionally reach that wonderful state where I know that I’m dreaming. The much sought after “lucid state”.

I’m afraid I don’t use it to solve real world problems, write novels or do anything at all useful with it... I just tend to fly around and enjoy myself. I’m evidently something of a hedonist in my sleep.

What I do find strange is that I rarely dream about people that I see regularly. Karen, the kids... I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt of them while people that I hardly see at all feature quite a lot. I also often dream of dead people (“mom, I see dead people!”) – though usually relatives. Most of the time I seem to have forgotten that they’re dead but very occasionally I am aware of the truth of things in my dream and know that they shouldn’t really be there.

Anyway, there was no real conclusion about any of this dream research for all it got the scientists very excited. Basically we all dream (apart from stroke sufferers who suffer damage to the part of the brain that controls dreaming) but nobody really knows why. And we dream not just in R.E.M. sleep but also in non R.E.M. sleep too. To quote one bod the only difference between the activity of our brain during awake time and sleep time is that during awake time we interact with the reality around us. Other than that there is little difference between the two in terms of brain activity.

Curiously, while our brains remain active during the moments we dream our bodies become effectively paralysed. Our muscles completely relax and we are unable to move. Plainly this is a safety feature provided by dear old Mother Nature herself to stop us acting out our dreams and breaking our necks whilst we sleep. The most memorable part of the programme for me was footage of a cat whose brain had been operated on to prevent this sleep paralysis. The result was a cat, fast asleep, stalking an invisible dream mouse across a work surface...

Remove that part of my brain and, who knows, you may see me flying past your bedroom window one night.

I promise not to peek.

Much.

24 comments:

Brother Tobias said...

I wish I'd seen that programme. I've long believed dreams are about resolving unresolved issues - sometimes in absurdist ways. Well, since reading Hadfield anyway.

My dreams involve extraordinarily real landscapes - one recurrent one involves strips of wooded land between fast-flowing floodwater. The nightmares that once plagued me never happen, since I once achieved that 'lucid state' of awareness and dismissed one. But I'll leave the flying to you, Shaman.

Steve said...

Lord knows whether I ever resolve anything in my dreams, Brother T, but as I rarely wake from them feeling depressed or done-down they must be doing me some good. I've always had a hankering to try that experiment where you agree to meet up with another dreamer at a well known landmark and see if your two dreams align... sadly Keeley Hawes refuses to take my telephone calls.

The Sagittarian said...

I have recurring dreams, well..dreams that I know I have had before...I also get annoyed when I get woken up from such a dream at a place earlier than the last one. Sometimes I try and change the dream and I can do that on the odd occasion. Note to self-more wine!

Steve said...

Ah so that's the secret - consumption of wine = ludid dreaming! I shall have to buy some in. Purely for scientific research, you understand?

The Sagittarian said...

Steve, we could conduct an experiment for sure! You start on the red wine, I'll do the bubbles...I am sure we can drum up a few other volunteers for this one.

Steve said...

Absholutley! Lets' chalk annuver one up for medical shience! Hic!

http://rebeccahannay.blogspot.com/ said...

As A hypnotherapist and past life regresser (amoungst othet things) I would love to regress you to see where the whole flying thing comes from...but then again it might be a worrying place to go..hmmmmph better just keep enjoying your night flights!!!

Steve said...

Rebecca, I have heard conflicting theories regarding dream flying - some suggest it's the manifestation of a desperate need to escape while others say it's evidence of soaring creativity. I've always lent towards the latter and am sticking to my guns... the view up here is amazing! ;-)

EmmaK said...

I don't often remember my dreams thank God because when I do they are always about me having sex with some really ugly people, like I once had a dream about doing it with Rab C Nesbitt. Not sure what that says about me, that I have a fetish for string vests?

Steve said...

Could have been worse, Emma. It could have been the little runty guy who played Rab C Nesbitt's son, Gash. Or his best mate, Jamesie... you need to eat less cheese before bedtime...! ;-)

KAZ said...

You must have a clear conscience Steve. My dreams are usualy full of guilt and anxiety - and worse if I've been on the vino.
I'd love to be flying in my dreams - even with Ryanair.

Steve said...

Kaz, when I fly there is no cabin crew, no refreshments and no in-flight entertainment - in fact there is no damned aeroplane. I'm practically flying Ryanair singlehanded in my sleep.

Deirdre said...

saw that programme and - and like you i 'lucid dream'...for many years going to sleep was like going to the pictures for me...and in dreams i realised i was dreaming and visiting the same places again and again....and when i woke up i could remember everything and would mull over my dreams during the day....but as i get older i'm finding it hard to remember my dreams so easily...and i fly too!

Steve said...

I used to keep a dream diary, Deirdre, and after a few months my powers of recall improved amazingly. I got to the point where I could recall 12 different instances of dreaming in one night. Sadly I gave it up after a few years - I regret that now.

Now, I'm too damned tired when I wake up to even think about writing down what I remember!

justme said...

I used to have flying dreams all the time....now they are much rarer, but always welcome. Flying is just the BEST feeling! And I am a 'lucid dreamer' and always have been. In my youth I was hooked up to electodes while I slept a couple of times, for people to map my brain waves. I digress... I often 'control' dreams to an extent, shifting them the way I want to go. And, though I DO sometimes dream of people I see all the time, more often I dream of random people.
i love my dream life though. Mostly it is comforting and lyrical and exciting. Rarely frightening. Occasionally sad. Always rich in emotion. And the flying dreams are just exilerating, and leave me happy for days.
When I DO have bad/disturbing dreams, I feel uneasy for days too.
I didn't see the programme. I wish I had. I dont seem to watch enough television.
Ooops! Sorry....I have rambled on....

-eve- said...

Heheh, wow, you fly so far! When I dream of flying, it's usually with a flying leap, up into the sky above the trees... but all local travel, unlike yours ;-)

Steve said...

Hi Justme, it seems from the comments on this page that lucid dreaming isn't as rare as I'd been led to believe - in fact the dream skies seem to be utterly congested! We ought to think up some kind of "give way" system to avoid mid air crashes!

Hi Eve, good to hear from you! I can recommend a flight over the dream UK if you're up for it - it's rather cold at the moment so you'll need to dress appropriately!

Vips do orkut said...

Is your post title taken from a...Propaganda song by any chance, Stevenage??

Steve said...

It is indeed (OC?) - from their seminal 80's album "A Secret Wish" - a modern classic in my less than humble opnion! ;-)

Reluctant Blogger said...

I have a few recurring dreams - the main ones are seeing a plane crash and being unable to move to help (that one I have quite a lot) and the other is trying to get home and the landscape keeps changing (like the staircases in Harry Potter).

But I can manipulate my dreams quite often. And like you, I rarely dream of people I see now - I have people from the past all muddled up ie people who I didn't know at the same time.

I rarely have alien or unreal dreams - they are usually mundane things but muddled up.

My dreams often influence the way I feel the following day - I can be ona high after an exhilirating dream or stressed after an unsettling one - I just go with it now.

I think mine are not so much negative dreams as puzzling ones. But I do love them.

Old Cheeser said...

Thought so! Yes Steve that was me....don't know what happened to my username there...

OC x
PS Where the f*ck is Timewarden?! Sorry to harp on about it!!

Steve said...

Hi Gina, I no longer have recurring dreams but I do have recurring themes - usually being at school / college / university or being at work. It's rare for me to have a dream that leaves me unsettled but it does happen occasionally.

Thought it was you, OC! Nobody but you calls me Stevenage! ;-) I'm really not sure what has happened to TimeWarden. I do wonder if he has either moved on elsewhere with a new identity or has perhaps given up blogging for good. Wherever he is and whatever he's doing I hope he's well and happy... and will one day get in touch again.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

oooh I love P-Machinery - you should have pasted up the YouTube!

Didn't see it but I am deffo having some prescient dreams at the moment - except I know that what I am dreaming about is set to happen in about 2 weeks.

Steve said...

That sounds rather intriguing Laura! Hope it's something good!

I was tempted to post a youtube video but have been hearing scare stories about people getting into trouble for doing such things... so bottled out.