Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dream a little dream

Jona has been messing around with her dreams lately, trying her best to remember them. Sounds innocent enough, huh? BUT (cue scary organ music) that's how it starts. Dreams are a risky business, but I'm not sure any of you will believe me. We humans have been fascinated by our dreams for thousands of years, of course, but the idea of stepping in and messing with them is, I think, a product of the New Age culture. The pinnacle of this might be lucid dreaming, a cute idea turned big business by Stanford psychologist Stephen LaBerge. Why be the passive recipient of dreams, when you can author them? That's the essence of lucid dreaming. The only reason a guy (hell, probably most women, too) would go to the bother of learning lucid dreaming would be the promise of unlimited, endlessly varied sex with whomever (or whatever) strikes his fancy at the moment, with no risk of disease or consequences. Overcoming nightmares, my ass. In fairness, in his FAQ, LaBerge hints that most people do this as a rather sophisticated means of jerking off. The roots of lucid dreaming predate LaBerge, who has been futzing with dreams at least since the 80s. I first encountered the idea in Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan books. The Yaqui brujo Don Juan has Carlos (a UCLA anthropology grad student) work on finding his right hand in his dream. There's no significance to the right hand; if I remember correctly, Don Juan tells Carlos he could find his dick, if he preferred. The point was to exert control. Once Carlos could do that exercise every night, Don Juan instructed him to try to return to his dreaming body, turn his back on it, and walk away. I gather the overall plan was to induce some sort of out of body experience. As a kid, I ate this stuff up like cotton candy. I tried my best to look at my hand, and achieved a shabby degree of success. Whenever I did it, the rest of the dream became grainy, like a poor print of an old black-and-white movie. If I persisted in trying to control the dream, I lost it altogether and woke up. On the other hand, I could relax back into the dream, and lose the lucidity (that essential awareness, "this is a dream"), but what was the point of that? Then high school happened, and I had GFv1.0, which meant I no longer had any motivation to mess with my dreams. I didn't rediscover Castaneda until my last year of college. That's when all hell broke loose. Not at first, of course. At first, I had a lot more of those silly hand dreams. Then -- gradually at first, but with increasing frequency -- I began having dreams of flight. Now we're talking, I thought at the time. This was worth doing. Strange stuff began happening. In my first year of medical school, I dreamed I was in my bedroom, hovering near the ceiling. Something popped and I felt myself flung backward into cold darkness. I woke up in bed (where else?) thinking, What a rush! I'm not dippy enough to consider this an out of body experience, although I suspect many people would. No, I think it's far more plausible that my dreaming mind managed to recreate my bedroom in every detail, then gave me a little jolt. Mess with me, eh? I'll show you a thing or two. Not content with cheap theatrics, this same entity -- call it the subconscious, if you want to get all Freudian about it -- pulled out a new stunt. I began having waking dreams. I would wake up, go about my business, and only gradually realize from the oddness of my surroundings that this world wasn't quite real. The lights wouldn't turn on; the bathroom taps wouldn't work; my roommates would be hosting a huge party at 7:00 in the morning. That sort of thing. Meanwhile, the cool dreams continued: dreams of flying, or of soaring just a few feet over the ground, moving as fast as a car without any muscular effort. Also, I continued to have the occasional out-of-body dream, or dreams where I seemed to perceive reality from an unusual perspective (as a tiny speck, or a floating dust mote, and so forth). And so I kept scribbling in my log, relishing the fun stuff, dreading the scary stuff. I began having nested waking dreams. I'd wake up into a waking dream, eventually realize things weren't quite real, and then wake up into another waking dream. These dreams became more and more frequent, and the nesting became more and more complex. The night I had an eight-fold nested dream and spent the rest of the day metaphorically pinching myself, that's when I decided enough was enough. Why? Because it was becoming increasingly clear to me that my dreaming mind could create such a thoroughly convincing faux reality that I couldn't tell the difference. The difference, if there was one, had more to do with quantity than quality. Reality lasts longer. I don't think any bit of this was supernatural. No, I think my dreaming mind is just that clever (devious, vindictive, and/or bored). I have a vague, academic curiosity as to what that critter would have come up with next, but I'll leave that to someone more adventurous than I. D. Technorati tag:


Blogger Jona said...

That sounds a bit scary in its own right!

The first step seems to be learning to remember your dreams, and I think I’ll go for trying to forget them first ;o) but thanks for the links, because if that doesn’t work just being able to tell it was a dream would be helpful :o)

11/17/2005 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous fiveandfour said...

Huh - I've had similiar dreams re: the flying and the waking dreams.

I believe dreams are a product of the subconcious - there've been just too many of them in my life where I could see a direct correlation between the subject matter in my dreams and things I was thinking about within the previous couple of days for me not to believe it.

But try as I might, I was never able to direct my dreams; it always seemed the more I tried, the more determined my subconscious was to take me in the opposite direction. I think I first tried it after reading a Richard Bach book (hey-I was young!) wherein he described something along the lines of directed dreaming a specific dream in tandem with his wife. After multiple failures on my part to do it even by myself, I came to decide he was full of crap.

Now I let my dreams have their way, though I am frightened sometimes by the scenarios my mind creates.

11/17/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger THIS! Christine said...

Yikes... Deep thoughts happening here today. Doug, that was some scary shit, gave me the shivers reading it.

Happily I don't remember my dreams very often. And when I do it's usually something quite mundane, like a conversation taking place in my kitchen while I prepare a meal. Nothing deep happening in the convo either, it's all very... everyday.


11/17/2005 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

I've had the waking dreams, made scarier by the fact that I have a weird sleep disorder. Sometimes my mind will be awake while my body is still asleep, which means I wake up thinking I'm paralyzed. I mean, I can't move or take a deep breath. Oddly enough, I can wiggle a toe. If I keep wiggling, my body will wake up, too.

I go from waking dream to paralyzed to waking dream to paralyzed and toe wiggling to waking dream again and finally major toe wiggling so I can get up. I don't feel very rested those nights.

11/17/2005 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Used to read Castenada - thought him quite interesting. Then started keeping a dream diary and forcing myself to awaken long enough to pen a few words before falling back asleep so that I could do the self-analysis later.

You might enjoy a new movie out about dreaming...will shout you the title when I remember it - lol. It poses the question: Are we dreaming when we think we are, or is that life, and when we dream, that's the real deal?

11/17/2005 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Did you guys know we are paralyzed during dream sleep? The only thing that moves are our eyes and our respiratory muscles.

Apparently it's not unusual, during wakening, to become aware of that paralysis. Robyn, sounds like you're a little TOO aware of it. Guess I just found out what my subconscious had in store for me next ;o)

11/17/2005 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger mm said...

Robin, I've had that same thing happen, and it's awful - laying there absolutely aware of everything around me, but unable to move anything. I've imagined the sounds of footsteps in the hallway, clearly, someone coming to kill all of us, but I can't do anything about it. (Evidently, one foot still in dreamland.)

Yes Doug. If you haven't had this experience yet, you don't know what you're missing.

11/18/2005 04:25:00 AM  
Anonymous fiveandfour said...

Did you guys know we are paralyzed during dream sleep?

No. ::shudders:: I've had those dreams where I'm in danger and unable to move quite a number of times - now I'm really dreading having one of those again.

11/18/2005 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

I had some nightmares as a teenager and in fact learned to forget my dreams the moment I awake so they won't haunt me any further. By now I only remember that I did dream, but no details.

Don't think I could use the mess for stories anyway, nor do I need any more plotbunnies. ;-)

11/18/2005 08:26:00 PM  

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