Every Friday, a lot of bloggers post answers to five questions on a theme. I don’t usually participate, because I don’t pay enough attention to know what the questions are, but this week’s is interesting. The topic is Dreams.
- Why do you think we dream? Dreams are hallucinations that occur while we sleep. Our brains are still active during sleep, but dreams may come from the emotional rather than logical centers, so sometimes they just don’t make much sense, or put together elements that would never actually occur together. They often incorporate memories, activities, and emotions from our waking lives. Scientists don’t know exactly we we dream, but it may be a way for our subconscious to play around with and work out issues while we sleep.
- Do you tend to remember your dreams or forget them as soon as you wake up? I tend to remember my dreams, at least some of them. Sometimes I remember them in great detail, and other times only as fleeting impressions that vanish if I don’t write them down. I remember in college having a series of eerie dreams that felt like gothic horror movies, set in shadowy, cavernous places like castles or museums. But I also remember having a dream that was so full of mundane details that when I described it to a friend he said, “That wasn’t a dream. That was last Tuesday.”
- Do you keep a dream journal and has it been productive in any way? I keep one intermittently. If I have a particularly interesting dream, I try to write it down quickly before I forget it. And often I do have interesting ones! Yes, I find it productive to remember dreams, not so much to tell others about them — most people are not interested in the play-by-play details of other people’s dreams — but to look for clues as to what thoughts my brain was trying to work out through this particular collection of images and events. I’m a writer, and everything is raw material for fiction and poetry.
- Have you ever had a premonition dream? Strangely, I’m pretty sure I have but now cannot recall a single one. More interestingly, I have lucent dreams, in which I know that I’m dreaming and can consciously direct the action, like a filmmaker (or author, I guess). If I’m being chased, for example, I might find myself thinking, “I don’t have to run from this guy. I’m in charge of this dream, and I’ve decided that I can fly!” So I take off and fly away. Sometimes the dream tries to reassert control; for instance, I’ll suddenly find there is a ceiling over the sky, trapping me, and I’ll have to create a window in the ceiling to escape. When I was a kid, I had a long-term continuing dream, like a television series, that played out for months. Every night, the girl in the dream had more adventures. Sometimes there were cliffhangers. And reruns. I think that was the period when I developed my lucid-dreaming skills.
- Do your dreams tend to be happy or more in line with being a nightmare? I used to have a lot of nightmares as a kid. I don’t so much anymore, though occasionally I do. More often I have long, complex, intricately plotted dreams with fascinating settings and characters who may or may not include myself. Sometimes I have classic anxiety dreams, when I’m on stage in a play and suddenly realize I don’t know my lines, or I’m in school and have to take a test but I can’t find the classroom or forgot to study. In a graduate school writing class, someone criticized a story I’d written, saying the dream sequence was too coherent and complex, and therefore not dreamlike enough. I was mystified as to what she meant, even when others chimed in to agree with her. That was the first time I realized that my dreams must be unusual. I assumed everyone had dreams like that.