Sunday, August 19, 2007

Recurring Dreams

During most of my adult life, I have had recurring dreams. I'm not talking about having a dream a few times but about the same dream occurring for a decade or more. Many people don't remember their dreams but I often do. I've also been capable of lucid dreaming in the past and often used to wake myself from nightmares by realizing that I was in a dream and the terrible things I experienced couldn't happen in real life so I must be dreaming. I don't have many actual nightmares anymore and my ability to lucid dream may be related to that or it could simply be that fear is a very different animal when you're older than when you're younger and doesn't tend to manifest itself so obviously or elaborately as you mature.

In the past decade, two recurring dreams have stood out. In the first one, I'm looking for a best friend from high school. Often, I have his phone number and I fail repeatedly in my attempts to dial the phone to contact him. It's as if I lack the dexterity to dial the number properly and therefore constantly push the buttons in the incorrect order repeatedly. This experience in the dream is immensely frustrating. Sometimes, I can't find the number at all. On occasion, I find him and he is cold and indifferent to me or too busy to talk to me. The other dream is one in which my husband has done something which makes me so furious that I am apoplectic with frustration at his response. In this dream, he is either utterly indifferent to my reaction or cold and cruel.

Lately, I've been having a third recurring dream in which I either plan or want to go back to my former company. Sometimes they ignore me and sometimes they make it clear that they don't need me or require my services. This topic is at the forefront of my mind because I had this particular dream last night.

All of these dreams have a few things in common and that's that I'm either out and out rejected or seen as unimportant, or that I can't get what I want or need. Depending on how you view dreams and if you embrace the notion of dream interpretation, this is either very significant or utterly useless information. However, given where I live and some of my life experiences, the notion that I'd feel deep down that I was being constantly rejected or useless isn't such a stretch. After all, I will never fit in in Japan and am reminded of that on a daily basis.

Depending on who you speak with, dreams serve different purposes. Psychologists usually tie them to suppressed feelings or issues. Sleep researchers tie them to a need to have the brain in a certain type of sleep in order to maintain health and mental stability. Some people feel dreams are messages from other selves, realities or entities. The truth is that no one really knows why we dream. Oh, researchers can tell you what happens if we don't dream and psychologists can theorize a relationship between the conscious and "unconscious" mind as a rationale but no one really knows what compels us to dream or what they mean.

When I was studying psychology in university, I wrote a paper on dream interpretation which gave an overview of the various theories and methods for analyzing them but the bottom line is that dreams are such a personalized experience that the only one who can really interpret them is the person who is having them. Personally, I think that not all dreams serve the same purpose. Some of them are psychological messages from your inner self to your outer self. Some of them are messages. For me, some of them have also been moments of absolutely mundane precognition of little experiences or events.

For awhile, I took the time to write down my dreams but I found that it took too long to do so. My little dream notebook would contain dreams with a level of detail requiring 6-8 pages of writing. I simply remember them too well and feel it's pointless to write out brief summaries when I can remember them anyway. However, I do feel that writing them down can be very useful, particularly if you have troubling dreams or quickly forget your dreams. They have the potential to tell you at least as much about yourself as your waking thought processes do.

As a final note, I'll also mention that I have had recurring dreams where I smoke and I love it. The sensation of smoking and the pleasure I derive from it is extremely real in the dream. It's not some abstract experience where I stand aside and witness myself smoking and think I'm having fun. I am in a body putting the cigarette in my mouth, inhaling and exhaling smoke and holding the cigarette in my hand and my nervous system and mental needs are very satisfied. When I have this dream, I find it the most natural experience in the world and do not feel any sort of guilt or need to censor the pleasure I receive from smoking. In real life, I hate smoking and haven't smoked since one clandestine cigarette offered to me by my cousins at the age of 10 which sent me into a painful coughing fit. I thoroughly detested that experience and hate second-hand smoke. Of all the recurring dreams I have, this one puzzles me the most. Though I'm sure there are wags out there who will attach something Freudian to the dream, I'm just as sure sex has nothing to do with it.


Miko said...

Hmmm, past life memory? I keep a dream journal too, it's really fascinating to go back and read it from time to time. Many of my dreams seem to deal with motherhood and ambiguity. I believe that dreams have many layers of meaning, and it takes time to peel them off. It's also good to share them with others, who can offer a fresh perspective.

You say you don't fit in in Japan, which is understandable of course, but did you never feel that way in your home country either?

I don't fit in anywhere, never have. I think I prefer it that way! More freedom.

Shari said...

That's what I've been thinking as well (that the smoking dream is me tuning the radio in to an experience in another existence)...either that or I'm psychic and tuning into someone else's present existence (I kid!). ;-)

I sometimes fit in and sometimes didn't back home. It depended on where I was in my life. In high school, I did toward the end but didn't for most of the time. At college, it was the same (the last year was great and I really felt a part of my major's department). In California, I never fit in at all after I moved there. Sometimes I think it's easier to not fit in here compared to back home because you don't even have to try as it's so clear it's never going to happen. :-) And that is rather freeing, as you say!

Emsk said...

Hi Shari.

Like you, I used to keep a dream diary. And I bought a book on dream work by that Strephon-Williams fellow. But in the end it was a lot of work to upkeep. It's one of the most interesting areas of psychology for me, and if I were ever to become a therapist I think this would be my field.

I've had that inability to dial a number dream myself, and the feeling of indifference strikes a chord here. It's interesting that both forms come from male figures, your husband and best mate, so important men in your life. Animus figures, perhaps?

Rejection seems to be a very common motif in people's dreams, and it's not always rejection from the people you dream about. If there's anywhere we're going to feel out of kilter, it's Japan, after all. Similarly, a Japanese person might dream like this if she's in London, etc.

I believe that in many cases the people in dreams are actors. What parts are they playing? I always think that the only person who can really interpret a dream is yourself, but it often takes a bit of work.

I had a bizarre dream last week in which I found myself married to a guy I quite like here (he's Japanese). In the dream we were moving to a new house, which actually turned out to be near the village I grew up in in Scotland near the woods, yet all the neighbours were Japanese and spoke English. They all appeared in the house and were very friendly towards me, yet my 'husband' more or less ignored me and went into the loft to talk business with someone. In the dream he was older than me, though in reality I am.

I was left in the kitchen downstairs, having had a housewarming party landed on me on the day we moved in, as well as a baby girl to look after. When I mentioned to my 'husband' that it would be beter to wait till we were settled, he more or less told me that they were here now, so I should just deal with it. The neighbours were great though and helped me look after the baby while I made everyone tea and searched for some chessecake. When I asked everyone if they took sugar I spooned it out not into their cups, but in little piles on the sideboard. Suddenly there was an earthquake and I noticed that all these little piles were now disturbed.

The dream made sense in that many Japanese people have been very welcoming towards me in social situations. I haven't given the dream too much thought really, but I would imagine that my 'husband' in the dream is not this guy but part of me that's not communicating with the other part. The baby girl is a good sign because she's cared for and people were helping me with her.