Cryptozoological DreamsJanuary 17, 2011
I have been dreaming some deeply unusual dreams these past months.
I usually enjoy that bit of the sleep cycle that occurs when you wake up mid-dream and you drift in and out of waking and dreaming. While in that state, my dream recall is better and I get to write down what I’m dreaming about when I drift into awake without really waking up. It’s a fantastic palette of strange imagery and events that can inspire stories and games. Some of my best bits of strange storytelling have sprouted from this kind of dream.
But more often than in recent memory (by which I mean “they’re happening at all”) I have been dreaming dreams the likes of which I haven’t had since I was very young – the kind that leave you with that creeping feeling, an adrenaline feedback hum that tenses all your muscles and makes you want to leap for the bedside lamp. The kind that puts sentences in my head like “Do not go downstairs after having a nightmare – they are heavy, like treacle, and gather thickly at the bottom of the stairs to entrap you again.” Admittedly, this line has managed to generate a children’s story that is gathering shape quite nicely indeed. However, it remains an unusual character for my dreams to have.
As far as the “Meaning of Dreams” goes, I am not a fan of any of the “systems” out there. Since Freud, psychology has remained pretty quiet on the subject. Mostly because Freud made it up as he went along. But despite that, I’m still fascinated by the content of my dreams, and often wonder where it comes from. I’ve come to think of the content of dreams (rather than their actual psychological function, which remains difficult to pin down in psychology last time I looked – admittedly, I don’t look often… but I may have a gander now while it’s in my head) as not dissimilar from one’s internal monologue. When you honestly appraise your internal stream of consciousness, you’ll discover it’s a lot weirder than you think. Try sitting and writing literally every word that passes through your head, without thinking about it, commenting on it, or judging yourself for it. (Particularly when you are stressed or excited about something.) If you were to keep that as a diary on a daily basis, any casual reader unaware of the premise would probably think you’re slightly unhinged. It certainly reads the way many writers write pathologically scattered or crazy people. But the words that actually run through our heads on a constant ticker are not often organised or at all linear. I find that the way in which your internal monologue meanders between ideas to have a not un-dream like quality to it. There are beginnings of good ideas or insights there, and on occasion, actual ideas and insights, but for the most part it’s simply an idle brain firing out arbitrary bits and pieces and trying to paint a picture over it.
And another thing…
I noticed this morning, shortly before I was jolted awake by the aforementioned adrenaline tingle, that dreams have what I can only describe as “the wrong emotional soundtrack.” Those bits of TV soundtracking that exist only to set the mood – the horror movie’s deep vibrating note of tension, the action movie’s rising brass… the “mood” soundtrack. In many of my dreams, the underlying mood of the dream in no way gels with the imagery and narrative that is apparently unfolding. The mood of the dream continues to be light hearted and merry as terrible and strange imagery surrounds you, and the waking happens because you become suddenly aware of the rats swarming out of drainpipes and leaping onto the stairs into your house as you climb them. And of course, they’re the damn terrifying stairs that don’t have risers. Rats have never been a particular fear of mine, but stairs without risers freaked me out immensely between the ages of Learning to Walk and Four, and my first home had a big set of iron steps up from the back garden (kind of like a fire escape.) So, good work, unconscious brain, for dredging up that imagery from the deepest vaults of childhood horror.
Other highlights include trying to escape from a zoo populated by Very Strange Animals. And I would swear that I was on a perfectly benign tour of Something Indoors But Interesting moments before. Animals involved included a massive constrictor snake with the face of a androgynous person, a kangaroo that leapt very high indeed and then proceeded to have its already substantial feet grow to massive, shadow-coming-down-on-your-head-that you-can’t-quite-escape-from-as-it-descends proportions, and something lizardy with a leonine mane made of strips of golden scales.
And then there’s that dream with the Thing That’s Outside The Bedroom Door that only exists when you believe in it, and you’re okay because you know it’s only a dream, but it’s very fast and nasty so if you forget for too long that it isn’t real it’ll be able to get you before you get to the bedside lamp and banish back to imagination.
It really seems like my dreams are loving the “childhood horror” and “evil animal kingdom” genres these days. Which has been wonderful fodder for a children’s story. But still darned unusual fodder for my usual dreams.
This all inspired me to look back on Tweets I’ve made about dreams… highlights include:
“People using scalpels to extract eyeballs from their abdomens. Also, people vomiting snake hatchlings” Um… not for use in the childrens’ story.
“Dream Diary: “Of course it’s Sarah Palin, the squirrel is playing paddleball”” Um…. Your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I remember from that dream is that “soundbite.”
“Dream Diary: Airport Snafu leads to being at a High Fantasy Style Asian Temple during a service/blood splattery massacre”
“If dreams are rehearsals for dangerous situations, then my brain is primarily worried about Lions, Dogs, Orange Things, and Daleks”
The “rehersal for danger” theory is one fairly popular psychological theory for the purpose of dreams, but given the content of mine, I think my brain is either still stuck in childhood, or working in the extreme abstract. Unless you can feasibly add non existent animals and old schoolmates pretending to be Grimlock to that list. And the predominance of Highlighter Orange as a colour in my dreams which veer towards the scary is a really odd motif.