Can a Dream Journal Help Me Conquer My Fear of Dreams…?
It’s been busy in my head these past few days.
Thursday, 22nd February
I was running from loads of zombie-like people. My mum and sister were with me and we managed to get a car and drive away, but then we ended up on a train and there were loads of zombies on there. They were climbing over the seats and trying to grab me. Then on the next carriage everyone on the train looked like Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black.
Friday, 23rd February
Sunday, 25th February
I had really, really long fingernails and it meant I couldn’t do anything. I kept trying to write and felt like they were going to snap off. I also was running from a man who stabbed me with a knife (and it REALLY HURT) but I think that was a different dream. My mum then said I had to go to hospital and I had to have an operation but they said I’d have to be awake for it and I was really scared. (I woke up before the operation, thank God).
Wednesday, 28th February
I was falling again.
Thursday, 1st March
It was like an episode of Game of Thrones (I’m pretty sure Dany and the Lannister family were all there) but they were all sat around this really long table in this castle. And for some reason I was underwater, and I had to swim through this tunnel to get back into the castle.
Friday, 2nd March
All I remember was I was in McDonald’s at one point. Also I think I really needed the toilet but I couldn’t find one.
Saturday, 3rd March
You could have this thing put in the back of your head where you don’t age, but it was really expensive and hardly anyone could afford one. I had one (I don’t really know why) but someone broke it and I turned really old and my arms looked like Play-Doh.
Sunday 4th March
I was running because this guy was after me but I don’t know why. I remember hiding in my street where I live, except it looked different to real life. I climbed through someone’s garden to hide and ended up in their house and then they kicked me out and I started running again.
All these dreams. Every night. But what are they?
Every time we go to sleep, we dream. If you think of how many times you’ve done this, that’s a lot of dreams you’ve had in your entire life. We do it every night. It should be so regular, so familiar, so safe. Yet this doesn’t change the fact that the whole concept of dreaming both amazes and terrifies me.
Essentially, dreams are just images, sounds and stories – created in our minds then played like our own projector onto a screen whilst we sleep. In fact, it’s thought that we have between three and six dreams every night. Yet, by the time we actually get out of bed, we will have forgotten about 95% of them.
Everything in your dreams comes from your own head. I like to think of it as your brain sorting out everything inside it whilst you sleep. Sifting through and emptying out all your thoughts and feelings from the day.
I often find – as I’m sure most people do – that if something in particular has been on my mind, it will appear in my dreams. For example, if I’ve had an argument with someone, or I have an exam coming up, or have begun a new relationship with someone. It’s easy to see the link between one’s dreams and everyday problems.
Do your dreams have a universal meaning? Or a personal one?
Common dreams everyone seems to have are things like, running away or being chased, being late for something, being naked or embarrassed, falling, or having teeth become loose. In his book, The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud believes that your dreams represent your desires and wishes. Almost as if it’s a doorway into your subconscious.
Others, such as Antti Revonsuo, think that dreams are more of a survival technique. His explanation: “The body gets the rest it needs and we can live out simulations without putting the body in danger”. I quite like the sound of that. As if even my most horrible and terrifying dreams serve some kind of purpose, and prepare me somehow for real life.
In truth, there are endless theories about why we dream and what they mean, or even if they mean anything at all. I certainly have no idea what any of it means half of the time.
Sometimes I think dreams don’t have any kind of purpose. They’re just like a side-effect from the thoughts whirling round our heads all day. With the number of things our brains are expected to do all the time, it’s hardly surprising they come out with a load of random, and frankly often weird stuff at the end of the day.
Things never really seem bizarre when you’re actually in a dream. It’s only when you wake up that you begin to notice certain things were different. Often people appear in my dreams that I haven’t even thought about – let alone seen or spoken to – in years. This just makes me think even more that dreams are a random load of meaningless stuff.
Why don’t I like dreams?
“Whether it’s real or not, in that moment you’re feeling genuine fear and pain. Sometimes very intensely, more so than you would in waking life. And I don’t want to feel those things.”
Everything in your dreams comes out of your own head. This is exactly what scares me! When you’re actually in a dream, you have no idea that you are in fact dreaming. It all feels very real.
You can have a nice dream where maybe you see an old friend or get a puppy, and you feel happy and calm or peaceful.
But you can just as easily have dreams where you feel scared, worried, helpless, embarrassed, anxious, or upset.
For me it seems I get these kind of dreams a lot more than the happy ones. And I know it goes without saying that none of it is real. I can’t even explain how relieved I feel when I wake up in a shaken mess, disorientated and sweating buckets only to realise it was all just a dream. But whether it’s real or not, in that moment you’re feeling genuine fear and pain. Sometimes very intensely, more so than you would in waking life. And I don’t want to feel those things.
When I go to sleep, I don’t know what I’m going to dream. I don’t know what I’m going to be feeling in them: scared or sad or happy. I think this uncertainty and lack of control is exactly why I hate the idea of dreaming so much.
What is lucid dreaming?
Of course some people can influence or even control their dreams. This is known as lucid dreaming, and can take years of practice. This is when you essentially train your mind to become aware of when you are dreaming. This means you can learn to control and manipulate your dreams when you’re in them.
To me this sounds really fun and fascinating. You can stop nightmares, conquer your fears whilst asleep, and go on all kinds of adventures. However lucid dreaming is also very difficult. I wouldn’t even know where to start, not to mention the fact I’d have to get my sleeping schedule in order.
For anyone interested in lucid dreaming, here’s a great guide that breaks down exactly what lucid dreaming is.