Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dreams Continued

Since I don’t have anything useful to say today (and all the stuff’s the same), I thought I’d continue yesterday’s comment discussion with a bit more about my dreams. Enemy of the Republic stated the professional opinion that you can’t die (as in ceasing to exist rather than passing into the afterlife) in your dreams because the ego won’t accept it. That’s a distillation – read her more eloquent description in the comments here (she commented twice).

First off, let me say the notion of a mental expert strikes me as the same as somebody claiming they know all the secrets of the universe based on the studies and observations made on Earth. I respect what most psychologists do (some are whiny puss-bags, but others do real and useful work), but the human brain is largely unexplored territory and so much of it depends on individual and cultural differences that I don’t believe in universal standards.

Second, I think we as a society place way too much emphasis on the importance of dreams. I view them as little movies the brain screens in order to keep itself entertained while the body sleeps off the beer and converts those mozzarella sticks to added thigh material. Maybe sometimes they have some real meaning or impact, but I think more often than not they are just stray brain ions passing into the ether.

I had never heard that rule about not dying in a dream, which is good because I’ve broken it several times. Again, I’m not talking about dreaming I went to Hell (I’ve never dreamed that) or heaven (yeah, right) – sitting here now, I can think of at least four dreams wherein I died, the dream faded to black as I passed, and then I awoke feeling frightened and slightly disturbed. Sometimes I have to vomit after those dreams. I’ll post a few of them here, trying to be brief.

Three of the dreams in which I died were set during wartime – two in WWII, one in Vietnam. I had them in my high school days when I watched a lot of unrealistic war movies and planned on a career in the military, taking your tax money to be paid to waste brown people (not that I cared about the color of the people I got to kill – I’m an equal opportunity destroyer – it just seems that lately we’re always taking it to brown people).

In the first, I dreamed I was an elite paratrooper recruit as part of a force that was trained to jump out of planes at 30,000 feet with no parachute and kill the enemy by landing on them. We were taught that, if done properly, we should be able to kill them without fatal injury to ourselves. Every time we made a successful jump (killed an enemy and made our way back to friendly lines) we would be given an instant promotion and sent on another mission; when we attained the rank of General, we could retire. My courage was bolstered because one of our numbers had survived to Colonel. When the signal came I dove out of the airplane, used the techniques they taught us to angle my descent, selected my target and landed on him. Unfortunately it was a German wearing an old-style decorative helmet with the spike on top. Just before we collided, the camera angle (for lack of a better term) switched from my point of view to just behind me. Yes, in my dreams my brain frequently switches points of view and camera angles. I heard his neck snap as I hit him, but also saw myself impaled through the heart. Everything suddenly went black and I woke up.

The next time I dreamed I was part of the crew of a B-52 Bomber. We were flying with a side hatch open (I don’t know if they actually have side doors, but this one did in my dream) and I was standing in the open doorway, scanning the forest below. The plane banked and I fell to my death. The camera angle for the entire dream watched me from behind.

The third dream was extremely short. A squad of infantrymen were walking through the Vietnamese jungle when an enemy soldier raised and fired his machine gun, killing all of us (what a shot). Again, from behind I saw the bullets exit my back as I fell dead in the muck.

Finally, here’s a very old post about a dream I had in 2004. It’s hosted on my BellSouth free web space which has been having bandwidth issues lately, so let me know if you can’t access it.


Angie said...

I think it's odd that you view these dreams in third person where when I have the "I'm falling and I'm going to splat"'s always in first person. Are you sure you aren't having out of body experiences during the night? lol

Doug Murata said...

I'm definitely no expert, but would it be possible that the third person "camera angle" removes you from the state of death so that instead you are just watching someone who looks like you die? Now that the main character is gone, the screen fades to black and you wake up before the end credits roll.

I'm one of those types who claims they don't dream. I'm pretty sure that I'm experiencing REM sleep, but I don't remember anything that I dream. I've heard people who have extremely vivid dreams explain things in great detail, but almost all of my dreams (on the rare occasion that I can recall anything,) are very hazy. I don't know if this invalidates my view of things in this discussion or if it makes me more objective.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Let me ask you this: in these dreams that you "died", did you know that you were dead, did you wake up or did your mind stop? Because if the first two took place, I still hold on to my theory; if it is the third, then I am at a loss. Of course you could feck with me and just tell me it's number 3.

Tracy Lynn said...

I kind of think that dreams are where the unconcious mind catches upto the concious mind.
I tend to dream; some are so realistic, that for several hours after waking, I believe they actually happened.

Of course, it could just be the meds.

Anonymous said...

are there any rules to what you dream about?

I think dreams, which occur only during REM sleep - are result of sparodic activity in the brain.
I imagine like all your experiences, memories and imaginated ideas are jumping in and out of your mind and mixing up like a stew.. Eventually spewing out the random conclusion you dream about.

Sometimes i think it comes straight out of the imagination and what we are not in real life, sometimes it reflects problems and pre-occupations we have.

Eternity said...

I find it ironic that you say "but the human brain is largely unexplored territory" and "I think more often than not they are just stray brain ions passing into the ether" in the same post. I agree with the first part, and that is why I think that our brains may actually use dreams to tell us truths that we, most of the time, aren't even aware of.

I've had some rather amazing dreams, both good and bad, that became reality. But that would be a whole post if I got going...

SJ said...

The spike went thru ur heart... ahh a bit disappointing but then it s a dream not a slapstick comedy movie.

This is the comment I made on EOTR's blog:


This is what happens to gals who don't dream about me. **chuckle**.

I am very rarely able to remember my dreams after I wake up. Recently when I dream a par tof my mind thinks I shld blog abt this however when I wake up I remember the blog thought but forget the dream itself.

I think that dreams are the by product when our brains files and stores and arranges the information in its datastore.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

"I view them as little movies the brain screens in order to keep itself entertained while the body sleeps off the beer and converts those mozzarella sticks to added thigh material."

Honestly, I've actually heard that somewhere before....well, not the beer and mozzarella part (although I am living proof of that) but the first part...that dreams are just a way for the brain to entertain itself because of lack of other stimuli. Makes sense to me.

Seven said...

In the movie biz those back and forth camera switches are called "jump cuts'and are usually avoided. This is the problem. Have the director of your dream films lay off the amateurish jump cuts and things will turn out better. If he or she can't get it together, hire Spielberg as I understand he is inexpensive since DreamWorks caved.

Leesa said...

I view dreams as a way not to incur late fees from the video store. Before going to bed, I say to my brain, "I would like a romantic comedy" or "I'd like to watch gay porn." And then hope it happens.

Grant said...

angie - more like "out of mind" experiences.

doug - that's a possibility, although the camera/POV in the dream I linked stayed in 1st person.
I always thought it funny that brain experts claim everyone dreams, but not everyone remembers. How do they know?

enemy - I believed myself to be dead and I woke up, although I can't be certain if I awoke immediately or after some time lapse. My brain works fine when I'm asleep. It's in the morning that it stops working altogether.

tracy - try taking the meds with booze for a real kick. :p

fatty - by rules, I meant the absolutes the brain experts try to foist on us, like saying we can't die in our dreams and we all dream in B&W but add color when we remember it.

eternity - get going. I'd like to read that.

sj - kind of like fatty said, dreams are brain stew. If you forget the dream, just do some meta-blogging (blogging about blogging). Although that might be more boring than when I write about making rice.

pq - Tom Robbins wrote it in one of his books, but I didn't credit him because I had the same thought in high school years before I read him. I advanced my theory after some friends were supposedly taught Freud's theories of dream interpretation, which centered around viewing all dreams as sexual in nature (the teacher was trying to convince all the boys they were latent homosexuals).

PBS said...

I have often have dreams that switch to third person and have died in dreams too. I don't think any "rules" can be applied to dreams, they're just a free-flow creative brain exercise or exorcism unique to each person.

(I love Hunter S. Thompson!) That old dream could become a best selling book or movie. I've used my dreams for stories and art, good (if rather weird) creative material.

patti_cake said...

Sometimes my dreams ARE like watching a movie and if i'm in it it can be in third person or from my perspective but i've never "died" in one that I can remember. Very confusing! My hubs swears he never dreams and I say he just doesn't remember them. My best friend will only sleep on pure white sheets becaseu she says patterned ones give her nightmares. Weird.

Grant said...

rick - I would prefer Takashi Miike, although his work would inspire nightmares that could leave permanent psychological scarring. Cool.

leesa - given my contrary nature, my mind would surely force me to watch gay porn every night knowing I really wanted J-horror.

pbs - Thomson rulz! I'm not against using my dreams now (although they rarely make enough sense to use for fiction), but I used to view that as cheating. I think I was just being silly.

patti_cake - the whole concept of sleeping and dreaming seems strange to me. At least the dreams I can remember are entertaining, if a bit scary.