perchance to dream (i did it my way)

I’ve never actually dreamed about blogging. According to recent dream studies, I’m just not trying hard enough.

For those of you following my ongoing blogalectic with Jenna St. Hilaire at A Light Inside, you’ll be delighted to know she’s written yet another fascinating post on rules and bending reality. It’s a truly worthwhile read, so much so that I’m taking a few extra days to read it before I issue my webpartee—saving it for Friday, in fact.

For those of you who know my current schedule and the state of my ‘To-Do-Yesterday’ list, this postponement of a long, thoughtful probably isn’t News.

Speaking of dreams and things that aren’t News, there was a remarkable article in yesterday’s issue of The Murdoch Avenue Journal—ah, sorry, misread thata remarkable article in yesterday’s issue of The Wall Street Journal. ‘How to Tame Your Nightmares’ reported on a recent studies and books on lucid dreaming.

Melinda Beck reported that, while we’re not yet ready to get all DiCaprioed yet, experts are finding slightly efficient ways of controlling what we dream.

For instance, Beck related one instance of a patient who had recurring nightmares of sharks. After taking a form of dream-management therapy, the patient successfully turned the bloodthirsty sharks into ravenous dolphins.

Can you order up a dream on a specific topic, or can somebody else influence your dreams? Numerous experiments with so-called dream incubation have tried, with mixed results.

"I can control people’s dreams. I can get them to dream about videogames by having them play intensely," says Dr. Stickgold. His studies at Harvard found that when volunteers played the game Tetris for hours a day, 60% reported dreaming about it at least once as they were falling asleep.

In a follow-up study with the virtual-skiing game Alpine Racer, 14 of 16 students reported seeing skiing images at sleep onset (as did three people who were merely observing the experiment.)

It’s unclear how far into the night’s dreams those images persisted. Dr. Stickgold and colleagues are now repeating the study having subjects play "Dance, Dance Revolution" and waking them later in the night to ask about their dreams.

Interesting, no doubt, but suspiciously Not like News. I spent the day in Downtown Chicago. Chances are, I’ll dream about a big city tonight. It’s happened before. (Or I may dream about a shopping center—my worst nightmare are about getting lost in the Men’s Department, or not being able to find the peanut butter. I didn’t say ‘scariest.’ I said ‘worst.’)

The concept behind the article may say more about our society than our dreams. When, for instance, the 18th century Romantics became fascinated with dreams, they saw them as endless, disturbing sources of truth and beauty, revealing mystery in the world inaccessible to the discursive mind. So you have Coleridge’s experiments with opium and his exquisite dream-poetry, Goethe and MacDonald’s fantasy stories, sub-creating worlds intended to explore the dreaming mind. Dreams revealed truth.

In the 19th century, Freud and Jung made dream-study scientific, indentifying symbolism and archetypes. Dreams, they said in essence, tell us about ourselves, and are more honest about ourselves than we are. They also made most of their symbolism to be rather dull allegories for rather boring sex, so their ideas predictably became wildly popular. Dreams revealed the self.

Now, in this present study, however, we can learn snazzy techniques to change our dreams, make them dreams we like when we want them. We are, say the theorists, in charge of our dreaming minds. Dreams are commodities.

This seems rather too neat. This is Aunt Agatha’s sentient necklace that will overthrow the world unless we get Abraham Lincoln to write an op-ed for our blog but he’s too busy listening to the Beatles that we’re talking about here. Dreams, that is.

What do you think? Can we control dreams? And should we, if we can?


5 thoughts on “perchance to dream (i did it my way)

  1. I love this site! I am subscribing.
    You are the menu winner! Please contact me!
    It took a long time, as the food editor also works full time and is working on graduate school. But yours was a real standout.

  2. I got a kick out of this piece. If I’m drifting in and out of consciousness, I can sort of control the events of my dreams, spin it towards a more positive ending than I might have gotten otherwise. But I’m not sure I’d want to force myself to think about something till I started dreaming about it.

    Will look forward to your next webpartee installment, but I understand the busy thing. Monday’s post went up at about 11 PM and almost didn’t happen till Wednesday.

    As per Kate’s comment: Congratulations on your menu win!

  3. It’s still hard to get around Slow Wave (even better before he started trying to make a recurring narrative).

    I have one friend who says her dreams have always been remarkably literal: she goes to the store to buy salt, that night she dreams about salt. Me, rather the opposite. Though if I’m dreaming about a large shopping center, odds are it’s not going to end well. An old house with a large library, 50/50.

  4. I can make myself dream about certain things that I want very badly. It doesn’t work all the time – but more than 50% of time I can make it happen. But I have to want it very much. It’s always more beautiful in my dreams. But it’s a conscious decision. I go to bed and think – “I’m going to dream about such and such” – and I do.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I like to think it’s a gift God gives us all. Sometimes it can be about seeing a person I love and want to see but I can’t. Sometimes it can be a place I really want to see but I can’t. Sometimes it’s a situation I really want to happen – but can never happen. It’s always a little sad to wake up from it.

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