March 20, 3:05 a.m.
I am in the woods walking along a dirt pathway and I can hear the music coming from the house. I hear the sweet melody of the piano and the violin chirps between the breaths of ivory keys. I am walking with Daniel, my husband, and he is smiling at me.
The trees are whispering as the wind howls through them. Leaves scatter themselves into makeshift tornadoes and suddenly turn into orange birds.
I am dreaming, I realize.
We enter through the door of the giant house and inside is a tropical rainforest. There are no guests except for a man in the corner with cages. I am already in front of him, asking him if I could buy his yellow parrot, and he gives the parrot to me for free.
Daniel is gone.
I am at Daniel’s parents’ house. Deserted and empty, I search the rooms and find in the dining room a small television with a bean bag chair before the white screen. The parrot on my shoulder says, “They have taken him. Go to the lake.”
I am at the lake. I can hear the piano again. The water is black and I am scared.
“Take the buffalo,” the parrot says. “They are the only ones fast enough.”
The parrot whistles like a flute and a massive buffalo rises out of the lake. He has ram horns and grunts at me. I am on the back of the buffalo and he is galloping across the top of the water.
The parrot is gone.
I think about what might be faster than this buffalo, why we must make such haste across the lake. I see no end to the lake.
I hear a scream behind me. Out of the water leaps a man with fins for arms and legs. His torso is the only thing that is human. His face is contorted. His mouth is that of an angler fish, unnaturally long teeth and a horrible scream that deafens. His eyes are empty sockets.
“Stupid fish man,” I remember saying to myself. I sit up in bed, feel my hands shaking, and get up to fetch myself some water.
I get out my dream journal and write this nightmare down. Lately I’ve only been writing down the weird ones. Ever since I was in middle school I’ve kept dream journals. My Dad and my guidance counselor both thought keeping accounts of the dreams that disturbed me would help get rid of them. They were wrong.
Most of the really bad ones have actually dissolved. Sometimes I get dreams that come close, but I wake up before anything gets too awful. Recently the nightmares are only jarring, not so much horrifying.
Through discovery I find that my dreams are strangely vivid; they contain some sort of back story, a plot sometimes, although the plot is usually subconsciously understood and never needs explanation, and somehow most of the people are known to me but carry no distinct features.
The angler fish man, for example. I knew he was a man, even though I saw nothing that would make him a male. I can’t even remember if he had breasts or not. I suppose that wasn’t the point. The angler fish man’s only purpose was to frighten me.
Sigmund Freud uses symbolism to interpret dreams. He writes that everything represents something in the waking world, and interpretations are universal. Everything is based upon wish fulfillment, even the nightmares (the wish to never be). According to Freud, my main three symbols would have to be the parrot, lake, and the androgynous fish thing. As I look through my book titled The Complete Book of Dreams, I examine colors first: the yellow parrot and the black lake.
Yellow represents cheerfulness and optimism. Orange too is encouraging, like the leaves that became orange birds in the beginning of my dream…when it was still a dream. When the parrot disappeared, the black lake appeared. Black in dreams is a warning, symbolizing depression.
Now parrots in particular are noted for imitation. Strangely, the parrot never repeated anything I said. I don’t even remember actually speaking in my dream. The parrot, by all accounts, did no mocking or mimicking of my actions. Damn thing left me when things got creepy. My optimism flew the coop.
Lakes are considered yonic imagery. Psychologists say it also represents the amniotic fluid where we float inside the womb. Thankfully there’s no birthing process, I’m merely riding a buffalo along the top of the water. Like that’s any better. But I’ve never heard anything about buffaloes. I don’t even recall watching anything about them on National Geographic. No movies either.
That’s not to say Sigmund Freud is right. I feel his methods are outdated, many creatures and symbols left unturned, and, sorry, but I’m actually really happy, so black as depression doesn’t work for me. I happily deny such a thing to be true.
The black lakes in my life are gone.
May 18, 4:27 a.m.
Dad still asleep and I don’t want to wake him. I’m so scared I can’t move except to write and remember what I have dreamed.
I was in my tent in my bed. I thought I was awake but I was not. I heard noises, scratches along my tent. I heard whispers but I couldn’t hear them. There was a bright light under my bed and I begun to hear screams.
The screams were bad. I started crying when the screaming started. I called for my dad but he was gone. No one was there. Something was there.
Things were falling from my ceiling. I see their shadows. The light under my bed is fire. Fire burns and the screaming won’t stop. I have to see what is screaming.
I look outside my tent. My bed is floating. Above me there are feathers falling. Angels dying. They are men and women crying as they fall in the fire under my bed. In the fire I see naked people screaming and burning and hurting each other. There are things flying in the fire and they throw daggers at the angels and make them fall. I think they are demons.
Something is coming. I scared and want to wake my dad up.
I was six years old when I wrote that. My first official entry before I started making a dream journal. I had a rough time deciphering the words, respelling things, and still trying to leave the basic structure.
I don’t understand why I didn’t wake my father up. He always fell asleep on this weird-ass turquoise couch we had in the den. The TV was always muted. The couch was made up of three segments and the end pieces could be reclined. The middle piece was so stiff you could feel the metal skeleton poking into your coccyx. His snoring was comforting when I was very young, since I couldn’t conjure up noises of things creeping out of my closet.
My dad once told me that some nights I would scare him half to death with the creatures I said I saw in my closet, under my bed, and he said I was so convincing he’d bring a bat just in case. They would be anything from giant dolls, drowned animals, and deformed wildlife to man-eating inanimate objects. He said my active imagination gave him gray hairs.
Carl Jung based his methods of dream analysis off of the collective unconscious and archetypes. The collective unconscious is a collection of every single personal unconscious, a reservoir of an individual’s unique experiences and memories. Those experiences and memories that are similar among humans are part of the collective unconscious. Within the collective unconscious arise inherited forms, or archetypes, most notably figures such as the trickster, hero, and the self.
This I find interesting because archetypes also included are mythic and Biblical. At the age of six I confess I knew nothing of the Bible except prayers and the main stories. It isn’t until years later that my dad tells me about angels and demons and how they fight daily for our very souls.
“There is a place within a place,” my dad once said to me after a discussion on demons and angels. He was making cheese omelets in the kitchen. I watched him sprinkle herbs and spices delicately with his big grease-monkey hands. His right thumb was sealed with super glue where a blade had split it like a grape.
“Like here? In our home,” I asked.
“Everywhere,” he said quietly as he flipped the omelet. “Our plane, their plane, all interconnected. Without us, no them. Vice versa. Damn, I keep forgetting you hate omelets.”
“It’s all right Dad,” I said. “They’re the only ones I’ll ever eat. But what does that have to do with my crazy-freakin’ dreams?”
“They find ways, I suppose,” he said. “Of coming in and out of our plane. Dreams most certainly. Near death experiences. Death, death, death and life.”
Many individuals throughout history reportedly suffered from these fights, pious people who endured the stigmata and demons would come and attempt to deter their victims from a righteous path. Even ordinary people have stated to have chance encounters with unexplainable beings that would visit them on the battlefield, provide miracles, and even bargain for their souls.
Had I awakened on some distant plane where Hell and Heaven met? The people in the fires were the damned for sure, the demons spearing the angels and laughing as they burnt in the flames of chaos. One startling thing I recall is that in my dream no angels succeeded in killing any demons.
I am conflicted with the idea of a collective conscious. I feel like it’s meant to explain away phenomena such as these.
Oh? You had a dream about angels and demons before you were educated in their existence? Well, that’s alright because your mind is connected to the collective unconscious and you inherited these images.
Yes, from everyone in the world before you. Our unconscious minds are linked in a network of patterns and neuroses.
I don’t even know what you’re saying.
Or what I’m saying, for that matter. For me, this method of analysis is flawed. Certainly Jung doesn’t explain the unique recurring dreams that haunt you for years. They are not part of any collective, except the deep recesses of your mind, and certainly do not represent the self in any facet.
Where is the self in a genetic network of inheritance?
December 9, 2:00 a.m.
Shit, shit, shit. I hate that dream I freaking hate it! Hey everybody I’m Zandra and I’m a freak who has disturbing dreams about a big black mass that calls itself Mr. Shadow. Oh that sounds like fun, yes? What did it threaten you with today Zandra? Oh just my legs, today it wanted my legs and I said fuck you! You can’t have my legs get your own asshole!
I was in my old room when I was a kid. Not the big room the little one with the creepy closet. I was a kid in the dream, riding around a stupid plastic tricycle. I tried to get out of that tricycle, but I was pretty much glued to the seat. So I wheeled my way to where my dad used to snore on the couch, but some sort of force field kept me from leaving my room.
Then I heard the wheezing. The closet was only cracked slightly open and I saw dull white eyes. In a half roar it said to me, “Zandra! Give me your legs!”
At first damn, I couldn’t say anything. My tricycle just started wheeling itself toward the closet and I started screaming. Finally I heard myself say, “No!”
Well thank God I woke up before I was completely immersed in the darkness of the closet. I woke up in the bathroom again. The upstairs bathroom. At least I didn’t wake up outside again. I could have died; I’m just wearing thin pajamas.
For a long period of time I suffered from sleepwalking. From the age of nine to fifteen I woke up nearly anywhere within an acre of my house. I’ve awakened on my best friend’s back porch next to her pool, in the woods, under one of those electricity towers, in my bathtub, under the dining room table, and thankfully sometimes in my bed.
I devised traps to keep myself from leaving my bedroom at night. Those plastic covers you put over doorknobs, tying one leg to the bedpost, using a Furby as a guard dog so when I passed it I would wake up from its horrible, inhuman voice, and sometimes I would ask my dad to order me back to bed if he saw me wondering the house.
One time I woke up at eight in the morning to make my dad some coffee before he went to work, and he stared at me for a good while before I finally said, “What’s up, doc?”
“I didn’t think you would remember.”
“Extra scoop? Some spice? ”
“To make me coffee this morning. I asked you last night because I knew I’d be running late.”
“Dad, stop drinking Gran Mariner,” I said. “I didn’t talk to you last night. I was asleep.”
“You were awake,” my dad said. “It was half past one and you came into the kitchen, poured a glass of water, and then dumped it all down the sink. I asked you if something was wrong and you said you were skipper.”
“‘Skipper’? Come on dad,” I said. “Who uses that word?”
“You did, last night.”
He didn’t initially pick up on the clues of my sleepwalking habits. He rarely saw them in action. He said my eyes were wide open. Every time I had a nightmare I’d end up somewhere other than my bed. My night terrors however, kept me from sleeping.
Trust me, there’s a difference. Night terrors occur within the first thirty minutes of falling asleep and happen during NREM sleep. Nightmares occur during REM sleep and they are harder to wake up from than night terrors, where usually there is a lot of thrashing and screaming. Mr. Shadow had no preference; In addition, he quite enjoyed appearing in both my night terrors and nightmares.
He was a recurring character in my dreams, but the dream itself was never recurring. The first time he showed up I was nine, nearly ten, and despite Freudians who would like to jump on this case I still didn’t have a clue about female repression or societal dysfunctions. Mr. Shadow and I would never be in the same place twice, at least from what I recall and see in my dream journals, and he never said much but a great one-liner. It was either “Give me your arms” or “I will eat you now.” He was very obsessed with my body parts and I find that disturbing.
If I ever fell asleep and found myself in my old room I knew I was dreaming. These are commonly referred to as lucid dreams where the dreamer is aware of dreaming. In some cultures they are called false awakenings. Especially in cultures which practice meditation, they experience a dream and define it as a sort of vision. Some have sensory experiences as well, saying they could feel and hear everything as clearly as they would awake. This is also the same time when individuals say they were abducted by aliens, saying their bodies were frozen and their eyes wide open. Science explains to us that sometimes when the body has completely shut down during REM sleep, the dreamer will awaken, but the body will not. In a sense you will be dreaming, almost hallucinating, in the waking world, but your body remains in sleep stasis.
The final theory of dream interpretation I come across is Gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy, invented by Fritz Perls, emphasizes solely on the moment, what one is feeling in that moment, and the action taken during that moment or dream. This is the only theory that throws out professional analysis, stating only the individual can understand the symbolism within his or her own mind and dream if he or she chooses to accept the dream or nightmare.
Gestalt therapy uses dream dialogue to solve issues in the individual. Those suffering from nightmares are encouraged to confront their attackers or pursuers and ask them questions. By doing this, one can take control over the entire dream. Though, after attempting such feats, I will say it is much harder in practice than said. Once I was being chased by a man with a mace, and I turned to him, realizing it was a dream, and asked him a question. “Why are you chasing me? What have I done?”
He proceeded to bludgeon me until I awoke.
After all of my research, I came across something that I know is impossible: activation-synthesis theory. This theory suggests dreams and nightmares mean and are nothing, just random brain activity. But, something can only be random so long before it becomes a pattern. Human beings constantly search for meaning in everything.
I have three dream journals full of episodes I’ve never seen before in my life, heard of, or done. They are all eidetic, but I make them real by writing them down and drawing the things I’ve seen in those places.
Is it my imagination or some collective? Who shall I then give the credit to? Is it what Hopkins called God? Oh, of course not, my dreams are just random firings that produce images and elaborate tales as my mind empties out the previous day’s unwanted knowledge, organizes my memories, and files them into fleshy brain folds. They’re just angry because they dream in black and white.