beds, boots and bad debts

Three separate but closely-blended university-related dreams in one night:

1. Arriving at the student flat that had been provided for me. It was lovely, big and light, at one corner of the third or fourth floor overlooking the big city which as night came on became lit up with neon and car headlights.

The flat seemed to only have single beds, but four of them.  My mum had driven me to the city, and stayed overnight.  She was comandeering the music we played in the flat, which I only grudgingly accepted because she was the guest.  I felt I couldn’t start making the place my own til I’d heard some of my choice of tunes there.  Mum chose the bed by one window, so I went for the furthest away.  I was looking to see if any of them were doubles; one of them looked like it might be.  I would investigate further the next day.

The bathroom walls were made of one-way glass, so when I sat on the toilet it looked as though I was right in the middle of the apartment with nothing between me and my mum, who was sitting on the end of her bed.  I was astonished when she assured me that she really couldn’t see through the wall – and she was equally astonished that I could.

2. Unpacking my shoes onto a low shelf in the apartment, I saw to my surprise that I had a dark red pair of suede boots, some knee-high disco platforms in glittery red, and some black patent Dr Martens.  I hoped my mum, nearby, wouldn’t pay attention to what I was doing and criticise my shoe-spending.  My pink DMs (which I do have in real life) were now made of suede rather than patent leather, and the disco boots had got wet, bleeding some of their colour into one pink boot, staining it a different colour to its partner.  I tried to dry them off, hoping the red colour would fade, which it did slightly.  But I couldn’t get rid of the water; droplets kept appearing around the disco shoe.  I couldn’t take the boot into the bathroom to sort it out properly because then my mum would see and be angry that I’d thrown money away by spoiling the shoes that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

3. Despite having not given out my address, I had a stack of post at the new place (which now looked very different, dark and narrow).  There was an A4 envelope with my dad’s handwriting on, saying “open 31.12.2003” (my 21st birthday) and with a post-mark dated to 2007.  I wondered why my dad had sent me a birthday present separately from my mum, apparently in secret, apparently long before the date, and why it had taken so many years to arrive. And now, turned up at this address.

When I opened it though, it wasn’t from my dad at all.  The letter demanded repayment of my undergraduate loan, claiming I owed over £10k (significantly more than I actually borrowed, even with interest). The company had tracked me to this address, forging my dad’s handwriting and giving the date of my 21st to trick me into opening the letter.  I spoke to him on the phone and we agreed it was a scam which I didn’t need to respond to. All other questions remained unanswered.

First day at university

Induction day for my MSc course, although the building it was in was a cross between the sixth form block at my school, and an NHS outpatients’ centre I once worked at as a secretary.  My Dad drove me there although it was only a few miles down the road. It was in an uninspiring suburb of the city, surrounded by a large car park.  The main road there was congested.  I was the last to arrive and the other students were already settled at long trestle tables and were eating from a buffet.

Surrounded by 18-20 year olds who first assumed I was a similar age and reacted with unflattering surprise to finding out how old I actually am, I felt embarassed that my career isn’t further along. I felt they were looking at me thinking they would be mortified to be in my position at my age.

We were directed to play ice-breaking / team-building games outdoors on the back lawn.  It was a sunny day, and I loitered by the outer edges, feeling out-of-place and looked down upon.  I felt I may have made the wrong decision in coming back to university, not only because I was out-youthed, but that the course was too basic and not covering my real interests.  I couldn’t show those around me my strengths, and the experiences I had – which my coursemates didn’t – were not recognised.

wtf, subconscious?

Well, this one doesn’t need much interpretation.  The insecurities that crop up here are real and self-explanatory, albeit not as prominent in my conscious mind as in this dream.

My dad would drive me to university if I had to move away for it – although in the dream, the campus was only a short bus ride away, and in reality, though it will involve a bit of a commute, I’ve no intentions of moving out of my current house. I see the being-driven as a metaphor for the help that my dad – a lecturer at another university – is helping me in getting back to academia.

The symbol of being on a busy, congested or slow journey is a common one in people’s dreams. Easy enough to see the analogy. In this case, I also had a sense of guilt that my dad was putting himself out, when I could have made my own way to campus and in fact probably would have got there more easily.

It’s only as I’m writing these dreams up that I’m seeing the links that my subconscious mind makes between different times of my life, and how they affect me now. The locations – sixth form, and my former workplace – tell me that I’m still feeling sore about being underestimated, undermined or unrecognised in those places.

As for the buffet, we could explore the symbolic meaning of food – nourishment and all that – but I dunno, I’m happy enough to say that I just fricking love food.

 

 

Disappointment

T shirtMy aformentioned ex, while we were still together, giving me a printed black t-shirt for my birthday.

We got it from a shop that catered for goth / alternative types but was run by a small middle-aged man who didn’t really know or personally care much about an alternative scene. (As I remember the dream, he reminds me a bit of the Engineer from Miss Saigon.) I tried to wear the t-shirt that night when we went out clubbing, but even as I was doing my makeup to go out, it started to come apart at the seams.

We took it straight back to the shop for a replacement but the guy, having served us just hours earlier, denied memory of us and wouldn’t refund or directly replace. He tried to fob me off by getting me to choose from some other, much less expensive items.

Eventually I negoPoetry booktiated to get a selection of small gifts to roughly compensate the value of the t-shirt. To find anything that took my fancy, I’d had to go through obscure boxes and shelves, delving further than the average customer might. I found a tiny book of (metaphysical?) poetry, bound in pale cream leather. Quite a precious find, to be fair, discarded with no sense of its value. Otherwise, I just got some bits of tat so unmemorable they haven’t made it to awake-mind, and – wtfsubconscious? – a massive bottle of lube.

Yeah…

 

The T-shirt design above was adapted from the Deviant Moon Tarot, by Patrick Valenza. http://www.deviantmoon.com/wordpress/

Fragments

Short fragments of dreams I can’t properly remember:

A platonic male friend saying quite matter-of-factly that he was in love with me. Dream-me found this delightful.

A really unpleasant dream involving my Dad; I’d rather not elaborate. It’s not that my Dad’s actually unpleasant.

Being given a framed photo showing a group of people on a night out, including both my ex long-term partner and someone I recently started seeing. (A similar scenario cropped up in hands to hold.)

Getting caught short in need of a toilet. I was a guest at someone else’s house, but I think I managed to cover up the worst of my embarrasment.

Dream a little dream of me? I’d rather you didn’t.

Happy valentine’s day, dream-lovers!

So, pop-culture would have us believe that to dream of one’s lover is the surest sign of true amour.  So obsessively should the loved one occupy our thoughts, that even sleep shouldn’t interrupt our devotion, right?

Well, maybe not.  About a hundred years ago, some dream researchers were pointing out that the more mental energy we devote to something – or someone – during our waking hours, the less likely our dreams are to reflect it.

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Yves Delage (1854-1920) was a French zoologist who turned to the study of dreams after experiencing a bereavement. He was confused to find that, even at the height of his grief, he didn’t dream of the person he’d lost, and set out to discover whether this was typical.  Sure enough, in a study of newly-weds, he found that, “if they are very much in love, they have almost never dreamed of one another before the marriage or during the honeymoon; and if they have dreamed of love, it was to be unfaithful with someone unimportant or distasteful.”

Wow. Mama Cass didn’t know what she was wishing for when she implored her beau, “in your dreams whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.”

I’d slightly moderate what Delage suggested: I have had romantic or erotic dreams about people I’m attracted to, but only if they were secret, guilty or unrealistic crushes on people who there was no likelihood of me actually getting together with.  In the context of a happy, committed relationship, I don’t recall having ever dreamt about a partner.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), quoting Delage in his own book, The Interpretation of Dreams, put his own slant on this phenomonom by saying that dream material mainly consists of things we are not conscious of, and that whatever is least conscious makes the strongest impression in the subconscious.  Therefore: “we either do not dream at all of what occupies us intently during the day, or we begin to dream of it only after it is overshadowed by the other interests of the day.”

A friend of mine noticed something similar in her first few years of motherhood.  She felt almost every joule of mental energy was being transmitted into her son; and yet she didn’t recall ever dreaming about him.  Her interpretation was that by nightfall she simply had no more of that energy left, and had to psychically tune out for a few hours before she could give her attention again.

But what are your experiences?  Sling me a comment either way: do you dream of the same things that have occupied your wakeful mind, or do your daytime fixations vanish as soon as the light goes out? Do your dreams seem to protect you from material that is currently too raw or overwhelming – or do they rub your nose in it even more? Can you comfortably admit to your dream lusts, or have you, like Titania, ever thought yourself “enamour’d of an ass”? *

I’ll leave you with that thought, and another quote from the great romantic, Freud. “The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man actually does in real life.” (The Interpretation of Dreams, 1899)

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* William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Nights’ Dream

A Monster Calls

I’m reading A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness’ down-to-earth fantasy for young adults, about a boy who’s being haunted by a recurring nightmare, and an anthropomorphic tree that visits him at night.

Conor’s mum is dying, and every night he dreams of trying to hold on to her hand while she dangles off the edge of a precipice. Until along comes a yew tree in the shape of a man-monster, uprooted from the nearby churchyard, to tell Conor three stories and demand just one truth in return.

Author Siobhan Dowd created the concept for A Monster Calls when she, herself, had terminal cancer. Knowing she wouldn’t live long enough to write the book, she passed the idea on to Patrick Ness, who completed it after Siobhan’s monster has visited for the last time.

Ness uses Conor’s nightmares to explore the secret, unspeakable truths of how it feels to be losing the person closest to you. Guilty, rageful feelings that Conor would rather risk his own life than admit to.

So after reading this profoundly important tale of love and loss, imagination and rage, what does my mind come up with?

…I dreamt that I was applying mascara, and couldn’t keep from getting black scuff marks on my upper eyelid.

Really subconscious?

I mean, as nightmares go, I’ve had worse.

Thoroughly disappointed with my own apparent lack of depth or real sensitivity, I started getting ready for the new day. And reaching for my mascara wand, I saw this:

budget-mascara-fail

technic-monster-lash-600x399

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illustration by Jim Kay, from A Monster Calls (2012)

Ok.

Phrased like that, what dream-me did there seems entirely reasonable.

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Mascara clumps. Nightmare.

Murder, she watched

At my parents’ house, poorly with a bad cold.  On TV there was a film which I happened also to be reading the book of.  I’d watched the film on my own, whilst lying on the sofa.  Just the next day, my parents wanted to see the film too; I didn’t particularly want to watch it again, especially as it was pretty disturbing, but I was kind of stranded on the sofa, too sluggish to move.  Once again I saw the same narrative unfold in front of me.  I was starting to find I could quote bits of the dialogue in advance, stuck in a loop of film-book-film:

A wealthy, middle-class couple came to stay one summer with another couple, in their mansion house.  When I think about it now, the setting and characters remind me of A Dangerous Corner, a 1930s play which I saw on stage a couple of years ago.

Shortly after they arrived, the one man murdered his wife (by lethal injection?) to clear the way for he and the other man to engage in a long tournament; they would take it in turns to inject mild poison into the backs of each others’ hands. Each injection required a fresh scratch to the hand, so they had to keep looking for one good vein after another.  It seemed to be a macho competition, to see who could survive the longest as each dose of poison gradually weakened them towards, inevitably, the death of at least one of the two.

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wtf, subconscious?

I had been ill at my parents’ house recently.  I had both read and watched The Book Thief, which might have – on a literal level – prompted the dream-feeling of taking in the same story again and again, although I think, symbolically, the dream also wants me to be aware of a pattern in my life that keeps repeating. Given the subject matter, that pattern is presumably in my intimate relationships.

This was a semi-lucid dream, in which I was aware that it was me creating the story, but I didn’t know how it would end.  I have those quite often – where I’m writing a book, or watching a film or play that I wrote – and I’ve assumed that that was because I actually want to write something longer and publishable, but don’t currently feel like I can. Looking at this particular dream though – the motif of a story that keeps repeating – I think there’s more.  I know what the patterns are that keep repeating in my relationships (and elsewhere in life), but so far, knowing hasn’t helped me to change, at least not enough.  Murder, she watched challenges me to see how passive I still am, never really authoring my own fate but just watching as entirely predictable events unfold.

As for the nature of these predictable events, according to the dream… if I (grudgingly) go with the likely Freudian interpretation, that injections are a metaphor for penetrative sex, then what we have here is a man who kills his wife (possibly by having sex with her), leaving him free to engage in some kinky shit with another man.

If I’m the wife, then I’m afraid that a partner will betray me and cause my soul-death?  Possible…but the wife was too minor a character for me to think that’s it.

If I’m the other guy’s wife, then I know what’s going on and I’m just turning a blind-eye? Hmm.

I have no current concerns that the person I recently took up with is going to ditch me for another man.

And if I’m one of the blokes, then what the fuck?

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote that we all have a male and female side to our pysches, and if he were to interpret my dream, I imagine he’d say that the male side of my psyche (my animus) wishes to ‘kill off’ my female side, at least when it comes to relationships.  To cast aside archetypally ‘feminine’ tendencies towards romantic commitment, in favour of the more ‘masculine’ pursuit of sex without love.

But for me, the penny only dropped when I was looking at pictures of blood-filled syringes with which to illustrate this blog, and I suddenly made the association with HIV.  So, I take the dream to represent a lurking fear that I might die of something sexually transmitted.

I did have that fear just under a year ago, when I caught a flu virus that had also taken down several of my friends.  I knew that a seasonal bug was going round, but because for the last few years I’d seemed to keep catching whatever went, I got myself terrified that I had an underlying problem with my auto-immune system.  At that time, I’d been in an exclusive relationship for years, and around the start of that relationship I’d had all the routine tests done, so my risk of any STIs was all but nonexistent. Even so, I was on the brink of booking another test when the flu, and my paranoid thoughts with it, started to lift.  Later, comparing notes with friends who’d been house-bound with the same virus, it turned out that morbid, uncharacteristic and / or irrational thoughts had been a common symptom.

Another time – about ten years ago – I had a few bouts of ovulation pain or mittelschmerz, but not knowing what it was, I naturally assumed that my ovaries were dying, (I had a mental image of them turning black and shrivelling up like a walnut) and that this was God’s punishment for my having immoral sexual thoughts. Despite my being monogamous with only my second boyfriend at the time.  And despite, you know, not believing in God.  

I give you these examples to show you some extent of my mind’s capacity for what-the-fuckery, which is not limited to the dream state but sometimes enhanced by it.

Any further thoughts, readers? If you recognise any of these happenings from your own dreams, let me know in the comments!

 

 

hands to hold

I’d organised group tickets to see a dance performance, at a theatre I used to work in.  This show was the latest full-length piece by a small contemporary dance company who I’d seen a few times over the years, and I told a bunch of my friends they needed to see it.

Sibling and I rocked up to the theatre, which had been refurbished and parts of it rebuilt since I was last there.  There was now a long, straight corridor with the bar area to our right as we went in, and to the left, the smallest of their auditoria, where the dance company would perform. No-one else from our group was there yet; I said I’d skip to the bathroom and Sibling offered to get the drinks in while I was there. When I asked if a glass of prosecco could possibly be obtained (I don’t know why since there are better drinks than prosecco) he pointed out it was two-for-one so he may as well get me a flute for each hand.

The corridor leading to the ladies’ toilets seemed to keep extending and gaining extra turns and sub-areas leading off it.  I wasn’t worried about making it, but about getting back in time; having arrived well before my friends, I knew that by now they would be here and wondering where I was, and Sibling would be left to fend for himself with, presumably, four drinks but no company to share them.

I was getting increasingly fretful as I tried to find my way back to the auditorium; the tickets for my entire group were in my pocket so if the theatre wasn’t admitting latecomers, Sibling and all my friends would miss out too.  I felt anger rising to near-hysteria; why was the theatre layout so irrational, why were they hindering me?

At last a friendly, young woman ushered me in; the seating area was kind of sunken into the floor.  L and A, friends of about ten years, waved to get my attention. Sibling and the others were there.  I sat inbetween my ex and my recent-current, and almost immediately I wanted to hold hands with each of them on either side; I felt I couldn’t take either one’s hand without the other feeling left out.

wtf, subconscious?

It’s only when writing this dream up (as has often happened since I started wtfsubconscious) that I spot a connection between the two glasses of prosecco and the two lovers (ex and current).  The dominant emotions in the dream were anxiety and frustration, and that extends to the two-of-each situation.  Sibling buys me two drinks, but then we’re separated so I can’t actually have them.  Two men have (or have had) romantic feelings for me, but I’m too anxious about the potential consequences to relax with this.  In waking life, I know that I do have a fear that “you can’t have everything,” or that seeking “too much of a good thing” will end badly for me.  At times, that fear has been pretty paralysing.  At present, I’ve been trying to ignore it but this dream seems to let me know the anxiety is still there.

How about you, readers?  Have you had similar dreams to this one, and what did you make of them?

the one about the yoghurt

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this epic blog began with a dream about yoghurt.

It was set at my maternal grandmother’s home, in a part of the bungalow known as the… well, did anyone else’s grandma have a Back Passage? (I know, right?  So far as I could tell she never, in all her eighty six years, figured out why people were sniggering.)

There was a small fridge in there – barely bigger than the portable ones you might take camping – and I was trying to get a jumbo tub of Natural Greek-Style to fit on the bottom shelf, but no amount of manoeuvring could get the fridge door to close.  I had to leave the tub of yoghurt on the floor directly next to the fridge, but I wasn’t at all happy with this compromise.

wtf, subconscious?

Upon waking, I was so delighted with this dream that I told pretty much everyone I came into contact with for the next few days, and it was at this point that one of my housemates suggested I start a blog.

YOGHURT DREAM

Another dream-interpretation site tells me that “to see or eat yogurt in your dream, suggests that you need to learn to behave appropriately for the different situations and circumstances you find yourself in.” Others suggest an improvement in health and finances; an attempt to live healthily; or an immature way of seeking spiritual nourishment.  (It seems dream dictionaries are kind of reluctant about reaching a common consensus.)

To put this dream in its mundane context, another member of my household recently did have a giant quantity of natural strained, extra-thick, Greek yoghurt in a blue and white pot so large it actually had a handle.

The less obvious background to the dream was that I’d recently started having group therapy through the NHS. I’d wanted one-to-one sessions and to share my therapy time with seven other people felt like an enormous compromise. I was a newcomer to an existing group, which struck me as being pretty set in its ways, and I’d waited a long time for therapy, during which there were a lot of reasons I could have done with the support.  A long-term relationship had ended and I’d moved house; work was stressful and disatisfying; a relative had died unexpectedly, so on and so forth, on top of longer term issues that I had hoped to address.

I felt there was so much in me that it was impossible – impossible – to store it.  It simply couldn’t fit into its constraints.  It was no good me putting my emotional yoghurt (if you will) to one side, because the longer it was left, the more rancid it would turn.

As for the setting, I often find my dream-self back at my parents’ house, or my grandma’s, despite her having vacated it over ten years ago.

Whether my subconscious was trying to say something witty about the back passage, I’ll have to keep pondering.

…no, on second thoughts I don’t want to know.