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.
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)
* William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Nights’ Dream