Friday, November 07, 2014

A Rare Symbolic Dream

As a psychologist, I often get asked to interpret dreams. My general response is that I have no idea what ‘your’ dream means. For the most part, dreams appear to have no meaning other than an expression of those events and experiences that we are going through at the moment of the dream. In other words, most of what is in our dreams is the same material that is in our waking life, such as the books we read, the TV shows we watch, and the thoughts that worry us.

Most dream material is not demonstrated in any symbolic way but is right there on the surface of the imagery. If there is “symbolic” meaning to your dream, it is generally a symbolism that only you can accurately interpret. It is based on your life and culture as you grew up. The same is true for me. Once in a great while, however, I have a dream that seems clearly to be saying something in symbolic form. Last night’s dream was an example, and it’s pretty easy to interpret, probably for everyone. Here it is:

An astronaut crashes on a desolate planet and walks away from the wreck. The planetary surface looks much like our moon, with no signs of any life. The man is wearing a space suit and is already thinking about what happens when the suit runs out of air. The man is not quite me, and does not look like me, but I feel clearly as if I’m inhabiting him.

Then, the astronaut sees a shadowy figure approaching from the distance. He heads off in that direction but stops as he gets a closer look at the figure. It’s a human and he’s not wearing a suit. He looks almost like the astronaut, but older. This older man approaches the astronaut and stops, but says nothing. His stare is blank.

The astronaut cautiously tests the air and finds it breathable. He strips off his suit, and as he turns back to the older man he is attacked suddenly by that fellow. The older man is slow and weak and the younger man easily throws him down and then backs away. The older man gets up and attacks again. The younger man punches him and knocks him down a second time.

The guy gets up off the ground and stands there. The younger man is ready to defend himself but no attack comes. The young man tries talking to the older man but there is no answer, only the stare. As the younger man relaxes a little bit, the older man attacks again. The astronaut easily knocks the man down again but now dares not relax when the fellow climbs back to his feet.

At this point, the dream began to jump forward in time. I’d see the young man starting to walk away and being attacked, moving to examine his suit and being attacked. Each individual attack was easy to defeat physically, but now the wear and tear of the psychological stress began to tell. The young man could not escape because the old man followed. He could not rest or an attack would come. He dared not sleep for fear that he would be helpless. And now he begins to tire.

In such a way is youth and strength defeated.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have never remembered a dream with that much detail. I rarely remember dreams at all.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, I typically remember some dreams from every night, although I often forget them as the day wears on.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Like the dripping of water on a rock - eventually there is wear.
I don't remember most of my dreams in that much detail either.

Erik Donald France said...

Or the Old Man may be the Tea Party :->

Cool stuff.

ivan said...

Nice writing!

Worthy of a Guy de Maupassant.

BernardL said...

That would be a very stressful dream. I believe a more likely, but less dream haunted ending would be the old man's death. Dreams are indeed a mysterious entity.

Snowbrush said...

Well, I would just say that that's a brilliant dream!

Unknown said...

My dreams reassure me that my mind still works, and that is no small consolation at my age. Of course, if I ever stop dreaming, I will be very disappointed.

In any case, I am pleased to stumbled upon your blog. And, for whatever it might be worth to you, I assure you that I will be back every now and then.

Now I need to return to my own new blogging efforts. It is difficult for me to know how I should go about getting started.

sage said...

Interesting dream... A few years ago, I had a dream about an employee of mine tossing a copperhead at me. I caught it and took the snake into the woods and let it go. I am sure the dream had a lot to do about the employee trying to undermine me and when I woke, I felt better about my situation.

Unknown said...

Sage, never tell that dream to a Freudian. Never!

Cloudia said...

Life is one thing after another. Then we are old. . . .

ALOHA from Honolulu
=^..^= . <3 . >< } } (°>

Ty said...

I rarely remember my dreams, though can do so regularly with some preparations and practice.

Charles, because of your day job and your interests, and because I recall you've experienced lucid dreaming, I'd be interested in your thoughts not only upon lucid dreaming, but also of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, dreams involving those who have passed on, animals' dreams, etc. I don't expect you to go into all this if you don't have the interest, but a blog post on the subject matter would be interesting.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Most of my dreams, if I remember them the next day, are related to my daily activity. Last night, I dreamt that my pet dog had given birth to a litter of pups and I woke up with a start. She is barely three years old.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, like dripping water exactly

Erik, kinda funny. Kinda not!

Ivan, I'm just a regular "Guy"

Bernard, I do have quite a few stressful dreams in that sense.

Snowbrush, truth in dreaming!

P.C., truth in the "mind still working" point. I hope my dreaming never goes away.

Sage, good example of how one can interpret your own dream but probably not someone elses.

P.C. Of course you could always ask Freud about all those cigars he smoked.

Cloudia, ain't it the truth.

Ty, good topic. I'll give it some thought. I have written about lucid dreams certainly, but will think about some of these issues.

Prashant, many of my dreams are like that too. I dream about writing, reading,teaching, driving.

Unknown said...

Even Freud supposedly said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Well, perhaps. Of course, Freud is out of fashion, isn't he? But didn't Jung have similar observations about the archetypes of dreams? Yet who now bothers with Jung? In any case, regardless of meanings, thank God for dreams. Ah, perhaps that is the key: divine voices. Just like William Blake's visions.

Oscar Case said...

Charles, after a night like that, I would be sweating and worn out - not ready for the day. Well, I'm not usually ready anyway.

Ron Scheer said...

I have liked what I think is called a gestalt method of dream "analysis." The whole dream is "you", not just the person you seem to be in the dream.

One by one you imagine yourself as each person and significant thing in the dream. In this case you would also "inhabit" the older person and see/feel it all through his eyes. It can trigger some surprising insights.

Charles Gramlich said...

P.C., yes that's how Freud responded to a question about his cigar and the idea of phallic symbols. Me thinks he didth protest too much. :)

Oscar, sometimes I am.

Ron, I tend to believe that most dream analysis is an interesting game but probably not much more than that. If it provides insights that is good though. I just don't usually find such insights in my own dreams. Or rather, I find things that could be insights but it's so subjective it's hard to be sure.

Vesper said...

So very interesting! Scary, but interesting...
Great story material.

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, indeed so. I enjoyed it.

Travis Cody said...

Several days ago I happened to fall asleep with the TV on. I dreamed about building things, climbing up and down ladders, and driving my wheelbarrow around the job site.

When I woke, an infomercial for the Aerocart "world's best wheelbarrow" was on my TV.

Go figure.

Riot Kitty said...

How did I not know you were a psychologist? I have very vivid dreams and usually have them in the morning...wonder what that says about me? :)

David Cranmer said...

Fascinating, Charles. I continue to be amazed and entertained by your dream recall and since last year I've begun to record mine and am up to nearly 120.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody, not surprised. Events in the real world do get into dreams. We still hear and smell and feel even while dreaming.

Riot Kitty, dreams get more intense across the course of the night. The most intense and dramatic ones usually do happen toward morning. So I guess it says you are normal. Who would have thought THAT? :)

David Cranmer, you should share some of the goodies.