February 05, 2006
I'm getting really sick of these nightmares.
They may be very interesting from a scientific point of view, but they're getting too frightening to bear.
The weird thing about them is how they always involve some element of death in a way that I can't quite put my finger on. Exceptionally, last night was straightforward: I dreamt I found a person who had attempted suicide. A capable friend of mine was able to save the victim. The scary part of the dream, though, was not so much the suicide as the atmosphere of death in which I discovered it.
Briefly, we were forced, my friend and I, by some bizarre circumstances to break into and snoop around in someone's house. We found strange stuff there, like a CD collection composed entirely of box sets. We were initially laughing at the inhabitant's commitment to popular culture, of which there were many signs.
However, there was something sinister about the whole situation, something that warned me that soon we would come upon an element that would scare our wits to high heaven. And the suicide was pretty much that element. My actual discovery of the suicide was preceded by the sound of the person talking through the door.
I really don't want to get into detail, though. It's not that the details are particularly gruesome or disturbing, but my personal response to them is too chilling to recall.
That's something I always feel in my nightmares, the thing that distinguishes them from scary dreams. There's always an atmosphere of death, even if there is no actual death in the dream. And although the characteristics that bring about this atmosphere feel very familiar to me, I can never quite express what these characteristics are.
That's what makes this so interesting to analysis. If I could ever get over the chilling quality of these dreams enough to interpret them, I am sure I would discover something profound about myself.
But, Freud says that dreams are manifestations of our repressed thoughts. Everything a dream does--including, how effectively it seemes to slide out of your memory's grasp when you wake up--is the result of an effort to keep dangerous thoughts from reaching your consciousness. So, in this case, the fact that the dream frightens me to the point of making me hesitate to touch it, is a result of my mind's attempt to protect me from something I don't want to think about.
But it's very puzzling. For several reasons. First, why death? It seems to me that death is something so common to all of us that either a) we should all have dealt with it by adulthood or b) we should all be having these nightmares. Do you? Why should my mind preoccupy itself with evading thoughts of death? Is there not some more efficient mechanism already in place to handle them?
Second, as Freud suggests, the manifest thought is only a mask for the real thought, in your dream. So I'm not really dreaming about death, but death is being used to mask something else. It remains odd that death is being used consistently, however.
Third, during these dreams, I always gain a tiny bit of motor control when they really get to the scary part. That is, I scream. However, I don't have full motor control. After all, I'm not supposed to have any motor control while I sleep. But in these dreams, I always have enough to try to scream, or talk, or shout, but not enough to do it very well. And the result is I always shout in a very high-pitched voice, and this just makes everything even more scarier. I can hear myself making the high-pitched shout during my dream, and when I awake, it's still echoing in the dark. This is absolutely awful to me, and don't even ask about the person sleeping beside me, for whom I feel very sorry.
I also should note here that when I get one of these dreams, then I've probably overeaten the night before, although the reverse is not true. This has actually resulted in some very strange visions of food and death in the same nightmare, but I really don't want to discuss how those two elements came together either.
I am leaving it at that. I want to know why these death-elements are so familiar to me. I want to know where I first experienced them. I am honestly fascinated by them, and would love to use them in some story or something. But they are also so scary that I can't get near them.
I'm not so sure that we ever get used to the idea of death. I think it remains terrifying, but it's so inevitable and commonplace that it becomes a banal terror, until something dislodges that banality and defamiliarizes us, or makes the reality more stark and concrete.