The Language of Dreams

Remember the Google deep dream generator? Freaky.
Remember the Google deep dream generator? Freaky.

Since I’m being my authentic runcible witchy self on here, I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks: dreams.

Years ago I saw a popular blogger at a literary agency post an article about dream sequences in fiction. Her #hottake was that if your novel had a dream sequence, it was trash. You were a trash writer. That no dream sequence has ever been well written or necessary, and no one likes to read them. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

She had a lot of supporters for this idea! A lot of people nodding in agreement, not least of which because she was a popular blogger at a literary agency and they were probably authors looking to land an agent.

I was not among them.

Now, I don’t get legitimately angry very easily, but that kind of narrow-minded “these are the rules of good writing” assertiveness can definitely set met off.

First of all: I enjoy reading dream sequences just as much as any other well-written scene. Maybe even more, because dreams that are included in well-written fiction are automatically signalling that they are Very Important Scenes.

Second: Dreaming is a universal human experience. That’s a powerful way to connect to a reader and enhance a character.

Third: There’s this weird sort of hostility towards dreams I’ve noticed over the years, usually in the form of making the discussion of dreams something that only boring/stupid/gullible/insipid characters do. Why? I love hearing about other people’s weird dreams. I love talking about my weird dreams. I love trying to interpret what other people’s dreams might signify psychologically or emotionally. I think dreams are fascinating. They are fascinating. Dreaming is something we all do (whether we can remember or not) and something we absolutely do not fully understand.

Runcible Witchery aside, dreams have always been a part of how I navigate my own mental health. Whether it’s anxiety dreams or flying dreams or whatever, a dream that is significant enough for me to remember it the next day is usually telling me there is something I need to work through.

I’ve never had the classic “naked in school” dreams, but I have a lot of dreams where I’m suddenly aware of being in the middle of a situation I don’t want to be in or am unprepared for. Before I got married, I dreamed about inane things like my wedding was just about to start and I didn’t have any of the details worked out for the ceremony. After my divorce, I had a recurring dream that I was getting re-married to my ex. I would realize just before the ceremony that it was a huge mistake and absolutely something I did not want to do, but felt like I had to go through with it anyway because I didn’t want to let down all our guests.

(What’s interesting is that I no longer remember those dreams that were so vivid at the time. I remember having them, but I don’t remember them specifically any more. I do remember the specific dream where I realized I didn’t want to marry him, turned to my mother and said “I don’t want to marry him. I’m sorry to cause trouble, but I’m not going through with this.” And she threw her arms around me and said “thank God.” I remember that dream very clearly, partly because it was the last time I ever dreamed about marrying my ex.)

I don’t know what dreams are, and I don’t claim to understand them, but I know for me they have always been insightful. Sometimes they show me things I don’t want to look at, and sometimes they show me awesome things that feel auspicious. The other day I dreamed that I got money out of an ATM and ended up with three times what I was supposed to have, without taking extra out of my account. Cool, right?

The last couple of weeks I’ve had another recurring dream theme in the vein of being in the middle of a situation and suddenly realizing something: I’m partway to a destination for travel or vacation–already left home, but not yet there–when I realize I forgot to pack any luggage. These could be regular anxiety dreams, because there’s definitely anxiety when I realize how unprepared I am, but then something unique happens: inevitably, somehow this unpreparedness leads to a better outcome. In one dream, forgetting my luggage led to a day’s delay but ultimately better housing. In another, forgetting my luggage led to getting $1000 towards free clothes. So instead of the dreams focusing on the anxiety of being caught unprepared, the real message seems to be that even in a crisis things work out–often for the better. Fancy that!

These dreams aren’t really surprising, as they perfectly match my mood. I’ve been feeling pretty OK lately–appreciating where I am, but a little apprehensive about the future, but overall optimistic that things are going to be fine and if not I’ll get through it. But the extra minutes I’ve put into thinking about these dreams, and discussing them with people who also like to discuss dreams, have helped me to process that wobbly emotional place. (And emotional processing is historically An Issue for me, so that’s not a small deal). Something about the dreams gives me a little extra boost throughout the day. Whenever I face a moment of anxiety or feel like I’ve fucked up, it helps me say Hey. You’ll probably be fine.

Anyway TL;DR: dreams are rad and haters can fuck off.