Unfortunately, I'm not that good at remembering my dreams. I'm a very deep sleeper (my claim to fame is having slept through almost all of Hurricane Andrew back in 1992). And when I wake up, I normally don't dawdle in bed, as psychologists recommend -- they say doing this helps you remember your dreams. But the dreams I can remember have all been wondrous and strange.
Wikipedia, my old friend, describes a recurring dream as follows:
A recurring dream is a dream which is experienced repeatedly over a long period.
A person who experiences post-traumatic stress disorder may have recurring dreams about the traumatic event.
The subjects of recurring dreams vary, and they often include events or settings from the dreamers' own experiences. The following examples are common:
Like any dream, recurring dreams have invited many interpretations.
- The sensation of falling
- Being held down or otherwise unable to move (compare sleep paralysis)
- Nakedness in a public place
- Being held back in school or failing a test
- Losing teeth or the ability to speak
- Escaping or being caught in a tornado/storm
- Drowning, or otherwise not being able to breathe
- Finding lost items
- Finding new rooms in one's house
When I was younger, I used to have a recurring dream in which I was on a bridge between two mountains in China. In the dream, I was always running away from something or someone -- I was never sure what. I was only sure of the racing of my heart, the fear pulsing in my veins. The dream always began in medias res, with me running, halfway across the bridge, sure I would never make it across. It always ended before I could make it across.
The dream was strange for many reasons. First, I was on a bridge in China, where I've never been. At the time I first began having the dream, I'd never even seen a mountain in person before. However, I was certain in my dream that I was in China. Second, I looked very different in my dream compared to how I look in "real life" -- although the dream was in 1st person (the way I normally dream), I could see my long blond hair flying past my face as I ran, and I was wearing an old fashioned dress with long skirts, something out of a period piece film from the late 1800s. The third and strangest thing about this dream was the fact that I kept dreaming it for years, first in elementary school, then into high school.
I've never had the dream again, but I still think of it from time to time, wondering about its meaning.
Memory as dream
Sometime in early college, I had a dream that wasn't a dream but more of a memory. Having that dream was like a heightened sense of deja vu. In the dream, I relived a moment from high school. And the moment went like this:
I used to sit outside the cafeteria during lunch with this ragtag bunch of wanna-be hippies. One day we were sitting in our usual spot, at a picnic table underneath a tree. One of the boys at the table, whom I shall recast as "James" for privacy's sake, was a boy both me and my best friend at the time both liked, though she liked him a bit more than me. As we were eating and talking about God knows what, a leaf suddenly fell from the tree and landed on my head. I reached up my hand to brush it away, but James stopped me, telling me to leave it like that. I lowered my hand, blushing like mad, and left the leaf alone. It fell down a couple of minutes later, of its own accord.
Why did I dream that memory? Was it a way of my psyche sorting out the issues I was having with that best friend at the time? I have no idea. But it was an interesting experience having that dream all the same.
A lucid dream is basically when you are aware that you are dreaming. The one and only time I had a lucid dream resulted in a truly frightening experience for me -- sleep paralysis.
Let me set the scene -- This happened a few years ago. I was at Ricky's house, taking a nap in his bed. He was lying next to me sleeping and I was forced to lie on my back as there wasn't much space on his bed for me to curl up on my side, as I normally sleep. I fell into a light sleep and what felt like a short time after, I woke up again. I remember the room being much darker than it was when I first fell asleep, and how this surprised me. It hadn't felt like I'd been sleeping that long. I was still lying on my back, and I remember feeling an odd sensation in my chest, like there was something pressing down on it. A little panicked, I tried to get up, but I found that I couldn't. So then I became very panicked. I even started to worry that I'd been possessed (!). Really freaking out now, I tried calling out to Ricky, who was still asleep next to me. But I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. I couldn't do a thing other than freak out.
Thankfully, this strange paralysis did not last too long, maybe a minute or two, but that minute or two still felt interminable. After I regained use of my body, I woke Ricky up and told him of my bewildering experience. Later on, I researched the phenomenon and was relieved to find out it was more common than I'd thought. I even discovered that people who experience sleep paralysis can sometimes hallucinate and see apparitions (!!!). I'm so happy that didn't happen to me! I take care not to sleep on my back now, as they say this can often lead to the experience.
Dreaming in third person
I normally dream in first person, where I am the star of my dream, and I see things and experience things in my dreamworld from my own perspective. But sometimes I am able to dream in third person. And sometimes that third person figure is nothing like me at all.
A few weeks ago, I had a very strange dream in third person. I dreamed I was a blond girl (again) inside of a haunted house with some friends. We were ghost hunting, and in the dream, the ghosts were like your traditional poltergeists -- they could knock down things, make noises, but they couldn't be seen. One of the ghosts kept following me, and my friends teased me that the ghost liked me. But that wasn't the strangest part of the dream -- the strangest part of the dream was when the ghost put on a mask that allowed him to become flesh and blood, but which only worked for a short time.
In the dream, I fell in love with the ghost and tried to help him find a way to come back to life. I even visited his parents and discovered how he'd died -- he'd been hiking near a cliff by a waterfall, where he'd accidentally fallen to his death. The dream ended with no resolution, ending just as abruptly as it had begun.
This is easily one of the most developed dreams I have ever had. I normally don't dream with that much detail. Dreaming it was like watching a very strange yet haunting (pun intended) movie.
Have you ever been able to resume a dream? I don't mean having a recurring dream, like my strange dream in China -- I mean waking up from a dream and then going back to sleep and immediately resuming it. I have only been able to do that once in my life, and that happened last week. I dreamed I was in a building I've never been in before, and I kept walking from level to level, entering different rooms. I woke up with the dream fresh in my mind and willed myself back to sleep, hoping to resume the dream. I was able to do this twice, and every time I resumed the dream, I was in a different room in the same building. Nothing much happened in the dream, just me exploring this building. I can't remember any details, but I'm stoked I was able to resume it for the first time, and twice, too.
Have you ever revisited a particular place in a dream? Perhaps even seen the events of that same dream unfold, only this time as an outsider, a bystander? I've never been able to do that. My dreamworlds are almost always hazy, their interiors and exteriors undefined. I've never been able to revisit any of them. I want to try this. I've read that you can do this -- that you can even manipulate your dreams, pick up a book and read a page, or look at your watch and see the time. Sometimes what you see looks odd, as if it is a different language. How amazing that experience must be. I want to have that.
Have you ever had any of the dreams I described above? Share it with me in the comments!