Dreaming the Night Away

Last night was a terrible, horrible, very bad night.  Oh, don't be frightened, I'm fine.  Nothing bad really happened.

It was all in my dreams.

Usually, I don't dream.  Or at least, I don't remember my dreams.  And last night, I was really looking forward to a good night's sleep.  You see, I'm at my Florida house all alone -  no dogs hogging the bed, no chainsaw massacre snoring - just the king sized pillowtop mattress, the gently whirring ceiling fan, and me.

Alas, it was not to be.  I had nightmares of epic proportions, a continuing saga of a dream that kept waking me up with a start, and then, picking up where it left off when I managed to doze off again.  Somehow it involved me and two of my friends on a trip somewhere, and terrible things kept happening so we couldn't get home.

The last scene involved a gunman holding a woman hostage - she was tall and blonde and dressed in a forest green business suit.  "Don't hurt me, Paul," she kept saying, as he pointed the gun directly at her head.  Meanwhile, my two friends had disappered and I was crouched in the hallway of some conference center, not ten feet away from where this drama was taking place. 

Despite her pleading and the police totally surrounding him, he fired the gun and she crumpled to the floor.  A policeman tackled him, but he turned and started firing the gun randomly in the air, until the policeman wrested him to his knees, taking the gun from his hand by grabbing it with his teeth!

Dear Lord.

So much for a restful night's sleep.

Where in the heck do dreams like that come from?  Was it the late dinner at PF Chang's where we stopped on the way home from the airport?  Was it the extra glass of wine I polished off before bed?  Was it talking with my son and daughter in law about their upcoming trip to Thailand?  Was it being all alone in this big house?

Some people believe our dreams have important messages for our future.  The high school kids I work with just presented the musical Fiddler on the Roof, and it contains a scene where Tevye uses a (fictional!) dream to convince his wife their eldest daughter is destined to marry the "poor tailor" instead of the butcher chosen by the matchmaker. 

"Tell me your dream, and I'll tell you what it means," Golde says to Tevye.  And he proceeds to recount a horrific tale that involves Golde's grandmother and the butcher's first wife, both of whom have been dead for years.  By the end of his story, Golde is convinced.  "It is a sign," she says.  "So that's how it was meant to be, and it couldn't be any better."

Of course Sigmund Freud made a scientific phenomenon of dream analysis.  In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, he contended that the foundation of all dreams was "wish fulfillment" and the instigation of a dream was always to be found in the events of the day proceeding it.

If that's the case, then I think Sigmund and I need to have a talk.  Neither of these options is very appealing in light of last night's dreams.

Last week, a blogging friend had some interesting things to say about the connection between depression and dreams.  Seems a book she read indicated that depressed folks dream more, and as a result, wake up feeling less rested, thus perpetuating this vicious circle of depression and bad feeling. The whole bad dream cycle begins as a result of "failing to have ones basic needs met," thus inciting worry about these particular difficulties.  The authors of this particular tome (which she never identified, more's the pity) refer to this as "misusing the imagination," by allowing "emotionally arousing thoughts to go round and round in their heads." 

And so night falls, and one's mind must deal with all these bad thoughts and feelings that have been roiling around all day.  The mind converts them into dreams (and not necessarily good ones), but in doing so it prevents the body from falling into the deepest level of REM sleep needed to feel rested and refreshed the next day.

Remember those "basic needs," the lack of which started this cycle to begin with?  Well, one of them is (of course!) plenty of restful sleep.  And so the cycle begins again, in all its viciousness.

If you visit here regularly, you'll know I've had some worrying things to ponder lately.  Perhaps last night's dream was the equivalent of "worry soup," an amalgam of all my concerns and fears, all poured into the stockpot of my unconscious mind, and set to bubbling in my sleep.

Surprisingly enough after last night, I've felt rested today.  I spent the morning quietly, drinking coffee, sitting on the lanai doing some writing, taking a long bike ride before lunch.   Jim arrived this afternoon,so I'm no longer alone.  The four of us enjoyed a good dinner on the lanai and sat around talking in the cool evening air.

And now its late once again...the king sized pillowtop beckons. 

What dreams will come tonight?

I wonder.

How about you?  What are your dreams (or nightmares) telling you?