Monday, March 9, 2015

The Meaning of Dreams

RHYS: Do you dream? Well, of course they say that everyone does. But do you remember your dreams? My husband doesn't and swears he doesn't dream. But I've always had particularly vivid dreams--some scary and some spectacular as in the days when I dreamed I was flying.
In the old days dreams were seen as portends--remember good old Joseph and the seven fat cows and seven thin cows?

It was only recently with Freud and the advent of modern psychology that it was realized that dreams are a portal to the subconscious mind. I took a course on dream psychology when I was at university and I was absolutely hooked. Of course Freud saw all dream symbols as related to sex but more modern thought has found that there are universal dream symbols all over the world. Appearing naked in public, being in a runaway vehicle, being chased by a monster are common to all humans.  Also symbols like the house. If you dream you are in a house, that house often represents you and how you view yourself.  If it's a palace, you think well of yourself. If it has dark rooms you don't want to go into, there are parts of yourself you are afraid to reveal.

Of course we also have dreams where the mind is in freefall and images are just random and silly but in the earlier part of the night we will have our significant dreams. If they are recurring, it's good to analyze them. Some are obvious like my recurring dream of having to pack too many suitcases in a rush or miss my flight. I've been in a car that runs backward down a hill. I've been standing in the wings ready to go onstage and realize I don't know my lines.  All famliar?

If you can't make out what the dream is telling you, write it down or tell it to someone else. Usually you will use language that explains the dream. Example: an English friend told me she has this recurring dream about being in Marks and Spencer's (the department store) and wanting to buy things but it's almost closing time and the racks are almost empty. I told her that was easy to solve by the words she chose. She had told me she wanted to go to art college but her father wouldn't let her. Now she was considering going back to art school. But had she left it too late?  It clue was that she was in a place where you get MARKS (the English word for grades)  Fun, huh?

This fascination with dreams led to my new Molly book, THE EDGE OF DREAMS, that came out last week. The story hinges on Freud's recently published Interpretation of Dreams being able to help solve a baffling crime with a young girl who survived a fire, remembers nothing, but is plagued by vivid nightmares. If they unlock the symbols in her dream they will know what happened.

So fellow reds and readers do you have recurring dreams? Have you be able to unlock their meaning?

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh Rhys, that is completely fascinating. What a splendid premise.

I dream that I'm packing and I can't possibly get everything packed in time and get to the bus station or train station or airport. No mystery what that's about. Anxiety. I also have yard sale dreams. Those I love. No idea what they mean.

RHYS: I have the same packing dream, Hallie. But yard sale? Could that mean that you're doubting the value of what you have to offer? Are your books good enough or perhaps a hidden gem? Or could it be that your husband LOVES yard sales so the topic comes up frequently?

LUCY BURDETTE: I can't wait to read this Freud book, Rhys. As a psychologist, I KNOW that dreams are important. I can recall many moments (as both a patient and a therapist) when a dream unlocked the door to understanding and clearing away a knotty problem.

The most frequently recurring dream I have these days is expecting guests and spending what seems like hours trying to figure out where they could all possibly stay. I don't suppose that has to do with living in Key West during a winter that was awful for so many others?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I used to have the ready to go on stage and don't know lines dream. Then one night, in the dream, I said -"This is a DREAM. So I'm not worried. And anyway, I DO know the lines. Well enough, at least."  Never had it again.
I do still dream I can't get somewhere, and can't figure out why. Last night I dreamed there were lots of spiders and we had to wear plastic suits to protect ourselves. (Lucy, Rhys, anything?)
  My favorite is my house dream. I have it all the time. I'm in my own house, but it's not my current house, or any real house, but it's absolutely mine, and there's a door in the back of my closet (not to Narnia) which I ALWAYS forget about. I go through it, and there's a whole room of beautiful  wonderful stuff, all in narrow mahogany drawers, like map drawers. Scarves, and shawls, velvets, and paisley wools, and pearls, all beautiful wonderful things. I think--why do I always forget this is here? And I am so happy! Sometimes, in the morning, I groggily think I should go look for it. It is incredibly real.
But then, so were the spiders.
(And I am reading your wonderful book right now!)

RHYS: Not sure about the spiders. I think we all have our monster/creepy things dreams but you're obviously good at protecting yourself with the plastic suit. I'd just have run away screaming. But the are quite content with the person you are. Fulfilled. Excellent.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I have the house dream, too, Hank, and if I recall aright, Lucy told us that meant a sense of many possibilities. Either that, or we want to move...  I often have dreams where I'm about to get information I need from someone, or from a book, and then I wake up and am incredibly frustrated that I can't recall what the answer was.

RHYS: I was taught that the house means our perception of ourselves.

JULIA: You know who has interesting dreams? Ross. He has these action-adventure dreams that sound, when he recounts them, like a Bruce Willis movie. I'll hear him making noises and twitching, and wake him to discover I just saved him from a pit of crocodiles he had to cross to rescue his captured platoon. Not even lying.  It's too bad he has no facility for fiction - clearly he has the imagination to be another Clive Cussler.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have house dreams, too! I will be in a house that is nothing like anywhere I've ever lived or any house I've seen, but I know it's MY house. I'm always going into new rooms and finding new things. These dreams are so vivid that I feel shocked when I wake up and it's not real. I would suspect that my subconscious is telling me I have interesting and unexpected things left to discover--tailor-made for a writer:-)

Julia, Rick has the same kind of action/adventure dreams. He said they almost never contain anyone he knows, and that it's like watching a movie. Wonder if it's a male/female thing?

RHYS: So please share your interesting dreams with us--recurring dreams, dreams you've been able to interpret and dreams you've never managed to figure out. I'm going to give a copy of THE EDGE OF DREAMS to the most interesting comment of the day!


  1. Although this idea of interpreting dreams has always fascinated me, I never seem to remember my dreams so that I might investigate their meaning. Sometimes they linger momentarily just on the edge of memory as I am waking up, but it's a fleeting moment at best and then, sadly, they are lost.

  2. My recurring bad dream has to do with flying, usually to China. I've traveled widely and am not afraid of flying, although I've never been to China. But the worst of the dreams are when I'm FLYING THE PLANE. And I know in the dream that I don't know how to fly one. Terrifying. Also terrifying are the ones where I'm driving a car full of people and I can't quite reach the brake pedal or I can't quite open my eyes, and we're either headed over a cliff or are sliding backwards into the ocean. Maybe those mean that I'm trying to manage (pilot, drive) too much in my life? Could be. ;^)

    My loveliest dreams are when someone I dearly loved but who has passed away shows up. My father. My aunt Jo. And more recently, my mom. It's never freaky or scary or sad, just this warm feeling that, "Oh, there you are again. How lovely to be with you," and I wake up happy.

  3. Oh, I have the house dream too. It's never the same house and it always has wonderful rooms. Like Harry Potter and the train station - many of the floors are 1/2 floors, and you have to know the exact sequence of doors and steps to find them.
    My strangest reoccurring dream I've had since childhood. I'm in a desert. All the dunes are ant mounds. I'm in a wonderful safari suit dress (I later found and bought the dress) and I come over a dune and face an entire army of ants. One of the ants rises on his hind legs, brandishing his front legs, right in front of me. He's much taller than I am--then I wake. I don't think I saw the vintage sci-fi movie Them as a child, but seeing the movie now always jogs my memory of the dream.

  4. I keep dreaming that it is the end of the semester and I have to take a final for a class that I haven't even attended. Let's not talk about how long it has been since I was in class...

  5. I'm sure I've had meaningful dreams, but the ones I remember tend to be silly - like the time I bought tires from the McDonald's drive thru window from my taekwondo instructor. Or the one where I fixed the same instructor's shoulder with a sonic screwdriver.

    I have occasionally had "action/adventure" dreams. And when I start dreaming a scene with my characters, I know I have to write it down for future use.

  6. Oh yes, Rowena--the exam for the class I haven't taken. I've certainly had that enough times.
    Or I go back to school and part of my brain remembers I've been out of school for years and I panic because I can't remember algebra and know i'll fail the test.

  7. Though I've never experienced them, I have frequent tornado dreams.

    There was a movie in the early 90s called Until the End of the World; a strange movie but with a fantastic sound track. Part of the convoluted plot involved a scientist who discovers a way to use a device to record human dreams. Several characters become addicted to viewing their own dreams. I imagine that would be true.

  8. Count me among those who rarely remember dreams. I know I had two different ones last night, but under torture couldn't tell you what they were about.

    However, there have been some over the years that tortured me, including the most recent one. I haven't had this one for awhile, thank goodness, because it's a house dream, but very frustrating. There's a room I must get to, separate from the rest of the house, and requiring crossing and climbing a steep set of winding steps, with no railing, around a three-story open stairwell. Naturally, I'm afraid of heights, and cannot bear the idea of going all the way up because then I'll have to then also come back down, so I'm paralyzed. With fear.

    Yeah, I know what it means. Big fraidy cat. :-)

  9. Karen, that's not a fraidy cat dream! I think that's a stress dream..maybe there's something you really want to do, but feel you can't?

    Kait--the ANT? (Do you have an…aunt? Who's a problem?) :-)

  10. Wow. House dream, check. Finding yourself back at school and unprepared, oh yeah. Dreaming of departed love ones--yes--and Edith, like you, they are like little visits when they happen. My brother Mitch, who died at 25: In the dream I am surprised when he appears on a bus I am riding. Me: How are you?! How've you been?" Mitch: (with that wonderful grin)"Mostly dead." Hmm, must have been watching The Princess Bride before THAT dream....

    Lots of action/adventure dreams--spying on and then trying to smuggle out families under the noses of the Nazis, etc. Worst dream--the demon baby. I dreamed I woke up in my bedroom and a little girl was sitting at my table, smiling at me. I took her by the hand and led her outside, then threw her off the property. My mother, standing on the porch, told me that the 'child' was a demon and that it could only come in by invitation. The dream shifted to outside--the yard was full of relatives and children playing--like a family reunion was in progress. A baby was crawling in the midst of all the children and one of the older girls stopped to pick it up out of the boisterous play and headed to the house with it. I asked wildly "Whose child is this? Whose baby?" and no one knew. I took it and drop-kicked it over the fence. While the action sounds silly, like most dreams, it was the feelings that stayed with me--the feeling of despair, knowing that at some point, my guard would be down, and someone would bring the 'baby' into the house--in essence, inviting it in, and then no mortal could stop it. Whew!

  11. What a terrifying dream, FChurch.

    Hank: oh, so many things.

  12. Karen--the part of your house that's hard t.o get to--some aspect of your life or personality that you don't want to face or that is holding you back, maybe?

    And departed loved ones? I've also had those. So wonderful. Both my mom and dad have come back for a chat and a hug. And although science would not agree, I really have to believe they do come to visit

  13. Yes, my cat Lola appears, and talks. Which seems quite natural.

  14. Flora, dropkicking? You have some imagination..xoo

    I used to have the exam dream. ALL THE TIME. WHy didn't I study? And then…it went away. Which I think is just as interesting.

  15. I used to have the house dream, then it morphed into a commercial building (hotel, office, dept store) with multiple elevators that only served certain floors and I could not find the one that took me to the ground floor. When I did get to the ground floor, all the walls were glass, like a maze, making it difficult to get out. My anxiety dream is searching for a bathroom but they are all in use or dirty. I'd rather go back to the house!

  16. Dreams. A fascinating subject.
    There are the "could it be more obvious" ones. A young woman working with my husband quite innocently told him she'd dreamed of him. He was apprehensive. She continued, "Oh, yes. You came riding up on a big white horse..."

    He had a recurring dream of arriving at a class and finding an unexpected exam. After recurrences of this dream, one night he walked to the front of the room, tore up the exam, threw it out, and left the room. Never had the dream again.

    I have dreams of my house (as usual, not necessarily familiar, but certainly mine) and I find additional parts to it, hidden wings and rooms and such. Quite marvelous.

    And for as long as I can remember, I have such concrete, realistic dreams that I'm not sure if they were a dream or reality. I'll say something to my husband about topic X and he may look blank. "But we discussed this," I say. No, I dreamed we discussed it.

    I consider dreams my inflight entertainment.

  17. Like Rowena, it has been oh-so-many years since I attended school in any capacity, but the showing up for an exam and realizing I haven't attended a single day of the class dream can still wake me in a cold sweat.

    I have a house dream that recurs, though I haven't had it recently. It is set in a huge house that is being shared by more than one family, but it isn't really a problem, because it is so huge it is easy to stay out of the others' way. Don't know what that one means!

    In recent months, I have been prone to action adventure dreams. I don't usually remember the details after I wake up, but I know it was an action adventure story and usually can remember who showed up in it, which is usually my husband along with a random assortment of other people I know or have known.

    I have never had a dream where a deceased loved one appeared to me, and frankly, I wish I would. Seems like it would be comforting.

  18. Giant ants? Love it. My little brother used to refer to that movie as Them Ants and it remains so to this day. I've had weird dreams like facing a giant spider but by gosh I was fighting it so I took that as a positive thing. I've had many variations of the school stress dream: haven't done any of the reading for the final exam; ditched so often don't even know where the class is held; have to pass so many classes or will have to spend an extra semester in college and how do I explain that to my parents. Or returning to college to finish a degree but can't find anything I want to major in. Occasionally I'll have a dream that is pure entertainment like a great scifi story. I hate to wake up from those! And then there are flat out nightmares. years ago i dreamed my unmarried youngest sister was pregnant and no one was going to take care of the baby, not even my parents. So I was stuck. I think that is a responsibility dream, as in please, no more things to take care of. I know in the dream I was depressed as can be about having to take charge.

  19. Well, let me start by saying that I've just read The Edge of Dreams, and it is read-through-the-night fantastic! My review link is I'll be adding it to Amazon and Barnes & Noble today, Rhys, and it's going onto my blog, too.

    I find dreams so fascinating, and I dream a lot. I also am good at remembering the dreams, some the next day, but some stay with me, and those are usually the ones that fall into the common categories that others have. I do have some whoppers though.

    One of my most frequent dreams is the school dream. I'm back in high school (don't know why it isn't college) and although I often realize that I've already been through high school, it's a different experience this time. In reality, I graduated as valedictorian of my class, but in my dreams, I'm failing certain classes, ones I excelled in, like English and history. I haven't turned in key assignments, and it's the end of the term, too late to catch up. I know that when we have the graduation ceremony, I won't be in the honored graduates, and I don't know how much it's going to break my mother's heart. My mother was my encourager and believed in my quest to achieve the goal of valedictorian. I have had some mixed feelings toward that achievement as an adult, thinking that perhaps I was a bit too serious and over-achieving in my youth, as I not only had to be academically successful, I was in every organization and a cheerleader, too. Maybe the reason I don't dream about college much is that in college, I didn't try to be everything, just excel academically.

    Another recurring dream I've had over the past couple of years is the missing a plane dream due to not being sure exactly when the departure time is and trying to pack an enormous amount of clothes into suitcases before leaving for the airport. For some reason, a lot of the times, the plane is headed to England. Okay, now I can interpret this one. I am longing to go to England in the near future, but I'm beginning to think I've left it too late and should have gone when i was younger. Sometimes in the dream, I find myself on an isolated runway trying to catch the plane before it leaves. Sometimes, though not often, I actually am on the plane. There are so many variations. Sometimes I'm in the terminal trying to get through the ticket check, but, of course, I don't have my ticket. Gee, I'm exhausted just thinking about all of these dreams.

    I have dearly departed family members visiting my dreams, too, especially my mother, father, and sister. It's nice having them there, doing everyday activities, and it's seldom that I realize that they shouldn't be there because they're dead.

    Oh, I do have a college dream where I never can remember my room number in the dorm, but I usually find it anyway. I have a ton of stuff in my room, especially books (no surprise there) and some furniture, that I need to pack up at the end of the semester or year, but I'm having major trouble getting it accomplished and often have to leave items to hopefully retrieve later. And, there is the problem of deciding whether I'm staying in school to take just one more class or returning home. This one represents my fork in the road of trying to decide what to do with my life. Not sure why I'm still having it, although I highly suspect that I feel quite unfinished in my pursuits.

  20. I slept extra-long last night and ended up having a very complex dream. Two of the elements: (1) trying to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen where I kept opening and closing drawers and cabinets and ovens and (2) my son-in-law erecting a huge fully grown tree right outside the back door of this kitchen where I was struggling to make a meal. Rhys?

  21. @Hank, nope, no problem aunts in my family, in fact, no aunts. A bunch of great aunts and they were all either wonderful characters or wonderful people. I miss them terribly. They were all still alive at the time the dream started.

  22. Denise Ann, I'm not sure I can come up with a meaning for the fully grown tree outside your kitchen. Maybe you're working on little details while your family is getting on with big and impressive things without you.

  23. I used to have a dream that terrified me. I was spinning round and round, sometimes up and sometimes down. I would know that it was a dream, but couldn't break loose. It was so real that I became dizzy and nauseated. When I would finally wake up, I was actually dizzy and nauseated. I would be very fearful of going back to sleep. I didn't have this dream just as a child, but into adulthood as well. I finally talked about it to a very wise woman I trusted. She asked if my mother had a long labor when I was born. I knew that my mother had been in labor for 18 hours before my birth and told her so. She explained that I was reliving a terrified baby's dream. I've never had the dream again. The mind is truly fascinating!