I Had a Dream–But Was it Mine?

Are dreams a form of communication from our subconscious?  That sounds much too mystical for an atheist like myself.  Last night I awoke from a dream with a strong sense of message.  Essentially my dream was telling me that the important things we do in life are those we do with other people.  That two or more heads are better than one.  I can barely remember the dream now, but I know I was trying to do something in the dream, accomplish some goal, but it might have been as trivial as playing a game, and a woman told me we can only get ahead by working together.  That struck me as profound – at least in the context of the dream.  I have a vague memory in the dream that everyone was competing against each other and getting nowhere.  But I have no idea at what.

Now I’m not going to start a religion of cooperation, but instead I’m going to ask:  who is the author of my dreams.  Quite often I wake up and feel like I’ve been jerked out of a complexly plotted story.  I don’t feel “I” was writing the story.  I haven’t read Freud or Jung, but I get the feeling that my subconscious is more thoughtful than I’ve ever given it credit for before.  Now I don’t feel possessed, or think I have multiple personalities, but I feel there’s an unconscious thinking machine in my head processing data while I’m not paying attention.  In recent years, I feel it’s doing far more than processing random data, but is the novelist of my dreams, making sense of a random series of scenes?

Reality doesn’t come with a story.  It happens.  If a dog chases a chipmunk it’s not a scene in a story, it’s just another event in reality.  Humans want to make everything into a story.  The reason why there are so many JFK conspiracy theories is because people can’t just accept that Lee Harvey Oswald just happen to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right experience, to kill the president.  They want more, they want it to fit a story.

I need to read up on recent research into the subconscious.  I’m wondering if decades of reading and thinking about writing hasn’t affected my subconscious.  I can’t help but believe that it’s getting better at plotting.  In recent decades I feel my dreams are shaped more like stories, with good plotting.

But was my dreaming subconscious sending the conscious me a message last night?  It’s obvious that cooperation produces more success than lone wolf endeavors.  I wonder if my dream is commenting on my retired life, where I spend a lot of time alone.  I don’t know.  It could be my story telling mechanism is reading the dream that way.  It could be I was only competing in some kind of game in the dream and the woman was trying to convince me to work together to win.

JWH – 11/22/13

2 Responses

  1. Very interesting. I’m a Christian, and I believe that there have occasions when God has spoken to me my dreams. The most notable time was a dream about me trying to lift a gate which needed to be simply pulled towards me. I had to figure out the meaning of this dream because it really bugged me for days. it was only as a talked about it with friends did I understand that it was an important message for me about how I was living. Other times I have dreamed about particular people and woke up wit the very strong impression that I needed to contact them to see if they were all right. The last time it happened, the friend I contacted was not all right, and was very encouraged by my phone call. Having said all that, most of the time I don’t think dreams mean anything at all, but your concept of your subconscious being the author of your dreams is fascinating.

  2. I think that dreams are just our brains – which are still functioning, even though we’re asleep – trying to make sense of random neuron firing during the nightly housecleaning up there.

    We make up stories to explain such things, because that’s what human beings do. What’s more natural than to invent a story to explain what confuses us? And, of course, the story you invent will tend to be one which makes sense to you.

    This doesn’t end when you wake. Our memories are very malleable, so you can’t be sure that what you remember from a dream is really true. Most likely, your waking brain continued to modify those memories to fit whatever story you wanted to believe (or, at least, whatever story you came up with, for whatever reason).

    Our memories aren’t really trustworthy in the best of circumstances, let alone memories of dreams, which are even less so. A memory isn’t a snapshot of an event, though it might feel like that. Instead, it’s a new creation of our brain, each time. And our brain will fill in the details as the story seems to require.

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