Monday, February 20, 2012

Dreaming Myself Awake

When I was young, I had a friend suggest that if I’m ever having a bad dream, I should simply change the dream. Within a few days, I had a dream that something was chasing me. At some point in the dream, I remembered my friend’s advice and decided to make whatever was chasing me disappear. It worked. I merely wished the thing away, and it was gone. In my dream, I thanked my friend aloud.

For a period of time when I was a bit older, I was frequently aware of the fact that I was dreaming. Usually, this had devastating results. As I became aware that nothing I was experiencing was real, it would begin to slip away from me. Just as I was trying to control my dream, knowing it was all in my head, it would became difficult to see and to act. I suspect that my awareness of dreaming was causing myself to wake up, and I was getting caught somewhere between being awake and dreaming. I think my dream vision became impaired because, in all likelihood, I was trying to open my non-dream eyes.

At other times, I would know that I was dreaming, but that knowledge was regarded matter-of-factly and inconsequentially, like knowing the capitol of Maine. It’s questionable that I really knew I was dreaming, rather than that I was simply dreaming that I “knew” I was dreaming. My “knowledge” made no difference to the dream, and I didn’t seem interested in, surprised by, or in any way impressed with the information. I didn’t appreciate it. It didn’t resonate with me.

Sometimes I would talk to the people in my dreams about the fact that I was dreaming. For some reason, I well remember a dream wherein I asked a good friend of mine if I was dreaming. “No,” he calmly replied. I continued to badger him with my suspicions about it being a dream, but he remained unconvinced. He continued to assure me that it wasn’t a dream. What a liar.

On a few occasions, I’ve had dreams that I know I’ve had before. Sometimes that tips me off that I’m dreaming. I believe I’ve also had “faux” repeat dreams, where I believe during the dream that I’ve had the dream before, but I actually haven’t. It’s a kind of dream déjà vu. It all seems very familiar, though it’s new.

Sometimes I repeat a portion of a dream within the same night, as though the dream is set to loop. I’m not sure if it was a genuine repeat dream, or a looping dream within the same night, but I once dreamed I was being chased around a tree. (Being chased isn’t a recurring theme in my dreams, by the way. An inability to get where I’m going by vehicle is, however. Stay tuned!) At some point while being chased, I thought to myself, “I’ve dreamed this before. That means I can just step away from the tree and the person chasing me will continue to run around it.” It worked. My awareness of the dream being a repeat allowed me to break free of the loop, while the person chasing me remained stuck on repeat.

Over the last several years, I’ve occasionally had dreams that are rather stressful and that I choose to wake up from. Up until the moment I decide to wake up, I have no awareness that I dreaming. But then, feeling adequately frazzled, I will think something like, “I don’t have to do this, it’s just a dream! Wake up!” And then I do. Perhaps I’ve just spent what feels like hours walking around a high school building, trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go for class. Suddenly, I’ll remember I’m done with high school and my experience must be a dream. So I stop it. I had such a dream last night. After attending a rock concert, I was driving a large truck through a rainstorm. Several roads were flooded, the height of the dirty water reaching up to the windows of the truck. The current hurriedly pushed me along, and my steering helped only slightly. I feared I would crash. Eventually, I was on a road that wasn’t flooded. It was a long, gradual hill. I followed the road down, down, down, hoping to find my way home. When I got to the bottom of the winding road, I was at the entrance to some kind of military base. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I couldn’t turn around because it was a one-way road. The guard at the gate told me they’d have to harness my truck to a helicopter and fly it to my home. I knew they’d end up charging me something like $700,000 for doing this, so I vehemently denied the offer. They finally let me in with a group of soldiers on a kind of bus, my truck being towed behind us. I had a lot of anxiety. It wasn’t clear to me how I would be getting home, and I felt in a very precarious position. After some time, I spotted a gift shop or little grocery store of some kind along our route. I felt that my only hope of getting off the base and safely home was to exit the base by way of the store. I begged to be let off there, even though I knew I was endangering myself. If I were caught on base unescorted and without military credentials, I’d be in big trouble. It’s the kind of dream that doesn’t sound like a big deal when you hear about it, but it was very stressful to be the one dreaming it. I willfully ended the dream without explicitly coming to understand that it was a dream. It’s like I just threw up my proverbial arms at some point and commanded myself to wake up. (The command was explicit, but there was no, “Hey, this is a dream!” moment.) I felt greatly relieved when I opened my eyes. I shut them again for some peaceful sleep.

I know I’m not unique in having these kinds of experiences. What kinds of experiences that I’ve mentioned have you had? What other interesting dream-awareness experiences have you had?


  1. Ben, I wrote quite a long comment a day or two ago but it isn't posted here. So how did I goof up this time? Now I'm misspelling everything here. I must be...??....something I enjoyed your post very much. I hope to get back to a response for this when I will be thinking and spelling more clearly. It's good to be able to read your blogs again. I'll catchup to you later.

  2. Hey Ben, I realize I'm late on this, but it's always fun to get comments, right?

    My dreams have been similer to yours, at times. I've done the loop dreams, repeating a dream immediately as the first one ended. Coincidently, the one I remember took place in a High School. I've had several school dreams, always about one of two subjects. Usually, I'm in class as it ends and it's time for the next, and I don't have that paper with my schedule so I don't know where to go next. I hate that one. The other school dream is about trying to find some friends to eat lunch with. That was always my Big first-day-of-school fear, for real. What if I didn't have any friends with the same lunch time? I'd have to sit somewhere by myself and look like a dork all year long. Frightening to a social-conscious teenager.

    When I was young my daddy told me how to stop dreaming or change them by turning over or on your side. I frequently had 'bogeyman' dreams when I was very young. As an adult the worst thing is to dream that you can't find one of your children...absolute worst!!! Or that I've made some very embarassing blunder I can't change. It's such a relief to wake up from those. And sometimes the most inane thing will make me laugh out loud. Those are fun, because they really are funny, plus, they usually wake up your spouse or kids. Remember "Toop poon"??

    For the most part my dreams are extremely boring with such toned-down sepia tones. They've only recently become interesting at all with real color and actually doing somethin. I do not know how to explain that.

    Your dream about the truck sounds very stressful. Khrystine puts a lot of interpretation into dreams. She makes a lot of sense usually. Sometimes, from my viewpoint, I listen to her tell her dreams and can say it's easy to see what she had going on there, that is was a mix of things in her life at the time. We could probably do that with your truck dream. I hope you're feeling better now.

    This has been an interesting blog. I'm thinking of posting one about dreams. I don't know if my friends would want to discuss the subject or not. I posted my review about a book on incontinence and they responded very nicely to that. I was a bit embarassed that it might look like I'm admitting to having problems myself, especially when it shows up on Facebook where everyone in the ward is a facebook friend. However, for whatever reason it won't show up there.
    Thanks for the nice visit. I miss you terribly. Take Care.

  3. I'm glad you commented, Mom. I too have the occasional dream that makes me literally laugh out loud. Somehow, even if I don't completely wake up from those dreams, I hear my laugh and know that I wasn't only laughing in my dream. Only recently, I said something very witty in my dream that I still thought was incredibly funny long after I woke up. Now I can't remember it, but it's always cool when you have a genuine good idea in your dream. It's fun to know that your brain is capable of such cool thoughts!

    Aside from some really clever jokes I've made in dreams, I've sometimes written music in my dreams that is quite good. That's an especially exciting one for me, to know that my brain is capable of creating really good music, even if I can't necessarily do it on command. The skeptic may suggest that I'm remembering music I've heard elsewhere, but I'm very confident that some music I've written in my dreams has been original. I won't convince the skeptic simply by stomping my feet and insisting it was original, but it really was. (Stomp stomp!) I'm sure bona fide musicians do that all the time, so there's no reason to think I can't.