Nightmares

dream.jpg “A nightmare created to be the darkness, and the fear of darkness in every human heart. -Dream (Neil Gaiman – quote and illustration from Sandman)

I rarely dream. I know experts tell me that I always dream, whether I remember it or not, but I say if I remember not, I dream not.

I believe dreams are temporary gateways into the deepest parts of our hearts. They are kaleidoscopes of what drives us, what inspires us, what attracts us, and what terrifies us.

Their power is in what they say, and if they speak not they are but hollow shells of our psyche, abstract concepts of memory and the explanation of sleep – not dreams. An unknown dream is no dream at all, but a forgotten dream…

That is something else entirely.

An unknown dream is like knowing freedom is possible, but not knowing where to find it. A forgotten dream is the itching bane of waking. It lingers in the mind, and we scratch it till we bleed. We scratch for meaning, we scratch for truth; we believe in the power of our dreams, especially the ones that got away. How sad it is we hunt for dreams, but rarely forget our nightmares.

By their very nature nightmares are remembered fears. They tear us from our sleep, sometimes with sweaty sheets, sometimes with yells and fearful noises, and sometimes – the worst times – we cannot be torn out, and we linger between the world of nightmare and the world of waking, and our wills are not strong enough to bring us back.

There are also waking nightmares. These are the fears that keep us from sleep, too afraid to place ourselves defenseless to our psyche.

I read recently of a child soldier that experienced both waking and sleeping nightmares:

I had a tent to myself, which I never slept in because sleep never came to me. Sometimes late in the night, the quiet wind brought to my ears the humming of Lansana. It seemed as if the trees whispered the tunes of the song he had sung. I would listen for a bit, and then fire a few rounds into the night, driving the humming away.” -Ishmael Beah (A Long Way Gone)

The songs of a dead friend haunted him. His friend’s ghost whispered through tree branches, and was driven off by AK47 rounds. The shots split the night, tore him from the nightmare, and kept him sane…

until the next time the whispered trees brought it back, and then more rounds (and drugs, and movies, and killing) were needed to drive it away. He would not face his nightmare, but it would not stop haunting. The longer he fought it, the colder his heart became, and the more it took to tear himself out.

Time went by, and a decision he did not make forced him to confront his fears. He would face his ghosts, his fears, nolens volens.

Nightmares remind us of the fears we shun. They will hold our attention in dream or in waking, or anytime they find us weak and running, not willing to stand up against them. They are the darkness. Truth is the light. They will be faced, willingly or not; yet only willingly will they be truly faced, and restored to the place of Dreaming once again.

 

 

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Published in: on January 25, 2008 at 5:09 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was having a recurring nightmare a few years ago about my teeth falling out–they’d either crumble or they’d fall into my mouth and roll around before I’d spit them out, one by one into my hand. I still remember it just because it was so odd and unsettling, and I remember that it was probably an extension of how I was feeling in my waking life. I had a number of fears, a few very significant, that were likely keeping my mind from rest. I looked it up recently and apparently the “teeth” dream is common.

    Interesting post.

  2. I must admit the beginning of this blog sounded like me. I’ve had the oddest, craziest dreams in the past month and a half. I always look into them for a meaning. I do believe some dreams have meanings. I’ve heard people say; “Sometimes you’ll just have a silly or stupid dream and it doesn’t mean anything”. I don’t completely agree with that saying.


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