I am captivated by dreams and what they tell us. But I am not an expert. Just someone who has tried to interpret my own dreams – and occasionally those of my family, when asked.
Do you dream a lot? It can be very interesting to try to make sense of dreams.
I have no idea how often I dream. I often wake up knowing I have been in a deep and complicated dream, but it has vanished like steam by the time I am conscious.
Quite often, I have what might be called ‘everyday’ mundane dreams where what I am doing is not so different from my day-to-day life. They are OK.
And every once in a while, I have very special dreams, where I am being feted for something I have done or have come into a lot of money. I always wake up feeling great.
But the dreams I most remember are the worried or anxious dreams.
I sometimes get traditional anxiety dreams, where you are not in control and things are going wrong. These are not very frequent – only once a year or so. And they are usually of one of two kinds.
One is turning up for an exam and realising that I forgot to study for it. I can even wonder, in the dream, why I forgot to study, but I am always ill prepared. The dream never gets to the point of my writing out the exam and certainly not getting the results.
As I like to be prepared for things, this is never a good way to spend the night. I don’t want to be ‘found out’ as someone unable to perform as expected.
An even more anxiety-producing dream is where I have no clothes on, although everyone else does. I also wonder sometimes, within the dream, how I managed to forget my clothes or to be wearing very skimpy ones. I tend to decide to ‘make the best of it’ and hope other people won’t notice that I am not dressed.
Again, I rarely arise refreshed after such a dream. Without clothes, you are so vulnerable and incompetent, especially in the world of the clothed.
When I was roughly 50 and beginning to get hot flushes (‘flashes’ in the US), I had a very obviously symbolic dream that I remembered very vividly – and still do.
I had moved to a new flat that was quite spacious, and I was very happy about that. But unfortunately, there were a lot of people in one room of the flat who seemed to have parties all night long. Lots of drinking and smoking and loud noise.
I said to my husband (in my dream) that surely we could get rid of these very noisy and unpleasant people living within our own flat. No, he said, they had a very tight contract and could not be evicted.
I woke up. But what a perfect metaphor for the nuisances of menopause. They are within you, and you cannot get rid of them.
One would think that as we grow older – and I am now 81, so I am definitely in the “older” category – we would dream about being old. In fact, I am never old in my dreams. I am usually something vaguely middle-aged, say 45 or so.
Indeed, from time to time, I dream that I am pregnant (I have two grown-up children and two teen-age grandchildren, so I know what being pregnant is like but it was all a long time ago).
But I do dream about growing old symbolically. A common symbol of my well-being is a house or flat or sometimes a car. See what you think.
I am often house-hunting (for no obvious reason) in my dreams and the flats or houses that I find are almost always a bit dilapidated or in other ways less desirable than I would like. Recently, the flat I had found was on the eighth floor with no elevator. I had to climb stairs and it was hard work.
Just like getting old.
And I have a lot of dreams about travelling, clearly symbolic of the journey of life. I recently dreamt that I was at the airport, about to take off for somewhere and everyone in my party had a huge amount of baggage. Not a lot of interpretation required there.
And many of my dreams are about driving, which seems so symbolic of one’s ability to control one’s own ‘vehicle’. These are often at night, where nothing is very clear. Or I am at a party and realise that I am going to have to drive home at night. In real life, I have always hated driving at night.
Perhaps the strangest one of all was a recent dream where the steering wheel for the car that I was driving was in the back seat, so it was very difficult to see the road.
Make of these what you will, but to me they are all about preparing myself for something that is very difficult.
And yet, having said all this, I do like being old and have written about it extensively.
A friend of mine, Hilke Tiedemann, has just published a new book of short stories and poems. One short poem resonated with me for reasons that must be obvious and I attach it for you now with Hilke’s permission.
In My Dreams
In my dreams I am never old, My heart is never cold. In my dreams I am more real than real; Dread Pleasure Distress One hundred percent. Primal force, Visions and epiphanies, A moment of eternity. In my dreams I am never old.
Hilke Tiedemann, 2023
Do you remember your dreams? Are they happy or anxious dreams? Can you recount any of them?