“Man, I had the weirdest dream last night. So I was in this submarine…” – Everyone at their worst.
The singer Gabrielle, who somehow made wearing sunglasses a signature look (not a patch on my oft-mimicked trademark of wearing shoes when outside) assured the world in 1993 that dreams can come true. Entirely accurate, presuming you only have very pedestrian dreams, like one I once had about driving to get petrol, and upon arrival at the petrol pump, realised I actually had enough petrol, and so went home. The main issue with this of course, is that ‘dreams’ are now synonymous with ‘aspirations’ instead of just ‘your brain doing whatever the fuck it wants when you’re asleep’. You may as well equate an artistic desire to depict a beautiful landscape in watercolour, with someone who snorts powdered paint, then sneezes onto a post-it. And in case you’re wondering, yes that probably is a brilliantly well-veiled criticism of modern art.
Dream interpretation is based on the idea that dreams can be revealing and meaningful, instead of a random assortment of images and thoughts, which is symptomatic of the human mind. We yearn to find patterns and meanings in everything, whether seeing a face in an Artex ceiling, or presuming to find deliberate thought in Ed Sheeran lyrics. Every aspect of life can be psychologically evaluated, like how what you wear affects how people react to you (to illustrate this, try wearing a Spider-Man outfit to a climbing centre. You’ll soon notice that people treat you like you’re some sort of prick), or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, where subtle changes in your phrasing can penetrate other people’s thoughts. For example, using the word penetrate, even innocuously, can turn the listener’s thoughts to smut.
There does seem to be a circular logic to dream analysis, whereby people marvel that something they were thinking about a lot, turns up in a dream, hence proving that they were thinking about it a lot. Similarly, if something turns up in a dream and was previously believed to be of no consequence, it is now proven, by its appearance in the dream, to be more important than first assumed. Consequently it is given more attention, and then looms larger in the dreamer’s mind. People don’t need to be told what they are thinking about a lot, because luckily we have direct access to our own brains and thoughts. Dreams are a BuzzFeed quiz you take that purports to guess your age, but only consists of one question: ‘How old are you?’
Worse still are people who believe dreams to be predictive. I honestly don’t know whether that makes more or less sense than believing you can divine your own future based on the relative position of giant rocks that happen to orbit the same star we do. At our brains have the potential to predict our own behaviour, and to some extent the behaviour of others based on that (see Spider-Man example above), but again, dreams are essentially a mind-mess; a basket of dirtied thoughts thrown into a washing machine and tumbled around until the colours run. The most ordered that dreams get are lucid dreams, wherein the dreamer knows they are dreaming and can sometimes take control of themselves, and influence the dream. Some people can do this anyway, while most have to practice it to get it right. One method I’ve seen is to get into the habit, in your waking life, of constantly asking yourself whether you are dreaming or not. Then you will eventually find yourself asking this question during a dream, and apparently realise you’re dreaming. As a trade-off that seems a little uneven. In order to enjoy a semi-realistic hazy fantasy, you have to induce an existential crisis by constantly questioning your own reality. And who’s to say that when you ask yourself ‘am I dreaming’ while asleep, you won’t just answer ‘no’?
My understanding is that dream interpretation is usually much more straightforward than we think, and it’s our minds sorting through emotions attached to the events of our day. Like whether we find Helena Bonham Carter’s ape character in Planet of the Apes just interesting, or sexually attractive, and whether we can continue to live a normal life based on the disgusting answer. If you end up having a sex dream about an ape after that, don’t assume that your brain is trying to communicate an atavistic desire to regress evolutionarily, and that you are spending too much time indulging your higher brain functions. Assume that the prosthetics were shit. And be thankful you’re not Tim Burton, who had to direct his ape-attired wife all day, and then they went home together and he had to reconcile a continued sexual desire for her. Unless that was his plan all along. Filthy bugger.
The only rational reaction to dreams is to do nothing. You’re unlikely to learn anything from them, although they apparently serve a purpose within your brain that you don’t need to be conscious of. Don’t dwell, don’t analyse, and if you ever have a sex dream about an ape, don’t worry. And certainly don’t bother to write an entire blog about dreams, in a vain attempt to rationalise it.
Next time on the bandwagon – My smoke alarm’s been going off for about two weeks. There’s no fire anywhere, so should I turn it off, or continue to let it embarrass itself?