When dreams and the waking world collide

1 Mar

One of the many interesting things about dreams is that we can, in our imagination, be miles or even galaxies or decades away from our beds, yet still have our external environment mess with things. We’re aware of our surroundings even as we’re fully absorbed in the story our unconscious has concocted.

The other night, I had an anxious dream just before waking. While working in some nondescript office, I was trying like mad to get the many printers and faxes working properly. Just as I thought I had one cleared of its imaginary jam (just as often happens in real life, the machine insisted there was a fault despite my inability to find it), another would start beeping annoyingly. So there I was, racing from machine to machine, trying to stop the noise.

Immediately upon waking, I realized there was a very easy way to stop the beeps. All I had to do was hit the snooze button on my cell phone’s alarm! The beeping ringtone the alarm clock app had chosen for its sound was the selfsame beep the machines in my dream were making.

When you think about it, this astounding ability to keep track of our surroundings even while asleep makes sense in evolutionary terms. If a predator could sneak up and devour us while we lay dreaming, completely oblivious to the outer world, we wouldn’t have lasted long as a species.

But mostly, the alarm clock so cleverly disguising itself in my unconscious as the complaints of malfunctioning office equipment just amused me. If you have a similar story of the real world invading a dream, I’d love to hear it in the comments!

(Pardon the one-track mind. Blame this one on Inception winning a few Oscars, including the well-deserved Visual Effects statuette. Or on my ginger tabby, Chaucer, twitching against my leg while wrapped up in his own dream. Or just on the fact that I meant to include this dream anecdote in the previous entry, ran out of reasonable places to put it due to rambling, and only remembered it again later. I’m sure what passes for normal service around here – that is, unapologetic randomness – will resume…eventually.)

For anyone interested in dream interpretation, put down the Freud and back away slowly. Actually, that’s pretty good advice for anyone. But this one’s pretty easy. (The clues are always in the emotion of the dream and despite what “dream dictionaries” claim, symbolism is unique to each dreamer, often borrowed from recent TV or reading or life.) I have a lot of stresses in my life right now, pulling on me from many directions, and I feel pretty helpless about being able to fix most of them any time soon. One of the main stresses is the lack of temp work for the past three(!) months – probably explains the office environment of the dream.

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