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June 14, 2016


I was just thinking this morning about all the people who are grieving in Orlando, and about how when you're grieving perhaps the worst minute of the day is that first minute you wake up and remember.

My brain has been using dreams to communicate the whole "not REALLY dealing with things" (for various values of "things") for the last year or so. It's extra obnoxious because for the decade prior I was chronically sleep deprived and not given to sleeping deeply enough to dream. Now I'm better in that respect, so I remember extremely vivid dreams every night... and when dreaming, all of my exceedingly-well-honed coping-and-avoidance mechanisms are gone. Ugh.

I'm always fascinated by people who actually remember their dreams. That happens to me on the order of once or twice a decade. And then mere cameos.

If the dreams are 'telling you' anything (which would imply that there's a 'you' separate from the dreaming mind, but anyway...), it's that you probably ARE in the process of successfully coping with things.


If you're interested in what's going on in there, you can train yourself to remember your dreams. It's a little tricky - a bit like trying to remember a thought that's slipping away, where if you try too hard you lose it - but it can be done with practice.

Some lucky people can reliably get recall with 'one weird trick': drink half a glass of water before bed, and while drinking it tell yourself that you will remember your dreams. Then when you wake up down the rest, and hey presto.

When I first went on my blood-pressure medicine, I had really vivid (and fun!) dreams - stuff like jumping out of a helicopter onto a surfboard to ride a giant wave to shore. That sort of thing only lasted a week or two, but it was cool.

I've always remembered my dreams pretty well, though. I may have written about this one here before, because I e-mailed a friend about it the next day and saved the e-mail.

I was Superman and had flown into space. i had one of those plastic ice cubes that lights up, which somehow enabled my friend to see me from the surface of the earth. I was doing flips and stuff that we understood to be hilariously mocking of George W. Bush.

When I flew back down, I was at Independence Hall, and it was 1776. I ran into Thomas Jefferson, who was great friends with Superman. After some conversation, Superman and TJ were saying their final goodbyes, since Superman would return to the present, never to travel to the past again. I was then no longer Superman, but had become Thomas Jefferson, only to realize I wasn't really TJ but an actor portraying him in M. Night Shyamalan's new film.

Another actor and I began laughing at the corny dialogue, thinking we were going to get in trouble for ruining the movie. We then realized it was actually a comedy and that our laughter was okay.

Thus it ended.

I'll be waking up any minute now, and Trump will be gone. What a relief.

Unless I wake up in Kansas, that is.

I make fun of myself in my own dreams. I take this as a sign of reasonably good mental health, and look forward to it.

How was I being an idiot today? Wait, my dreams will tell me.

Lately I have been visited by a parade of lovely, really interesting young women in my dreams. Don't they know I'm married?

It's fun, but it keeps making me want to sleep late.

Some of my more serious and significant dreams have involved positively interacting with a person I was on bad terms with in reality. I would always feel this relief that things seemed to be better between us, only to wake up disappointed that it had only been a dream.

Dreams -- and in particular dreams I wake up in the middle of -- have always fascinated me.

First off, I always thought that deep REM sleep is when we dream, and yet I wake up in the middle of a dream practically every morning. What's up with that?

Second, I usually get roused by the news playing loudly on my clock radio. Half the time, when I finally wake up enough to be conscious, I can figure out how the generally fantastical events in my dream related to the news story that woke me up. (BTW, I take that as evidence that I was actually dreaming when I woke up.)

Third, I have been amazed by the number of times I have been able to shut off the alarm and resume the dream I woke up from.

Incidentally, I have heard (and more or less confirmed by my own experience) that you can tell you're dreaming because you can't read in a dream. In the halfway state of resuming a dream -- a hypnagogic hallucination, as my doctor once called it -- I have occasionally dreamt I was trying to read something as simple as an Exit sign, and found the letters just would not stay put, and the sign transformed into a spreadsheet (which I could not read, either) as I tried to focus on them.

The human brain is a weird thing.


I sometimes sleep with my eyes open. I've had dreams I've woken up from to realize I'd been looking all along at what I was now seeing, though my dreaming mind couldn't properly interpret it. It was the same field of light and color, but with a completely different meaning, if any meaning at all.

That's a fine dream, hairshirt. Rather reminiscent of one of the longer, namedropping Dylan ballads....

I'm more like wj (whom autocorrect >really< doesn't like...) in being unable to recall dreams - apart from the generic anxiety ones involving sitting an exam completely unprepared, or vivid convictions that my teeth are dissolving...

Oh, and I can fly, but can never quite recall how.

I think you, generically, should eat less mushrooms before bed.

Couple of strange things about my dreams.

I've never dreamt that I was speaking in a foreign language, but when my proficiency got to a certain point, I recall having dreams where I spoke English and the people around me (usually my parents) speaking French. The same thing happened with Japanese, though lately, I don't remember any of my dreams at all.

Once during a judo practice match when I was about 28 or 29, I got choked out and the teacher had to resuscitate me, though I'm not sure how he did it. (this link explains the choke and resuscitation techniques towards the bottom of the page) When I came to, I thought that I had fallen asleep on the mat, and initally felt totally embarrassed. For the next couple of weeks or so, rather than dreaming in black and white, my dreams were all in vivid color. I remember coming back to practice the next week, and the teacher, a gruff guy, said 'that choke, you ok?' and I said 'Yes, fine sensei', and then he leaned over conspiratorially and said 'fun, isn't it'.

Incidentally, I have heard (and more or less confirmed by my own experience) that you can tell you're dreaming because you can't read in a dream.

I'd never heard this before. It somewhat reminds me of the more traditional rule-of-thumb that you can't dream in color. To which I offer the following anecdata: this morning I could remember both the text and background color of something I read in a dream last night. YMMV, obviously.

I'm one of those who sleeps deeply and rarely awakens remembering the dreams I've had. I suspect it's because I'm on a pretty consistent schedule--I think my internal clock has already wound down the fun before the alarm's scheduled to go off.

Regarding the color thing, I had a very memorable dream as a child in which I was in a strange and ornate room. Everything was a shade of the same color - I think yellow. It wasn't exactly a nightmare, but it was unpleasant in a vaguely creepy way, and I knew I was dreaming.

In an effort to wake myself up, I ran at the wall in front of me. This didn't wake me up, but left me in a room exactly like the first one, except that everything was a shade of a different color - red or green. Whichever color it was, my next attempt put me in an otherwise identical room of the other color.

I was able to wake myself after that.

I used to have frequent dreams where there was a kind of simultaneous backdrop of an incredibly densely packed, medieval script (often with illuminations) scrolling along, which seemed to be connected to the dream and comprehensible to me, but I could never put my finger on it when I woke. I subsequently read (but cannot remember where) that there is a name for this kind of dream which, surprise surprise, I also cannot remember.

HSH, I love your dreams!

when my proficiency got to a certain point, I recall having dreams where I spoke English and the people around me (usually my parents) speaking French.

I noticed something like that when I was in high school. I knew I had really gotten a handle on German when I started dreaming in it.

Incidentally, I have heard (and more or less confirmed by my own experience) that you can tell you're dreaming because you can't read in a dream.

au contraire. i can read perfectly well in a dream. in fact, it was by reading in a dream that i made once of my favorite discoveries.

reading in a dream is just reading, like talking and understanding speech. but what you can't do in a dream is exactly what you can't do while you're awake: you can't write as fast as you can read.

so, in dreamland, you can unconsciously (yes, there are levels of consciousness in dreams) dream up a newspaper headline and 'write' it onto a dreamland newspaper. and then your 'conscious' dream self can read that headline. but if you try to read the article, things go screwy almost instantly.

your unconscious self might be able to get a sentence or two onto the 'page' before you start reading it, but you'll read that in a flash. and while you're reading, you're not writing. so after that first sentence, you won't have anything left to read. maybe you'll see more stuff that looks like text on the page, but it will have be no semantic content. it will be random words, or your own personal lorem ipsum or just smears of dream ink.

but since you can't come up with new content faster than you can read it, you'll never finish the article.


Your discovery is fascinating. Next time I find myself trying to read in a dream I can afterwards remember, I will try to confirm it.

The lorem ipsum thing is a new fun fact for me, so thanks for that, too.


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