What’s in a dream?

Reverend Mother Winifred from my old school featured in one of my dreams last night.

‘Don’t use that chair’ she said, as I staggered onto the soft padding of a red chair whose central springs had given way and my foot sunk through the middle.

A problem because I was using this chair to give me additional height in order to reach something that dangled from the sky.

It’s hours since I left this dream and only snippets remain but see how useful it as a starting point.

It’s one of the reasons why I love dreams.

The way people who are long dead come back to you in full form just as they were fifty years ago and you can relive moments of the past you thought you’d forgotten and reconstruct them from the snippets you retain.

The other day my daughter described a dream that had troubled her from the night before. In it her beloved dog had been hit by a car and all because her dad had left the door open.

I won’t even try to go into interpretative mode here, only to say, the dream says a great deal about certain of my daughter’s feelings towards her dog and her dad. Later that same day I heard on the news about a type of real life reversal of her dream: a dog had killed a 61 year old man and seriously injured the man’s 58 year old wife.

My first thoughts were along the lines of ‘vicious dog’. Only to hear further that the dog belonged to the dead man’s son, was a family pet and had never betrayed such behaviour before.

This puts me in mind of the notion that sons want to kill and take the place of their fathers.  When there’s plenty more evidence to suggest it’s more the fathers who want to kill their sons.

And this says nothing about mothers and their daughters.

We adults tend to blame the children first and find it hard to look to our own struggles with the children or our wish at times to be rid of them.

None of this is as simple as I make it sound here.

The daughter of the dream is away for the weekend and I’m in charge of the dogs, the walking, feeding and entertaining.

It’s working out well enough though I’m trying to encourage my husband to join us on our walks.

But walks with the dog to him are a bit like travelling abroad is to me, distasteful. Not something either of us want to do, he to walk the dogs and me to travel.

So, I don’t push it too hard, any more than he urges me to go overseas.

We respect one another’s differences even though each of us can imagine that it would be good for the other to alter our ways.

Which is another thing I’ve been thinking about of late, the ability to tolerate difference.

When I was a young would-be social worker on one of my earliest placements in the then Citizen’s Welfare Service in Drummond Street in Carlton, I shared the space of a small office with a remarkable supervisor who went by the name of Barbara.

Barbara was innovative. She suggested not only would she write an assessment on my performance while on placement, I should write one too.

It says how long ago this happened to suggest this was an innovative idea. In those days the authority of our elders prevailed and to think that a fledgling social worker might write her own report was indeed radical.

It was a thrill to write an assessment of my developing self and performance all those years ago but the only thing I remember was writing the words,

‘I have begun to recognise the otherness of others.’

 The word ‘otherness’ appealed to me and the idea that people could be different from me and that I should and could respect their difference at the time was mind-blowing.

How naïve was I in those days when every new idea that entered my mind seemed like a stroke of brilliance?

Now I see that most ideas have been thought before by someone else somewhere and the best we can do is put our ideas in fresh words, ‘to make the stone more stony’ as the formalists, those Russian bods who had ideas about literature and language argued.

And every time I dream, the images and ideas that come to me have all the freshness of a new day, so much energy, even though I can never capture them in words.

Only bask in the sensation of my amazing unconscious that sneaks out and visits me while I sleep. You too can enjoy such visits, but you must of course pay attention.

If I could speak to these folks again, even in my dreams that would be something.

Such visitors arrive fast and leave just as fast, often without leaving a calling card.

All they might leave is a snippet of memory a flash of colour, the sight of your old Reverend Mother and a red ruined chair.

5 thoughts on “What’s in a dream?”

  1. Yes, it would be quite interesting – to say the least – to speak to long gone relatives in our dreams. I know of people who claim to have spoken to departed loved ones via channeling. One person said her departed father spoke to her and all was forgiven. Mmmm. I personally would hesitate to become that vulnerable – even suspending any disbelief about the process. Have you heard about that?

  2. I’ve heard about channeling. I’m sceptical, too, but maybe the power of our imaginations is enough to get some of us us into states where we can believe we’re communing with those who have gone before us. And if it helps, all good. I’d rather not have those who’ve died hang around in actuality. You can’t actually deal with them and it might create – for me at least – a sense of paranoia. Where are they out there and what are they up to? Thanks Oneletterup.

    1. I am with you on that one. The thought of my deceased mother, for example, hanging out somewhere ghost-like — creeps me out. I also don’t think I’d take a chance on how any communication via channeling would go. So I’ll take my chances on the potential dreams. Which are incredibly interesting to pick apart and try to understand.

  3. I don’t know when I first heard the theory that sons want to kill and take the place of their fathers but I didn’t get it (I found it laughable) and when the last mental health professional I met with said (oh cliché of clichés!), “Tell me about your mother,” I responded with, “Let me tell you about my father.” I was so different to both of them but to be fair they tolerated me better then I them. They were the first others I found myself standing up to. It must’ve been hard for them, having a kid like me. But they did their best to support me even when they couldn’t understand me and that support continued my whole life. I appreciate that now more than I appreciated it then.

    Walks were a big part of my childhood. In the early years the whole family went but later it tended just to be Dad and one or two us. It was one of those few things that I felt comfortable viewing as an “us” thing, that I didn’t mind sharing. We never had a dog to accompany us and none of the cats were remotely interested. I only have one memory of my daughter joining us and I included her reaction in ‘Left’: she really couldn’t come to grips with walking as an end in itself. I get on better with my daughter than my parents did with me but the older we get the more apart I find we’re becoming. She’s an adult now and my child only technically. She turns to others when she has needs now and that’s how it should be. I don’t get her others or what the attraction is but that’s fine. Maybe they’re not so otherly with her. I’ve always struggled with usness. I’ve enjoyed it when it happened but never really understood how it’d happened.

    Unusually for me a dog cropped up at the end of one of my dreams a couple of days ago. Not sure what the breed was—I’m not good with dogs that way—but it was like a hairy greyhound, bedraggled and suffering in the elements. I could see him out of the kitchen window (my parents’ kitchen interestingly enough) and had the feeling he’d followed me home. I could see his sad eyes through the glass and knew if I didn’t open the back the door to let him in he’d die. And then I woke feeling quite wretched.

  4. That’s quite a dream, Jim and sad you saw those eyes begging to be let in. I hope you did let the dog in, even as your dream ended there. Sad too that there’s so much distance between you and your daughter these days. Notwithstanding she’s now an adult. Distance can be so cruel and it can take years to breach. Thank goodness we have our dreams to help us along. Thanks Jim.

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