Your Dream Life

My friend Meeka has a general question for you dreamers out there in Whateverland:

In conversations with friends, it seems some dream in a manner similar to me, in which dreams have their own logic, which is not necessarily correlated with reality, while others have dreams that are very pragmatic and tied to reality.  Also, before adolescence, I had “deja vu” dreams, in which I would experience something – entering a room I’ve never seen before, or overhearing a fragment of conversation – and at some point in the following week, that exact dream fragment would happen.  I would know what the room would look like, or what someone would say before they said it.

I’m curious now, to know what the experience of dreaming is to other people.

So: What sort of dreamer are you? One whose dreams “make sense”? One whose dreams are (for want of a better word) dreamlike? Somewhere in-between? Both?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

45 Comments on “Your Dream Life”

  1. My dreams make enough sense that I have been able to write coherent stories from some of the plots. There’s also recurring themes in a number of them, including the one where, fo rsome reason, I’m a triator of some sort and have to figure out how to make good, even though the treachery wasn’t my fault.

    I have no idea why that keeps coming up. Possibly because I value integrity so highly, so this is the fears coming out to play aspect.

    Anyway, I also get the deja vu dreams, except in most cases they’re actually the same dream twice, the first time where some horrible disaster happens, then when I warn people the second time around, it doesn’t happen and everybody looks at me as though I’m a freak. Oh well, at least they’re interesting.

  2. Some of my dreams make sense. Some don’t. Usually, however, I don’t remember my dreams — when I do, it’s a good sign that my life is pretty stressful for some reason.

    And not remembering is generally good, ’cause I sometimes can’t tell a dream from a memory. The worst case of this was a few years ago, when we had a group meeting, and as a couple of team-mates walked in I blurted out “but you were fired!” See, it seems I’d had a dream in which there were layoffs at the company, and a couple of my team-mates were included in the culling… it was a very weird situation for a few minutes.

  3. My dreams usually have some degree of “realistic” coherence to them, although the landscapes may be compressed in dreamlike ways, like stepping outside my junior high classroom into my elementary school hallway and from there to the elevator banks at a job I had eight years ago.

    Sometimes the mundane elements are so strong that this morning I had a long, drawn-out dream about trying to find the right links on a web page to configure my WordPress blog.

  4. Mine tend to be realistic because they are dominated by imagery of tornados and tidal waves, each seemingly a different clue to my psyche: Tidal wave repressed emotion, tornados, anger. Really bad dreams will have the the tornados roaring in a devil like voice.

    Luckily, some of the medications I’m on repress my dreams, so I don’t have these as much as I used to.

  5. Some (by no means all) of my dreams take the form of a series. They have a distinct setting that remains consistent, although sometimes new pieces are revealed. Sometimes the series has a “plot,” in that events build on and expand prior dreams, others not so much. Generally, it’s more like, “Oh and if I turn this corner, I’ll be on that dead-end brick street by the shop with all the hats. I wonder if it’s open today?”

    There are about three “places” I’ve dreamed repeatedly over the years. I could draw maps, I know them so well by now. But I have yet to run across any of the places (particular houses or parts of town) in real life. Which is good, since some of my dreams have a strong dystopic feel. If I find myself in the shop with the hats, I think it’s fair to say I will freak the hell out.

  6. Great topic.

    My dreams are so far “out there” that it’s often difficult to even describe them coherently – they definitely exist in their own universe, one where the normal rules of logic and physics don’t apply.

    That being said, if I take a few moments to suss out my dreams, I can usually make some type of loose connection to things that are occupying my thought processes during my waking hours.

    One of the things that have always fascinated me most about our dreams is the way that our brains will continue to hash out unresolved problems even after we go to sleep. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve woken up with the answer to a complex problem that had vexed me for hours while awake.

  7. I’ve had the precognition dreams my whole life. Unfortunately they’re nothing useful like the lottery numbers. It’s always some singular event that never happens before or after.

    Other than that my dreams are always pretty strange where the waking physical laws don’t apply. I fly, jump around, shoot Hollywood style with guns that never need reloading, yet never seem to kill the monsters.

    I suppose I have issues.

  8. My dreams tend to be very realistic. I rarely remember them explicitly. As with Sean above, sometimes they find their way into my memory, and without realizing it I believe something that never happened. Luckily, I rarely dream, and these realistic memory-worming dreams tend to involve people from my past that I don’t see often enough for it to be a problem.

    When I was young, I frequently had fantastical dreams. Many followed a series of reoccurring themes, like the ones where I could fly (but only if I started by leaping from the top of my grandmother’s staircase), or the ones where I was dead but roamed the earth, invisible to others.

    I haven’t had a dream with significant fantasy elements since adolescence, at least as far as I can remember. My least realistic dreams these days involve more mundane “fantasies” like winning the lottery or finding myself hounded by supermodels. Even these are exceedingly rare, though.

  9. In late adolescence I also had dreams that became true. That pretty much stopped by the time I was 20. Now they are reality based but unreal — except for the very occasion, very violent one.

  10. On a different thread I already mentioned the one that was in C++.

    There was also a documentary about a canning factory. It was in black and white, with a narrator explaining the machines, what they did, and why. As I found out much later, it was pretty accurate.

  11. My dreams make sense in their own context, but rarely are “sensible” outside of the unconscious landscape. This is probably why, when faced with particularly unnerving nightmares, I try to stay awake for a few minutes to disrupt the milieu of the dream.

    When I wake up, it sometimes hits me, “Well, that’s a bummer — and there I was, with the perfect system for winning the Mega Millions. Pity it won’t work in this world.” It failed to work again last night.

  12. Most of my dreams have an internal logic but aren’t realistic at all. I have a few dreams that recur – i’ve had them off and on for years. And yeah, i’ve had the precognition dreams. Spooky, but it’s always something like me painting a door or other, completely mundane tasks.

  13. I often have dreams that are internally consistent but unrelated to reality. It is very common for me to dream about “my” house and for the dream to be very particular about layout, design, etc. in which it really seems like a house I’ve lived in for years yet the house will be completely different from the one I actually live in. Sadly, these dream houses are often way better than the one I actually live in.

    Sometimes these dreams are so vivid that it seems like a glimpse into an alternate universe where I have a different kid or a different wife or a different job.

  14. I have experienced the “deja vu” like dreams through out most of my life. I have never mentioned them to anyone else, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t want to seem crazy by the person I was talking to. Once I figured out that the real life/real time event was happening, I felt sometimes that I needed to change one thing, just to make sure that the dream sequence did not happened again. Unless it was something that I did want to happen…

  15. I dream a great deal, and remember a great deal, while seeming to get the whole spectrum. Sometimes they are logical, sometimes not. I get the special pleasure of lucid dreams, where I know I am dreaming.

    This can be wonderful and I can control the dream – fly, bounce into space, breathe and see underwater or just make flowers bloom as I walk. When I’m having a nightmare, it isn’t always good. Then I have to fight my way awake. I can’t always do that before horrible things happen – I have hit the ground and lived.

    I did the precog thing as a teen, but it was more with people I hadn’t met yet.

    I also have what I call ‘practice’ dreams. In high school, I’d dream the color guard routine over and over, and always have it memorized right away. Now, as an accountant, I dream about spreadsheets.

  16. The ones I remember tend to be fairly coherent. I suspect that’s what makes it possible for me to remember them. The ones I forget? Who knows.

    Sometimes I have chains of dreams through a night, one after another, with connected “plots” that are often tied into something I’ve been reading or some movie I’ve seen recently. Sometimes I have dreams that seem to go on forever. Sometimes I have dreams that morph into different dreams, and in the second dream I remember that the first one was a dream.

  17. My dreams are usually overblown reality. They make sense, but everything is a little exaggerated. For example, instead of 1 tornado there are usually 3 and I seem to be the only one who notices them. I have had dreams where people said things and then that exact same thing happened later in real life. I have reasoned that maybe it’s my subconscious mind figuring out the world around me before my conscious mind does. I don’t know. It’s weird. One thing I like about my dreams is that if I am working on a problem in real life I can “sleep on it” and my subconscious will keep working on the problem. Helps me make decisions sometimes. This especially works with story ideas. I’ve come up with some really cool sequences for my (unpublished) books from dreams.

  18. Just about everything here and I remember every single one of them on waking and for some time afterwards including the boring ones.
    I also have issues like night terrors, sleep paralysis, sleep walking, sensory illusions and random daytime vertigo black outs so most of the dream material even the really weird bad stuff is lower priority.

  19. I have had the pre-ja-vu dreams, although mostly when I was a teenager. As an adult, my dreams are a mixture of angsty performance art and reality post-processing. And zombies. Lots of zombies.

  20. I dream novels. Working on a novel set in the Sistan basin, based on a dream. Last night, dreamed of saboteurs. The dream even had a moral: if you blow things up, people will rebuild them. It’s more effective to change people’s minds than it is to explode things.

  21. I’ve had the deja vu dreams all my life, too. The events are never very interesting; usually it’s just me and a group of friends or relatives standing around talking in some previously unfamiliar location. It’s quite vertigo-inducing when the reality edition rolls around. If you see me drop out of the conversation for a moment, look around a little wildly as though I’ve suddenly been plopped into the Martian desert, and then shake myself and rejoin the group, you can be sure I’ve just realized that we’re reenacting last week’s dream.

    I try not to complete other people’s sentences, though. That just freaks them out.

    I fully expect that when I get around to putting this into a book, it’ll be the part no one believes.

  22. My dreams usually include ideas for a draft, and last night’s were no exception. I imagined that I was in the middle of a rain forest, running from a giant man-sloth that was a genetic experiment gone wrong. He escaped, wreaking havoc on a near by village. It goes unnoticed until the son of a senator is killed while backpacking and my two plucky heroes are sent in to rescue the daughter of another senator.

    The other night was about chocolate bunnies that eat themselves without realizing that they’re brethren is in the chicken.

    Yeah.. I’m that twisted.

  23. When I was a child I was very conservative and modest. This probably came from my grandmother telling me that my body was nasty (her word) and it must be hidden at all times. This showed up in a particular type of dream that is supposed to be meaningful. You know, the ones where you are naked at school, or work, or on an airplane? Well, I was so modest that in my dreams I was at school or church in my pajamas.

  24. My dreams are highly inconsistent and typically don’t make any sense. Once I leave one place it’s typically impossible to get back because the dream world is not laid out in a consistent way. It’s highly frustrating if I actually want to do something because nothing stays the same.

    In my dreams, I gradually taught myself to fly, so I guess I have some control, but even my flying is hard to control like the Greatest American Hero.

    My dreams often reflect recent or anticipated events, but they don’t have any predictive ability.

    It’s been a long time since I haven’t had dreams that I remember.

  25. Mine are pretty random– mashups of various things I’ve experienced or imagined, strung together in ways that don’t really make sense, almost never having anything resembling a plot. My wife, on the other hand, gets entire stories with a beginning, middle, and end.

  26. My dreams generally don’t have much internal logic, and if one does, it usually turns completely illogical somewhere along the way. I’ve also never had a dream where I know that I’m dreaming. I’ve heard loads of people talk about knowing a dream was a dream because it was so unrealistic, but I’ve never had a clue I was dreaming until I wake up.

  27. I have never had a properly realistic dream – as far as I recall – and mostly my dream images’ relation to anything in my real life is tangential at best. A surgery scene on House reminded me of dentistry, recently, and the next night I had a dream in which teeth played peripheral part. I assume there was a connection.

  28. I dream in full sensory crazy. I remember anywhere from ten to thirty separate dreams a night. Sometimes they spark story ideas. Mostly though I have very vivid, very disturbing dreams. It means I get no more than two hours of sleep at a time, sigh. I’m also one of a small number of people who apparently drop directly into REM sleep, so we dream more than most.

    My dreams usually follow an internal logic, and sometimes magic works and sometimes it doesn’t, which my dreamself is always aware of inthat I’m never sure in my dreams if the spell I’m trying to cast will work or not.

  29. I also dream in houses. Generally the house is one of three places— the house I grew up in, the Ad building of my school (a century old and utterly huge), or the mansion the school owned as a retreat house. When I do, there are always extra features, such as a second attic and a basement in my parents’ house, or complicated stairways and secret ways of getting around in the latter two locations.

    This is actually fairly reasonable, since the mansion/retreat house was built in the days of servants’ quarters and secret stairs, and I got to work several retreats where we made use of their existence.

    I want a secret passage.

  30. I’ve found that I dream in every which way imaginable, realistic, fantasy, and even a few ‘deja vu’ dreams (although those are VERY rare).

    When I was younger I never remembered my dreams. I wasn’t even aware of HAVING them, and I honestly blamed it on my dreamcatcher (hey, I was like 14! … Okay, maybe that’s not the best excuse). When I was around 16 or so I finally started actually dreaming, which I’m rather glad for.

    However, even with realistic dreams I’ve found that I almost always know they’re dreams. Only around 5% of the time will I not be aware that I’m dreaming, even by the end. The ones where I’m actually not aware of it are typically horror dreams (also known as someone coming into my house and killing my family. Yes, I’m paranoid. Shush).

    When I was in High School (not that long ago; I’m only 21. I graduated at the right age, if you’re wondering) I was almost always the main character of my dreams. Or, to put it another way, I was almost always in my own head in my dreams. That’s changed, lately, and now I’m almost always in the head of someone else.

    Either way, I always try to remember my dreams because I like to continue them, either making them a full story or just continuing it in my head before I sleep at night.

    I never really have recurring themes, though, as far as I can remember.

    Except the whole murderer killing my family thing. That one I think is a recurring theme all in itself. Gah!

  31. Some months ago, a scientist studying dreams was on NPR claiming that his survey demonstrated that liberals had crazy dreams of random images and incidents, while conservatives dreamed of their everyday lives.

    It sounded like crap to me, but there you go.

  32. When I was younger (age 10 to about age 19) I was a lucid dreamer about 70% of the time. I would lay in bed and decide what I wanted to dream about and would lightly concentrate on that topic as I fell asleep. It usually worked. I would also frequently have Deja Vu dreams. As I got older, and I suppose as my stress level rose, my dreams became more and more about things that were bothering me (consciously or unconsciously). That lasted until about a year ago. I don’t have many stress/guilt related dreams any more. Most of the time my dreams are influenced by what I watch on TV or they are full on fantastical where I take time to write them down and contemplate turning them into a TV show pilot or movie. That fantastical type of dream has always been at least a minor player in the pantheon of my dreamscape (as have the Deja Vu and lucid dreams), but now it has taken over. And I can’t say I’m unhappy about that. I’d much rather dream about being the head of a company that produces super high tech spy gadgetry and am the target of an assasination plot then dream I am flunking out of college or having to deal with the boss from hell at my job.

  33. do you remember how your dreams end? do they actually have an ending, do they just sort of fade, or what?

  34. have you ever been “visited” in your dreams? my deceased grandmother visited me in a dream, and i woke up feeling happy that i had been able to see her and know she was ok.

  35. #15 LizT mentioned dreams about being underwater. Sometimes I will have a dream in which I am drowning but then discover I can breathe underwater and it is so very cool. In reality, I’m probably holding my breath while sleeping and start breathing again.

    I’ve had a fair amount of dreams about being chased by the mob and my share of job related dreams; which can be seriously odd since I’m a priest.

    And every year before the start of my football season (I officiate high school football), EVERY YEAR, I have a few nightmares about getting to the game site and not having my equipment.

    In general, though, my dream world is much more exciting than the real thing.

  36. My dreams tend to be very science-fiction and fantasy based, which is really pretty cool. I hypothesize that it’s because I don’t have time to actually write stories any more, and only have time to jot down notes about story ideas as they come to me. All the characters I give half-life to just invade my dreams…

    But I do have to say that waking up and realizing that I can’t actually cast fireballs at angry dragons sometimes makes me sad.

  37. In my teens and twenties I had many of those deja vu dreams- I’d dream a conversation or an exchange in class and a few days to a week later have the same or a very similar situation occur in the real world.

    I’ve also had a few extraordinarily memorable dreams where I’ve been visited by my mother who passed away 15 years ago. In the most recent of those, she came and vouched for me as I was being hassled by a cop from a small (imaginary) town after having my wallet stolen (I don’t use a wallet), and chasing after the torn up bits and pieces of its contents as they were blown through and out of town on the breeze. We got to chat for a bit as we walked away from the cop then as she faded away she let me know she thought I was doing ok. sigh.

    I occasionally have other memorable dreams, some more realistic than others right before waking in the morning. I had one vivid dream of shaving off my mustache- so vivid that I was actually surprised when looked in the mirror and saw the mustache I had believed gone still there.

    Another was a UFO dream with shiny bright yellow & blue flying objects circling the house, windows flying up, drapes and curtains blowing in, and the aliens knocking at the door which ended with me gasping myself awake to my roomie knocking on my bedroom door.

  38. My dreams have their own internal logic. Sometimes they obviously steal from Greek myths and urban stories (the plagiarists!).

    They’re very detailed and the settings in them are pretty awesome. People end up being where they have to be despite the plot holes. Now that I think about it, my dreams resemble my fist drafts: lots of pretty setting and plot holes.

    In my late teens, I used to have dreams of war set in almost any part of the World. I was disappeared in Argentina, killed in Rwanda, was a US soldier who died in the Pacific, was a Japaneses soldier who died in the Pacific and fought the Spanish civil war more times than I can count. On hind sight, there must have been some serious conflict going on in my life. The good part is that all that body jumping (I swapped bodies once the old one died in the dream), was really cool for character development later on. Plus, the sense of empathy that develops for the enemy after fighting both sides of a war, is nonparallel.

    Now, most of my dreams aren’t good or bad, just eerie, disquieting or peaceful. Most of them are pretty cool.

  39. Like many in this discussion, my dreams also have an internal logic and make 100% sense when I dream them, but they’re seriously weird and involve a lot of skipping in time/space.

    It’s just that, in my dreams, I have a memory of what happened before or I know things which I didn’t dream about being told or finding out and I suppose, that’s why they seem so real despite being so weird and they work are stories with a beginning, a middle and an end even if all bits are not included in my dream.

    Like Sean Eric Fagan, I also sometimes confused dreams with memories, but thankfully it only happens very rarely.

    I’ve never had a lucid dream and I don’t understand how it’s possible, but maybe there’s a connection with how I tend to immerse myself into the story when I read a book or see a movie and get annoyed when people talk to me about the technical aspect of it. Maybe there’s a connection between how much of a lucid dreamer you are and how much you tend to immerse yourself into a story you read/watch?

  40. My dreams are almost always extremely surreal–the kind that if you try and explain them to someone they’re lost within five seconds.

    Despite the fact that my dreams are so surreal, I almost never experience lucid dreaming, because I willingly accept even the strangest situations. That part probably comes from reading so much fantasy.

    However, I’ve found that writing down one part of my dream is an excellent writing exercise, and I’ve gotten some interesting short stories by trying to wrangle part of a dream into something that makes sense.

    I kept a dream journal in college, and found it was very useful for sorting out various problems and issues in my life.

    On thing I learned about dreams is that they are very personal, and books that explain dreams tend to be bogus. As one excellent book says, (I’m paraphrasing) most books say that dreams about your teeth falling out mean you’re afraid of losing money, however it may well be that your subconscious is telling you that you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile.

    What I’ve come to hate is that when I wear a mouth guard because I grind my teeth (thank you Celexa) many of my dreams are now that I have chewing gum stuck to my teeth and I can’t get it unstuck no matter what I do. Even thinking “I never chew gum! How could this have happened?” isn’t enough to make it go away.

    I HATE dreams like that. It seems like a waste of an otherwise perfectly good dreamscape.

  41. What a fascinating subject! and reading the replies is most illuminating, and shows the enormous range of dreams different people have.

    I have a rather small amount of recurring themes in my dreams. I have the “back to school” dream where for some reason I have to leave my current life and rejoin some educational establishment (school or university) or even the military. I usually meet up with all my old friends from that place but feel angry for having to resume my studies (which I hated at the time).

    recently I’ve been having many travel dreams in which I’m trying to catch a flight but it gets delayed or I get lost in the airport or the plane is really small. Or sometimes I just spend the whole dream looking for my car in a large parking garage.

    My science fiction dreams are almost always nightmares – a kind of Aliens/Tremors ripoff with lots of small nasties (sluglike or lobsterlike) bursting from the ground, which I have to bash, hack or burn. I also have rare nightmares about hideously disfigured cyborgs.

    Sometimes I get those dreams in which I’m aware I’m dreaming. Once I had one of those and decided, in the dream, to see what resolution you get in a dream and how detailed the dream actually is graphically (I’m a graphic designer, you see). so I sort of zoomed into a dream fence until I could see the pixels. When I awoke I realized that the fence and the entire area the dream took place in was based on an image I saw in a computer graphics primer.

  42. I don’t remember most of my dreams, but the ones I do tend to be doozies that seem to amplify life, but not in obvious ways. The last one I had was about Seattle being hit by some vast and unlikely hurricane and I was flitting around with a bunch of friends from place to place, all the while holding on to a bottle of water that HAD to be full at all times. It was just… odd.

    I also have what are called temporal lobe seizures, which are doozies on an entirely different level. That’s where reality gets overlaid for a little while. I’m aware that I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing (working, riding the bus, etc) but I’m also watching a very vivid Sensurround movie in my mind for about three minutes at a time. The weird thing (as if this isn’t enough) is that the story has been evolving and changing for however long I’ve had them. It’s not especially an especially GOOD story, mind you, or original, but there it is: Episode 46,025 – Meeting The Elders.

    My brain and welcome to it.

  43. At this point I rarely remember or am even aware of my dreams.

    I do remember a couple of “deja vu” ones from high school. Those were very weird. And about boring things. The one I remember the best was about standing in line waiting to take the ACT. A couple days later when actually standing in line for said ACT the people around me started having the exact conversation from my dream. I started keeping a dream journal after that and promptly quit remembering/being aware of my dreams.

    I wonder what the explaination for this is? (or attempted explaination anyway, I somehow doubt there’s a good one)

  44. Explanation of the deja vu thing is probably the recently-learned-stuff bias. I swear there’s a scientific-sounding name for it, but I can’t remember it right now, so you’ll have to know it as the recently-learned-stuff bias. As you might suspect, it basically means that humans have a tendency to mentally highlight experiences/whatever that are related to something they recently learned, in this case your dream.

    Of course, if it was really literally the EXACT SAME CONVERSATION of more than a few words, then maybe it’s not just that. Whatever. Coincidences happen – that’s another bias, too, actually: coincidences tend to jump out at us more than regular stuff, although chance isn’t being any more or less, er, chancy than usual.

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