Earlier this year I came to a realization about dreams: It is not what happens in dreams, but how we feel that determines our reaction.
Maybe you already knew that. Maybe you don’t even remember your dreams. For someone like me, with my non-stop vivid dreams, that was a powerful epiphany.
I had dreamed this ghastly, gory sorta dream, but when I woke up I didn’t feel scared or creeped-out. Given the horror in my dream, I should have been terrified when I woke up, but I wasn’t. I was mildly entertained that I created such a dreamscape, and then humored by the fact that the events of the dream hadn’t even made me flinch. Dreaming me didn’t think it was scary at all, while waking me was rather judgmental and said to dreaming brain, “You are one sick bitch.”
Consequently, a few days later, I had a nightmare about things that are not scary. It’s true. I woke up in a cold sweat, with heart-pounding fear and a sudden desire for my husband to hold me. While I lay there, I recapped the dream and it was so incredibly benign, it could have been television programming for preschoolers, but my feelings didn’t match the content.
In a way, it reminded me of anxiety disorder — the feeling that my adrenaline response is so askew, my brain can’t tell the difference between being chased by rabid dogs as opposed to picking up oatmeal.
Once these events happened so close together, I truly came to realize the paradox: there is an importance, and yet an insignificance to dreams. I no longer concern myself with what’s in the dream. I pay attention to the feeling after. Whatever that emotion is, it’s clamoring for my attention, probably being repressed.
And our emotional responses in waking life are similar. Completely irrational, primitive. Triggered often by dramatic events that upset most everyone, sure — and yet, sometimes brought about by mundane events that don’t even bother most people.
People you know are cool as cucumbers, seemingly laid-back, until what? Until they see a clown? Until they lose a game? Until someone calls them the wrong name? Until a black cat crosses their path? Until they misplace something?
What turns Miffy into Frank? What makes Frank seem like Miffy?
Tell me a story.