Thursday, 30 October 2014

Theories on the function & meaning of dreaming

Research undertaken by Dr Mark Stokes, cognitive neuroscientist at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity has provided support for the theory that dreaming is a necessary function for organisation and making sense of our memories. Dreaming may be a key tool in memory consolidation which influences our future behaviour - a form of overnight therapy. This view is also shared by Dr Robert Stickgold, director of sleep and cognition at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

Stickgold states that when we dream we tend to do so in colour, with our dreams involving complex stories and strong emotions. Visual imagery predominates over auditory and somatosensory sensations, but there is still no consensus over how dream material is chosen, although we are getting closer to 'decoding' dreams. Japanese researchers have been able to use MRI scans to monitor the brain activity in the visual cortex of dreamers. Based on the dream reports of the participants, the researchers created imagery. It was discovered that the participants displayed similar patterns of brain activity when shown the visual images derived from their dream reports as when they were actually dreaming. This suggests that we can use non-invasive brain imaging methods to infer or decode what happens in the dream state and these new studies explain why dreams seem so real. Stokes says that dreaming activates the same types of brain systems associated with waking experiences, so although there is no visual input into dreams, it feels like you are actually experiencing the visual content of the dream. The patterns of brain activity observed in dreamers may be the mind at work, taking information from the memory, processing and making sense of it. 

Stokes claims that dreaming is a way of making new associations and connections, and formulating new ways of perceiving things, which are stored somewhere in a usable form, even if we do not remember our dreams. This is why dreams appear to be symbolic rather than literal in content. Allan Hobson refers to 'incomplete arrangements' - things which we invest a large amount of mental energy on, but have not reached closure on in our minds. This may explain why our dreams - on average - tend to be more negative than positive and often become more disjointed and unclear as they progress. Stickgold suggests that the dominant emotion is often anxiety as opposed to fear and that the negative content or tone of dreams may stem from the evolutionary nature of dreaming - in our dreams we are forced to confront that which threatens us, because it is biologically and mentally more important than dreaming about something positive, harmless or enjoyable. 

Theories as to why we accept the fantastical altered reality of our dreams are often derived from the work of Freud, who claimed that dreams play out a healing or emotional process, helping us resolve personal issues and conflicts. In order for this experience to be successful and 'real', the dreamer must believe in their dreams and in order for us to trust the dream narrative, the subconscious suppresses critical thinking and doubt. The dreamer is unable to employ logic to question to reality of the dream narrative. We dream in symbols (the 'language of dreams') and our dreams offer us a form of therapy or 'wish fulfilment' which requires belief in order for the healing or learning function to be successful. 

Dreams often include an essential narrative about unresolved issues in the life of the dreamer. Recurrent dreams may indicate that the dreamer has ignored an important message which will be repeated until it is understood and processed by the dreamer. Many anxiety-based dreams will repeat tasks which are incomplete in the dreamer's waking life - such as unresolved relationships or conflicts. These forms of recurrent dreams may repeat until the dreamer confronts and concludes the issue in their waking life, Sometimes, the recurrent anxiety-based dream may continue, even after the dreamer has addressed the issue in their waking life. Dream researchers suggest that recurrent dreams of this nature occur because the dreamer needs to process what is known as 'daily residue'. Although it may be tempting to treat 'daily residue' dreams as unimportant because they are less exciting or stimulating than other forms of dream, they are in fact very useful for the dreamer as they act as a tool for decompressing from daily events or clarifying necessary future behaviour or actions. Through our dreams we are able to rehearse or practice for future events.

In fact, new research conducted by researchers at Sorbonne University and Hopital Pitie-Salpetriere in Paris, France - Isabelle Arnulf et al, 'Will students pass a competitive exam that they failed in their dreams' (2014) Consciousness and Cognition 29, 36 - 47 - suggest that dreaming about failure and anxiety-provoking scenarios may have a positive effect on us. The researchers surveyed 719 medical school applicants on their dreams on the night preceding their entrance exam. It was discovered that 60.4% of students dreamed about the exam and the majority of these dreams were negative. 78% of dreamers dreamt that they were late for the exam or forgot the answers. After the results of the entrance exam were received, the researchers compared the outcome of the dream questionnaire to student performance and found that dreams about the exam on the night prior to taking it were linked to higher performance in the actual exam. Further, multiple dreams about the same exam were correlated with proportionally higher scores. This suggested to the researchers that negative anticipation of a stress-inducing event  is common, but this episodic stimulation leads to cognitive gain. Dr Dennis Rosen suggests that there is a certain logic to dreaming about failure, because the more anxiety you experience about a certain event, the more chance their is that you will prepare yourself to confront or tackle it. 

Arnulf has conducted other intriguing studies into the function of dreaming. In 2009, she published a study, 'Dreamlike mentations during sleepwalking and sleep terrors in adults' (2009) Sleep, which suggested that sleepwalkers may be acting out parts of a bad dream or nightmare. This finding was a surprise because it had previously been thought that dreams could not occur during sleepwalking or night terrors. In 2011, Arnulf et al found that dreams could contain vivid experiences of events the dreamer is unable to experience in waking-life. In 'Walking dreams in congenital and acquired paraplegia' (2011) Conscious Cognition 20(4), 1425 - 1432, the authors suggested that subjects who were born with a paraplegic condition experienced dreams where they could walk, run, dance or play sports. Arnulf explained that 'mirror neurons' which are activated when you watch someone perform an activity may be reactivated during sleep. In a separate study, Arnulf et al, 'Evidence for the re-enactment of a recently learned behaviour during sleepwalking' (2011) PLoS One 6(3), it was discovered that we often re-enact new skills or actions that we have learned during the day in our dreams. This may be so that we can practice and consolidate our learning or apply it to new situations which may confront us in the future.

Dreams help cognitive processes and problem-solving, by giving the dreamer free reign to confront a range of scenarios which may not be available or safe in waking life. The dreamer's mind is able to examine all possible scenarios and everyday barriers are removed so that new ideas and responses can emerge freely. Dreams encourage us to feel and embrace emotions which we may not be able to do in our everyday experiences, because our rationality gets in the way, or to consciously acknowledge them in waking life might be harmful to us. 

Hobson challenges the notion that dreams have a symbolic meaning for the dreamer, instead arguing that dreams are no more than makeshift stories which stem from brain activity - the dreamer attempts to make sense of a collection of random images by putting them into a narrative form, which explains why the results can be nonsensical, illogical or bizarre. Because areas of the brain that sustain working memory are inhibited during the dreaming process, logical reasoning is compromised and the dreamer will accept the dream scenario and shifts in time and space as real. This is a common view of some neuroscientists, who claim that dreams are nothing more than a mish-mash of  the brain's 'machine-code' which we shouldn't try to comprehend; However, these ideas ignore several decades of scientific research which has identified many strong patterns in dream content and providing a relatively clear view as to the meaningful aspects of dreaming. It is therefore intellectually ignorant to suggest that there is no persuasive scientific evidence about the nature of dream content.

For example, David Foulkes identified that, while dreams may be strange and wonderful, they often involve realistic portrayals of familiar people, places and activities, all of which may be quite mundane in nature. Additionally, dreams may often involve honest, accurate reflections of the dreamer's thoughts, waking responses and emotional concerns, with the things we care about most (or spend most time thinking or worrying about) in our everyday lives occurring more frequently in our dreams. This idea is supported by G William Domhoff's 'continuity hypothesis'. Also, the repetitive, graphic content of nightmares experienced by sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often change throughout the course of the healing process, evolving into more ordinary nightmares with a diffuse range of dream imagery. 

In Trauma and Dreams (1996), Deirdre Barrett suggest that this is because  as time passes and PTSD symptoms improve, the dream content begins to make the trauma more symbolic and interweaves it with concerns from the dreamer's everyday life. It is not only sufferers of PTSD who experience recurrent nightmares - in fact these experiences may present excellent opportunities for self-reflection and growth, whether or not they have been inspired by trauma or an event in the dreamer's waking life. Indeed, there are ways of using recurrent, disempowering dreams for the health and well-being of the dreamer - enabling them to confront their fear, heal emotional wounds and gain lucidity. 

Therefore, it is safe to say that contemporary dream research has shown that dreams are creatively structured from a network of emotional and cognitive processes which also operate during periods of waking consciousness and have meaningful and evolutionary connections to our health and development. To suggest that there is no meaning behind dreaming demonstrates an abject failure to engage with a rich abundance of empirical and anecdotal evidence gathered during half a century of scientific and psychological dream research.

Foulkes, who dedicated much of his career to the study of childhood dreaming, suggests that dreams represent active stories in which the dreamer is the main actor, with 'true dreaming' of this type first occurring between the ages of 7 - 9 years. He suggested that this relatively late onset of 'true dreaming' coincides with an equally late development of the child's waking self-reflective awareness - i.e. consciousness. Child development psychologist, Jean Piaget describes how a child's acceptance of dreams as completely real gradually fades from total belief in the dream to a realisation that the dream is nothing more than a story inside their mind. It may be that we start life believing that our dreams are real because we are born dreaming. Newborn babies spend approximately 8 hours a day in REM sleep, the state considered most favourable for ordinary dreaming. This means that the dream state is our first seemingly 'real' and natural experience of the world, before we learn to make sense of the waking world around us.

Interpreting popular dream themes (7) - Clowns

A clown dream tends to symbolise the light-hearted, childish (or childlike) and absurd nature of the dreamer's character, with the face of the clown reflecting their feelings or emotions. The behaviour of the clown represents the dreamer's uninhibited side or can be a sign of thoughtlessness, inadequacy or insincere actions. This is particularly true if the clown character in the dream is a happy clown. However, a happy clown may also be a signal that the dreamer - or someone in their waking life - has been putting on a smile or a brave face and using humour to deflect troubled emotions or hide their true feelings. There is unexpressed inner sadness.

To see a clown remove their makeup is a symbol that the person represented by the clown is becoming unmasked - additionally it may mean that the dreamer wishes to 'unmask' themselves or reveal the true nature of someone else who is hiding behind the facade. 

The clown also symbolises duality - it may be a sign that the dreamer needs to trust their instincts and therefore they should pay careful attention to the situation presented in the dream and the additional dream symbolism to ascertain where the conflict or choice between two options lies in their waking life. The clown - as a symbol of the unconscious - may be giving the dreamer an important message. The clown or joker may carry with them a wisdom which is overlooked due to their jesting nature. There is a possibility that the clown also symbolises the possibility of transformation in the dreamer.

If the dreamer has a phobia of clowns (coulrophobia) or sees an evil clown in their dream then the clown symbol is a metaphor for anxiety that someone in their waking life has ill intent or wishes to harm them in some way. That person may not be what they seem and the dreamer has doubts as to their true nature, fearing that they will be deceived in some way, because they 'paint' on a false face or are hiding under a facade. It may also be an indication that the dreamer is allowing trivial or silly pastimes to divert their attention from more important issues, or is a sign that they are - or likely to be - embarrassed by their actions in some way. The dreamer should question actions and decisions in their waking life - are they afraid that they will look ridiculous, foolish or incompetent in a certain situation? Have they taken a misdirected course of action? Are they preventing themselves from feeling fulfilled and 'whole' in some way? Is the dreamer - or the person represented by the clown - failing to acknowledge their true feelings? An angry clown suggests that the dreamer's fears and anxieties are reaching the surface and will threaten to unsettle them in some way.

If the dreamer is chased by a clown in their dream then is may symbolise that they are running away from problems which stem from their childhood.

Some interpretations suggest that clown dreams are a symbol of repressed insecurities, inhibitions or feelings of inferiority. It may be the dreamer who feels that they are wearing a mask and hiding their true self for fear that they will be mocked or deemed to deviate from a certain expected social standard. A sad clown is an indication that the dreamer feels they are not taken seriously or is unsupported. If the dreamer sees themselves as a clown it means that they are experiencing feelings of humiliation and are misunderstood by others.

If the dream clown is performing for the dreamer, it may symbolise that the dreamer needs to improve or lighten their mood and relish a more carefree attitude - stresses and strains or responsibilities of their waking life may be getting them down. If the dreamer enjoys the performance of the clown, this may be representative of a need to celebrate some aspect of their waking life and take more pleasure in their triumphs or successes. If the dreamer does not enjoy the performance of a clown, it is an indication that someone in their waking life - whose actions do not amuse the dreamer - has been antagonising or frustrating them in some way. The clown may also represent a situation rather than an actual person.

Clowns often speak or act in contrary, contradictory ways - they imitate and satirize others and put on a performance. Clowns are attention-grabbing and often obscene in their pretension and frivolity - there is a ritualistic, ceremonious element to the drama that they bring. In many ancient or tribal traditions, the clown is a sacred character related to medicine (consider the English idiom 'laughter is the best medicine') and fertility. They symbolise relief and also the path of life - with it's joys, tragedies and pitfalls. The clown represent learning without teaching - lessons are gained not by didactic approaches, but by stumbling upon answers or the truth of a situation being revealed through presentation of the opposite - the duality of the matter. The lesson comes in the form of laughter, jokes or threats. Clowns highlight idiosyncrasies and foibles and are thought to open dreamer's eyes to the reality of a scenario which appears to be hidden or obscured in some way. Clowns are full of contradictions, which is why they make fascinating dream characters to interpret. In many interpretations of the clown symbol, they represent both innocence and wisdom. The dreamer may only comprehend the wisdom of their unconscious if they strip away superficial things and pretensions, which may render them vulnerable. Wisdom may emerge from shame - in order to learn and progress, the dreamer may need to confront something which brings them shame. This leads back to interpretations of clown dreams which suggest that they symbolise a need to unmask oneself and face up to hidden emotions. By creating imbalance, balance may be achieved - which can be interpreted as meaning that through opening oneself up to humiliation, shame, mockery or other such negative consequences associated with clowns, honesty, personal transformation and progress can be made. This is what is meant by the curing/healing or medicinal nature of clowns, an aspect of the clown symbol inherent in Native American culture.

Influencing your dreams - 6 common stimuli

While we are sleeping, our bodies attempt to remain in the sleep state to the extent that many external stimuli become intimately interwoven with the content of our dream narratives, seamlessly incorporating outside interferences into the dream storyline. Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst and member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams suggests that many influences - sounds, smells and sensations - can shape our dreams.

It is very common to incorporate sounds into our dreams - particularly alarm clocks, which may feature in the dream as a different type of noise, such as a smoke detector or whistle. It is possible to use apps which create a noise during the dream state to intentionally influence the dream content, but Loewenberg warns that too much external interference may be detrimental to the message of the dream and may disrupt the cognitive processes which the dream seeks to accomplish for mental wellbeing. However, it may be interesting to play your favourite soundtrack of atmospheric music while you sleep to see how these sounds become incorporated into your dream experience. Loewenberg recommends using white noise for restful sleep, as this drowns out other atmospheric noises, enabling organic dreaming.

Studies have shown that smells can positively or negatively influence our dream content. Loewenberg suggest that pleasant smells will yield favourable emotional responses and this is because the limbic system in the brain, which receives sensations of smell also deals with emotions. Scented room fragrances, candles or perfumes can be used to influence the nature of your dreams.

Sleeping position
A Hong Kong study revealed that sleeping on your front is likely to increase your chances of experiencing a sexual dream, being persecuted, suffocated or physically restrained in some way. This may be because when sleeping on your front your genitals are in direct contact with your bed and are therefore stimulated. Additionally, your breathing may be inhibited, producing feelings of restriction or suffocation. Sleeping position is also important for dream recall - you should remain in the position you wake up in to recall your dream or re-enter an earlier dream state.

State of mind
Depression not only suppresses dream recall, but may have an impact on the colour palette of your dreams. Studies show that those who suffer from depressive moods are more likely to dream in muted colours, grey shades or black and  white. Loewenberg also suggests that your state of mind can influence the weather or climate in your dreams - anxiety often causes dreams of tornadoes (spinning out of control), depression leads to dreams of rain or storms and a calm, happy state of mind tends to influence sunny warm weather dreams. 

Quitting a habit
Quitting may influence your dream because you are either mentally focused on the habit or substance you are denying yourself (and therefore dream about it recurrently) or because that substance was inhibiting your dreaming or dream recall (studies suggest that using cannabis can have a negative effect on dreaming and dream recall, with abstinence causing more rich, vivid dreams).

Drugs, vitamins & diet
There are many lucid dreaming supplements available on the market, but many mainstream vitamins and recreational drugs have an effect on dreaming also. Some pharmaceuticals can affect REM sleep and so have a major impact on your dreaming - for example, anti-depressants have been found to increase dream recall, whereas depression has a negative effect on a dreamer's ability to remember their dreams. Recreational drugs such as cannabis may hinder dreaming and prevent effective dream recall, while substances such as nicotine are thought to be responsible for vivid dreaming. In particular, research has shown that Vitamin B6 can significantly increase dreaming and dream recall and various vitamins and nutrients present in  dream-boosting foods may also have the same effect.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lucid dreaming & cognitive performance

A recent study by Patrick Bourke and Hannah Shaw of the Psychology Department at the University of Lincoln, entitled 'Lucid Dreaming and Insight' (2014),  and published in the Dreaming journal, has found that those who lucid dream (i.e. those who are consciously aware that they are dreaming) are significantly better at cognitive problem-solving in their waking lives. The research suggests that the insight experienced during the lucid dreaming state may relate to the underlying cognition required in the waking state.

The researchers divided a sample of 68 undergraduate students (aged 18 - 25 years) into three groups based on their self-reported frequency of lucid dreaming - never, occasionally and at least once a month. The participants were then asked to perform compound remote association tasks in which they were shown three apparently unrelated words and then asked to find the word with linked them together. These puzzles show the insight of the participant because they require thinking 'outside the box' and breaking free of certain perceptions which may hinder them from finding the solution. The study found that those who frequently experience lucid dreaming were 25% better at solving the cognitive tasks than those who did not become lucid during their dreams. Although it is not clear why some people are more prone to lucid dreaming that others, the phenomenon is more common in children and young persons. Although lucid dreaming is often spontaneous, it can be induced by the dreamer - or in experimental settings. 

Dr Allan Hobson, a psychiatrist and sleep researcher at Harvard University found that he and his colleagues were able to induce lucidity in dreamers by zapping their brains with 40 Hertz of electrical current for 30 seconds, moments after the participant entered a dream state - with a 77% success rate in inexperienced lucid dreamers. Electrodes were placed on the scalps of 27 participants, with the electrical current stimulating their frontal cortex to produce gamma brain waves. The results of the electrical stimulation were observed by using EEG to monitor brain function. Lower levels of gamma activity were observed when 25 Herz of stimulation were applied, and other frequencies produced no effect on gamma activity or lucid dreaming. The study, Voss et al, 'Induction of self-awareness in dreams through frontal low current stimulation of gamma activity' (2014) Nature Neuroscience 17, 810 - 812, suggests that consciousness is a brain function and gamma brain waves are related to synchronisation of brain activity and an important component of consciousness. and may even be responsible for consciousness. This is an important step in understanding the complex relationship between the brain and mind, an issue which has been debated by philosophers and scientists for centuries and as yet, remains unsolved.

Previous research findings claim that persons possessing certain cognitive abilities may be predisposed to lucid dreaming and there is evidence that lucid dreamers may be better at performing in psychological tests which simulate real-life decision-making.

Dream 290

'Weird Dating, X-Factor & Psychopaths'
Dream date: 30 October 2014
I was watching my mum and my aunt, KC, on a TV screen. KC handed my mum a red flower, which my mum dropped. 

I then saw my cousin, JC2, laying on a sofa in an unfamiliar room. The sofa was underneath a window and I could see that it was daylight. I asked JC2 what he was doing and he said that later he was going to meet SF for a date. SF is the same age as me and was my best friend at high school and college. I haven't seen her in a long time, having lost her phone number when my old mobile phone broke and I changed my own number (she isn't on social networking). I thought this was strange as there is a 16 year age gap between SF and my cousin. 

JC2 and I went into an off-licence to buy some alcohol. Before we went to pay, I asked JC2 how he was going to buy the alcohol as he is underage. He said he had fake ID. At the till JC2 got out his fake ID card. On the metallic strip, there was a gold chip-and-pin square. He said that this stopped the shopkeeper from knowing that it was a fake ID. I thought that we might not be able to buy the alcohol if the shopkeeper suspected that JC2 was underage, but the shopkeeper swiped the ID card through a chip and pin device and served us as normal. JC2 said that he was looking forward to the date with SF.

A man (dream character) 'Andrew Bysson' won a cookery competition. I could then see the TV show 'X-Factor' taking place in a very dark warehouse-type room. Simon Cowell was present, with other (unknown, dream character) judges, although there was no audience. The first person to stand in front of the judges and perform an acapella song was a girl named 'Poota'. She was slim with a blonde bobbed hairstyle. Before she started singing she said: 'Last time I was flawless, flawless, flawless. It was my poem'. She started to sing (an unrecognisable song), but after one or two lines, stopped because she forgot the words. The judges dismissed her. A second girl then came before the judges to sing. She had a mature woman join her and the judges - she was the singing coach. She had grey hair in a bun on top of her head and was dressed in flowing black robes. The female contestant had brown hair and bright red lipstick. She froze and couldn't remember any of the words to her song choice. She said to the singing coach and the judges: 'I should have made you breakfast earlier' but Simon Cowell told her that would be bribery and she was also dismissed. I then saw Poota in the back seat of a car, parked outside a building. She was leaning, looking out of the back window on the driver's side. Her younger brother - a small child - climbed into the back of the car and said to Poota: 'You've won because the other girl forgot all of her song' and Poota was surprised and happy. I was then looking into a bowl of cake mixture, which I was stirring with a wooden spoon. Bits of the wooden spoon were breaking off into the cake mixture and I was putting my hand inside to remove them. I then saw the X-Factor audition room again, and Simon Cowell was spreading some kind of mixture onto a large circular hot plate, but only in a ring-shape around the outside. It was cooking, forming a textured bread. It looked like a circular dosa plate, or those used in Iran for making flat bread/nan-e lavash (these hot plates are used by the nomadic Qashqai people in their tents. I am a 'Qashqai' - my Persian last name 'Ghashghaei-Pour' is a Westernised spelling of 'Qashqai').

I was then in my room in Norwich. CD and DL were with me. DL was in the bathroom. CD said that walking to my house had made his trousers get dirty, so he asked if I had any spare that he could borrow, the indication being that I had previously lent him trousers and that they would fit him (he is much taller than I am and would never fit in my trousers). I got him a pair of baby pink velour tracksuit bottoms and he went to change into them and get a banana from downstairs. DL came back into the room. I noticed that my window was separated into a number of panes of glass. In each of these panes of glass was stuck a sheet of A4 paper. On the side facing into the room were images of psychopaths. Each piece of paper had the image of a different psychopath, and on the back of the sheets was typed information about the psychopath. I saw one, which was a man who was a single father caring for a baby. He had cut the faces off his victims so that he could wear them like a mask. The masks were grey and decayed dead flesh, with only holes for his eyes. I removed the sheets of paper from the window, and they dropped onto the floor. I started to pick them up and put them in a pile and was aware that the same documents had once been stored in a prison - where all these psychopaths were incarcerated - but had been leaked into the hands of the prison population due to a break-in in the prison governor's office. DL and I decided to watch a documentary about these psychopaths, which was being projected onto the window. I asked DL were CD was, as he was seeming to take a long time. DL informed me that CD had rushed home. 

While we were sitting on my bed, watching the psychopath documentary on the window, we became aware that there were two moons in the sky and some strange flashing lights. We could see the sky projected onto the wall next to my bed, rather than through the actual window, which was now a TV screen. We decided to go outside to investigate. We could see the two moons and the flashing lights in the sky and I realised that instead of being in Norwich, we were now in my nan's back garden. I could see through to the neighbour's garden through the hedge. The neighbour's adult son was pushing a baby in a pram. I wondered if we should ask him about the moons/lights in the sky, but decided that he was too busy looking after the baby. 

* Note that some time after this dream, I discovered that my mum had bought a ceramic poppy (a red flower) for my uncle GC's birthday (KC is GC's wife). The poppy was a 'Remembrance Poppy' from the commemorative display at the Tower of London in 2014 (marking the centenary of World War I). 

Dream 289

'Secretary Job in Garden'
Dream date: 28 October 2014
I had someone managed to get my former job back as a legal secretary/paralegal in a law firm. In real-life I left this job as a result of one of a personal dispute with one of my bosses which had caused an onset of my bipolar disorder (due to the stress of the situation). I felt really happy to be back in this job which I had enjoyed immensely. One of my bosses (the one with whom I did not have a personal dispute) leant over the desk I was working at (which was in an office, but not the real-life one) and said: 'it's amazing that you got this job back!' I laughed at him and felt determined to do well this time around. I was typing a legal document, but could not type fast enough and the words were not appearing properly or fast enough on the computer screen, no matter how many keys I pressed. It seemed as if I was typing in ultra slow-motion, which was frustrating. I then discovered that the office was actually just a desk located in my nan's back garden, at the top, near the compost heap. There was one other (unfamiliar) secretary working opposite me. Suddenly a number of cats and dogs entered the garden and started running up to me. I saw that one of them was a cute black puppy, and I picked it up and started cuddling it, feeling really happy. 

I was then in a conversation with my mum and her close friend, MF. MF was telling my mum how she had sold her business to another person, but that person was going bankrupt, their business was closing and she regretted selling to them. I saw the outside of the building (in real-life, MF did own this (tea-room) business, which had actually been sold to another person, who opened a restaurant. However, in the dream, the business was an art gallery (in real-life, there is a small independent art gallery/framers next door). I cannot recall anything else about this dream.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dream 288

'Clearing Out a Room'
Dream date: 27 October 2014
I was at my nan's house in Sheringham. Various family members, including my mum were present. I think my cousin HM was also there. In real-life my nan has a brick shed which is in the back garden, with the entrance opposite the back door (the door from the kitchen into back garden) separated by a small covered, concrete porch area. In the dream, I was in a room which was a composite of the brick shed (where we used to store coal for the fire before the council put in gas heating), the kitchen and my bedroom. This room was very messy, with lots of possessions everywhere, spilling out of boxes and piled on the floor. I was clearing out the room so that I could use it. There was stuff everywhere and it was a massive task, I felt overwhelmed and bored by the job which confronted me. The floor was very dirty and needing sweeping, but I had to move stacks of items before I could start cleaning. I found a pile of drawings, writing and scribbles and recognised them as childhood stories and artwork. I looked at these items for a while, reminiscing. My mum came in the room, opened a wardrobe and removed some items of clothing. She said: 'you can't throw away my clothes because I can't buy anymore'. This is all I recall about the dream.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Dream 287

'Dream Town'
Dream date: 26 October 2014
I was with an (unrecalled, unseen) female dream character. We were arguing over who owned two small books, which had hard, shiny white covers and were about the female body. I managed to obtain both books. This part of the dream was very vague and non-vivid. 

I then found myself dressed in a pink mohair crochet-knit jumper and blue jeans. I had put on weight and worried that I might be pregnant. I was walking along a canal in the sunshine, and then up some concrete steps (with a metal railing), towards a town. A male dream character (unknown) passed me on the steps and said something which I cannot recall. At the top of the steps, I found myself in my 'Dream Town' - this is a town which seems very familiar to me, but I cannot recall or recognise from real-life. Every time this town appears in a dream, I become aware that it is the same 'Dream Town' as in previous dream experiences and it makes me very excited. At this point in the dream, I became semi-lucid. I knew I was dreaming, but I was unable to control the dream properly, only my thoughts and minor actions. It was as if the blueprint (my locations, destinations, things I had to do) were already set as a 'dream blueprint', but I was conscious in my mind and able to look around me and discover the setting and dream characters. I passed by some grey/sand coloured buildings, which all looked very institutional and dull, although there were some trees and plants along the pavement and between the buildings. I walked on and came to a wide part of the road. On either side of me were Tudor-style thatched buildings, which were all set hickledy-pickledy, not in a straight line. It seemed to be like an urban village. I thought that everything looked very pretty and was able to take in my surroundings by consciously making myself turn around to look at what was going on. The streets were very busy with people, and it was still bright daylight.

I went into a pub, which was a traditional style pub, and very dark. The bar was to my left, running along the entire wall, and I sat on some red velvet seating at the back. PS was there with me. We could see that a few meters away there were a group of old men seated, drinking at a table, They had two large dogs with them - one golden colour and the other black, both with shaggy fur. The golden coloured dog mounted the black dog and they started having sex. PS and I moved a short distance away, into the corner of the pub. We had a conversation, which I cannot recall, but after a while I said I had to leave because I had a doctor's appointment. I was going to see the doctor to check if I really was pregnant, although I was hoping that it was a false alarm. I left the pub - it was now early evening, but still light outside. I walked a very short distance down the street to a GP clinic, which was sandy brown and made up of two stories - the top one being wider and more square than the narrower bottom part of the building and therefore over-hanging it. I entered the clinic, which was quite dark. I went to the counter to 'book in' - instead of being a normal reception desk, it appeared to be more like a bank counter, with a glass partition separating the patients from the employees. There was an older women next to me - before me in the queue, already speaking to a receptionist. It seemed like she was using the clinic as a post office, because she was putting stamps on envelopes and handing them to the receptionist by sliding them under the partition. I started getting impatient of waiting and stood close to her. A female dream character (my age approximately, white, brown hair - unknown to me in real-life, but a friend in the dream) was with me and I started complaining to her about how long the old woman was taking at the reception counter. I noticed a clear plastic wallet on the counter - which was credit-card sized and looked like a bus-pass holder. Inside it was a folded piece of paper and £3 in money - a pound coin and two pound coin. I thought about stealing the money, but realised that it belonged to the old woman, so put it back on the counter where I had found it. Without speaking to the receptionist I moved to the waiting area seats with my female friend and picked up a magazine. There were many other patients sitting and waiting to be called in to see the doctors/nurses. I wondered how the doctor might examine me to find out if I was pregnant. There was a buzzing noise and my friend said: 'it's for you'. I turned around and looked up and above the reception desk was an electronic noticeboard (with LED dot matrix display in red lights) which had the name of the patient and room number illuminated - like in real-life clinics. I could see my name was lit up, notifying me that the doctor was ready to see me. It said my full name in large lights, and 'Treatment Room 6' next to it. I thought (lucidly) 'I wonder if my name is spelled correctly' so I looked again, more closely, and saw that superimposed over my name was the word 'ESTA'. I then thought about the fact that in dreams words and numbers do not appear as they do in real-life and that this was a prime example of this happening to me (see my earlier article on 'Reading in Dreams' by clicking on the title link). I walked through the doorway which was on the right of the clinic and led from the reception/waiting room into the area where the doctors' individual rooms were located. This area was extremely dark. I turned to my right and saw a table with cleaning products on it. Next to this table was a door leading to a room, but the sign on the door read 'Storage Room 6'. I thought that I better walk a little bit further down so that I could find 'Treatment Room 6',  but as I turned left, I felt myself waking up, and could not fight it. My eyes opened suddenly and I was wide awake.

Later, I fell back asleep and had another dream. I had a bird's-eye view of a scene below me. I was positioned above the action, looking down on a green park. Along the road which ran adjacent to the park railings were three people - one dressed as a completely yellow ice cream cone, one dressed as an ambulance and the third dressed as a sign-post. I thought to myself that I would not like to be wearing the ice cream costume as this was the only one which had a head-piece/hat and it looked uncomfortable and cumbersome.

I was then in a dark room or location with no details. I had just brushed my teeth. The toothpaste company were launching a new interactive service. After you used the toothpaste, electronic data appeared in the air in front of your face - like what is seen by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies when he wants to process information about someone/something or what it looks like when using Google Glass. It was a form of 'augmented reality' experience which projected images into the space in front of your face. You had run through several survey type questions and touch on the corresponding images to describe your experience - choosing between two or more options. One of the options was whether you felt happy or sad - illustrated by the graphic of a smiling or crying face. I chose 'sad' although I wasn't actually sad, I was annoyed about something and therefore not 'happy'. The 'app' also asked what you did directly after using the toothpaste. The options were 'go to bed' or something represented by a pile of books. All the graphics were red. I felt annoyed again, because I was unsure of whether the pile of books represented 'teaching' or 'studying' and I had done neither, but felt like I should be studying instead of wasting time with this app. I selected that I had gone to bed. The data then collated and showed me a series of graphs and pie charts which had been compiled from the sum total of all my entries - which I had submitted to the app every time I had brushed my teeth. I heard the voice of my mum say: 'the toothpaste makes you a very angry person!'

Dream 286

'Weird Birthday'
Dream date: 25 October 2014
I was in a strange room which appeared to be bathed in a blue light. Everything seemed to be very 'film noir' - there was smoke lingering in the air and the moon shone in through the closed curtains at the window. I was seated beside the window, and across the room, on another sofa, was a male dream character (I cannot recall who this was or if it was someone known to me in real-life). This male was smoking a joint. I could see through the thin curtains that a huge tower block, with glowing lights at the windows, sprung up from nowhere - it just rose from the ground, up into the sky. I then saw the blue flashes to police cars approaching. I said to my male companion: 'they might be coming for the drugs' but he reassured me that this was not the case and continued to smoke the cannabis. I was also aware that dead supermodel, Gia Carangi was outside in the street, causing some kind of disturbance. I assumed the police might be there because of her.

I was then in a location which seemed to be both a leafy den in the woods and also the area of the bar in The Crown pub, Sheringham, where the dartboard and fruit machine is located. I was sitting on a bed. A male - who appeared to be a composite of CD and HL - entered the 'room' and I got up off the bed. This male had a stack of presents for me - I realised then that it was my birthday. I opened the presents, which were gift-wrapped boxes and found they contained two pairs of black shoes. The shoes were black lace-ups with small square heels. They were quite formal and were not the type of shoes I would normally wear. There were 'Sale' stickers on the inside lid of the shoe boxes, but I was somehow aware that even with a sale discount both pairs were very expensive. I told the male I had to go to meet my family, and he said that he would meet me later. I walked through to the main bar, where my mum was with my cousins CAJ, HM, SAF1 and SAF2 as well as my aunts, CJ and VF. My aunts were at the bar, ordering food - I think we were getting 'high tea'. There was another female present - a black lady with very long braids, piled on top of her head. She was a friend of one of my aunts in the dream (but unknown to me in real-life). I sat down at the table, which was pushed up close to the bar and we started celebrating my birthday. I then heard a voice say: 'there's stuff left over there!' and I looked into the distance, where I could see the woodland den (where my bed had been, which was previously only several meters away in the other bar area, but was now outside, far off into the distance). I saw a group of people heading for the den, where my gifts from CD were and also my purse and mobile phone. I thought I had better run over before this group of people could steal my belongings, so I told my family that I would return shortly, and started to run off into the woods. It was a long run and I felt like I was going in slow motion, or running through thick mud, as it was very difficult to move my legs. Some how I managed to run past the group of people who were headed for my den, and got to my possessions before they did. When they eventually arrived at the den, one of them (I am not sure who - they were all unknown to me in the dream and real-life) praised me for the speed at which I could run. I said: 'I know! I'm really unhealthy as well!'