I have trouble sleeping. Even when I do sleep the sleep is fitful. I am awoken by nightmares. While I work in the call centre I try and write ideas down so as to protect that creative and human part of myself.
The job requires dissociative processes in order to make phone call after phone call and remain unburdened by feeling. Sensitive types like myself don’t know whether to fight very hard to keep higher cognition going or whether to treat the job as though it were some form of meditation. Remembering dreams and writing about them includes elements of both. This involves the combination of reverie and thoughtful analysis of psychological themes. Bearing this in mind I wanted to try and group together the recurring themes of my nightmares.
One recurring theme in my nightmares is that of dismemberment, decapitation or destruction of the body. It is a very literal symbolization of a psychological process called splitting. Splitting refers to two different types of psychic process. The first is thinking in extreme and binary terms, black-and-white thinking, and the other, and related process, is that of splitting the ego. It includes a projection of the unwanted parts of the self onto the person of another. As I speak of splitting though it is clear that I am referring to more broadly to a whole range of processes and patterns of relating. Altering my view of myself and others in a more deliberate way is also included in my definition.
In the nightmares this manifests as dismemberment. People go from being alive people to becoming dead people. In one dream people are being blown up and shot to pieces. It is terrifying and there is a sense that more than death is occurring to these people. As if there form takes on an extra unreality through dismemberment. It evokes a peculiar terror that fundamentalist beheadings evoke. Someones head is transformed into a mere object. This mention of beheading relates to another nightmare in which a woman is beheaded. In that dream a woman is in a transparent ticket booth.
Islamic fundamentalist terrorists enter the foyer of whatever building this is. One of them is carrying a sword. They try to reach the woman but she is protected by the booth. The terrorists, however, push the booth along the ground so that a projection on the roof catches the woman’s head and pushes her neck out of the booth. A shocked museum/ embassy attendant slumps in despair against a pillar as one of the terrorists begins to hack off her head. There is a desperate sense that what is happening cannot be happening. The mind reels in sheer terror.
The booth seems to represent the sense of self for me. It is supposed to offer some sort of solid core that will not be destroyed through contact with difficult feelings and relationship events. It does not offer that protection though and in failing to do so captures one of my deepest fears. That the self will provide no protection from splitting. A distortion which threatens to present you with a world that does not exist. Which cannot exist.
One is left with the terrifying notion that one cannot experience the world free from distortion. That a permanent and fluctuating violence is done to reality. This feature is captured very well by the film the Machinist. In that film Bale is unable to sleep, like me, his crimes have been erased from his awareness. The remain only projected onto a hallucinated character. A balding, repulsive man who kills children. This being the part of himself that is too painful to acknowledge. The part that ran over a child in his Firebird and drove away.
Another recurring theme is that of going insane. Not having a bad day and not of having depression but proper cognitive impairment or full blown psychosis. This theme seems to crop up a lot more with false awakenings. The reason being that one thinks one is awake but one is actually still asleep and hallucinating. In these false awakenings I have awoken and seen orbs of green light. I have perceived that I am hearing events that do not tie in with what I am seeing. In one such dream I have relied on my brother, Tim, as a sort of guide. Insurance against my faulty senses leading me into harms way.
This fear of going insane features another element. It involves the vagaries of memory. The experience of insanity for me, in dreams, involves forgetting the period of a psychotic break. Forgetting the period of mental instability or symptoms. I exist in some temporal place where I am constantly examining past behaviour. I am questioning others as to what I have done. In one nightmare I am furiously interrogating relatives as to whether I have become insane. As I am filled in on previous events I have a flashback to being carried across a dual carriageway late at night on a stretcher. In another nightmare featuring psychosis I am eating glass and I am being told that this means that I am psychotic.
When I read about schizophrenia the interesting thing for me is that auditory hallucinations are most impactful type of hallucination. This is the same with dreams. Like in the film The Fall it is the presence of sounds that suggest at the greater reality in which the story is being told by a morphine addict to a child. The idea that these fragments of sounds pierce the veil behind which reality exists.
Interpersonal issues as might be expected also feature heavily in the nightmares. In nightmares I am forced to simply to be in the company of people with whom I am having difficulty with. It is as though along Winnicottian lines I have to accept that my fantasy has not destroyed the object. I am simply in their presence and have to recognise them.
At other times the process appears to be something more compensation whereby conscious waking attitudes are reversed in dreams. This might mean that way I relate to objects in dreams be extremely shocking to me. Where in life I might be angry with somebody I may be apologetic and considerate of them. The reverse may also be true. Additionally, to add another layer of confusion, the dream could alternate rapidly between the two states or feature the two states together in some sort of indescribable mixed state.
What comes across from the playing out of interpersonal themes in dreams is the following disturbing question. To what extent are our waking life relationships largely carried on with introjected versions that exist only in our own heads. If people, both in dreams and real life, can in an instant fall short of some subjective standard and undergo a transformation in the subjective universe then what is the real part of the person that you are relating to. As long as you are dealing with a person in a particular way they are consistent with whatever model you have imposed on them. If, however, you allow yourself to be in the discomfort it becomes apparent that they do not fit in with whatever model has chosen to alight itself upon you for this period of time.
If I am not reading in too much this seems to be generally what the nightmares are getting at. Either that or they give free reign to the introjected stereotypes of people’s character. If they’re not doing either of those two things they are developing themes of the fragility of emotions. Nightmares or sometimes dreams of this sort force you to question, of the higher feelings, what is their true source. Another aspect of this is a sense looking back at the present moment as though it were past and regretting something. It is this premature nostalgia that can cause moments to take on significance which they would otherwise not have.