I noticed that I have been dreaming a lot more, lately, and that my dreams often have a pronounced effect on how I feel during my waking hours. I can remember having as many as three separate dreams in one night, each with its own storyline, tone, and players.
I have recurring dreams about the same places, people, and scenarios, often involving a real, unresolved situation in my life. In many cases, I find it difficult to remember what exactly was happening in my dreams, but I can usually remember what I was thinking about and how I felt – the internal dialogue of the dream.
This observation has led to (waking) discussions with a few of my close friends. What the heck are dreams? What do they mean? What is my subconscious or unconscious mind trying to tell me? Are my dreams asking me to take action? Are they predicting something that may happen in the future?
Some people believe that our dreams offer guidance that we can utilize in our waking lives. To that end, I have, at times, attempted to interpret a dream and take a literal action, like reaching out to someone I have not spoken to in a while, or making plans to see a person that I might not otherwise see. In other cases, I have thrown my hands up in frustration, admitting I have no idea what I am supposed to do. It’s never totally clear whether the dream has any bearing on reality (or not).
Inception is one of my all-time favorite movies. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is that Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) must plant an idea in someone else’s mind, utilizing a shared dream space. To create the maze-like world of the dream, Cobb needs a talented architect, and so enlists the services of an up-and-coming architecture student named Ariadne (Ellen Page). When he tests her to see if she can do the job, he proclaims: “you have two minutes to create a maze that it takes one minute to solve.”
You may be wondering: what kind of name is Ariadne? Well, as I was doing research for this post, I discovered that the peculiar name given to this character was no accident; Ariadne is “the mistress of the labyrinth,” a mythological Greek goddess associated with mazes.
During a memorable scene from the film, Cobb explains:
“Now, in a dream, our mind continuously does this. We create and perceive our world simultaneously, and our mind does this so well that we don’t even know it’s happening. That allows us to get right in the middle of that process.”
I began to think, maybe our lives are one big labyrinth, and dreams are the mind’s way of offering clues to move forward or to process psychological “blocks.” Since we both create and perceive the world of our dreams, we are our own personal “Ariadne” – at once both the architect and the inhabitant.
If we dream about the future, perhaps this holds a key to unlocking some door that remains closed. If we dream about the past, there might be something that needs resolving before we can proceed to the next opening. Maybe, on some level, we already know how to solve the maze, and dreams just help guide us through the process of remembering.
Either way, it might be time to start paying closer attention to what’s happening in la la land. What are your thoughts about dreams? Do you keep a dream journal?