Now here you go again, you say
You want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound…
–Dreams, written by Stevie Nicks
I have always loved the Fleetwood Mac song “Dreams”. I was a kid when it came out and had no idea what the song was about (the star-crossed romance of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham), but it moved me nonetheless. The first strains of the song with the evocative drums and bass elicit a sense memory even before the fabulous Stevie starts to sing.
I woke up thinking about that song this morning. But it was different from my sense memory. I thought about it in light of “listening carefully” to my dreams. For the past week since I got back from an international panel of geriatric psychiatrists in Berlin I have been having vivid and elaborate dreams that are hard to ignore. Perhaps jetlag. Perhaps more.
While I am not a psychoanalyst, I love to “listen” to my dreams. I believe that dreams represent our brains trying to problem solve while we sleep. I often find that my dreams give me a perspective on some aspect of my life I didn’t see or notice while awake.
In the first dream that I had earlier this week, I am in my house but I find several rooms that I somehow didn’t realize that we had. The rooms are really interesting and compelling. While they are not to my taste, I begin to think about all the ways that I could remodel the rooms, and use them in my daily life. In the dream, I have a slight sense of “how is it that I never realized we had these extra rooms”, but not in a self-critical way.
I woke from that dream and didn’t have to think too much about what it might mean. I stepped down from a leadership role a year ago to pursue my research on improving care for dementia behavior more full time. This has been extremely rewarding. And yet. Something is missing. I have “extra rooms” or skills that I am not using.
I put the dream aside and carried on with my week. It was a busy one, filled with all the emails I triaged while in Berlin, two grants that I am working on, a clinic day full of patients, and three mentees who needed my direction and advice. But my dreams decided to make their point again and vividly.
Last night I dreamt that I was fishing in a muddy river. I immediately caught a relatively nice sized fish and put it away as a keeper. Not satisfied with just one fish, I went to put more bait on my fishing pole and discovered that the worms were extremely tangled. I worked and worked but couldn’t get them untangled. These worms were real sons of b*tches and keep retangling themselves as soon as I got them untangled. I decided to create a “work around” and just affix the entire mass of worms to my fishing line. I put the line into the water and waded into the river. I was getting mud on my clothes but somehow didn’t care. It was then that the worms began to take over, They began to pull the pole, and then me, the way that they wanted to go instead of what they were supposed to be doing. I decided that the only way to proceed was to cut the line and let those loathsome worms do what they were going to do. I walked away alone, happy to be done with the worms, but knowing that I would need to find another line.
I woke up from this one feeling refreshed and thinking of this line from Dreams:
“When the rain washes you clean…you’ll know, you’ll know”
I won’t get into what the worms represent exactly, but as you can imagine they are the most annoying, difficult and stressful parts of my job.
In some sense, the role of dreams may be to bust through our denial and our defenses to ‘not want to think’ about difficult things. The ‘dream factory’ goes to work and says let’s present this to her in a weird and unexpected way that will really make her think and wonder and pay attention. “Finding another line” is what I need do. Stay tuned.
I am curious if readers have had this type of “aha” moment from their dreams. Did you change course? What were the outcomes?