Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dreams

My job frequently involves dealing with people who are dying or contemplating their own death. I've been intrigued by some of the discussions I've had with patients about their dreams. One guy explained to me how he dreamt he was climbing over a staircase bannister and each night he'd dream that the bannister was falling further and further away from the staircase. Other patients have had much more terrifying dreams about dying or even about themselves stabbing or shooting people they love.
Do these dreams correlate with their own dying process? Does the staircase represent that person's life that he is gradually losing grip on? Or is trying to interpret dreams this way a load of pretentious rubbish?
Personally I think that dreams are they way in which our subconscious mind deals with issues that we find too distressing to think about with our conscious mind (i.e. when we are awake). For example, imagine someone being told they have terminal cancer. If that person has problems accepting the fact that their lifespan is drastically limited, or if they feel unable to talk about it, they might have very vivid dreams and even nightmares in an effort to process that information.
I saw a lady the other day who had woken in floods of tears as she had had such a nightmare overnight. She felt and saw her own death in such vivid detail that even when she woke she thought she was actually dead. Once I explained what I thought the dream might be based on, she seemed to agree and we ended the conversation with her hugging me and smiling. Once she realised that she wasn't actually dead, she felt really positive and we made a list of all the important things she wanted to do and made sure she arranged to do them that day or the next day rather than putting them off. Dealing with death or the potential of dying has a wonderful way of polarising what is important and what is not.

6 comments:

Gia said...

I had dreams about my own death, very terrifying i may say, but i think these dreams besides representing some subconscious fears also make us think about how good it is we live. It make us wake up and do something not just hibernate in our everyday routine.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you do your job mate. I think i'd be in floods of tears every other day

Wat_de_fu?

Kate said...

Ok, this has nothing to do with the post - I don't remember my dreams the vast majority of the time, and I'm not dying (although I know someone in particular who is at this point) - but the link you left on my blog is freakin' hilarious. The theme music and style of the vid is a total take-off on the Canadian Wildlife Federation's "Hinterland Who's Who" video series that was on all the time while I was a kid growing up. You should search YouTube for some of the original vids to actually get the sense of it all...

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I would say a big YES to your thoughts about how dying influences dreams.

The Lotus said...

I agree, dreaming is the subconscious trying to resolve psychological issues. On a brighter note, I played Honolulu Blues today for the first time in too long...love the bridge

angel, jr. said...

I also believe dreams are a processing of the days information.