Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Dreamers of Tierra del Fuego

I recently saw an article about a sense of real-life awareness during dreaming. And all at once I remembered having dreams when I was seven or eight, frightening dreams about large birds sitting on me in what I would later hear called the incubus pattern. 

And on the heels of that remembering was the memory of a series of nightmares I had shortly after I lived alone in an apartment for the first time: sparks blowing up a curtain in front of a closet; a War-of-the-Worlds-like red-lighted periscope peering into the room where I slept, which was otherwise exactly as the room actually was at the time; the sense of an intruder rapidly going through my bedroom toward the kitchen, but without having been, exactly, visible. 

And then, more memories. Somewhere around my thirtieth birthday, the dreams involving threats that I had began to develop a porosity into the real world, in that I would recognize a repeating pattern and diagnose it as dream content, and hence something against which I could literally invent an opposing and overwhelming force. I would be retreating down a cave of diminishing size away from some invisible threat, where as the cave became impassable, the dream would have ended; but now, seeing a pattern, I suddenly realize I can simple turn back, think a large club, ray gun, or whatever seemed effective - and suddenly the point of my weapon is gone, suddenly there is no more threat. I just go back up the cave toward whatever foolishness was the dreamlike order of the day before the appearance of the threat.

After that year's dreams, I almost never had nightmares that would wake me up. I had repeating dreams of impassable or barely passable sequences of rooms and passages, or shaky floors, or repeating needs for Sisyphus-like effort - but they all represented frustration rather than fear, annoyance instead of terror.

And so I wondered - is this something that most people experience, and if they do, when? Does it ever go retrograde? Can a person be reliably trained to get that awareness? Was I extraordinarily lucky?