The dream state can be fascinating, when everything is disjointed and illogical and out of sequence, but somehow makes total sense at the time. I’m no expert on why it is we dream, but it seems obvious the mind is trying to work through ideas, experiences and small problems that arise during the day. It is a cut and paste approach to consciousness, connecting some small observation with another unrelated thought then playing out the results in an inexplicable context. Perhaps the unconscious mind is training us to break free of predictable linear thought. Maybe if we didn’t dream we wouldn’t be the creative, evolving society that we are.
The conscious and subconscious minds often seem to fight for control over our actions. While in our heads we are clear about what we should do, there’s a strong compulsion to take a different action. This battle takes a comical twist in the case of my friend Zoe. When she falls asleep at night, her sub-conscious seizes the opportunity to have a bit of fun.
At school she used to regularly wake up at midnight, sitting on the sofa dressed in a full school uniform. One morning she woke up, fully dressed, with a boiling kettle in her hand, pouring a cup of tea. On another occasion she woke up outside the university dorm in her underwear, having locked herself in the corridor in response to a fire alarm that went off in her dream.
Zoe’s subconscious also employs novel ways of trying to communicate with the outside world. Sleep talking is for beginners; Zoe composes SMS messages in her sleep, the most recent one reading, “call the police, radio sign being stolen!”.
In an attempt to eavesdrop on her unconscious state, Zoe downloaded the Sleep Talk app for her new iPhone. Her unconscious mind obviously didn’t like this intrusion as she woke to find she had logged out of the application as soon as she fell asleep.
One story very relevant to this blog is Zoe’s attempts at time management while sleeping. At the end of a one-year stint teaching English in Japan she went to see the movie Memento where she was given a free notebook. That night she picked up the book and began scrawling notes in her sleep. When she woke in the morning she was surprised to find a rudimentary to-do list sitting on the table next to her bed. The first entry said “write note to students”. The second entry was an instruction: “write note about note”. Now we are all for to-do lists, but this one, although almost zen-like in its simplicity seems a bit much even to us.