Last night I had a dream that was a hallucination. I have never had a dream like this or a hallucination this hallucinatory, so it was all pretty strange and startling for me. I woke up, as I always do, with the help of my bladder. My bladder has taken upon itself the kind task of yanking me out of difficult dreams, and for this I am thankful, even though the awakening is often much, much worse than the dream.
The hallucinatory quality of the dream (I’m calling it a dream only because I was asleep) consisted in the fact that I was entirely inside myself, emotionally and sensorily.
It was the end of humanity, the dissolution of the world and reality as we knew it, and a substantial part of my body, a significant piece of my flesh, was hurtling at faster-than-light speed through visual landscape that contained no objects but only blurry configurations of color and darkness. As I moved at this extremely fast speed I was aware of moving through worlds, physical or non-physical, that humanity had never seen or experienced. Often there were stretches of pure darkness. I was terrified. The movement was entirely outside of my control. Sometimes it stopped. When I stopped the ragged stump of my body huddled as tight as a fist, hurt and confused and scared, and waited in misery and terror for the next thing.
Someone was following me, maybe other humans, maybe non humans. I knew I had to avoid them, and the hurtling through spacial/color scapes was also a flight for survival.
Yet, once or twice, someone who was behind me and from whom I was escaping caught up with me. We were in a very dark tunnel — maybe not a physical tunnel (the whole flight was taking place as in a tunnel, and I was burrowing) — I was huddled against the dark and the earth when this someone, a woman, reached me; it was horrifying, but she immediately said something that indicated to me that she was a friend, and I felt an intense feeling of well-being. I have never felt such well-being in the midst of terror, either awake or asleep. This happened a couple of times. The well-being stemmed not from the fact that the woman who reaches me was a friend instead of a foe, but from the fact that we were close and together. Or maybe it was something else entirely. The pleasure was unbelievable in the soothing and well-being it provoked in me.
I woke up and automatically got out of bed and went to the bathroom. I was aware, even as I went the short distance between my room and the bathroom, that i might soon be overcome by intolerable terror. I called the dog to come with me, but she is not used to following me to the bathroom in the middle of the night so it took three commands to make her move. This woke up S. He said, What’s going on? I said, Come to me. I sat on the bed with my head on S.’s shoulder and the dog on my lap. The dog knew something was wrong because she was intensely close to me. I felt very comforted by the softness and physical malleability of the dog. She fit me like a very soft object.
Ultimately I didn’t get the terror, even though, for good measure, I took .5 mg ativan. I sat huddled against S. and the dog and thought of the well-being I had felt in my terrifying dream. I also thought about what it all meant.
Yesterday morning I recounted to my therapist a dream I had the night before that woke me up (same way, bladder) and caused me to experience a panic/terror attack that was quite painful and ended up lingering all day. Since I was drained from telling the dream — the telling brought back feelings of terror and helplessness and I had to fight to get through it — I did some associating but then asked my therapist to do the associating and interpreting herself. She interpreted the dream in a way that was so far from my way of understanding dreams, it felt almost ludicrous. She saw the dream as a full-fledged metaphor of something very good that is going on in my life, and interpreted the terror I experienced afterward, upon waking up (I felt very fearful during the dream, too) as a reaction to the therapeutic progress the dream indicated.
I find it bizarre that dreams should be interpreted not as containing independent clues that point to this or that psychic reality, but, rather, as coherent metaphors, their various elements symbolizing various elements of the fully-constructed metaphor. It seems to me that our minds don’t work like that, or, at the very least, that mine doesn’t. It seems to me that we feel, dream, and think in clues and arrows, little fragments of thoughts and feelings pointing to memories. But my therapist’s interpretation, absurd as it sounded, was also extremely positive, a narrative of progress and increase in mental health, and it did wonders in lowering my anxiety and fear over the dream.
When I was lying against S. and the dog last night I thought about my therapist’s interpretation of my previous dream and how it fit with this dream, which was also a dream of moving forward, of progress (and also of palpable, exquisite well-being). In fact, the moving forward was so radical that it involved entirely new worlds.
I think this is the first time (many first times here!) that the terror comes with a complement of genuine, delicious well-being.
This afternoon, during a long nap, I had another dream which is too convoluted to report here, but which contained this significant small element. At some point I looked through a window and saw the early childhood trauma that I cannot remember but haunts me (I don’t know if there is in fact such a trauma, but it’s hard to imagine there might not be): inside the window was a dormitory and everyone in the dormitory was being exterminated. They were my people. I survived the extermination because someone told me how. Children were in any case supposed to survive the extermination because, unlike adults, they were being hit with arrows in their fingers rather than in body parts whose injury caused death. Still, even though there were other children, I was the only one who got away. Maybe I was the only one who wasn’t pierced by an arrow at all, even in my fingers. Children were swimming in blood on the floor with their fingers pierced, but I was watching safely from the window.
Then a little child who was both my younger sister and me was suddenly there, hugging me around my waist and burying her face in my body. I held her while I watched the spectacle that unfolded inside the window. The young child contained all the pain of the early trauma and of the revived memory. It was nice that I was able to see what had happened to me and hold the child who was so hurt by the recollection.
Other things happened in this dream, most notably a sexual attack by a woman on another woman in the middle of a woman-on-woman act of prostitution, and the rescuing of the attacked woman by a fellow prostitute who had felt suspicious about the client and had hung around to make sure everything went okay. It was all set in a Western constext, and the client, although identifiably butch in the way she bore herself, had a long gown. I was both watching and being the attacked lesbian prostitute.