Dreams


Tomorrow’s answers for today’s questions.

By Cheri Ellis


There was a boy I knew in college named Blaine. I met him the year I transferred to Wright State from Denison University, a tiny private college where I had a partial theater scholarship, the remainder of which wasn’t paid off till I was 31 years old. He was a red–headed, amazing modern dancer whose body was chiseled like one solid piece of white granite. Blaine was the son of a long distance trucker from a small town in Kentucky, and his uncommon beauty was marred by a systemic case of cystic acne. We were inseparable, so much so that incoming students heard our names together so often that several thought we were one person named “Cherri Ann Blaine.”  We were profoundly poor the way only struggling college students of the arts can be, but we took care of each other.

Blaine died in 1987 when AIDS was cutting its swath through the arts community.  It was the first time I had ever lost someone I loved, and my grief left a raw spot that the goodness of my life couldn’t heal.

Years later I awoke from a dream about him that was so vivid I can still remember every second of it. In my dream Blaine had come to visit me, waking me by whispering to me from my open bedroom door. I opened my eyes and saw him, and I happily padded across the carpet to hug him. I took him on a tour of the house, showing him the rooms and the pictures and the baby sleeping down the hall. Our conversation flowed freely, and we muffled our laughter so as not to wake anyone. He walked me back to the bed where my husband lay sleeping, and whispered to me that I needed to rest. I looked up and he was gone.  It was morning, and everything was identical except Blaine was no longer in the room.

The dream was so vivid that I couldn’t shake it all day. It didn’t fade as I got up and made my way to the kitchen to make coffee.  It lingered into my shower and kept poking at me through out the day, causing me to recall details or ponder why it felt so important.  According to DreamMoods.com, 50 percent of a dream is forgotten within five minutes of waking up, and within 10 minutes, 90 percent is lost. Perhaps I had awoken right after a REM cycle of sleep, which is the only time during our rest that we dream.

“REM”stands for “Rapid Eye Movement” because our eyes are moving quickly back and forth under our eyelids while our bodies are completely still. REM sleep involves such physical paralysis that—if we are snoring—it is not possible that we are dreaming. Every night, we cycle in and out of REM sleep four to seven times, which only adds up to an hour or two of actual time spent dreaming. While we are in REM sleep, our minds are as active as if we were awake, yet our systems are completely missing noradrenaline and serotonin. These are the chemicals that allow us to stay on task, problem solve, and remember things. So while we dream, our bodies are motionless, our eyeballs are moving back and forth, and we lack the chemicals that control memory and conscious drive. To quote Roseanna Arquette in Pulp Fiction after John Travolta stabs Uma Thurman with a syringe full of adrenaline, “Wow. That’s pretty (bleep) trippy.”

There are five major dream theorists, all of whom were born before or near the turn of the century. In order of birth, between 1853 and 1909, you have Alfred Adler, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Frederick Perls, and Calvin Hall. I find something viable and much to reject in all of their theories, and so I use their teachings sort of like I use diet plans: I take to heart what serves me best at the time, depending on what’s on my plate.

Adler believed that the search for power, control, and personal motivation is what drives the conscious mind. He looks at dreams as problems solving devices. Great– now I’m supposed to work in my sleep, too.  How much more can I really ‘Lean In?” I discount him.

Freud, on the other hand, believed that our minds are made up of an Id, Ego, and Superego. The Id is your raw socially unacceptable desires; the Ego is your moral and rational mind; and the Superego is your censor.  It is like the Id is you; the Ego is your Mom; and the Superego is the police.  He also believed that sexual impulses were behind everything, and I do mean everything. I reject him as well. Sometimes a train tunnel is just a train tunnel.

Jungians make more sense to me, as Carl believed that dreams are a way of communicating with yourself, and so you yourself are the ultimate authority of what they mean. He was mindful of everything’s opposite: good/evil, male/female, love/hate—and called the part of yourself that you hide from the world “the shadow.” That sounds like under all of our minds there is another mind peeking out from under a fedora. No, thank you.

Frederick Perls founded the famous Gestalt theory, where everything in your dream is you. The man, woman, book, hurricane—all of them are really a different aspect of you. His method of interpretation involved making you act out your dream in the present tense from every character or object’s angle. Role playing? How is that not like a corporate leadership class? Absolutely—no.

Calvin S. Hall Jr. is the young whippersnapper of the group, having been born in 1909 and living all the way up to 1985. His approach to dream analysis was to dissect it by content, and without offending his followers I don’t feel that he brought much new to the table. Yawn. Rejected.

I guess I make a bad follower.

Blaine doesn’t come around much any more. That’s ok. For some reason, I know that he is alright, and I know that his love for me is still out there somewhere, warming up a pocket of the universe. I can still hear his voice whispering to me late at night over the cheapest beer sold that “life is a dinner party, and I plan on showing a lot of cleavage.” That is how goodbyes are supposed to be; hopeful that you will see each other again, but so happy for the time you had.

One Response to “Dreams”

  1. Robin Mangino says:

    Wow!! Our minds are amazing. This article is amazing. Cherri, you are amazing.

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