Exactly one month ago I published a piece about the concept of déjà rêvé and the multifaceted role of dreams — the unconscious landscapes of the mind. Over the past month, my attempt to avidly track the stream of my dreams saw... mixed success. I think my dream recall is weak because my sleeping habits aren't optimized to facilitate this type of fluid freeform drifting. Sleeping late definitely doesn't help with this, as getting into proper REM while fighting off built-up fatigue takes precedence for my body. The interesting thing is that when I do get the chance to sleep in on weekends (free of structured obligations) I have this weird magical superpower where I can re-enter and re-live the same dream simply by dozing off again. It's like I'm pressing pause & play in my own amateur Netflix docuseries. Or at least I amusedly tell myself.
When I do remember my dreams, I can usually make out the main themes or symbols that sprout to the surface: a long-lost friend that adopts a starring role in a spontaneous adventure, a symbolic souvenir from a familiar city that has narrative significance, a group gathering where I'm absorbed in a particular series of intimate conversations. But just like the spectral spirits they are, the plots of these stories dissipate into the ether as quickly as they materialize.
Using the dream app called Capture, here's a glimpse into a few explorations that I loosely scribbled down in November. Coupled with some makeshift interpretations, and if you squint really hard, there might be underlying personality patterns to unpack here!
(11/7) Dune: What I wrote: “space theme, stock market, family, gains in green, shanghai government, mckinsey, free time”. I had watched Dune recently, so I think my head was still buzzing with amazement. But how wild are the string of phrases above, right?! The premise involved me wandering through intergalactic cafes trying to invest in the next blockbuster space unicorn. Thwarted by my archnemeses, Chinese officials and McKinsey consultants, I was forced to regroup and take my talents to atmospheric gardening instead. This almost sounds like a poor man's script for an absurd fictional screenplay. What I think: A manic burst of creative energy and renewed interest in science fiction allowed this wild story to blossom.
(11/13) Delight: What I wrote: “cathy's viral kpop dance video recreation @ 40M views, coming into a reunion of close uni friends, collared shirt & comments on my improved fashion style, dim sum table and asian food”. This one ended up being a lot more descriptive and vivid than I would've ever imagined. The feature focus was a girl that I met briefly in Copenhagen, a consultant-turned-budding-YouTube-creator. The latter part of the dream was more futuristic and may possibly be another case of déjà rêvé. And wow, has my style really leveled up that much? What I think: The combination of Kpop, UBC, and dim sum coalesces to reveal a powerful insight: I do miss having easy access to feel-good Asian culture while roaming around Europe.
This is the charming process of dreamwork: a psychoanalytical technique that amplifies self-awareness and supplements traditional cognitive-behavioural therapy exercises. Of course, the moment you add some systematic rigour into the equation, the more I geek out and the more I want to dissect the practice.
As I think more about the potential possibilities that dreams can convey, I want to run more structured experiments to see if I can induce them more vividly, more tangibly. Taking inspiration from Josie Malinowski's The Psychology of Dreaming, here are the DIY dreamwork strategies I want to dabble in:
Associating to waking life: I should consider each character, place, object, action, and feeling to see how it might relate or connect to my actual reality.
Roleplaying with images: I should pinpoint one main motif, animate it with language, and ask it what are you? What is your purpose? What do you like?
Drawing the dream: I should get some pencil crayons (or another aesthetic instrument) and construct a deeply artistic interpretation of the dream.
Malinowski articulates the reasons to believe in dreamwork as a viable tool:
"Perhaps one of the reasons dreamwork is effective is because dreams unveil uncomfortable, difficult, and often avoided (suppressed) thoughts and memories. Another reason why dreamwork is effective could be that it helps us to get in touch with intense emotions. A final thought on this: perhaps dreamwork is partly so powerful because it means working with something that’s full of symbolism, and, for many people, has a numinous quality (spiritual, mysterious, or simply awe-inspiring) to it."
I want this post to become a living breathing dream log where I sketch out the elusive dream states with as much detail as possible. It's kind of like being a mental archaeologist — what kind of buried fossils can I uncover? What kinds of prehistoric and posthistoric worlds will I create and transport myself to? What metaphorical species of dinosaurs will I confront and conquer? Hopefully having a more thoughtful internal system lets me really take dreamwork seriously, as one more weapon in my growing self-development arsenal.
After all, life is best understood by looking backwards, and dreams are just our personal nature trails that we gradually leave behind — one night at a time. We have the ability to choose whether we want to explore these spaces or not.
Here's to unlocking more of my mysterious dreamworld, and hopefully sleeping at reasonable hours too :)
Last updated: 12/1/2021
Date: Dream Title - Description