When initially researching ‘Making and Breaking Narrative’ , the idea of researching dreams became one of my first ideas, as I had awoken that morning feeling slightly perplexed and confused about the one I had had the night before (cannot tell you what it was about now), but I knew I wanted to explore the intertwining nature of dreams and reality. Why do dreams affect our lives in such a pivotal way? Why is there such a murky line between what happens in your dream and what happens ‘in real life’? Sometimes I have what I think are memories, but I couldn’t be positive they aren’t things I have dreamt up. Does this mean there is a lack of distinction between dreams and reality? Could reality be a dream? These are all questions I know have been explored by many in the past in a magnitude of different types of research. But I want to see which narrative poses the best answers, or lack of answers, or maybe even more questions.
‘A Dream Within a Dream’ By Edgar Allen Poe
One of Poe’s most famous poems immediately came to mind, it indicates our existence as a mere abstraction. That this world and all existing life is an illusion, part of an elaborate dream. Both stanzas end with ‘But a dream within a dream’ , which sprung back to mind how I often get confused between memories and dreams. It also poses many philosophical questions. Studying Philosophy at A-Level and doing it as my elective, I remembered learning about Rene Descartes. Descartes argues that the phenomenon of dreaming is used as key evidence that everything we currently believe to be, could be false and generated by a dream. If this is the case, the whole murky line between dreams and reality gets completely thrown out of the window. This becomes such a daunting idea, it makes life and how we live lose its edge in a way, if everything is a dream, does anything really matter? Or do we need to change our perspective on dreams, and take them just as generally as reality?
I decided to explore other philosophical interpretations of dreams. Two ideas, in particular, struck a chord with me. Antti Revonsuo is a cognitive neuroscientist, psychologist, and philosopher of mind. He takes a stance that argues that dreaming is the unusual rare example of “pure” consciousness, as being asleep and dreaming is the only environment devoid of ongoing and perceptual input. However, is this always the case? I find that sometimes external sounds can make their way into my dreams. For example, the classic being an alarm clock being intertwined with music or bells within my dream. However, the idea of ‘pure’ consciousness being solely when you are asleep is interesting. Perhaps our mind is more awake in dreams than it is when we are actually awake. Does this mean our dreams can be perceived as more real than anything external? Are we completely ourselves when we are dreaming, where our truths and inner thoughts are completely awoken?
This is also argued by Thomas Metzinger. That dreams are the real essence of consciousness because of the blockage of sensory input. He argues that because 90-99% of dreams are non-lucid, the dream world is taken for real by the dreamer. What springs to mind is now this idea that I am living two lives, there are two different me’s. One in my dreams and one in reality. But which one is the real me? How do I know that who I am in reality isn’t actually the dream version and who I am in my dreams the real version? Relating back to Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘A Dream within A Dream’, what we take for reality could be completely fabricated. All of a sudden the concept of reality becomes abstract. You feel as if you are living a life full of shadows and ghosts
Exploring My Dreams
To try and see if I can put together some direction with my research I decided to keep a little dream diary.
20th October 2021- I drew a sketch relating to the emotions I felt in my dream. They were so strong I still felt them in the morning when I woke up. Within my dream, my emotions felt so real, so authentic. I didn’t feel like I was dreaming at all. If I can’t recognize that I am dreaming in my dream, does this mean that I could be dreaming now, as we can’t perceive ourselves to be dreaming?
23rd October 2021- In my dream, my dad and I were walking along the beach when all of a sudden the sky filled with army aircraft. My dad screamed ‘run!’, and we sprinted across the beach to escape. When I turned around to look, the aircraft had morphed into birds, soring along the horizon. When I try to remember my dream now, I see the shadows of the planes and birds in the sky, but that is all that they are. I can’t see their details, but in my dream, I knew what they were. I find it strange that something could resemble just a shadow or an empty hole, but in your dream you know exactly what these shadows are. They are a completely different thing entirely from what you remember them as.
25th October 2021- My dream was entirely shadows and blurry faces. I woke up to my mum calling me, and although I tried to remember my dream after, no storyline came into my head. It’s weird how if you don’t try and write down your dream immediately, it can completely slip away from you.
27th October 2021- My dream was based around a place. By the seaside. I could see the shimmered of light and dark, the sunlight being reflected onto the water. But it is hard to put a picture together. When I try and remember one exact moment or scene from my dream, I can’t. They all merge into one another like the dream is reduced to a single second. I tried to capture the merge of light and dark- the water and the rocks, and the muddled, intertwined nature of dreams.
29th October 2021- I was leaving, going away somewhere but I’m not sure where. All my closest friends throughout my life were saying goodbye to me. My more vivid image was of me hugging one of my old closest friends. I had such a strong feeling of not wanting to let go in fear that I would never see him again. It was someone that I haven’t seen in years and we rarely speak now. It was a very strange feeling. My emotions were so strong. When I looked back when trying to capture an image, the emotions I felt were so much stronger than the image I held in my memory. As usual, just a blurry image formed. But the overwhelming need to not let go was so prominent. Do we remember dreams more through emotion than pictures? Is that why they can seem more real than reality?