Dreaming and Screaming

A few weeks ago I had a very bad dream and, unlike most dreams I have, I didn’t forget it immediately afterwards. In fact I keep thinking about it, although it hasn’t recurred. I’m not sure why I decided to share it here, but here goes..

In the dream I am giving a lecture using a blackboard in a lecture theatre to a group of students. The lecture theatre isn’t a specific room that I remember and the students in the audience are not people that I recognise at all.

Anyway, I’m busy talking when the door at one side of the front of the theatre opens to reveal not the standard corridor that you would expect alongside a lecture theatre a university building but a very long corridor leading off into the distance.

I pay little attention and carry on lecturing. A few moments later I look out along the corridor where, off in the distance, there is a very dark object. It’s very far aware and I can make out no details. I turn my attention back to the lecture.

This happens several times, and each time the shape is closer to the doorway to the lecture theatre. It remains indistinct in shape. No arms or legs or head, just a sort of black blob. It is not sharply delineated around the ages nor does it suggest any sense of depth. It’s like someone has painted something a very dense black into the air. It’s not obvious even how it moves as it does not appear to be on the ground and seems still every time I look at it, but each time I look away and look back it has moved closer. I am getting more and more frightened.

Eventually the shape is in the doorway, about to enter the room, and I’m now completely terrified. I look at the audience in the lecture theatre and they have all gone away. There’s just me and the thing.

As I watch, the thing enters the room. At this point I decide to run away, but I can’t move. I try again but I’m rooted to the spot. I scream, but I can make no sound. The thing moves closer. And closer.

Eventually, with the thing just a few feet away, my attempts to scream succeed. I screech at the top of voice.

At this point I woke up with a start. I’m pretty sure that I really did scream in my sleep and it was that noise that woke me up. I hope I didn’t wake up my neighbours! My heart was pounding and I was sweating. There being no possibility of going back to sleep, I got up and had a glass of water. It was about 4am. I didn’t sleep any more that night.

I’m by no means an expert in the interpretation of dreams but on the occasions when I can remember what I’ve dreamed about it always seems to be a weird juxtaposition of things I’ve experienced in the previous day or two.

My interpretation of this sort of thing is that during a dream the sleeping brain is sifting through recent experiences and relating them to others, including recent events and things lodged in long-term memory. If I’m right, then this kind of dream is basically a by-product of the workings of a sort of subconscious filing system.

There are other kinds of dream, of course, and they don’t always fit into this pattern. In my experience the majority don’t make any sense at all, so I won’t say any more about that class. I don’t know how many people have regular recurrent dreams, but I do; these are of two types. The first is a standard `anxiety’ dream. I could be sitting in an orchestra on the stage of a concert hall, or some similar situation. I have a musical instrument in my hands and am dressed for the part, like all the other musicians. It is shortly before the performance is due to start. The problem is that I don’t actually know how to play the instrument. Time is ticking away and I’m soon to be found out. How do I escape?

The second type of recurrent dream is harder to fathom. I’ve moved around quite a lot during my career. In this kind of dream I’m supposed to be back in one of the places I used to live, but it’s curiously different from what it was like in reality. One example involved me being back in my old flat in Bethnal Green. Exploring the place I took a nice walk through the French windows and into the garden. Trouble is, the flat didn’t actually have French windows or a garden. How could it? It wasn’t even on the ground floor…

Anyway it seems obvious that the black thing in the corridor represents some sort of anxiety, a kind of variation of the type I mentioned above, but I’m intrigued by the fact that it had no discernible form. It was just a pool of blackness. It wouldn’t have made a very impressive monster in a horror film, but it was certainly terrifying.

Now, would any psychoanalysts out there like to interpret this for me?

13 Responses to “Dreaming and Screaming”

  1. toffeenose16 Says:

    It’s the Brexit Blob!

  2. Wondering if it is fear of the ‘black cloud of depression’ making an unwanted appearance and interupting your career.

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    Unknown horror is a lot more terrifying than known horror.

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, the scariest bits of horror films in my opinion are those that don’t show you the nasty something but allow you to imagine it…

  4. Can it be a black hole? While reading your note, I was thinking about the recent image and your recent public lectures. Did someone ask “what’s it like to fall in a black hole”? In your dream state you may not have your scientific certainties. Similar to an engineer getting vertigo looking over the edge of a perfectly safe building?

  5. Have you been reading much news lately?

  6. Perhaps the subconscious is censoring material (the black blob), and preparing another filing system for the Dark Blog?

  7. Typical student fear of the upcoming exam. Apparently you are a dream of one of your students.

  8. Seriously though, I’m very sorry you experienced such a nightmare. It must have been terrifying!

  9. “unlike most dreams I have, I didn’t forget it immediately afterwards”

    “on the occasions when I can remember what I’ve dreamed about it always seems to be a weird juxtaposition of things I’ve experienced in the previous day or two”

    Almost all of my dreams are in this category. This is obvious in hindsight, but during the dream, it feels just like reality. Apart from the fact that occasionally people meet in my dreams who couldn’t have met in real life, they are completely realistic. Everything obeys the laws of physics, all my senses experience things just like in real life (yes, dreams are in colour, and the sense of smell is there). Occasionally there is a dream within a dream, including waking up inside the outer dream and realizing that the inner one was just a dream. The only difference between these dreams and memories is that I remember dreams for typically a few minutes after waking up then they are gone. There are only about two or three dreams I still remember after years or decades.

    I’ve had morphine a few times while in hospital. Dreams while on morphine are different, and the form is always the same: I dream (pretty much a normal dream), but am aware that I am dreaming. It’s almost like being at the cinema and lost in the film, but not so much that I forget that I am merely watching something which is not real. Of course, since I am almost always a character in my dreams, it’s like watching a film where I have a leading role.

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