Follow Captain Pigheart on

Mental Health Track 005

It’s amazing that we still don’t quite know what dreams are for. Looks like they’re associated with converting short-term memories into long-term ones, which explains why people’s memories fall apart (hi there) after prolonged periods of insufficient deep sleep. There’s also some degree of brain cleaning going on, which sounds like a good job, getting a squeegee in between the meninges. I used to dream a lot, by which I really mean I used to remember a lot of my dreams, especially as a teenager. They seem fascinating, and you can easily see why people have always put a lot of stock in dream symbolism and their deeper meaning. I however really like the notion that they’re nothing – just the random nonsense our unconscious brains fling together. What makes them seem so portentous and potentially revealing is that they almost always contain some narrative elements (although apparently it’s also a toss up whether this is actually the case, or if our minds reassemble the gibbering lunacy into a half-hearted narrative on the moment of waking). We’re suckers for stories. We are only a loose assemblage of stories, both the ones we tell ourselves about our own lives – a continuous restructuring of malleable memories – and the ones we tell other people. We are story-telling engines, converting the utter trivia of our existence into linear narrations that we can play back to others and ourselves, as well as the more obviously significant moments. Stories are inevitable: we can make up a throughline from utterly unrelated things and objects, imbue inanimate junk with more personality than we’d believe in some guy on the bus, and infuse the most random of acts with deep importance, hope and promise.

Keeping a dream diary is sort of interesting, depending on how much you want to try to extract from it. What I found was that the act of trying to remember dreams became easier, and over time I’d be able to recall lots of details from multiple dreams every night. But that got rather tiring as the dreams became more vivid and lucid, and I felt like I wasn’t really sleeping, just dreaming. As the vividness increased, so too did the violence in them and they grew frightening. I stopped keeping the dream diary, and allowed the unconscious word image burbling to sink back below my awareness again. Sometimes I miss it, even though I’ve only ever recalled a single dream in which I could fly.

I woke up at the end of a dream this morning. It wasn’t a terribly coherent one, though I think that’s because I was watching and interacting from multiple perspectives, so it became a little confusing. The retelling of that will of course become more linear as I rework the half-memories into something more like a story.

I’m a female teacher at a primary school, watching assembly after assembly get disrupted by one child or other. It’s not clear that they’re doing anything in particular, it’s a range of things, all detracting from the assembly they are supposed to be paying attention to. Over time I see my teacher step out of the assembly to speak closely and quietly with that disruptive individual; the assembly rolls on past them, now with a quietened child. Years pass, and I return to the school again and again to have these quiet words. It’s much later, I am older and I have children of my own: three boys, two of whom are maybe seven or eight and the youngest must be three or four, but long and thing like a doll. I’ve returned to the school for assembly and do my usual bit – a thing that has become oddly famous in the school – except this time I’m leading the assembly, and see the room for the first time. The seating is steeply raked, and the seats are more like crates filled with straw. Only about half of them contain children, the rest are empty. The light is a hazy red of sunlight filtered through dust. I place my youngest boy in one of the empty crates and get started. But I’m interrupted, by my son who just won’t sit still. His noodly limbs are everywhere, and he’s talking to his neighbour. At this point the story splits and two different things happen at once. I pick my son up, rather than remonstrate with him, and carry him out and down the hall where my other sons are and place him in the middle of the bench they’re sitting on. The bench is more like a deep basket shelf halfway up the wall, part filled with toys and boys. I leave him there and return to the assembly. Simultaneously I go to my son in the assembly and talk to him quietly while I continue to deliver the assembly. Over time the assembly hall empties out except for us. My perspective splits again, giving me the viewpoint of another teacher entering the hall, some time after assembly has ended, with my two older sons in tow, wondering where their mother is. All I can see is a woman leaning over one of those crate seats, pulling at something. Rabbits sometimes eat their young, as do mice and even cats. And that’s what I’m doing, slowly consuming this disruptive child of mine. That’s what I’ve always been doing with the children who caused a disturbance in assembly, consumed them in the hopes that a better-behaved child will one day emerge instead.

I’m glad dreams aren’t really filled with symbols or meaning. Unsurprisingly I woke up feeling a little distressed, more so that this seems to have been a dream I woke up from partway through and then went back into – I think that’s the perspective separation points. Quite what series of memories and ideas went into that quiet little horrorshow I don’t know, but in retrospect I’ve also given it shades of Us in lighting and sound, which only make it feel stranger.

Mental Health Track

A purposeful daily attempt to track how I feel and what I’m doing.

Read More of Mental Health Track

Similar Stuff

Share This Thing

Leave a Reply