Tag Archives: illusion

Episode 137 The Dream Show: Things that go bump in the night

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Things that go bump in the night

Have you ever woken from a dream only to find yourself in another dream? At first you think you are awake, but it slowly dawns on you that you’re still dreaming. And then it happens again, and again, until you might be excused, on finally waking up, to question your reality. Are you awake or still dreaming? How do you know you’re awake (after all, you were fooled in your dream)?

Or have you ever got into bed and felt the covers lift behind you, as if an invisible someone else has slipped in alongside you? Or have you woken in the middle of the night to see ghostly goings-on unfolding before your eyes or ringing in your ears? Are you as awake as you think you are, or are you half dreaming?

The Dream Show with Jane Teresa AndersonIn this episode we explore these, and also look at the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, where the characters experience some of these phenomena, and more. And, while we’re there, we interpret the nightmare in the movie as if it were a real dream.

Are other things that go bump in the night connected with the cheese you ate, the alcohol you binged, or the movie you saw just before sleep? We go there too, this episode, before ending with the intriguing – and uplifting – encouragement to change the world through your dreams, and how to do this.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street

“What does the nightmare in A Nightmare on Elm Street mean?” asked Steve and Abbey, presenters of the PowerPack breakfast show where I interpret callers’ dreams.

I’m a movie lover, but horror is not my genre, and it took a few arm twists before I agreed to download it so I could answer the question.

“Don’t watch it alone,” Abbey warned, “I wouldn’t.”

So I watched it with my husband, Michael, and son, Euan, and right from the start we giggled with relief. Thirty-one years on, the movie was interestingly benign from a horror point of view. Maybe it was the acting style, maybe it’s the sophistication of today’s persuasive movie techniques, or maybe I’ve just listened to so many nightmares during my twenty-plus years as a dream analyst that it didn’t engage my horror buttons.

Our first exciting moment came when Euan said, Is that Johnny Depp?

Our first exciting moment came when Euan said, Is that Johnny Depp?

Our first exciting moment came when Euan said, “Is that Johnny Depp?” and we realised we were watching Johnny Depp in his first major movie role, aged 21 but looking about 14.  As Nancy’s boyfriend in the movie, he came to a very sticky end. Or did he?

How much of the movie is about a dream?

When Nancy wakes from a nightmare, is she really awake or has she slipped into a dream within a dream? Is she awake at the beginning of the movie? Is she awake when she goes back to school the morning after the first death? Is she awake when she visits the sleep laboratory?  If you’ve seen the movie, how did you feel in the penultimate scene where she steps into the dazzling bright morning light, and walks towards the car? Was she awake then?

Craven named the villain after Fred Krueger, the boy who bullied him during his adolescent years.

Craven named the villain after Fred Krueger, the boy who bullied him during his adolescent years.

Written and directed by Wes Craven, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a slasher movie, slasher being a horror sub-genre. I’m glad I didn’t know that going in. Craven named the villain, Freddy Krueger, after Fred Krueger, the boy who bullied him during his adolescent years, so it’s interesting that Nancy and her friends are all adolescents who live in fear of Krueger and what he’ll do to them.

The movie is celebrated as one of the first to intelligently explore the boundaries between illusion and reality – and between dreaming and waking life – by manipulating and confusing the audience. Craven’s original ending (spoiler alert) was for Nancy to kill Krueger by ceasing to give him her energy and time, and then to wake up and realise it had all been one long nightmare, but the studio, New Line Cinema, asked for a twist ending. Both endings were filmed, and the movie was released with the twist ending where the whole plot is a dream within a dream within a dream, with no awakening. Craven pulled out of the proposed A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel over the twist ending.

In the movie, Nancy and her friends all dream the same dream. Two of the friends die during their sleep, slashed to pieces by their nightmare ghoul, Freddy Krueger. Nancy and her boyfriend realise the same fate awaits them, so they try to stay awake for days, and days. This idea was inspired by several newspaper articles Craven had seen about Khmer refugees fleeing the Cambodian Khmer Rouge genocides who were so frightened by their nightmares that they tried to stay awake. Several died in their sleep when exhaustion prevailed.

Craven was also inspired by Dream Weaver, by Gary Wright, which explored the way we each dream up our experiences.

Craven was also inspired by Dream Weaver, by Gary Wright, which explored the way we each dream up our experiences.

Craven was also inspired by the 1970s song, Dream Weaver, by Gary Wright, which essentially explored our differing perceptions of the world, our illusions about reality, the way we each dream up our worlds and our experiences.

So on one level the film explores illusion and reality, while on another it runs past some sleep theories. Nancy is taken to a sleep laboratory where we learn a little about REM sleep and dreaming – only to realise, of course, that this episode is a dream. We learn about how staying awake for days is fatally detrimental. Severe sleep deprivation kills. And we learn about false awakenings, the dream in which you dream that you wake up but you continue in the dream.

Let’s get back to the original question:

“What does the nightmare in A Nightmare on Elm Street mean?”

In the movie, Freddy Krueger was a real life child murderer who escaped jail due to a paperwork error. The parents killed him to keep the neighbourhood safe, but his ghost returned to take revenge on their children by killing them in their sleep.

It’s helpful to look at everyone and everything in a dream as reflecting something about the dreamer’s conscious and unconscious feelings and beliefs. Freddy Krueger represents danger and risk, and the more we try to sanitise life and play safe, the more these energies are called into being. In Craven’s original ending, Nancy wakes from her dream once she confronts Krueger then withdraws her attention and energy from him. In life, when we face our fears, understand them, deal with them, then withdraw our focus and energy from them, they disappear. In this context, the nightmare is about facing – or not facing – fears about danger, risk, and safety.

In Craven’s original script, Krueger was a child molester, not a child murderer, which is telling.

In Craven’s original script, Krueger was a child molester, not a child murderer, which is telling.

The other strong thread in the movie is adolescent promiscuity (remember, this is the early 80s), and loss of innocence. In the nightmare, teenage promiscuity leads to slashing, mutilation, destruction, death. No matter how much parents try to protect their adolescent children, the teenagers naturally explore their sexuality, and the results – loss of innocence, guilt, emotional trauma, an end to childhood – are reflected in such nightmares. In Craven’s original script, Krueger was a child molester, not a child murderer, which is telling. As a dream analyst, I notice how common it is for young teenagers to experience violent dreams as they encounter the conflicts of leaving childhood behind and growing into independence.

Finally, for Craven, perhaps the movie is an unconscious working of the bullying he experienced as an adolescent. Bullying continues to cause pain well beyond school years – it can haunt an individual for a lifetime unless it’s confronted and addressed. Maybe Craven did just that, via Nancy.

Have you seen the movie? What did you make of it?

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How to change the world through your dreams

How to change the world through your dreams

When you’re dreaming, you think the dream is for real, don’t you? When you wake up, you’re surprised to find that your dream didn’t happen. When you’re awake, you know that you also experience a dream reality, but when you’re asleep, you don’t know that you also experience a waking reality. The dream is it, your total reality, while you’re in it.

Might you one day wake up from waking life and discover it too was a kind of dream?

Might you one day wake up from waking life and discover it too was a kind of dream?

Does this thought ever make you question your waking reality? It should. How real is waking life if dreaming life, while you’re in it, also seems real?

Might you one day wake up from waking life and discover it too was a kind of dream?

Your experience of waking life is a result of how you see it: both how you choose to see life, and how your personal unconscious mind sees it. We all look at life from our own personal perspectives. We all experience the same world from different angles. We all process and interpret the world we live in according to our beliefs, attitudes, and previous experiences.

So how real is the waking world you experience? Is it a kind of dream? You decide. It’s definitely a kind of illusion, isn’t it? It’s your illusion, and you can change it at any point by changing the way you see it.

Dream interpretation helps you to understand and see through your illusions.

Dream interpretation helps you to understand and see through your illusions.

Dream interpretation helps you to understand and see through your own illusions. In this way, dream interpretation helps you to change your waking world. The tip here is that the best way to change the world is to start with your dreams. As you get to understand yourself deeply, you start to see how the world can become a better place, and how you can play your part in its transformation. Begin with learning how to interpret your dreams.

[Extract from 101 Dream Interpretation Tips, Jane Teresa Anderson]

(The images I’ve chosen for this blog are from the movie Waking Life (2001), directed by Richard Linklater, a must-see if you haven’t already.)

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Why is grass green

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Misinterpretation

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Why is grass green?

“Why is grass green?” I was three or four years old, and this was probably the hundredth question I had asked my mum that day. I was a curious child in every sense, as curious as a cat with nine lives to spare, and a curious specimen of childhood, a child more interested in why than what.

“Oh, I don’t know why,” Mum replied, and I still remember her frustration, the toss of her head, “because it’s not blue.”

I don’t know why (there I go again, why, why, why, some half a century on) I remember that particular incident, but I wonder if it was the first time I realised that parents don’t know everything.

If she’d been Buddhist, she might have answered, “It is so”, gently teaching acceptance of the way things are. But she wasn’t, and her frustrated answer led to my inevitable, “Why isn’t it blue?”

Years later, I rushed home from a school science class to excitedly share that grass was green because it contained a green substance called chlorophyll. Strangely, Mum didn’t share my excitement. I went to bed that night wondering why chlorophyll was green.

A remarkable thing then happened. I learned in school physics that when we look at grass, a selection of light rays reflecting from the blades of grass enter our eyes and trigger nerve impulses that arrive at our brains and actually deliver an upside down image of grass – kind of like a sky of grass and a field of sky. This happens because the lens inside the eye acts like a camera lens; it inverts the image. Our brains consult our bank of experience and decide that it makes more sense to see a field of grass and an overhead sky. So we do. It turns out that the brain interprets what we see (hear, feel, touch, taste) to fit our expectation. The shift that happened for me that day was the realisation that the world we each perceive is not the world as it is, but the world of our individual illusion.

We actually see an upside down image – kind of like a sky of grass and a field of sky.

We actually see an upside down image – kind of like a sky of grass and a field of sky.

Why is grass green? A colour blind person may tell you it is blue, or red, or grey, or any other word that meaningfully describes their experience of green.

So, grass is green because it isn’t blue; because it is so; because it contains chlorophyll; because chlorophyll absorbs certain rays from the sun and reflects the rest which, bundled together, scientifically speaking make green; because ‘green’ is a word someone chose many generations ago to mean the colour of grass; because I am English (not French, in which case it would be vert); because my brain chooses to have an experience it translates as green; because I am not colour blind.

There are so many reasons why grass is green: physical, scientific, subjective, semantic, geographic, experiential. Oh, and what colour is grass at night time, when there is no sun, no light? It’s black. And what colour is grass if you shine a red light on it? So our most basic question about grass – why is it green – is based on a false premise. Grass is just grass, and how green it is all depends on your life experiences and the way in which you view it.

What I love about interpreting dreams is that they help us to understand our individual perspectives of the world. The dreaming brain busies itself each night processing our recent waking life experiences and filing them away, usually according to what we already know. Interpretation reveals the make up of your individual mindset, your programming. You get to understand why you process your life experiences in the way you do, and gain insight into your foundation beliefs and whether these are really serving you well. You get to question those foundation beliefs, and perhaps change them, if you wish.

We see grass as green because our mothers told us it was green. So it is. Indisputably so. Because it’s not blue. Or is it?

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Once upon a view, back in 1972

Once upon a view, back in 1972

“Will dream interpretation involve digging up my past?” asked Adrian. “I want my nightmares to stop, but I don’t want to go opening up any old cans of worms.”

It’s a common concern. Many people have invested years into burying and forgetting uncomfortable experiences, preferring to look ahead to a bright future, unhampered by unsettling memories. It’s an ideal, and it’s achievable, but it only works when you first make peace with your past. When you are at peace with your past, you can focus freely on today and tomorrow. When you are not at peace with your past, it distorts your vision of the future and affects how you respond to the world.

You don’t get peace by burying discomfort. You don’t get peace by denying your past experiences. Burial and denial simply move your discomfort from your conscious mind into your unconscious mind, where the experiences live on in a more subtle form, powerfully influencing the way you automatically (unconsciously) respond in your every day life, while you go about your life under the illusion that you’re in conscious control.

Think of it this way.

Imagine you were born in 1964. Now imagine opening a cupboard filled with sunglasses. There’s a pair for every year of your life, starting from 1964. Each pair has a label identifying the year, and each pair reflects the fashion of the time. There are huge aviator glasses, tiny John Lennon spectacles, diamante-swept frames, wraparounds – a veritable history of sunshade eyewear. Pick a pair, any pair. 1974, perhaps. Since we’re imagining you were born in 1964, you would have been ten years old in 1974. Imagine looking through your 1974 glasses. Let’s call them Tardis sunshades. Time travel glasses. When you wear your 1974 sunglasses, you see today’s world through the eyes of the ten-year-old you were back in 1974.

What you might see? How much did you understand about life when you were ten? As that ten-year-old looking at your life today, how much would you understand? How much would you misinterpret? How would the attitudes of your ten-year-old self affect the way you see your life today?

Let’s be really simple here. Imagine that, at age ten, you were a shy child, afraid to speak up for yourself because your parents always reprimanded you for expressing an opinion. You learned to keep quiet, fearing the consequences. Now fast-forward to today, and here you are, looking at your life today through those 1974 eyes. How are you going to respond to life? Quietly and shyly, for fear of being hurt if you express yourself.

If you have grown since 1974 to understand where your parents were coming from when they reprimanded you for speaking up, you may have reached a sense of peace about your upbringing. At peace with your past, today you speak up without fear of being hurt in return.

If you have not had the opportunity to look back and understand, you carry that fear into your life today. You may still be quiet and shy, or you may tackle your fears head-on every day, ploughing ahead, speaking up, but somehow always expecting people to respond negatively. You may cope with this by building defence into your speaking up, delivering watertight arguments, or developing a thick skin to repel the barbs you expect to receive in return. This is what happens when you are not at peace with your past, when you bury or ignore your childhood experiences, erasing them from your conscious mind but succumbing to their power through your unconscious actions and attitudes.

Imagine popping on sunglasses from other years. Pop on your pink 1985s to view your life today. It’s like time travelling from 1985 into the future – today – and trying to understand what you see. Your only experience is the sum total of your life until 1985, so you interpret everything you see today in 1985 terms. If 1985 was the year that your fiancé left you and you vowed never to trust a woman again, you will see your wife of today with distrust through those pink 1985s.

In reality, most people handle their painful past experiences in several ways. They may find peace with some experiences, keep others alive by retelling the pain, and bury or ignore others they would prefer not to face.

Imagine picking up last year’s Tardis sunglasses to view this year. In reality, some areas of those lenses will be unchanged since 1974 if you have not updated your views since then. Other areas will be recently updated reflecting shifts in your perspective or new experiences. Still other areas will be strange blends between 1974 and 1985, perhaps, an outcome of experiences blended from those two years. All in all, last year’s specs provide a time trippy psychedelic perspective on your world today.

Now imagine taking off today’s sunglasses. What? You didn’t realise you were wearing sunglasses? Of course you are. The world you think you know today may be quite different from the one you experience through your psychedelic lenses.

This is where dream interpretation comes in. Your dreams reveal the make-up of those sunglasses you wear today. Your dreams, once interpreted, show you the difference between the way life is and the way you see it. Your dreams pinpoint experiences from your past that affect the way you experience your life today, especially highlighting those experiences you thought you had successfully buried. Your dreams, once interpreted, help you to remove your sunglasses so you can understand your past, and, in understanding, find peace.

In this way, dreams are the route to peace through understanding, and that route may include opening and examining a can of worms or two to clear your vision. Fortunately, when you look closely at those worms through ever-clearer lenses, you finally see them for what they always were – angels in disguise. And that’s where nightmares stop, and beautiful dreams begin.

[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, Aug 2007. First published as a Dream Sight article.]

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The Dream Show: Episode 26 What if?

Thank you for your help
The Dream Show with Jane Teresa AndersonHow real are your dreams? They feel real while you’re in them, don’t they? How real is your waking life? What if nothing is as it seems? This podcast gets you questioning your reality – a bit of philosophy – and then introduces a game, ‘What if?’, that you can apply to any dream to gain new insight and clever, practical solutions. A bit of fun and lots of dream interpretation tips packed in along the way too!

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(This episode of The Dream Show was released in October 2009.)

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