Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dream On

Clearly, the most popular topic in the introductory psychology class I taught to high school Juniors and Seniors was dreams.  We'd look at the biology of sleep, the brain, and various sleep disorders and then look at the function, science, and fascination with dream interpretation.  I usually taught my students a few approaches to dream interpretation, including Gestalt, which, if nothing else, is a creative, critical thinking approach to dealing with these little night voyages that we all experience.  Often, students who had little motivation to push themselves in other areas would surprise me with how much they put into their efforts to unlock meaning from their dreams.
The class featured a semester project, and for those less academic students I'd offer a chance to explore dreamwork even further.  My class was not tied to any one text, but the one we used as an anchor offered a few possible topics to explore further.  Among them was to interview people of different ages about their dreams with particular attention to how our dreams change as we age.  Now it might not be all that interesting for a 17 year old to talk to a middle aged or older person about their dream life, but I've always wondered about that question and have been mindful over the years of any changes or themes/motifs that occupy my active dream life.

It's been almost 10 years since I retired from full-time teaching and I have noticed some very specific themes that re-occur since that time.  I've also been mindful of bigger overarching themes that might accompany age or specific interests or challenges in my life.
Here's what I've noticed.  There are definite changes to my "school dreams."  Instead of specific students or colleagues, I dream of a teaching reality in a different school.  Sometimes it's a new high school where I don't know my way around too well. That's not surprising since the school I worked at for many years was torn down and rebuilt.  I'd probably get lost there now.  Another fascinating recurrent theme is that I don't take attendance in my post-teaching school dreams.  I often experience the thought that I ought to start doing that, and even attempt to retrieve the scan-torn attendance sheets from an office.  All the while I'm wondering why it hasn't mattered up to now and nobody has asked about it.
Similar to that final exam or course you forget about that shows up in anxiety dreams, there is a class I've forgot to prepare for.  It's usually late in the day and I have to find the room.  Often I have the sense it's a challenging group of unmotivated kids where I need to be on my toes and plan carefully, but I end up going in there and pulling out ideas for good lessons/activities right off the top of my head.  All the while, I'm wondering, am I in the right room and how could I have forgotten about this?
Lots of possibilities in these dreams.
Another thing I've noticed is that I can be any age or look any age in my dreams.  It often feels like I can manipulate my marital or relationship status.  That is, if I feel a mutual attraction from someone in a dream, I might suddenly find that I'm not in a relationship and am indeed free to pursue where that might go.  That unmistakable feeling of meeting someone for the first time and feeling mutual attraction lives on in this dream world.
When I awake, I rarely feel confusion or great happiness or sadness...usually just increased curiosity.

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