Illustration: Chris Bodily
There I was, standing in a windowless, brown, fake-wood-paneled room with only three walls, holding a broken snow cone. While contemplating who broke my snow cone or how it got damaged, the room spins me around without my consent, and I’m now facing the wall-less part of the room looking at a massive pigsty—but the pigs aren’t pigs. They are mutated pit bulls with pig-like faces, but they have tiny legs, and they are all staring at me and my broken snow cone with a strong look of jealousy and contempt.
This is just a tiny excerpt from one of the strange dreams I have on a regular basis. My dreams oftentimes seem to not make any sort of cognitive sense. They’re frequently hard to describe and uncomfortable. Rarely do I have the awesome “I’m flying!” dream or the passionate sex dream, probably because I crank it too much. But through all the nonsense my brain pumps out while I’m sawing logs, there are recurring themes and feelings that come up.
I started keeping a dream diary, and I wanted my dreams to be analyzed—not so much for personal, psychological and emotional growth, but more just out of curiosity. When I pitched the idea of sharing my dream diary to the SLUG editorial staff, they came back at me with a suggestion that they have probably been sitting on for a long time: providing me with a clinical mental health counselor.
Keeping a dream diary is quite a chore. I often forget the contents of the pixie dust that Rip Van Winkle sprinkles on me while I’m sweating bullets in my sheets right after I wake up. I started sleeping with a notepad to jot down my dreams as soon as I would wake up, but writing when you get up at the crack of 2 p.m. is work. The first thing I want to do is take a long pee to alleviate my morning wood. Usually, after I do that, the memory of my dream has escaped my consciousness, and it’s time to start another stupid day.
I sat down in the SLUG office with our new online advice columnist, who goes by Subversive Shrink, to dissect the contents of my unconscious. I read her an excerpt from my dream diary, and we let the analysis begin. In short, the dream I described to her involved an ex-girlfriend, angry people drinking gin and tonics in a shapeshifting lobby of a therapist’s office, broken VHS tapes scattered about and a basketball game playing sideways on a TV. All the while, feelings of anger and anxiousness surrounded the aura of the nocturnal episode but would sometimes be calmed with the presence of an old man with a hairy chest who entered the shapeshifting lobby from time to time.
The analysis of my dream was simple yet enlightening. The Subversive Shrink explained that the easiest way to describe the nonsensical nature of my dreams is that my brain has different compartments—or boxes, if you will—that store my feelings, and then they pop up in my sleep in no particular order, but they still have meaning with regard to my feelings and events of my conscious life.
For example, the broken VHS tapes represented breakage in my own life at the time. The angry, anxious feelings that encompassed my dream reflected the same, although there was a comforting element within the old, hairy man letting me know that things would be OK. And the basketball on the sideways TV? Well, fuck, I like basketball.
She also explained that the primary function of dreaming is to encode our day-to-day information. Dreams are sort of a defragmenting process in our cute, little brains at the neurological level, separating different chunks of info and feelings and filing them away where the brain thinks it ought to be. I imagine my brain’s dream-filing system to be similar to my personal filing system on my computer—just out of sorts and unorganized as fuck, with the porno saved way too close to my work spreadsheets, creating potential for awkward moments during that next sales meeting.
I asked Subversive Shrink about some recurring themes I experience when I go night-night. The one that bothers me the most is the theme of being stuck and unable to move. Apparently, this theme is quite common and is related to the inability to move forward with something in my own life. Knowing my life, that’s numerous things, thus the recurrence.
There are many other recurring dream themes, some of which I never have—for example, your teeth falling out, which Subversive Shrink says they dream of from time to time. Maybe I don’t have this one because I’m pretty sure my teeth will fall out in real life. But it can represent anxiety in your real life, feeling threatened, or losing something important—because I guess teeth are important.
I also inquired with the shrink as to which drugs are best for affecting dreams. As many seasoned stoners know, a good acid trip can have many similarities to an awesome dream. Subversive Shrink mentioned that DMT or ayahuasca have been associated with dreamlike conditions. Apparently, a clinical mental health counselor with Subversive Shrink’s educational and training background may not prescribe drugs, but I’m still wondering what pharmaceuticals I could be prescribed in order to manage my dreams, or even my day-to-day life. I doubt there are any, though.