Narcolepsy is a mysterious disorder. For those who have mild versions, they know little about the full-scale consequences. Some folks have it so severely that they live with every side effect that interferes with sleep, exacerbates dreams into reality (and nightmares), and ruins lives. But, to me, the most interesting part of narcolepsy is the dreaming. Ahh, what could be learned if scientists would only take the time to work more with individuals who have extreme cases of narcolepsy? Why? Because – narcoleptics don’t “fall asleep”, as is often popularized … they go into REM state while they are awake! Sure, their bodies are paralyzed (as happens with all people during REM, except sleep-walkers), and they rapidly fall into a state of unconscious sleep; but to be awake when dreaming means that every sensation, every sense, and everything that the brain defines as reality is active … and so are memories!
Thus, narcoleptics have tales the likes of which most folks couldn’t begin to imagine. From living entire lifetimes within minutes (having slipped off into REM during the mid afternoon), to waking up in the morning with a different life, the stories can be as short as a single word or as long as the universe. For those who record their dreams, it means binders filled with complex stories of love, hate, nightmare, and adventure! And, while it sounds cool to say it that way … the “coolness” is quickly diminished with the reality of what it means to be awake when dreaming.
Ever had a nightmare you can remember … and it’s still there, in the back of your mind?
Try living through it … literally.
Yeah … kind of ‘not so awesome,’ when you think about that person who walked into the room while you were immobilized, too afraid to scream, too terrified to move, and all the while, tears ran down your cheeks wishing anyone … anything … screaming inside your head … could save you. But, it doesn’t. But … I digress … Because not every dream is a nightmare …
Take for example the ability to fly. Ever want to know what it’s like to physically jump through the air, the wind rushing past your face and gravity rapidly pulling you down as you counter it? It’s an experience you will rarely have any other way in life. Love and romance … well … I’ll just leave that to your little imaginations. But, that doesn’t make every dream happy. Some dreams can be about breakups … and the pain, suffering, loss, and loneliness that is coupled with that breakup is felt in its full power by a narcoleptic who wakens with tears in their eyes, exhausted from the hurt, and a broken heart (for something that doesn’t even exist). Being shot … yeah .. that’s not much fun when you can feel the sensation of pain … or the absence of where it should be … for DAYS afterward. Of course, just because you can fly in a dream doesn’t mean it will be happy … either. The loss of these experiences during normal conscious, everyday wakeful living, can lead to some pretty bad depression and emptiness (depending on how severe the narcolepsy is), not matter how logical a person tries to be about the matter.
And, some dreams … some dreams are just sad, leaving a feeling of epic-scale sorrow that can sometimes take months, if not years, to get over. For example, last night, the little Chinese boy and his father were trying to fight off the demons when suddenly, father’s inner power sprang to life. He had powers beyond anything that anyone else had ever dreamed possible (and it would later be discovered, he had the spirit of a God inside him), and in the most peaceful and loving way, he brought the conflict to an end. At the conclusion, he handed off part of his power to the true hero of the story, for him to continue protecting the people while he laid back down on his bed that his son had hand-made for him. “Are you okay, pau pau,” the son asked his father? His father smiled, looked once more at his little boy, and with that image in his mind, closed his eyes. In a faint whisper, speaking through his tears, he said, “I love you so much.” The little boy replied, “I love you too, pau pau.” Then, pau-pau’s head drooped to the side, his eyes still closed, and he asked, “Will I go to the garden, now?” The boy held tightly to his father and whispered in his ear, “Yes, pau pau.” Father asked, “Will you always be there with me?” And, the little boy replied, “I will never leave you, Pau Pau, I will be with you, forever.”
With the last of his strength, Pau Pau said, “Good, then now, I can be … happy.” His eyes closed …. his hands fell limp. The objects that others had scoffed at and discarded as paper mache or toys (which had sprang to life with magic and saved all those who were about to be defeated by the demons), slipped to the ground as simple toys, and Pau Pau silently slipped away into the night.
Now, most of you reading that may not feel much emotion. But, if it was your father you were watching die – the pain would be quite dramatic. If you were the father dying, leaving behind your son … the pain could be epic. Worse – if you were able to consciously live both lives and feel the pain that each one suffered … it would be devastating. It was difficult to even write that little portion of it without tears streaming down my cheeks (which is odd as there is no direct association with either person and it’s almost as if it is an unconscious/autonomous response to something from which I am completely disassociated!). So, what can we learn from all this?
Sigmund Freud believed that dreams were the royal road to the unconscious. And, through dreams, everything that makes up a person can be discovered. Their fears, hatreds, loves, and passions, are all present in dreams. But, what about someone who dreams so frequently and so often … and can remember them? What significance does every, single dream really have? Well, for our character above, Pau Pau, the dreamer might be dreaming of having successfully taken his son through childhood into adulthood, and is okay with being left behind as his son moves on, knowing that his son will always be a part of his life. This can easily (and somewhat conveniently), be the link between dreams and reality (even if it is a stretch). So, is everything we dream a function of emotional resolve or physical awareness?
What about the dream where the world was flooding and a child dies (as the ground zero victim who will spread world-wide disease that will quickly wipe out one third of all humanity)? Okay … flooding is supposed to indicate that a person feels overwhelmed, like they’re drowning in some aspect of their life. But, the hispanic family whose child is going to be ground zero for the end of humanity? That’s … um … what?
Maybe the dream about the child who makes friends in a magical community, only to encounter an evil wizard who’s stolen the powerful crystal that governs all magic on Earth and is going to take over the world with a source of power from the universe itself. Really? Is there significance, there? The time travel, space travel, and multitudes of other factors in this epic scale story don’t seem to have a readily available conclusion. Yes, in the end, everyone gets to live happily ever after. The moral of the story is, be self sacrificing and put others first and time will magically be restored and you will become a hero. Well … I suppose in some manner, the conclusion can be drawn about the dreamer needing to be willing to self sacrifice their soul and their life … but on the other hand … I’m not sure that magic is real or that the space-time continuum will restore itself by giving up one’s own life!
And, I’m not sure the story about the last 5 minutes of humanity ending no matter what we do, is going to have a lot of meaning other than the fact the guy walking through the building should be careful not to get locked in there or he might not have a chance to stop it … right …? (Yeah … for anyone bored enough to read that story linked above … I lived it).
In fact, some dreams are so outrageous and full of places and people that don’t exist in any other fashion, story, or relate able content, it’s almost odd enough to make one wonder if dreams are confined to the space within the human mind? Do they stretch out through time and space? Do they connect to other people … other lives? How do some people have dreams that are prophetic … seeing things that have not been, but will be (and it’s not a self-fulfilling prophesy as it’s outside of their area of effect)? How do some people have dreams that reveal technology or ideas so outside of anything the world has tried, that it changes the reality we live in?
No, I don’t have answers. No one does. Some offer up religious explanations (very plausible and acceptable). Others offer up purely scientific reasoning with some valid assumptions to fill in the gaps (sometimes as equally plausible). But, this begs the question: “Does every dream have meaning?”
I would argue, for the sake of this discussion, that no, they don’t. Not every dream reveals some unconscious desire, profound knowledge about the universe, or prediction on the future. Is it possible that some dreams are a link to a time and place that are … elsewhere? Sure … ANYTHING is possible. But, that doesn’t mean it’s of value to the dreamer.
So, why does this matter?
I suppose, to some, it doesn’t. To others, it relieves them of the burdens of their dreams. For a few, it might mean that recurring nightmare you keep having isn’t a lesson or a life fear … it just means you need to stop watching horror movies and eating spicy foods! So, the next time you recall a dream, like being back in school and seeing yourself as the brunt of a joke or at opposition with your classmates, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have some unresolved childhood anger or fear (okay … well, maybe you do … consult a psychiatrist because technically, they’re the only ones who can actually give you good advice on this … NOT the internet!!). It may just mean that you’re seeing a time and place that ‘could’ have been yours. After all, you’re grown up, now. So … what happened then doesn’t apply to now and you can be free to dream whatever you want … change your past however you want, or go fly around the moon … because … that’s the amazing nature of the human imagination!
Enjoy 😉 Hope someone was inspired to take a nap and dream (unless … well … you already are asleep because I write really long articles? Um, hello? Knock … knock? Shoot! Did it again)!
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman