In Your Dreams

I’m driving through the countryside near my home, just me and my truck, chewing thoughts like long grass, when I’m jolted by the sound of screaming steel overhead. I look up in time to see the jumbo jet just before it explodes into the road. And then an awesome, enveloping silence. I’m alone, climbing through the wreckage, terrified of what I’m going to find, and there’s nothing I can do.

And then I’d wake up, emotionally spent, very not ready to face the day. I had that dream every single night for months on end in university. It got so bad I dreaded going to sleep, and I had no idea how to address it. Student services weren’t big into dream analysts.

“It’s an action dream and an observer dream – there’s something happening outside of you that you have no control over,” says Layne Dalfen, a dream analyst who runs Montreal’s Dream Interpretation Centre. “One of the functions of dreams is to give you a workout, like in a gym, or a rehearsal to either practice a behaviour or become accepting of something. So this dream about a plane crash was about getting accustomed to standing on the side realizing there’s nothing you can do, accepting a lack of control.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I became better adept at handling the myriad stresses associated with school, the nightmares were relieved of their raison d’être, and it was back to the friendly and familiar Cheez Whiz and midgets clown-sex dreams that normally deliver me into the arms of Morpheus.

Dreams account for a fairly significant chunk
of brain activity (up to two hours a night), and I would suspect there are few among us who, at one point or another, haven’t ascribed some sort of greater meaning or symbolism to a particularly affecting dream. Which goes a long way toward explaining the great interest given the Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), which this year holds its 25th anniversary shindig in Montreal at the Hôtel Auberge Universel (5000 Sherbrooke E.), July 8-12.

“The IASD is a non-profit international multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the pure and applied investigation of dreams and dreaming,” explains Dalfen, who is also the host of the conference.

This year’s theme is “Dreams Without Borders,” appropriate given the conference will draw close to 400 people from more than 27 countries. Mayor Gerry’s bro, city councillor Marcel Tremblay – “He’s an unbelievable man, open to hearing ideas about what your dreams are about” – will deliver the opening address. Keynote speakers include Dr. Tore Neilsen, head of the sleep laboratory at Sacre-Coeur Hospital; Guy Corneau, a Jungian analyst talking about his personal experience with dreams and cancer; and Dr. Milton Kramer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois, speaking about his recent book, The Dream Experience: A Systematic Exploration.

Most amazingly, the conference manages to combine seemingly antipathetic schools of dream thought on one happy campus, as evidenced by the many different conference “tracks” tailored to the individual interests of participants.

“There’s a clinical and dreamwork track, there’s research and theory, French language, a spiritual and religious track, arts and humanities, cultural and anthropological, extraordinary PSI and lucid, and education,” says Dalfen. “I’m part of the dreamwork track, and what I do is help the average person get something from their dreams.”

Okay. I’m game. Last night I dreamt I was on a riding lawn mower and was very concentrated on trying to mow a lawn that was growing vertically up a stone wall. And I wasn’t doing a half bad job either, considering John Deeres weren’t designed for ollies or rock climbing. What gives?

“The unconscious is very sophisticated,” says Dalfen. “When you want to say something to yourself, the unconscious is shockingly precise about the images it chooses.

“There are several points of entry that I use to help the dreamer attach the dream to the current issue they are attempting to come to some conclusion about. In this dream you were concerned about doing a good job and not doing damage. Forget about the dream, what is the situation that you are concerned about getting right?”

Um, enjoying a freshly mown lawn hopefully? (urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mow+the+lawn) Or, more likely, the dream is related to concern about pulling off a combo of personal and professional balancing acts in coming weeks.

“That’s frickin’ excellent – you’re a smart guy!” says Dalfen (and we are inclined to agree). “You’re multitasking and problem solving and trying to do both. Chances are if you’re reacting to one situation in a certain way, you could likely be responding to other situations in the same way, and that’s what Sigmund Freud called our habitual reactions to life situations…

“Life throws a plethora of situations at us, and dreams give you, on a silver platter every night, the appropriate reaction, they really do,” she says, and then laughs. “It’s been freaking me out for 35 years.”

For info and registration, please go to www.asdreams.org


by Jamie O’Meara