Have you ever had a dream, which you completely forget about until suddenly it pops into your head much later? Well, I had an experience like that today: I was visiting my parents, sitting at their kitchen table (I mean in real life – we haven’t gotten to the dream yet) when suddenly I realized that last night I’d had a vivid and somewhat disturbing dream.
In the dream I was answering the phone, and a familiar voice – a man’s voice – said “Guess who?” I actually manage to guess – it was the voice of my former therapist. By the way, for those of you who don’t know, in New York City it seems that everybody has a therapist. I did have one for a while, but I stopped a number of years ago – I wasn’t really getting very much out of it. Although I could be in denial about that – how would I know, right?
Anyway, in the dream my former therapist (who in the dream has moved to California, which is where he is calling from) explains to me that my psychiatric chart was sent to him, and based on his assessment of it, he’s going to need to prescribe medication for my mental condition.
I remember feeling very disappointed in the dream that I needed drugs to have normal mental functioning. Disappointed in myself, as though I had failed one of life’s important tests. In my real life I’ve never been on any such drugs, and yet it never occurred to me in the dream to question his decision.
Of course later, sitting at my parents kitchen table when the dream popped back into my head, my first thought was how absurd the whole thing was – of course I wouldn’t have just accepted such a diagnosis. But that’s the difference between reality and dream reality, isn’t it?
My main take-away from this experience is the following question: Is there a different person there in our heads, the one who is dreaming the dreams? I mean, clearly the reactions, decisions, and possibly the values of the dream self are quite at variance from those of the waking self. Is there an identifiable person – a different and specific person – within our head when we dream? Or do we just float along, rudderless, without measureable personality of any kind, a leaf on the wind?