Wake Up and Go to Sleep

By Emily Felder

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






I recently had a nightmare. Usually my dreams are very surreal, and I cannot tell what place or land I am in, nor do I recognize the faces of the strangers who pass me by. I dream fantastic realities, filled with vibrant colors, and curious, intricate designs and landscapes. I am able to lucid dream, stopping in place and telling myself that I no longer want to dream of this world, but rather wish to fly above it. So I lift my feet from the subconscious ground, and drift higher until all the earth is beneath me, mapped out like a sprawling checkerboard of farms, highways and housing developments.

I sometimes even dream in two-dimension. It’s hard to explain, but I am in a piece of paper, and the characters and landscape is flat, like I am working my way through my own personal comic book. Even the characters appear drawn, with outlines and shaded coloring.

My nightmare had two characters, brothers, who were more like lumps of flesh and matter rather than distinguishable lines of symmetry. They were drawn in crayon, one red and the other blue. They fought by a small stream, among tall green grasses, also all in crayon. Their battle was swift and silent. This silence only added to the intensity of the scene, that of two brothers fighting to the death, shrouded by the tall river grass and escaping the eyes or ears of any other – save for myself. If it weren’t for the blades moving in the slow and warm wind, the slight pounding of flesh and bare feet upon the riverbank would be the only sounds resonating for miles.

When I awoke, I was obviously disturbed. Dreams, though, if you can remember them, reveal a great deal. Nightmares are especially insightful, if you know how to analyze them. I don’t follow any one philosophy when interpreting dreams, such as Sigmund Freud’s wish fulfillment or Carl Jung’s collective unconscious.

It’s difficult to measure the ambiguous significance of dreams, as there is no real way to accurately define it. Robert Stickgold, the director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Harvard Medical School, discussed the interpretation of dreams in a blog for Scientific American last year. Author Charles Q. Choi posed to Stickgold the question of where in dreams this notion of revelation or profundity exists.

Stickgold explained to Choi, “It’s a bit like beauty –  it’d in the mind of the beholder . . .  If a person says something is meaningful, you’re not sure how to measure that, and you’re not sure how, if at all, that applies to others. One has to come up with a meaningful definition of meaningful.”

I find solace in this concept of the ill-defined, or rather, deeply unique and personal experience of dream interpretation. I said I had dreamed something nightmarish, but when I finally put it down in writing I found it to be much less foreboding.

So, is it the dream that is devoid of rationality, or the conscious state of mind that suppresses true fears? Is it possible that they are inextricably linked, and that each varies person-to-person, subconscious to conscious? How do we even truly define consciousness? Is consciousness simply being awake, or does there have to be some cognitive acknowledgment of rationality, reality, sense of self or the notion of existence?

Since there is such a wealth of philosophy and epistemology behind each of these man-made concepts, it’s rather complex if not impossible to conclusively define them. I could spend hours analyzing why I dreamed that violent bout of brotherhood. Some may say I sublimated my religious upbringing into my own version of Genesis’ Cain and Abel. Others could interpret that I am both of the brothers, and I am at conflict with something subconsciously. That I dreamed they were brothers, symbolizing blood kinship, opens the door to a whole other realm of psychoanalysis of my familial history since I actually have two brothers.

Revealing my personal conclusion of interpretation to my own dream or nightmare is thus irrelevant. My dream was neither amazing nor without substance, as your dreams or nightmares are, too. Dreams are critical but not essential components of interpreting your consciousness. Write them down – analyze them. It’s disputed whether Freud said it or not, but “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Emily Felder is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]