What Dreams Tell Us

 From Life Magazine  September 1995. Photograph by Bill Binzen

From Life Magazine September 1995. Photograph by Bill Binzen

I’m a believer in what dreams tell us. I grew up in a house where dreams were discussed over morning coffee. My mother and baba would get out a tattered dream book to find out what their dreams meant.  For them, everything in a dream was symbolic of something else.

There were many times as a child, when I was about to go to school, that my mother would say, “Be careful today. I had a bad dream.” Often, that meant that she had been laughing or singing in her dream, which to her meant that the opposite would occur and she would soon be  crying over some disaster. She believed that dreams foretold the future, even though I could not remember one time when she was right.

I do remember one time that could be true. It was when my husband, Rob, dreamt his mother and aunt were sitting together in hooded cloaks. It was a scary dream as they weren’t talking; they were silent. A few days later, we learned that his younger brother had passed away. Was the dream foretelling the tragedy, or did my husband dream that because his younger brother, who was sick with cancer, was on his mind? I think the latter, though dreams like that do give you pause. It seemed that Rob had connected with his family across the miles.

Film Noir Wikipedia

Film Noir Wikipedia

For twenty-five years, I worked as a clinical social worker and saw many people in therapy for all kinds of problems. One of the subjects that would crop up from time to time were dreams. Some recurring dream or nightmare that plagued the person who came to see me.

One client told me she was afraid to go to bed at night because she kept dreaming about a spider crawling on her. She would wake up in terror. In my interpretation, the spider was symbolic of how she was feeling about her life. She wasn’t in control. She was allowing others to dictate how she should be. I suggested she could change the outcome in her dream. She could tell herself that the next time the spider appeared she’d be ready with a slipper to shoo it away. That conscious thought could seep into her unconscious and make a difference. She went one step further. When she returned to see me, she told me that she had put a slipper under her bed and after that, she didn’t have the nightmare again. She also began to feel stronger in life.

I also had recurring nightmares as a child. Night and the CityIn my early elementary school years, my parents would take me once a week to a double feature at the cinema. I saw many film noir movies, the kind that featured John Garfield, Richard Widmark, or Robert Mitchum. They were black and white stories about killers on the loose. Tall shadows loomed large on the screen. Is it a wonder that I dreamt of some man­­­­—with his shadow—climbing up the staircase to my bedroom, getting closer and closer until I woke up in a panic just before he reached my door? I continued to have those nightmares until I took karate lessons in my early twenties. Once I had some fighting skills, those nightmares went away.

So with that kind of background, is it surprising that I’ve featured dreams in my debut novel, A CRY FROM THE DEEP. Catherine Fitzgerald, an underwater photographer, is bothered by nightmares after she buys an antique ring at a flea market. In her case, her dreams have nothing to do with her reality or do they?

What about you? Have you been ruled by dreams? Do you have some dream that has stayed with you? What do you think dreams tell us?


8 thoughts on “What Dreams Tell Us

    1. Diana Stevan

      Julia, my grandson calls me Bubby, too. Though I’m not Jewish, my good friend, who is, suggested “Bubby” to me. That was when my mom, who was Baba to our girls, and Rob’s mom, who was called Grandma by them, were still alive. I needed a name and so I got Bubby. As for dreams, I wish I had Mom’s Dream Book, though don’t know how helpful it would be. It would definitely be very interesting. Rob believes that we could even be entering a different reality when we dream. So much we don’t know, but worth giving some thought to these unconscious journeys.

  1. JP McLean

    I dream most nights and though some would disagree, I think myself very lucky. Most nights, I can figure out the ‘why’ behind the dream. For example, last night it felt like most of the night was devoted to dreams about our 5th wheel, which we sold a few years ago. But before falling asleep, I’d been reading a book about travellers who found shelter in the hollowed out shell of a tractor trailer. It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots.

    For most of my dreams, I can do that, but to foretell the future…well, that’s entirely different (and very exciting). I’ll have to plant that seed and hope that one day my dreams will point in that direction, like your Baba or parents. Wouldn’t that be something? Meantime, I guess I’ll just have to get by on the fodder my dreams toss out. They’ve provided the foundation for a book series, so I won’t complain.

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Lovely reading about your dreams, Jo-Anne. As for dreaming about the future, my baba and mother continued to spook me about the future, especially if they had a joyous dream, as they would say with all seriousness, that something bad was about to happen and to be careful. Too much happiness in a dream meant the opposite would take place. I would leave the house with that on my mind. It may have been interesting, but it wasn’t any fun.

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Bryan, you’re welcome. I’ve never seen Night and the City, or maybe my five year old self saw it,as that’s when I went to those films with mom and dad. I’ll have to see if I can get them.

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