June 7, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)


Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.

Charles William Dement

Yes, I have hallucinations frequently. Last night I hallucinated that I was in the lumber yard of the building supply. There were two fantastic machines and children were climbing all over them and pushing buttons and turning knobs. There were lots of people and one motorcycle. I was just watching and when I tried to get close to one of the machines, it kept changing and the kids were in the way. Then I woke up.

If I had that hallucination when I was awake, I would be considered schizophrenic. Having hallucinations when you are asleep is considered perfectly normal. Strange things go on in most people's heads at night.

When someone says that he is hearing voices or sounds while awake, one trick is to ask him to put his fingers in his ears. If he still hears the voices, they are being produced inside of his head. If the sounds stop, they are really coming from outside his head. I use this trick when I occasionally hear a whistle or buzz. Those sounds are a common side effect of too much aspirin.

The idea that dreams have some prophetic significance probably goes back to before biblical times. The Bible has several instances where dreams have portended the future. That dreams can predict the future is so much hogwash, as are most attempts at predicting the future. People who make money predicting the future are invariably fakers. People who consult them are invariably fools.

My dreams often are about a problem, or problems, that I am having during the day. Sex dreams are common in young people and reflect what their mind is preoccupied with. At my advanced age, my mind may still be preoccupied with sex, but my dreams refuse to cooperate. When I was studying a foreign language, my dreams were about it, or in that foreign language. The same thing was true when I was studying chemistry.

A perceptive psychiatrist can often zero in on what his patient's problem is by asking him to relate a dream that he has had recently. There is no doubt that whatever is on your mind is reflected by your dreams. However, it is the situation in your dream that is significant. The elements and the people in the dream usually have little significance. Modern shrinks concentrate on the situation in the dream, not the people or things involved. Freud's idea, that the elements of a dream are important (a fire hydrant symbolizes a penis), just hasn't held up. When someone goes to a psychiatrist, he does so because something is troubling him. The problem is often reflected in a recurrent dream. No one goes to a shrink to help him with his French or chemistry lessons.

There is a story about the German chemist Friedrich Kekule (1829-1896) who was trying to unravel the structure of the benzene molecule. He couldn't figure it out until he had a dream. He dreamed about a snake that had its tail in its mouth. When he tested the theory that the carbon atoms were arranged in a six carbon ring, it turned out to be the correct hypothesis. Many a young man, who goes to bed with a problem on his mind, wakes up with the solution in his hand.

What I find amazing is the creativity of my brain. In my dreams I am often in places that I have never been to and see things and people that I have never seen before in strange combinations. It is as if my brain was creating its own Amazing Science Fiction.

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