Sweet Dreams Aren’t Made of This: Dreamwork Under Stress

In times of stress, good sleep is one of the best ways to take care of yourself. Sleep allows the body time to renew itself, and it gives us an escape in the form of dreams, but sometimes the things that benefit the most from a good night’s sleep are the very things keeping us from getting that sleep in the first place. And even when you do sleep, stress can leak into our dreams, poisoning this valuable opportunity to unplug and go somewhere else in your mind for a while.

In this Root and Stem, we talk about how stress influences our dreams and our techniques for dealing with--and accepting--that.

Lee: Let’s start bluntly. Have you had as many nightmares these few weeks as I have?

Ada: For me, it’s less about quantity than quality. It’s a big deal when current events intrude. So, I’ve only had one Covid dream, but I spent the night in a hell world where no one followed the social distancing guidelines and kept giving me hugs. No fun. I’m guessing Covid has been showing up in your dreams?

Lee: Yes and no. I’m one of those strange people who tend to dream in metaphors. As an oneiromancer, I’d say it’s the ones that are the domain of Phantasos of the Oneiroi - the surreal one. Like giraffes on unicycles in the clouds. 

Ada: I think I must have pissed off Phantasos in a past life because I never get surreal dreams. The closest I get to surreal is Odin showing up in a dream as Robert Hand and being like, “Look. It’s me, alright? Just go with it.” 

Lee: Brief tangent, but I once had a dream where I was in a swimming contest with a seal with the face of Whoopi Goldberg. It was haunting. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the triggers for that one...

Ada: Today I learned: Whoopie Goldberg is a selkie.

Lee: Makes more sense than any analysis I could’ve made, for sure.

Recently, I’ve had dreams that I’ve woken up from and gone “yep, gee golly that was an allegory for Covid-19 alright”, but I’ve also just had the sort of bad dream that comes from generally being stressed because the world has gone insane. I’ve had a few dreams that weren’t so bad, but… well, I’d be terrible at my calling if I couldn’t recognize it when stress is colouring my unconscious.

For the interested, these dreams are Icelos/Phobetor’s domain. He’s a bit of a tricky guy, but he’s alright. Don’t go sharpening your pitchforks, we need to have bad dreams from time to process things.

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