The brain has always fascinated me. Mainly due to my interest in psychology, but partly because I’m epileptic and want to learn more about how the brain works, and why it can fire off the wrong kind of neurons in some of us. For an epileptic there are many triggers – and not all are obvious. Some of us don’t even know what our triggers are.
But today is not the day where I want to try to get inside the mind of a serial killer (I’d hate to be inside the minds of Ted Bundy or Rose West anyway; I would probably be driven insane) or discuss epilepsy: I want to talk about dreams.
I love the adventure of dreaming, and often wonder why we have the dreams that we have. For instance, I can be back in a favourite cafe with my beloved Nan, setting the world to rights and giggling like two schoolgirls. Those dreams that feature my Nan are my favourites: not long after I broke my hip I dreamed that she popped her head around the bedroom door and told me “You’ll never be the same, love – but you’ll adapt because you always do”. She came again when my husband lost his job, and said “Gem, things will work out how they’re supposed to; if it’s meant to be, it will be”. My Nan was as wise as she was kind, so when I see her or hear her voice in my dreams, I trust it.
But there are other dreams, where your sleeping mind takes you far away from reality, and into the realms of fantasy – not always of your making. I’ve solved a mystery with – and kissed – Freddie Mercury; I’ve been given the powers of Dark Phoenix; I’ve become best friends with the Eleventh Doctor (he seems to turn up a lot); I’ve shape-shifted into a spider (appropriate!) and I’ve been through the great halls of Valhalla with Odin.
But what of other, more mundane dreams? I get those, too.
In these dreams I can do everything that I am no longer able to do in real life. I’m fit and healthy again; I can walk and swim. Strangely, I can even run – which is odd, because my inward-turning right foot and the lack of flexibility in my ankles mean that running has never been my strong point, and any attempt at doing so has usually ended up with me kissing the pavement. I’m not epileptic in these dreams, and I still have a job. Just last night, I dreamed that I was back working as a care assistant at the nicest nursing home I’ve ever worked at.
Better yet, I have no metalwork and no chronic pain in my dreams. I’m whole again.
Then, you have the more complex lucid dreams, which you can actively control. I know people who have taught themselves how to dream lucidly, but I’ve never had to – it’s always come to me naturally. They appear to be completely real until the moment you wake up, because your brain is allowing you to literally orchestrate the entire dream. Don’t like what you’re dreaming about? Change the location and direction. Want to wake up because you’re bored with a dream? Tell whoever your dream self is talking to that you have to wake up now (yes, I have actually done that).
As I said at the beginning of this post; the brain is a marvellous and fascinating (sometimes downright infuriating) organ. I don’t think that anybody will ever fully understand it, because it is far too complex in its mysterious way of working.