The Problem with…Dreams

You may say I’m a Dreamer, but I’m not the only one. -John Lennon


Dreams. A phenomenon still not decoded completely even by scientists and psychologists, who actively study them as part of their profession, but squeezed dry by so many others - whether romanticized in books, songs, movies, leveraged by motivational speakers in their emphatic addresses, capitalized on by organizations, politicians and any such person trying to reach you on a subconscious level and get you to behave in a specific fashion or used as a motivator by people in your close circle to influence you, keep you focused or streamline your thoughts.

In a world where we jump the gun to classify anything as good or bad, black or white at the first instance we get, so is the case with dreams, which are in essence just a series of subconscious imaginings, containing images, sounds, emotions and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Good dreams invoking positive associations stay as ‘dreams’, while the ones with negative associations, invoking sadness, fear, hatred, violence and more are moved to the classification of ‘nightmares.’ Sticking strictly to the logical reasoning behind these involuntary visions in your sleep, dreams are as simple or as complicated as the dreamer and are not really impacted by the sweet nothings in the form of ‘sweet dreams’, before retiring to bed.


The entire narrative around dreams is so glossy – dreamy eyes, man/woman of my dreams, dreams are not what you see in your sleep, but what does not let you sleep, following your dreams by listening to your heart, so on and so forth. Do people saying these things, ever hear themselves? While in the creative sense, I can buy it – if you can dream it, you can do it, as Walt Disney famously said. As this is a link between using your imaginary powers to visualize something that is personal, maybe does not exist yet or is a manifestation of your thoughts, which can be materialized into a real form. This follows through with one being able to better visualize or focus by closing their eyes and trying to ‘dream’, which is in effect just focusing better by clearing the clutter and digging deep into things you already know or realizations arising out of the sum total of all your experiences, education, thoughts and other influences in and around you.


Another fallacy with dreams that is widely observed is making it synonymous with goals, aims or missions. There is a dire need for a clear line of distinction to be drawn, as the lack of it is only further disillusioning the uninformed or inexperienced, impressionable minds and sending them on dark paths more often than the success stories that we love propagating. There’s a reason why we call all the things that we want to do in life, collectively as a ‘Wish-list’ or a ‘Bucket-list’, and not a ‘Dream List.’ Dreams do not work unless you do. It is never too late to focus on your dreams. If your dreams keep you up at night, you are on the right path. The list is endless, the crux/core of it is practically the same and highly problematic. While there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, thinking big or staying hungry for more, but mixing that with the notion of it being your dream or being under the false pretence that it is what you are destined to do, born for and is your strong suit - which you must follow at any cost, whether that of your loved ones or even plainly monetary is blasphemy.


More than the deep fire/zeal burning within, taking the form of dreams, it is often the last activities or mind states that seep into dreams. Personally experienced and been tormented by the same as well. I am sure there will be some scientific explanation for the same, but there have been so many times where I’ve woken up mid-sleep, realizing I was revising a certain formula for the next day’s exam, or planning and going about the next day’s deliverables at work as a result of extreme pressure and stress by a heartless senior at work from time to time – during my sleep! Dreams aren’t immune from being influenced by emotions too, with so many people experiencing their most romantic fantasies playing out, just the way the want it, with the person they want it with, without any correlation to the facts or realities of the conscious plane. Being so, they hamper the factual narrative at times, making them believe things that may not be true and in some cases even becoming disoriented between the reel of dreams and the slate of reality.


Dreams being a subconscious phenomenon clearly impact the mind and have their own bearing on emotions too. Well, the ones that you remember, anyway and even the ones that you do not, seem to stick with you through the day. Fortunately, there are increasing conversations around mental health over time, wherein while most evident symptoms, effects and factors are seeing the light of the day and being discussed; the tightly knit connection with dreams however is not catching people’s attention. Not taking a psychological angle or deviation at this juncture, but simply extending the conversation into the topic of unfulfilled dreams, force-fed dreams or dreams accepted to fit in, to be in alignment with your environment/society/culture. This takes many forms, the one that I clearly saw was in connection to the academic choices that some of my peers took. Some took a particular course because it was their parents’ dream, others took the same not knowing what to do and made it their dream, despite being not cut out for it. So much so that, right from the bumper sticker of their car, to the wallpaper of their phone, the poster on their bedroom walls and their go-to excuse to bow out of any plan became just that. While it worked out for a couple of them, the rest, I’ve seen crying their hearts out years later, for being blindsided with something they made their dream or life’s purpose, not being true to themselves.


Again, this is not a parade against dreaming, whether the involuntary ridiculousness when in REM sleep or the consciously manipulated daydreaming which controls the direction of the story and always has us at the centre of the action as the hero/heroine of the plot. It is when either of these become so dominant on a person to the point of weighing them down, taking control of all their actions and drown them so deep in them, that the real issue begins. Yes, we have examples of people so consumed by their dreams, that they went over the edge and achieved great things and maybe we need some of them, be it Steve Jobs, my own role model or a few others whom we paint as embodiments of dreamers who made it. However, half knowledge is very dangerous, especially in this case with anyone and everyone being asked to dream, quite akin to being given wings as if on a trial basis which they use to soar high and wide and no sooner that the trial period is over, those wings are clipped and these people are sent crashing down to the ground. Thud! Dead!


Having unpacked quite a few things together, it is essential to tie it all in! Dreams, while an absolutely wonderful phenomenon, mysterious, magical and out-worldly, are still involuntary events that happen when one is asleep, at least the real thing and not the doctored daydreaming or choreographed dreams we have to feel good about ourselves or to see something happen at least in our minds, even if not in reality. However, it is borderline dangerous when the fine line gets crossed and we start believing in them over and above our reality or confuse the two together. Even worse so, if we take on other people’s dreams as our own or do things not true to ourselves only in the quest of living what we think is our dream/fate/destiny and in the bigger scheme of things destroy not just our life but impact others’ lives too.


Hope all of what’s written above or at least some of it, makes some sense and touches a nerve. Does the job of delineating dreams from goals or aims, helps distinguish between dreams and reality, separates your own dreams from dreams/wishes of others that you may have taken up on yourself and thereby suffering or being eaten up within. Or at the least takes away the burden that dreams can put on a person from time to time!

**Well, you know what, for all we know, we are all living within someone else’s dream and are just figments of someone’s imagination as beautifully illustrated in the movie – Inception, with the totem spinning away in eternity and that we will all disappear the moment he/she wakes up!**


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