On Messages from the Unconscious

(DREAM Waves) Waves of Dreams Close Up. (Abstract on canvas by Anthony Fearron.)

(DREAM Waves) Waves of Dreams Close Up. (Abstract on canvas by Anthony Fearron.)

A fragment from last night’s dream (because I only ever remember fragments of dreams):

I’m staying on the third floor of a massive hotel. An alarm goes off: a tidal wave of water is threatening to engulf the structure. I look out the window, and true enough, water is streaming over the patio and swarming up the steps. It’s going up so fast that I worry that people will panic and that their exodus will clog the stairwells and exits. My sister is somewhere in the building and that’s another source of worry. I hurry back to my room and find my sister in the lobby on my way. She’s sitting down calmly, her bags already packed. I make it back to my hotel room…and the dream ends.

Or, more likely, I simply forget.


This is not the first time I’ve dreamt of massive structures. When I describe a dream place as “massive,” what I really mean is that my dream self wasn’t able to ascertain its dimensions. (In short, anything that possesses parameters I haven’t mapped—and therefore can’t control—occurs to me as large in a frightening sense. Whenever I play computer-based strategy games that involve exploring a dark space from a single illuminated tile, i.e., Civilization, I always find the borders first. And then I explore the rest of the terrain.)

In all my dreams of massive structures, I’m always a little lost and more than a little frightened. The buildings feel foreign and hostile, with layouts that don’t make sense and that don’t seem to lead anywhere. There’s always someone in the dream that I know in real life, but I’m either physically or emotionally cut off or disconnected.

And in last night’s particular dream, there was the water—and enough of it too to engulf a momentous space. Water usually represents the unconscious (especially in the form of dark, mysterious and oceanic waves). Buildings can be taken to symbolize the conscious (with their associations with logic, structure, planning and order). Is my unconscious sending me a warning? Should I ready myself yet again for an eruption of the unexpected? Is the message that my conscious mind has grown sinister yet again with its renewed attachments to planning and order? Or is the message to take whatever comes calmly, as my dream sister did, sitting in the lobby with her bags all packed in the face of the oncoming waves?

Everything I surmised could be right. Or everything could be wrong. Whichever it is, the unsettling feeling from the dream’s stayed with me all day.

Whichever it is, I’ve been warned.

Let’s hope I read the message right.

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