The NyTimes ran a piece on dreams today that included commentary from Roger Knudson, a psychology professor at Miami who really helped me out quite a bit when I was trying to figure out my senior project. At that time, we talked a lot about men, specifically the idea of men living without women, as I was trying to write a novella about a father and his two sons living together after a divorce (snooze). But we also talked a lot about dreams, and Roger introduced me to the work of archetypal psychologist James Hillman. Here’s a bit from the fascinating article:
“Back to life” or “visitation” dreams, as they are known among dream specialists and psychologists, are vivid and memorable dreams of the dead. They are a particularly potent form of what Carl Jung called “big dreams,” the emotionally vibrant ones we remember for the rest of our lives.
Big dreams are once again on the minds of psychologists as part of a larger trend toward studying dreams as meaningful representations of our concerns and emotions. “Big dreams are transformative,” Roger Knudson, director of the Ph.D. program in clinical psychology at Miami University of Ohio, said in a telephone interview. The dreaming imagination does not just harvest images from remembered experience, he said. It has a “poetic creativity” that connects the dots and “deforms the given,” turning scattered memories and emotions into vivid, experiential vignettes that can help us to reflect on our lives.
The idea of the “poetic creativity” of dreams got me thinking about comics and dreams, and how comics can do dreams really well — you can be trodding along in a narrative, and suddenly slip into a dream state. I was trying to come up with some good examples, but all I could think of as far as examples were David Heatley’s dream comics and Jesse Reklaw’s “Slow Wave,” which is actually a comic strip illustrating the dreams of other people. If anybody can think of any others, I’m just totally blanking at the moment.
Anyways, I love the idea of dreams re-connecting us with people who are out of our lives (either alive or dead), who visit us in visions. The bottom line is, dreams can be useful.
Apart from an effort to understand the physiology behind the content of dreams, what do we do with big dreams? If we ignore them, said Dr. Knudson of Miami University of Ohio, “we discount our most valuable resource in understanding ourselves.”
America is not a country with a ritualistic approach to grief. Many employers offer as few as three days off after a family member’s death. Dreams of the dead keep alive our connections to lost loved ones.
“Big dreams, those dreams that stop you dead in your tracks, are for precisely that purpose,” said Dr. Knudson, whose father died three years ago. “They pull us out of our headlong rush forward. They yank us back down from our schedule books and our jobs.
He continued, “I don’t want to get over my father. That’s not to say that I want to suffer on a daily basis or that I don’t want to understand that he is dead. But I look forward to dreams in which my father will come again. What does it mean to ‘get over’ it? I think that is crazy.”
It’s the craziest thing: one of the reasons I lost contact with Roger my senior year after some cool visits was because of his father’s death. And there I was this morning with my breakfast taco, reading about him.
Once again, there are no coincidences.