Saturday, November 21, 2009


When I woke this morning, I realized almost immediately that I had been dreaming. I tried to clutch the dream, remember it, but its misty retreat left me with nothing.

I was reminded of an article I read in The New Yorker yesterday about dreams, and specifically nightmares. (I never have nightmares -- at least, not that I remember -- and I never feel fearful or anxious when I awaken.)

This article, unfortunately not available online, contained a few interesting factoids. One is that women remember their dreams more easily than men. This may explain why my female friends can often describe dreams in great detail while I can’t remember whether I dreamed at all.

(When I was in the Peace Corps, my roommate Juliet would awaken every morning and offer up a step-by-step recitation of her dreams. It blew my mind that she could remember them so well. Every plot twist, dialogue, scenes stretching back what seemed like hours -- you name it. I always suspected her of making it all up.)

The other, and more interesting, factoid is that dreams seem to be changing. When Sigmund Freud recorded dreams at the turn of the century, they were long narratives, at least according to his notes. Many took pages and pages to record properly.

Now, researchers have found that dreams tend to be shorter and jumpier. If in the old days they were full-length feature films, today they’re YouTube clips. The article quotes British psychoanalyst Susan Budd: “Modern patients don’t often produce the kinds of dreams that Freud had. Modern dreams mostly seem to be shorter and more fragmentary, and this is because the dream is undoubtedly a cultural as well as a neurobiological product.”

We often talk about the ADD-inducing effects of our culture, from the Internet to our crazy workaholic tendencies, but I never thought about their effects on our dreams. It’s fascinating, and a bit alarming, to think our minds have been rewired to produce short-form nocturnal dramas.

My dreams, on the rare occasions when I do remember them, seem more long-form. One scene will pass into another, but there’s usually some kind of transition -- seldom just a jump or abrupt change. I don’t think I’m immune to our cultural slide toward ADD, but maybe I’m less affected, since I don’t watch much television and I tend to read a lot.

Anyway, it was a fascinating article!

(Photo: W. 40th Street, earlier this week)


  1. I think my dreams are probably more exciting than my life, but I rarely remember them. Maybe I should start making up something just to appear to be normal! :)

  2. It was fascinating, though I disagreed with many of the findings. My dreams are often long narratives as are the dreams of my sisters and brother, and many other people I know. One client reports on her dreams before her weekly session - they are the most spectacular dreams.

    I thank God most sincerely that my dreams are not like Freud's dreams! Yikes. Or even like Jung's.

    This would be a great time to begin remembering your dreams. Put a notepad and pencil next to your bed. When you wake up, just lie still and ask yourself, "Where was I just now?" Write down anything you can remember.

    You'll form new neural networks that will enable you to remember more and more. Dreams are fantastic - all dreams, everyone's dreams. I bet yours are fabulous!

  3. I never remember my dreams...if I dream at all. Makes sense, I have ADD big time!

  4. My dreams are always the same. I'm trying to get somewhre but I just can't do it.

  5. Visiting from Barbara's blog - intriguing stuff about dreams! I'm sure I've been here before, and will be sure to visit again :)

  6. Wow ... a lot has happened since I was here a week ago. I see you in NJ with Dave : ) It's great that you have some time and flexibility. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving ... I'm very thankful for friends like you. Love the "FUCK" brick !!! xoxo.