Sunday, May 10, 2015

Commentary — Fiction, Art, Music: Perchance To Dream Or Live In Another World

I’ve wandered into this territory before.  I understand dreams that feature family and friends and other people who are major players in our lives.  I am amazed, however, at the mechanism that puts them together in some sort of narrative. I often enjoy the experience even when the stories are surreal and often try to make sense of what the subconscious stitched together. Is there a way to interpret dreams to provide meaning or gain insight into our lives? Unfortunately, the ephemeral little stories easily slip from my grasp.

I also love those moments when I spend time with my dog Casey, though he’s been gone now quite a few years.  It’s always a pleasant visit. My old Karmann Ghia returns regularly. And sometimes the theater is mind blowing in an — excuse me – awesome way. Blockbuster dreams, with special effects that seem to defy the laws of physics.

On the other hand I am completely mystified by the appearance of people in these nighttime dramas whom I’ve never met, yet they have full-blown personalities and we somehow interact in places I’ve never been.

We are likely unaware of the many messages our brains receive while we are doing something else.  I suspect we take in scents, fleeting peripheral images, the brief breeze on our skin and bites of sound that go directly to the subconscious. These too must be processed and quite likely they are stored in some fashion.  Maybe they too are retrieved and thrown into the mix when the Brain Studio composes and releases its nightly productions.

As a fiction writer I’ve consciously made up people and places and events. While I may have, from time to time, borrowed traits from existing humans and certainly real-life settings, I seem to make others up out of whole cloth or at least I thought I did.  Flattering myself now, I’ve done so at least somewhat convincingly at times.  So, why is it a stretch to accept these appearances of previously unknown characters in my dreams? Perhaps they come from the collection of those inadvertent, consciously unrecorded sensations.

I suppose because my mind is writing books somewhat consciously, the ego says, “I did it.” But, while we dream, the brain creates the characters, fixes the time, determines the setting and puts the events in motion without my conscious intervention. In a sense, “I didn’t do it. My brain did it.”

If it can do that, what else can it do on its own or without my so-called conscious direction? This says we are not solely our conscious selves, the self we know.  We are also someone whom, to a greater or lesser extent, we don’t know.

Obviously, this other mind, sub mind, alter ego – call it what you will – is capable of making choices, perhaps piecing together snippets of sensations we weren’t aware we were experiencing and, in turn, creating a world that not only seems foreign to us, but is.  Is it possible, then, for that other (alter, sub) to take over?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, also known as multiple personality) is not new and it is controversial. Many respected researchers and academics discredit DID as a legitimate mental illness. For those who do accept it, the diagnosis is often reserved for those who have experienced childhood abuse or who have been victims of other extreme circumstances in which disassociation is an act of self-preservation.  My little commentary isn’t meant to jump into this particular fray, though fiction (mystery, thriller, horror) writers have found fertile ground here.

Instead, my comments are meant to help me flesh out a fictional character in a book I’m working on. This has been an exercise in purposefully tapping my subconscious and trying to figure out why he may have the doubts he has about about who or what is controlling his actions. Writers might ask this question about his or her work. 

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