Analyze This

Would you, could you, interpret my latest COVID dream?

Photo by Albert Stephens on Unsplash

At least, I’m pretty sure it’s a COVID dream

There’s nothing directly about coronavirus in it, but dreamland is a notoriously indirect and tricksy place. Let’s just say I suspect this particular dream is one I wouldn’t have had if we weren’t in Month Two of The Great Pandemic Pause. But that’s only a hunch. I really have no idea if there is any relation between my brain’s nighttime sojourn and our present reality. Hence my offering it to you to figure out.

If you think you’ve got a cogent, likely, or entertaining interpretation of my dream, which we’ll get to in a minute, leave a comment. I suspect that you readers, a brainy and imaginative bunch, will come up with more interesting takes on my dream than I would all on my own.

First, a caveat: this is not a contest in the typical sense of the word. There are no prizes, and judging is based on entirely subjective measures based on what appeals to me. You may take this challenge as seriously or as frivolously as you wish: but I do ask that you refrain from hate speech, racism, sexism, graphic violence, or outright obscenity and really gross profanity, and I’ll know ’em if I see ’em.

Dream interpretation may or may not have validity

It depends on who you ask. Of course, the internet abounds with “dream dictionaries” which feature alphabetized lists of symbols and their purported meanings, but these are generally considered about as reliable as a Magic 8 ball.

Psychologists and brain scientists differ widely in their opinions of dream interpretation. In his article in Psychology Today (“The Folly of Dream Interpretation,” July 29, 2013) behavioral neuroscientist Patrick McNamara, Ph.D. considers nearly all attempts at dream analysis to be “mere metaphor mongering,” and writes witheringly of those who assume authority in sussing out what anybody else’s dream might mean:

Scientists who have studied dreams and nevertheless post “interpretations” of common dream themes do a dis-service to both their readers and to the study of dreams as they know full well that there are no data to support any particular interpretative scheme over another.

Okay, so, data or it didn’t happen. But there are other scientists who see value in contemplating the potential meanings behind dream symbols that are so common as to be nearly universal: flying, falling, being naked in public, missing or breaking teeth, and that really frustrating one where you can’t dial your phone no matter how hard you try.

Jeffrey Kluger’s highly engaging article in Time (“What Your Dreams Actually Mean, According to Science,” Sept. 12, 2017) takes a more generous view of dream interpretation, at least for the most common dream tropes:

Dreaming about losing some or all of your teeth — reported by a surprising number of respondents in studies — appears to be about anxiety over saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment. . . The fact that the same dream themes occur across different populations and radically different cultures is not all that unexpected, since what human beings have in common is often far deeper and more primal than what we don’t.

It’s generally accepted, though, that if there is indeed any meaning or message to be assigned to what happens in your dreams, it’s strictly individual, based on your unique experience combined with your personal constellation of psychological, social, and cultural factors. Or maybe too much garlic at dinner; who knows?

Still, it might be diverting to take a crack at my dream

If you’ve got a spare couple of minutes. And so, so many of us do these days. So here goes, my best and most honest attempt to recreate my dream from memory (which no doubt contaminates the original, but I’m doing the best I can here):

I get a facial. There are lots of other women getting facials at the (spa? salon? facial place? Somewhere rather dark and murky). My head is all wrapped up, and things are fine until the facial-giving lady unwinds my wrappings. Then my face is revealed to be wadded up and disturbingly pale, plus parts of it are scaly and peeling off.

“Don’t worry; that’s supposed to happen,” says the woman. “It will all fluff out in a minute.” Or dream-words to that effect.

And it does; pretty soon my face looks fine. In fact, I look pretty much like I did when I was sixteen. Except now there’s a big, and I mean big swelling right next to my nose, like the Vesuvius of zits is brewing there.

I tell someone that I want to see the owner. Everybody in the place looks like I’ve just said something I shouldn’t. Finally one of the women — who is wearing a triangular pink scarf over her hair like a babushka — fetches the owner, who, it turns out, is something of a cult leader. When she shows up, she looks like a just-past-middle-aged, dumpy version of Barbara Stanwyck, with very unconvincing blonde hair.

She smiles at me with ominous cheer. The pink babushka whispers to me in reverent tones, “That’s Auntie B.”

And that, dear reader, is all I remember. Please discuss.

7 Replies to “Analyze This”

  1. A.S. Akkalon

    I’ll give it a shot. 🙂

    * Facial: This stands for pampering yourself

    * Murkiness: This is danger and uncertainty

    * Lots of other women: Crowds, clearly

    * The wrapping is PPE

    * The things wrong with your face are what’s wrong with the world, and the woman thinking it will fix itself is the idiots assuming coronavirus is just going to disappear.

    So you want to pamper yourself, but you know going out in the world where there are lots of people who might be carriers involves some risk. You know PPE can’t entirely protect you and it’s not as safe as some people think.

    And Auntie B? It’s people you know who might give you Covid-19, not just strangers.

    Or possibly something about a flying pig.

  2. Laurie

    Jan, this post reminds me so much of the debates I used to have with a friend who bought into Jungian dream analysis. He tried to convince me dreams integrated conscious and unconscious, individuation, blah, blah, blah. I never bought in. I think it’s random neurons zipping around your brain. Although, Auntie B sounds chilling!

    • Jan M Flynn Post author

      She was a bit sinister. But maybe she was there to warn me about not trying to color my hair again 🙂

  3. Anni

    Since you and I are short hair gals, and I am now in the “how much more can I manage this on my own with my thinning shears” phase, I have to ask if you perhaps need a haircut? But as so astutely observed in the first comment, concerns about safety do give one… pause… I wonder if your facial appearance that initially appeared from under the wraps might be the awareness that you have been changed (as we all have) by this crisis. Isolation has been shown to have significant neurological impacts due to the lack of interpersonal stimulation, whether tactile, emotional or intellectual. (I think we are overdue for a FaceTime call with you two!) There can definitely be long-term effects, on society and communities as well as individuals. My clearly Covid-19 dream a couple of weeks ago involved our deck turning into water, separating me from Jarion, as a shark swam between us, just under the surface, silent and menacing. So much for getting a pedicure any time soon…

    • Jan M Flynn Post author

      Hmm, much to unpack there, Anni . . . first of all, yes, my hair has long since abandoned any pretense of having a shape. I am in hopes it spontaneously finds another one all by itself. I think your comment about isolation and change, etc., is quite insightful, and YES, let’s do a FaceTime or Zoom! As for the liquid deck and the shark . . . egad!

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