Is it possible to have a derealization dream? I wonder about this because I awoke the other day from such a thing.
I was living my life normally, but had this realization that I and every human on the planet had been wiped out by Covid 19, but due to a sort of collective unconscious, none of us realized it so we thought the world was still happening. Sort of like being part of a ghost planet. As I came to understand this, in the dream, I could sometimes see the reality underneath this collective construct.
Everywhere, nature had taken back the cities and roads and buildings. The unburied bodies from this mass extinction were long decayed and skeletal. I would flash back into the ghost like world with everyone else, where my son and wife and parents were all there, living life like normal. He was going to school, she was heading to work and we all had our normal anxieties and worries about finances and our health.
As we went about our day, I wondered about those who were dying from Covid. Are they the ones who suddenly figure it out and then just go away? How long has the world been like this? Did Covid just sweep us away suddenly in the course of days? Has it been decades or centuries since humans really walked the earth?
Standing in my living room looking in on the kitchen table where my son and wife were seated for breakfast, I knew that I had a choice at this point. I could just let go of this ghost world or I could stay in it with them. I chose to stay. And then I woke up.
I don’t think it’s a mystery why I had this dream. I’m pretty sure the tedium of this pandemic and all the other stuff that’s going on is wearing on me and that’s why it occurred. In Reno, not only do we have the business closures and other measures against Covid, we are also getting the smoke from the California fires blanketing the city and poisoning the air. So the smoke might have invaded my brain.
So the reason I’m writing about this dream is not to create some new dream journal online. I think that’s something people don’t need from me, especially since one of my recurring dreams is a dream in which I can’t fall asleep. That one really sucks by the way. No, the reason I’m discussing this particular dream is that I find the divide between what’s real and what’s dream to be fascinating for a lot of reasons, especially when it comes to writing.
I think understanding it is important to voice. Like John Gardiner said, good writing has that dreamlike quality to it. While it does not mean they write specifically about a confusion between reality and dream, it means they have that voice that makes one feel like they are in a very vivid dream. My favorite authors have that ability to do this. I think most specifically of Ursula Le Guin’s Earth Sea series as a prime example of this as is Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead.
I also find them interesting from a cultural and historical perspective and they lead to questions: How have past generations treated dreams and dreamers? Do the dreams hold some sort of predictive quality to them? Are they clearing your head of pre-occupations? Are they signs of witchcraft and deviltry? Gifts from God or the gods? Do we still secretly cling to these ideas of dreams even today?
I also think it can make for a good story and help with characterization. I find feelings of derealization, that sense that things around you are not real is one of the clearest signs of being an outsider. Like when you’ve been working nights for years you stumble upon this feeling every once in a while. I can remember taking a walk through my neighborhood in the late morning, after everyone else had gone off to work in the morning and you take a walk through a neighborhood in the no one and it was unnerving to feel all alone despite being surrounded by homes. It left me wondering if any of it was real.
Anyway, these are concepts that I like to explore in my writing and I have a few things in the works related to them.