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Can Our Dreams Save Us?

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

by Sibel Brodney

My son is telling me about a dream he had last night:

“I am in the water and there is some kind of dangerous creature swimming around me. I know I am about to wake up, but I have this idea that I need to get back to the dock before I wake ... so the me in my dream will be safe.”

He explains to me that he knows the dream will continue, even while he is awake. But he has left that reality with unfinished business and in so doing, has abandoned himself.

His dream stays inside my head all day, floating and bobbing on top of all my other thoughts. How many times have you not made it back to the dock to save yourself? How many “me’s” do we have inside of us that we are not taking care of, that we abandon, distracted by all the different realities of our lives? Is it the job of our dreams then to work this stuff out?

I turn to science for answers. But even scientists are at a loss here. We do know that dreaming is triggered by the emotional centers of our brain. Maybe this helps us figure things out in a way that our awake bossy logical brain cannot. The irony is that the chemical that helps us remember - norepinephrine - is at its lowest when we dream. So we forget.

As I drive home from work, ELO’s “Strange Magic” comes on the radio. I see a lone skateboarder on the hilly ribbon of road ahead of me. He is silhouetted in the fading sun behind him and is gliding to the music, as if he can hear inside my car. I’m mesmerized by his languid movements. He zigs and zags in lazy swishes, bending his knees on the deepest part of the curves. It feels like I am on the edge of a dream, like he is leading me somewhere. Sadly, I have to turn off the road before I ever reach him. I want so badly to reach him. It feels like the awake version of my son’s dream.

My son cannot remain in his dream. I cannot enter mine. It’s as though there is a secret portal to which we are denied voluntary access.

Why are dreams so elusive and mysterious? Can we really heal ourselves in them? What kind of strange magic happens there? I want to touch it! I want to make it back to the dock and save myself.

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