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Deep Dreaming

playcity23's picture

Tonight, I am fighting for my own life. For some inexplicable reason, my family is trying to kill me. I run from one hiding place to another in my old house back in Switzerland until being cornered by my father. I launch at him and break his collarbone. I spot a broken window and crawl through it, watching the glass claw me but feeling only a tickle. I fall hard on the ground and melt into it. I fall again on my back and somehow I’m staring at a bunch of dark grapes. Guess I’m in a vineyard. I force myself up and start running through things. Through Westfield tube station in London. Through my mother’s office building and down the Rue de Marché in Geneva at Christmas. Nobody is following me. The gut-shrinking fear keeps me pelting through scene after scene until it settles on a damp country road at midnight. Someone is following me about two strides behind. Without looking back, I know it’s an old ex-boyfriend. I consciously think this is someone I should truly be afraid of. But the primal fear has waned into a sense of urgency to just keep going. We keep running. A pair of headlights light the pavement for us. 

This is a recurring dream I have. According to my roommate, my behavior is very bizarre. Every fifteen minutes, I would violently jump like I’ve been shocked. Start thrashing around, almost fall off the bed. Start moaning phrases like ‘I caaaaaaaan’t’ while hyperventilating and arching my back. Then fall completely still, save for the occasional finger twitch. I repeat the process every hour or so. I wake up in the morning with cold sweat drying on my abdomen. 

Dreams are a sequence of images, feelings, ideas, and strong emotions that involuntarily occur during the rapid-eye movement stage of sleep. This is the cycle of sleep where the measured amount of brain activity is highest. It is generally accepted that dreams are connected to the unconscious. Freud asserted that dreams are “...disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes.” To him, wishes are unconscious desires and motives. There are other theories stating that dreams are a form of psychotherapy, or an interpretation of stimuli (like temperature or a police siren), or a way of compartmentalizing the day’s sensations and emotions. 

I think that dreams can be interpreted as a subconscious having a romp around its keeper’s mind. Deep play so deep, we can no longer boast control. Ackerman’s definition somewhat corresponds to mine. She explains that play is “an activity which proceeds within certain limits of time and space, in a visible order.” Deep play is “the most intense or extreme” form of it. However, she associates play with feelings of transcendence and jubilation. 

My dreams are never very jubilant. In fact, the majority of the time they tend to be rather horrifying. Yet I cannot deny that my subconscious is engaging in deep play. The chronological progression of the dream is rough, but it’s there. The purpose of it is unknown. My ability to run through distant locations certainly exceeds the limits of time and space. My body and my mind are undeniably wrapped in a form of alternate reality as Ackerman describes it. My roommate cannot understand what I’m doing right on the edge of my bed, other than the reason must not be pleasant. 

It shows all the hallmarks of play, save for the enjoyment aspect. What about the suspected uses of deep play? Does running for my life serve as “a dress rehearsal for adult life,” “to stay active and fit,” “a mental test of cunning or courage?” Rather, I think it is one of my “refuges from ordinary life.” A place where the subconscious messes with the emotional tag pinned on the people I have met while giving me unparalleled abilities to defy nature’s law. It’s a refuge and a hell at the same time. Because when our expectations of normal behavior don’t apply, I find myself becoming a more chaotic and intriguing version of myself. 

Ackerman states that “much of human life unfolds as play.” We spend about a third of our lives asleep. We must not write off our dreams as random flashes that serve little purpose; they are the exhibitions of the play taking place in the deep recesses of our minds. 


Cherry, Kendra. "Dream Interpretation: What Do Dreams Mean?" Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.

"Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms." Sleep—Information about Sleep. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.

"What Are Dreams?" HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.

"Dream." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.

"Unconscious Mind." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.


playcity23's picture

Oh dear God please don't skin me Anne please

Kindasorta forgot the most imporant citation. Sorry..

Ackerman, Diane. Deep Play. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.