Dear Dream Guy,In my dream, I’m in high school and at a party in someone’s basement. It’s kind of smoky down there, and everything has a sepia tint to it. We’re all having a good time when, all of a sudden, these terrorists dressed in black and carrying machine guns bust in and take us hostage. In all the commotion, I manage to get to a phone and call for help.
When help finally arrives, it turns out to be the Karate Kid and his trainer, Mr. Miyagi. They start kicking the terrorists’ butts, and then everything disappears in a bright flash of purple light. I then find myself in a huge cave, held hostage by Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. He looks really menacing, but I pick up a rock and nail him in the eye. As he flails in pain, I run past him and out of the cave.
Once outside, I find myself at the foot of a large hill in the middle of a field. All around me are hundreds of pilgrims who are shooting at each other from behind rocks and bushes. Some of the pilgrims are dressed normally; others are wearing yellow hats with black buckles. Strangely, all of their mouths open sideways. The pilgrims don’t seem to have noticed me. I turn around and see an angry Snuffy charging me, so I dart into the middle of the gunfight and run up the hill. Once I’m at the hill’s top, I wake up.
—Am I scared of elephants?
Dear puppet elephant dreamer,
You begin back in high school, at a normal party. Suddenly, in bursts…not police officers, not parents back early from a weekend getaway, but the real deal: terrorists. With guns. Big ones. They’re even dressed in black. And they have no purpose other than—you guessed it—search and destroy. In the face of this utter dread you manage to slip away and make the phone call. Although you aren’t pulled back out of the Matrix just in time, you get the next best thing: the Karate Kid. He and his mentor proceed to whoop some terrorist behind. (Pow! Bap! Zocko!)
Just when you think it’s safe, a purple haze envelopes everything and you find yourself pitted against a new enemy: Snuffleupagus. But he’s no match for your quick wit; you hurl a rock into his huge, plastic, eye, and his yowl echoes as you flee.
It is interesting that you—ahem, your subconscious—chose fuzzy old Snuffleupagus as a villain. I mean, Big Bird’s best friend has got to be one of the nicest elephants on Sesame Street. Still, I’ll bet after waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and being kicked around by Oscar one too many times, he could turn into one mean dude. Maybe it was because the terrorists were so starkly evil that you picked something a little friendlier, and a little easier to handle. (Let’s face it: the guy doesn’t even have opposable thumbs.)
Your next scenario finds you in the crossfire of what looks to be a pre-colonial sibling rivalry. The strangest part is that the pilgrims’ mouths open sideways. Now, I’m not going to say there’s any deep meaning here in regards to your feelings on people not saying what they mean, or fear of foreign languages which has generated a visual component to the perception of another language being spoken, or even about your feelings toward genetic mutations. No, I think what we have here is merely a case of your mind asking “I wonder how it would look if…?” That is, unless mouth abnormalities had been on your mind before you had the dream.
Just when it can’t get any worse, who else should return but Snuffy, recovered from your David and Goliath-style strike, angrily charging toward you. Against all odds, you escape by running right through the gunfire and make your way up the hill. No sooner do you arrive there than…
“Congratulations,” a voice booms from above. “You have triumphed over the three challenges set for you. For this, I give you the medallion of light, which you shall use against the forces of evil…”
And blah, blah, blah. You get the idea: while you didn’t stick around for the awards ceremony, you surely deserved one. This was one of those heroic dreams, where we triumph over all odds, beat up the villain with one clever blow, and kill the dragon before rescuing the prince(ss) in the tower.
Why do we have these dreams? Frankly, we dream these things because we aren’t usually this cool in real life. These sorts of dreams help us compensate for our lack of heroic deeds, or for a lack of success in general. At the same time, one could not have a heroic dream if one never felt heroic at all, in any sense—otherwise s/he would never know how it feels to be so triumphant. Thus, while a heroic dream originates from the desire to be heroic, it cannot occur without an individual also feeling that s/he could act heroically in a hypothetical situation.
It’s noteworthy that Snuffy was the only bad guy who was specifically pitted against you. The obstacles in the rest of the dream were due to you being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why was the only direct, one-on-one enemy the beloved Snufflupagus? Probably because he was an easy guy to beat. In other words, it was unrealistic for you to imagine beating all of those terrorists by yourself. The dream would not have worked as well, because it would not have been as hypothetically possible.
Not to say that being held hostage and chased by an angry Snufflupagus is hypothetically possible, but being able to disable and outrun him is. Snuffy was definitely something you could handle by yourself. Don’t worry about calling for backup on this one. Tell your sidekicks to deal with the others. “You guys go ahead; I’ll deal with this one myself. No, I got it. It’s cool.” Dibs on Rubber Ducky anyone?