Analyzing a dream experimentation gone a-rye
by Gary Huerta
I’ve been fascinated lately by what happens in the brain when one dreams. It has been explained to me as a moment in the night when the portion of the brain that controls impulse control goes to sleep, leaving the rest of the brain to run amok with the vast collection of memories and other random data it has accumulated over the years. It’s as if the brain gives itself permission to play and create while its rational control system is down.
Over the years, I’ve had my share of common dreams. I’ve been naked in high school, pretending as if everything is totally normal, hoping that no one will notice I’m about to take my history final sans pants.
I’ve had dreams where I could fly and dreams where I’m being chased by some unknown force through tiny, dark, cramped, confusing caves. I’ve had horrific nightmares where I am still married and foreshadowing visions of myself as an old man. God only knows what dreams I can’t or won’t remember.
A few days ago, I had an idea. I was curious if I could make my dreams more creative by incorporating what I would like to call, “a dream facilitator.”
The notion came from reading Jonah Lehrer’s book, “Imagine — How Creativity Works.” According to his research, many writers get a creative boost when their minds are altered by foreign substances. According to Lehrer, the poet W.H. Auden was a nicotine and caffeine addict. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” during a six-day cocaine binge, and Jack Kerouac steeped his brain in Benzedrine so he could write “On the Road.”
I could elaborate on what Lehrer reveals about the science in the brain that facilitates creativity, but for the sake of moving things along, it can be summed up by saying that amphetamines cause certain parts of the brain to focus on a subject, allowing the artist to concentrate heavily and without distraction.
However, since I was after a more creative dreamscape and my goal was to shut off the prefrontal cortex in order to free my mind of inhibitions, I needed to utilize a depressant. And since I have a terrific collection of bourbon… you get the picture.
I decided upon a dosage of one shot right before turning the lights off. It seemed like just enough of the amber distillate to get that frontal part of the brain to sleep just a little more soundly and at the same time give the awake part of the brain a little lubricant with which to create.
Here’s what happened during the two-night experiment.
On night one, I found myself at a very fancy brunch. Fortunately, I was not naked and by all other accounts, I seemed to be in relatively good control of motor function and mental faculties. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary until my girlfriend approached me with a large ceramic bowl.
“You should eat this. It’s happiness,” she said.
“No thanks,” I said politely.
“It’s the most delicious thing in the world,” she insisted over and over.
“I don’t want any part of it,” I screamed.
As I looked around, I saw everyone at the party was eating from the bowl of happiness. Everyone except me.
When I woke up, I wondered what it meant that I would be so unwilling to eat from the bowl of happiness. My assumption is that, as a writer, I am drawn to matters of dysfunction, much like the fly is drawn to the flame. Matters of happiness do not hold my interest. I can only assume that my subconscious was acting in its own best interest to keep me from feeling a sense of elation and thus losing my mojo or ability to find harmony with dysfunction.
Either that or I am indeed a complete idiot for passing up the opportunity to eat from the bowl of happiness and knowing true bliss.
Night two proved to be much more interesting. I was in school, sitting uncomfortably in a lecture. I had to go to the bathroom so I excused myself. When I got there I found myself in a house of horrors — the room was dark, there was shit everywhere I turned, and I couldn’t escape getting it all over myself. My brain decided it would be amusing if I was wearing sandals with socks, (a fashion statement I detest in my waking hours) and so my socks got drenched in feces, causing instant ulcerous tumors. When I returned to class I was literally covered head to toe in crap – an admittedly novel deviation from the more commonplace, “naked classroom scenario.”
The teacher asked me to explain what had taken me so long to return to class – as if it wasn’t obvious, right? With no other option, I was forced to recount my experience in the bathroom to the entire class as a stand-up routine. I launched into a series of one-liners and potty anecdotes and even incorporated the ulcerous tumors on my feet as fodder.
By the time I was done, I had the whole class laughing and had turned my own potentially embarrassing world of shit into a positive, extremely satisfying creative experience. I awoke feeling unbelievably satisfied by the creative output I was able to spontaneously produce in my dream.
Now that I’ve concluded the two-night experiment, I have made the following hypothesis about what both dreams mean. My mind tested my desire by setting before me a placebo – the bowl of happiness – which I summarily dismissed as offering me no real joy. I think I instinctively knew that my reason for existence resides in having the ability and talent to help others relate and laugh at dysfunction, which the bathroom full of shit represented on night two.
Interestingly, while the frontal cortex of my brain was sleeping via the assistance of Jack Daniels, my inner mind was letting me know that for me, real happiness isn’t found in a bowl. Instead, it comes in a dimly lit bathroom where pooh is everywhere, and finding an amusing way to explain its presence in my life makes me infinitely happy.
I can’t say I’m going to continue the experiment. I think I prefer enjoying the benefits of my bourbon during wakey-wakey time.