Dreaming and Reality

About 20 years ago I was studying Literature at University as one of my degree modules and an exam was coming up. I’d been thinking about the significance of dreams in Shakespeare’s work, looking particularly at A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In this play, a nobleman tells Theseus, Duke of Athens, that he wishes his daughter, Hermia, to marry Demetrius. Hermia, who has a mind of her own (how awful!) is rebellious and says she will marry Lysander. Theseus tells Hermia that if she disobeys her father’s wishes, she could be sent to a convent, or even executed.

Hermia and Lysander run away to escape Hermia’s arranged marriage to Demetrius. They get lost in the woods, and night falls. While Hermia is sleeping under a tree, she has a nightmare. She dreams that a snake is attacking her and eating her heart. She’s trying to pluck this serpent from her chest and she wakes up in terror.

This is the scene I was lying in bed thinking about on the night before my exam. I was going over the scene in my mind and trying to visualise it. I pictured what it would have felt like for Hermia, with the snake trying to eat her heart out. I was thinking about her trying to fight the snake off her chest, my vivid imagination bringing the scene to life.

It was then that Ian, asleep next to me, began thumping his chest violently again and again. I nudged him and asked wtf he was doing. He mumbled something about trying to fend off a snake.

Next morning, we saw that in the region of his heart there was a big purple bruise, which he must have done in his attempt to pluck from his chest this snake which he’d dreamt was attacking him.

I told him what I’d been thinking about at the time when he’d started with this dream.
‘Oh, I might have known, this is your fault,’ he said.
‘How is it my fault?
‘Well you must have transferred your thoughts into my brain.’ He said this half-jokingly, but we were both really puzzled.

The more we thought about it we could only conclude that this is what had happened. Somehow his brain, while he was asleep, had picked up my thoughts as I’d been enacting the scene in my mind. This had caused him to dream that a snake was crawling on his chest and attacking him. But how can this happen? Surely unspoken thoughts can’t be transferred to another person like that. Can they?

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3 thoughts on “Dreaming and Reality

  1. First and foremost it’s cruel to pluck snakes!, secondly I do think it’s likely Ian had been taking a sneaky look at Shakespeare, thirdly, I do think it’s possible in a limited way, to pick up he thoughts of people we know well and fourth dreaming of snakes is common.
    Su

  2. What an incredible story Jean! I am off to catch up on your posts as I have been ill these last weeks and unable to blog myself or visit blogs. I look forward to more thoughts on your dream. What would Freud have made of it!? Warmest wishes to you 🙂

    • Hello Ruth, and welcome back to Blog Land. Sorry to hear you’ve been ill and I hope you’re much better now.
      Yes, this was a strange thing to happen; the timing of his dream, the mirroring of the scene I was thinking about, and then the bruises! We did try to think first of the more logical explanations but couldn’t think of any. He said he hadn’t been reading the play and didn’t know that scene. Yes, no doubt Freud would have had something to say about it.

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