I had a vivid nightmare last night, but I am okay with it. You see, it was self-induced. More on that later. In this particular dream, I was on an island. The island was small enough that I could see all of it from where I stood. It was a gray, blustery day, and I had no idea how I had gotten on this island, or why I was there. In the dead center of this small island, there was a single house. Two stories, and as gray as the sky. The closer I got to the house, the stronger the winds got, pulling and pushing me around like I was a discarded toy. I reached the outside of the house and looked up to the second floor. There was a weather-worn deck, and a little girl came out of the house and stood on the deck, looking down at me in silence. She couldn’t have been any older than five or six, but something about her was evil. I just felt it. She walked to edge of the deck and she looked down at me, the wind uprooting trees around me. “Why are you doing this??” I screamed at her, as if I knew she was .Her eyes immediately went solid black. A sick grin spread over her face, and she said in a voice I will never forget: The kids in school all pick on me, so I need to kill them all. And just like that, I woke up. Thing is, as disturbing and jarring as that was for me, it was also oddly invigorating. Why? Because when we come face to face with the things we fear, we wake up appreciating our own lives more. That, my friends, is the beauty of a nightmare.
What was the last dream you had that really scared you?
It is easy to get stuck in the slow tedium of daily life. Waking up and going to work. Coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed only to repeat that, over and over, until we are dead. Some people add spouses and children into their equation, but ultimately, it is all the same. And when you are in that cycle, it is sometimes really easy to lose sight of how blessed you are, or how great your life is. We all do it, it’s okay. It does not make us terrible people, but it does make us somewhat cliché’.
Sometimes, amid that nine to five shuffle, we start to inadvertently go numb. Not all of us, and not all the way, but we do. We begin to feel less and less, like we are scabbing over. And sometimes, a shot in the arm is the one thing we need to wake us up, literally and figuratively. This is where nightmares come in. A proverbial slap to the face to remind you how good you have it. Before I delve any further into how nightmares benefit us, let me just say, the realistic ones suck. There is no undermining that. The kind of nightmare where you bury someone you love, or you get into a crippling car accident, those dreams are terrible, and you wake up more exhausted than before you went to bed, but those are JUST as necessary. Allow me to tell you why.
I call him “rapeclown”, and you will never UNSEE him.
Because without the fear of death, there is no joy in life. That may sound extreme, but there is truth to it.
Please do not misinterpret that to mean people should LIVE in fear. No. Living in fear is no way to live. But living with the reminder that something worse, some unseen tragedy is always just out of reach, that helps us to live in the beauty of each moment we have. Once we peer into the darkness, you realize how much more lovely the light is when you look back at it. It is like the scene in Fight Club when Tyler Durden robs that store, and the clerk thinks he is going to get shot in the face, and Tyler lets him go. Tyler than tells Jack (himself) that the next morning, that bowl of cereal that man eats is going to be the best thing he ever tasted.
I am one of the millions of people who never got over The Exorcist.
Because he never thought he would taste cereal, or anything for that matter, again. And that is exactly what nightmares do for us. They trap us somewhere where we don’t want to be. They put us into a scenario we don’t want to be in, and when we come back from those places, our regular, dull, day-to-day lives suddenly don’t look so dull. You think eight hours of working for someone who treats you like shit is terrible, but it is not so bad when just a few hours earlier, you were buried alive, or getting chased by some unseen shadow. Yes, a crappy boss sucks, but not as much as some demon, trying to gnaw at your guts, and nightmares help to give us that perspective.
You may think your significant other can be (insert whatever negative term best suits here), but when you have a dream where that person dies in front of you, the next day, all those traits that annoyed you are suddenly beautiful. They are nuances, not annoyances, once again. And we have nightmares to thank for that.
I had a dream once that I will never forget. I was trapped in an elevator that was going lower and lower, well past what the floors on the buttons indicated. As the elevator went deeper, it grew hotter and hotter, until I figured out I was in an elevator to Hell (best name for a metal album ever?). And while it may sound silly now, understand, I could FEEL the rubber of my shoes melting on the floor. It was the scariest feeling I have ever felt in my life. I was running out of breath and my skin was blistering. Then I woke up, covered in sweat, panting like it was a fucking movie, and wouldn’t you know, the air NEVER felt as good to me as it did in that moment. I took huge breaths, like swigs, and just lay back in my bed. It took a blistering elevator ride to Hell for me to be grateful to be alive again.
I know it was just complacency, but that dream woke me up from that state, and I needed it.
It was after the elevator dream that I began working on my lucid dreaming more. I wanted to go back, but I wanted to be in control. I didn’t mind being scared, but I wanted to have the ability to turn and run when my feet felt like they were rooted. And the more I practiced and mastered lucid dreaming, the more I was able to go to the places I wanted to go, even if they were scary places. And that brings me to the other amazing aspect of nightmares.
How many times in your life are you going to get to run from a werewolf? I can promise you that, outside of a dream, you won’t get the opportunity. Or running from faceless entities, who you can hear but can’t see? Outside of video games and moments like these in film, we don’t get to experience those moments. But in dreams, we can. We can feel the adrenaline of looking a snarling version of death in the face and living to tell about it.
This pic really sells my points. And also allows me to ask you: Have I made it clear how awesome I think Cabin in the Woods was?
When I spring this “nightmare theory” on people, they tend to want to argue with the logic that no one WANTS to feel scared, but I can argue that with countless examples, from horror films to sky diving, that say otherwise. People are adrenaline junkies, and nowhere is adrenaline more prevalent than when we are forced to face our fears, as we are often forced to within our nightmares. So sometimes, before I go to bed, I will gaze at this picture for like five minutes:
Yes, this is a real person, and he is a convicted sex offender. Nothing scarier than that.
Or I will watch something like this:
Ah, sweet, condensed nightmare fuel.
I will literally flood myself with craven imagery, just to ensure that, once I got to bed, my dreams would make H.P Lovecraft shudder. And sure enough, I have more nightmares than “regular” people. But the funny thing is, they are not so much nightmares to me, as they are affirmations that my daily life is pretty f*cking good.
Now I understand some of you may see that and think I am odd, but let me tell you, when I wake up in the morning, I can promise you my breakfast tastes about a hundred times better than yours, every single day.
Sweet dreams, my Remlins….