Writing prompt:
Every so often a dream catcher must be emptied of the dreams it has caught. Who does it and what do they see?

My first reaction on reading this was ‘oh no, a bit of hippy dippy nonsense’. But, I let my mind drift and here’s what I came up with:

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“Everyone dreams” my Freudian tutor was saying, “if they say they don’t, they’re lying, or there’s something wrong with them.” “I don’t, but it’s just a vitamin deficiency, nothing dubious” I interjected, then realised I was getting those looks, you know the ones, where people are thinking ‘delusional’.

I realised the amateur mistake I’d made and hastily revised my statement: “well, OK, of course I do dream, I just never remember them. I haven’t done for years.” My tutor gave me an unfathomable look and wrote something down in her notebook.

Some weeks later, as class ended, a woman came in to speak to the tutor. Whilst chatting, I became aware that both were looking at me and nodding. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling so, despite being pretty desperate to go to the loo, I decided to walk with Therese to the station. Once there I raced down to my platform, catching the early train. It would mean a longer wait at changeover, but that would give me time to find the loo.

Opening my book, I was soon engrossed in Freud, scribbling in the margins and highlighting passages. Reaching my changeover station, I quickly packed up and hopped off, seeking a platform attendant to direct me on my now hugely urgent visit. Relieved, I emerged onto the platform to await my train, only to realise that the woman who’d been talking to my tutor was there and she’d spotted me.

Feeling more than a touch uneasy but drawing re-assurance from the crowded platform, I headed on down to wait or my train. She approached me, asking: “are you going through to Leatherhead from here?” I sighed, realising she’d done her homework and knowing that I’d have to trust my tutor wasn’t selling me into the slave trade, I agreed that I was. She offered me her hand and introduced herself: “Sarah Jane Compton, Sleep Specialist.”

We hopped on the train and she spoke to me about my dream recall, or rather, the lack of it. She was particularly interested in the vitamin deficiency thing and I told her it had been discovered during the years when I was seeing a nutritionist regularly. That we’d even tested it out. When I supplemented for a minimum of 4 weeks, my dream recall returned. But as the lack of it was doing me no harm and I didn’t naturally consume those food stuffs high in it (one of the B vitamins, I don’t recall which now), I simply didn’t bother anymore.

Sarah Jane was making notes as we talked, then our conversation moved more generally onto psychology (which I was studying) and my plans for the future. At that time, I had no fixed plan. I knew that the subject was one of great fascination for me, but I had yet to chose my specialism. Sarah Jane asked if I would be willing to participate in a sleep study – nothing arduous – they would simply measure my brain activity over a couple of nights and interview me on waking and later in the day. She stressed how helpful it would be and I agreed, subject to it taking place out of term time.

Some weeks later, I attended Sarah Jane’s sleep study where I was also invited to sit in on a few therapy groups. It rapidly became clear that the groups were for those whose sleep was disturbed. In some cases, it could clearly be traced to known trauma and the normal therapeutic options were providing succour and improvement. In other cases, there was no known reason for the deeply disturbing dreams being experienced. Children, in particular, were terrified of sleeping which was having a deterimental impact on their lives. One of the administrators had cautiously suggested trying dream catchers and – much to everyone’s surprise – they were experiencing a remarkably high level of success with them.

Whilst I was finding this entirely fascinating, I couldn’t help but wonder what part Sarah Jane saw me playing, when suddenly she came out with it. The dream catchers stopped being effective after a time and whilst they’d experimented with changing them for new ones, the children – in particular – took an overly long period of time to settle down with the replacements. Someone suggested that what was needed was for the dream catchers to be emptied. A few had volunteered, but as this involved viewing the contents, it had proven hugely distressing for some time afterwards and all ended up having to go into therapy because of what they’d seen. Sarah Jane wondered if I’d try. She was hoping that my lack of dream recall would make me immune to the dream catcher’s contents.

Unsurprisingly, I agreed. I did start to suffer from disturbed sleep myself. I’d wake up with a start, or wake up crying, or shouting out. Of course, I’d have absolutely no idea, no recall of why I felt the emotion, simply that I was feeling it – whether that be a terrible fear, absolute horror or terrible grief.

As this whole concept had originated from outside the box thinking, I decided to take a punt and suggest that – maybe – we should experiment with using dream catchers on those who lived happy lives and dreamed of pleasing things, you know, in the hope they’d provide a suitable balance? So, if you have happy dreams that you’re willing to share, do give us a call …



© 2016 Debra Carey