You suddenly realize you have no clothes on, although everyone else has; you’re overcome with embarrassment, yet no one seems to notice your nakedness. It’s a common experience, and a huge relief when you realize it’s only a dream.
Douwe Draaisma, who made his name internationally with Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older, has written another irresistible book about something we all experience, turning his attention this time to dreaming. Each chapter examines a standard dream. The embarrassing dream of nakedness is one, as is the nerve-wracking nightmare of having to sit an examination that in waking life you passed twenty years ago: everything goes wrong, from finding the right room to understanding the questions. Then there’s that liberating dream of flying; you climb onto the window sill and away you soar, without even flapping your arms.
We all experience dreams, but what do we know about them? It’s often hard even to recall whether a dream was in colour
or in black-and-white. Thinking about dreams becomes a good deal more enjoyable in the company of The Dream Weaver. Draaisma raises many questions. Why, for instance, do we sometimes fall asleep and then almost immediately wake up in shock? How is it that we sometimes know we are dreaming? How do blind people dream?
Draaisma uses his own successful technique to find the answers, creating, with his usual erudite ease, a multifarious and entertaining story out of his and other people’s experiences, historical stories, brain processes, Freud’s interpretations and the results of dream research. He does so without ever becoming insistent, dogmatic or hard-going. He even includes telepathic dreams: President Lincoln famously dreamt about his own assassination shortly before the event.
Draaisma’s expressive style ensures that many of the stories will stay with you, like that of the sleepwalking man who dreams that child protection officers are at the door, come to take his baby away. Still asleep, he gets out of bed and removes the child from its cot, intending to peg it up with the washing in the attic by its romper suit. His wife intervenes just in time.
- Steers clear of both the technicalities of sleep research and the speculations of dream interpretation.
- Combines findings from sources as diverse as our dreams: laboratory research and the cinema, neurology and novels, psychiatry and dream diaries.