Saturday, July 31, 2010

NOT QUITE A NIGHTMARE

The mind plays funny tricks on us. Sometimes it seems to delight in tormenting us, as is the case with the kind of nightmare I had last night. Though actually what should have been a nightmare did not quite feel like one.

I am a long-time acrophobe. I first discovered how severe the affliction could be only later in life, at the top of the campanile in Florence, when I was seized with sudden dizziness and panic, and found myself clinging to the wall, as far as possible from the edge. But I do not remember having experienced this feeling as a child. Indeed, I remember distinctly standing at the parapets of St. Botolph's Church in Aspley Guise, where my father was Rector until I was twelve years old, looking far out over the flat lands of Bedfordshire.

No matter, there was this nightmare. I was close to the top of a tall building, a skyscraper, outside, where a stepped pyramid let on up to the very top. I do not remember how I got there--an unlikely event in real life. With me were two children and two adults, both men, if I remember right, at least one of them powerfully built. The steps were built in such a way that you could see through from one side to the other, and the idea was somehow to look through this gap and see the person on the other side. We were all climbing these steps, one by one, toward the top, and I was worried about the children--though they seemed to be playing quite happily.

The ascent did not seem as terrifying as it might have done, but I was very conscious of the importance of not looking down. More worrisome was the idea of the descent, which I imagined would be far more difficult. I knew I would have to ask for the help of the powerfully built man, and rely on him to support me. The dream ended at this point--I think before I had brought myself to ask this favor and risk showing my foolish weakness.

Does the dream have to do with aging? With the fear of having to rely on others for support? It is, after all, my birthday tomorrow. The children were playing, I note, "happily." And the "powerfulness" of the other man was clearly an important quality. If, as I have heard, every character in a dream is a projection of one's self, it's kind of a nice dream, with the manifestation of all stages of my life at the top of the tower. I note, too, that I did not actually feel dizzy or in panic. It was more the sense that I would normally, in such a circumstance, have those feelings. Interesting, too, that the dream ended without a conclusion. I had not yet brought myself to ask for what I thought I would need.

7 comments:

mandt said...

"Does the dream have to do with aging?" It is the grace of age that we may reject the heights of Jaccob's Ladder and embrace Sarah's Circle. I've always seen it as a rejection of destructive sky-god masculinity and a re-affirmation of earth centered femininity. ---just an idea....

Vyvyan said...

Happy Birthday, Peter!
Most interesting to me is the aspect of fear as a learned response. I, too, am an acrophobe, which does not bode well for being surrounded by mountains! We lived in Asheville when I was a child and like you, I cannot remember having any fear of heights at that time, but 35 years later when I moved back, I found myself terrified to the point of nausea, dizziness, and often sweaty panic! It has taken me 13 years to overcome this (I'm better than I was, but still not great). I have often wondered where I learned to have this fear, as the years in between were spent in Ft. Lauderdale, where the highest elevation is a draw bridge! (And the bridges are not the thing to be afraid of in that zoo!) This leads me to wonder about other phobias; are they learned to a degree as well?

TaraDharma said...

Happy Birthday Peter!

Your dream seems to be about so many things -- rich with symbolism and emotion. You could spend quite a while mulling it over.

mandt said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

WITTY WALKERS said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY PETER!!!

WITTY WALKERS said...

Happy Birthday Peter!!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Peter. The most striking part of the dream, as you recounted it, was

"the idea was somehow to look through this gap and see the person on the other side"

given your familiarity with Buddhism and the gap I am not sure why you did not see that but then it's you you're hiding from in dreams according to M. Freud, no? The person is you or an 'other'? ??