Dreams and Covid-19

Here is the link to my YouTube video on Dreams and Covid-19: https://youtu.be/6ffoXWQGgcU

Multiple media outlets (LA Times, NY Post, Vox) report more people experiencing vivid dreams. Social distancing, abandonment and illness are some of the common themes.

So, what is going on?

In my practice since the inception of social distancing in March, I have had more people reporting dreams. Even people who are not in talk therapy, but just having a medication check appointment have asked about their dreams. Some refer to my analytic couch, asking “This makes you a Freudian, right? So a couple nights ago, I had a ragger of a nightmare…”

What do therapists REALLY do with dreams? In some ways, the song Silent Lucidity (written by lead guitarist Chris DeMarco of Queensryche) says it most eloquently:

So here it is, another chance Wide awake you face the day Your dream is over…. or has it just begun?

As Freud said “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.” Charels Brenner said that no other phenomenon give people as much access to the unconscious working of their mind.

Because dreams are so powerful and personal, a good therapist needs to earn your trust and take their time to interpret dreams with you. Ideally, you both will return to dreams over the course of multiple sessions.

Why do dream work in therapy? It becomes a way for you to develop the skills of ongoing self-inquiry.

How do you interpret a dream?

  1. Reflect on the dream, and as you think it through see if there are any details you forgot.
  2. Remember what happened in your life the day before and the morning after.
  3. Consider that you are the scriptwriter, and you have motivations to use symbolic disguises in your dream. Remind, your dream can’t be too upsetting, otherwise you’d wake up!
  4. See what your associations are – your mental connections - to the dream.
  5. Think about what is MISSING from the dream.
  6. Focus on the FEELING of the dream.

If you do this, you may have insights about your wishes, fears and conflicts. You may learn about how you developed certain style of dealing with stress, or the patterns in which you relate to others…or yourself.

The two most common connections my people have been making with the CoronaDreams are: trauma and reworking of trauma, and conflict and wish fulfillment.

From my point of view, the CoronaDreams have two frequent themes:

  1. The traumas have often been about early loss of a loved one, or social isolation associated with bullying. Many of my patients have, paradoxically, had some “wish fulfillment” upon awaking. And they have, as Chris DeMarco would have said, “another chance to face the day.” Their loved ones and they are healthy, or at least managing. They are alone, but with a partner or family, or are a call or “Zoom” away from connecting with someone they care about.
  2. The conflicts have frequently been about erotic intimacy. The mystery created by distraction from the outside world is gone. There is less “separateness” with sexual partners if they are sheltering together. Ester Perel, in Mating in Captivity, talks about how mystery and separateness are critically important elements of sustaining erotic desire in a committed relationship. Based on this, I think that couples have a real opportunity during this time. Exploring how to truly accept, listen to, be patient with, play and flirt with your partner instead of just “scoring” are some activities to practice. Those don’t sound like bad things to practice, right?