A Surprising Dream

Last night I had very vivid dreams.

In one of them I was sitting in a friend’s house, in a new addition, hanging out for a long time, when my friend tells me that this used to be the patio in back of his house that he enclosed. I was genuinely shocked. Astonished. Surprised. I had not seen this coming (I know it makes no sense to be so emotionally attached to the integrity of a patio, but it is a dream.)

This is not the first time this has happened in a dream of mine, where a truth is revealed that is surprising, that I did not see coming.

Here’s the question — since I am not only the person viewing the dream, but I am also the author of the story — how is it that I am so surprised? How does one part of myself keep the other part in the dark?

I read this on Dave Winer’s blog. It’s worth sharing. It’s not often I read something that I had not thought about before in any way, shape or form. Which is funny, because like every other person who’s ever lived, I’ve had some pretty vivid dreams too. Normally, I spend most of my mental strength trying to remember what they were about. I never stopped to think about the mechanics of a dream long enough to wonder how I can surprise/shock/scare myself.  I’m fairly certain that there is no definitive answer to the question. That’s fine. Like any good question, there should always be more new questions than answers. But if anyone has a reasoned explanation, or even an entertaining explanation, then go ahead and tell it.



6 thoughts on “A Surprising Dream

  1. If we simply think of the writer analogy, I am often surprised where my tales take me — how they take turns. I intend to take the story one way, but my fingers (or mind) go another. I have often wondered if that same battle between the conscious and the subconscious (to take you on Mr. Freud’s Wild Ride) is the culprit — as I suspect it is in dreams. I like to think of it as stories and dreams having their own life. I am there solely as a conduit.


    • A battle of the conscious and subconscious. I like that. As good an explanation as I’ve heard yet.

      Last night I had my own vivid dream. The river Avon ran up to my back garden, instead of the half a mile away in the world of reality, and had become populated with crocodiles. They were becoming a nuisance. But I let them be.

      I suspect those crocs would rather be populating the lagoon out the back of your house. The weather here wouldn’t be their thing. And unlike yourself, when I woke this morning, there were no crocs.


  2. Dream interpretation has a long history, but at least since Freud we are used to — “scientifically” — thinking that our dreams tell us something about ourselves. But I think that a lot of dreams are what I call “garbage dreams” — simply the rising to the surface of all sort of miscellaneous psychic crap as we sleep. The dreams don’t have any meaning, and because it is just a sort of natural process we of course wouldn’t expect the contents of the dream to be that way any more than we would expect to find an image of Jesus on a slice of toast.


  3. Well, consider the alternative or opposite to your question. Imagine that you cannot have a dream in which you aren’t omniscient. No dream ever happens without you knowing the whole plot, beginning to end. Doesn’t that seem equally ludicrous or inexplicable? If your mind creates the dream, why don’t you know how it ends right from the start? And why don’t you always know that you’re dreaming?

    Surprise is like any other emotion. It comes under certain circumstances and not others. Dreams create a sort of reality in your mind that’s based on your experiences in life. So if a dream can create a feeling of fear, or love, or hope, why not surprise? It’s not that something in your mind happens that’s surprising, it’s your mind creating that same feeling and creating appropriate imagery to go along with it.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we have on occasion dreamed that we were asleep dreaming.


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