Home Personal Psychology Sleeping/Dreaming Dreamer Beware: The Insightful Dreams of Sarah, Dan and Katherine

Dreamer Beware: The Insightful Dreams of Sarah, Dan and Katherine

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As I noted in my first essay regarding the interpretation of dreams (Bergquist, 2023a), I had the opportunity to collect dreams in a dream laboratory many years ago from Katherine, a remarkable young woman who was able to recall all of her dreams when woken up in the laboratory and asked by a researcher speaking on an intercom from another room: “what is on your mind.” Typically, the person serving as a “subject” in the lab reports at least a fragment of some dream they were having when woken up. We “knew” that they were dreaming because of information we were obtaining from eye movements and brain activity. This information was obtained from small electrodes we placed above and below their eyes and from other electrodes glued onto several places on their head.

While the procedures used in preparing someone for sleep were never ideal (and often themselves played a role in the subject’s dreams), there were a remarkable set of dreams collected from many subjects (reported in Breger, Hunter and Lane, 1971)—especially those collected from Katherine. I have already written about and provided a rather detailed analysis of a dream (“The Pelican”) that was profoundly disturbing for Katherine—a full-fledged “nightmare.” She had another dream that was equally as intriguing—and rarely obtained in a dream laboratory. It was one of those “prophetic” dreams that are often reported, but rarely accepted as valid by those who are skeptical of “wacko” accounts which suggest some sort of mystical powers.

As background, it should be noted that Katherine was an artist who was working on a glass mobile at the time of her participation in the dream study. She had also been dating a specific man for about two months. Here is the dream as reported by Katherine:

“Researcher: Katherine, what is going through your mind?

Katherine: oh, ah, I was having a dream. Wait, what was it about . . . it was about my glass mobile. The one I have been working on for the last couple of weeks. It is a very pretty mobile. In the dream, my boyfriend, Steve, had just come over to my apartment. I had just added another glass object to the mobile . . . . Steve wanted to hold it. You know, the mobile. And I didn’t want him to hold it. But, he insisted on holding it. I was getting mad. He grabbed it and the mobile broke into many pieces [Katherine has strong emotions in her voice.]. There were pieces of glass all over the floor. I began to cry. I shouted at Steve. He got up and left my apartment. It was then that you woke me up.

Researcher: Can you remember anything else?

Katherine: No. It was a horrible dream. I was so angry at Steve. And I just looked at all of the glass on the floor. I don’t remember anything else.

Researcher: OK. We’ll let you go back to sleep.”

This dream was disturbing in and of itself. Especially since Katherine had a horrible nightmare just one night earlier. While many of her dreams were quite pleasant and even fanciful, this dream of the shattered mobile was obviously quite stressful for Katherine. As in the case of the Pelican dream, Katherine had no memory of the Shattered Mobile when she woke in the morning.

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