Lucid Dreams, Quarantine, and the COVID19 Pandemic: Understanding Their Intimate Connection
I woke up in a cold sweat. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest, I could feel it reverberate through my entire body. What was happening? Where was I? Were they banging on my door? Had they found me? Was I hidden enough? Just a few moments ago, I was plunged deep into an apocalyptic Metro Manila. No communications, no radio or cell signal. We had to leave clues for our loved ones to find us. We had to go underground or else they would sniff us out. It was unclear who “they” were, but meeting with them meant a slow and painful death. Everyone was in survival mode desperately trying to find the people they love. A task made difficult with the wearing of masks and protective gear. I was squeezed into an elevator, then snaking through tunnels, trying to find a safe place but one where those I love could find me. A Sysiphean task. A safe place meant isolation. A locatable place meant death.
Fortunately it was just a nightmare. One of many vivid dreams I’ve had throughout this pandemic. They aren’t always apocalyptic. Some were like an old French movie, lost in the cobble stone streets of an empty Paris, wandering through museums of ancient history filled with artifacts from a mysterious time. Another was an insect infestation which carried on into my waking life where I obsessively zeroed in on every ant, fly, mosquito or roach that crossed my path. The dreams would not stop. Therefore, I thought the only way to get a peaceful night would be to confront them.
When I did some research, I found out I was not alone. People all over the world have been experiencing an increase of vivid dreams since the outbreak of COVID-19. A website started by California based, Erin Gravely – I Dream of Covid – has become a popular place to share and compare notes from the subconscious.
A Google search for “dream covid” yielded 758 million results with numerous articles recounting the surge of pandemic related dreams. Since the outbreak, The Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France reported an 35 per cent increase in dream recall among participants in a study, accompanied by 15 per cent more negative dreams. A Reddit community called Reddit Dreams has over 151,000 users in the community with much of the recent additions detailing dreams they were having during quarantine. On Twitter, there are thousands of tweets under the hashtags #pandemicnightmare #coviddreams #coronavirusdreams and the like from people sharing and ultimately seeking company in the dystopia.
Although some of the symbolism in my dreams — around anxiety and fear of the outbreak and its aftermath – was obvious, others were more obscure and elusive to me. I then decided to reach out to my therapist, Dr. Rose Marie Yenko, to gain some insight into my subconscious. Yenko is a clinical psychologist who is with The Carl Jung Circle Center and her practice is based on Jungian psychology where the goal is to acknowledge and integrate the unconscious material and bring it into full awareness. “A dream is the doorway through which the unconscious uses to get the person’s attention,” she explains. “To try and make the person see what he or she is not seeing.”
I discussed with her the benefits of reaching out to professionals during this time and why interpreting our dreams could be the key to calming our anxiety and understanding our behavior. She also shared a few tips on how to analyze your own dreams and try to comprehend and integrate what your unconscious might be telling you.
Most people tend to shy away from therapy, only believing that there needs to be something truly "wrong" before seeing someone. What is the benefit of doing therapy especially during these anxious times?
There are layers in a person. And in Jungian Psychology, we talk about the Conscious layer - information, emotions, attitudes, stories and memories which are readily accessible to the person; and we have the Unconscious layer - past experiences, wounds, archetypal dynamics which may not be in a person's immediate awareness. When the person is open to going deeper, it is a start of the journey of the self and one can discover a wisdom about one's self.
During this period of Enhanced Community Quarantine, the conditions present themselves for making a person reflect on the meaning of his or her life, reassess what life and one's lifestyle is all about, maybe reminisce and remember aspirations and dreams that never found fruition and expression, and question what is truly of value. One can gently nudge the person to make use of this period for such an opportunity of grace.
Jungian Psychology uses dreams to help understand what a person is going through. Why are dreams so important to note and try to comprehend?
Dreams that grip you, that intrigue and perplex you, are ways by which the Unconscious is trying to speak to you. To share with you a truth, an awareness that you need to see and incorporate in your wakeful life. To disregard dreams, this kind of big dreams, is to possibly put you in peril, or in a clueless position. Your life choices and actions may be hobbled because one is not 'listening' to one's dreams. So, when one has a big dream, please do pay attention.
"Life possibly beckons the person to "cocoon" and evolve into a deeper soulful life."
— Dr. Rose Marie Yenko
What are some of the questions we might ask ourselves after a particularly disturbing or vivid dream?
One approach is to ask related questions, such as what is the image in your dream that stood out the most for you? What are your associations with this image? And these associations, how do they connect with what is happening in your life right now? Explore more fully these associations with your life. See what insights they bring. When you experience a Eureka! give a quiet moment of "thank you" to the dream.
Any advice to people on how to measure their current state of anxiety and when they should perhaps seek help?
I suggest that the first "frontline" of help is one's family. In these challenging and anxious times, seek support first from one's family. And from one's community of friends and other loved ones. Be in touch, connect, check and share how each one is coping and structuring their day. Recognize too that each one copes differently. Likewise, be updated by the COVID-19 situation from reliable sources and structure time periods for receiving and taking in information. One's anxiety can be curbed by reliable information, by feeling connected with one's closest, and by structuring one's day while observing a routine.
It is "normal" to feel anxious and afraid at this time. There may be a lot of worries and concerns, some of which you may be able to manage. Schedule a "worry" time so you do not carry the worry the whole day, or write them down. Then, see what can be a “to-do” set of responses to one's worries.
For some, the response of the psyche may be different. It does not wish to structure, it does not wish to have a to-do list. Then inside the person there may be a movement for change, for transformation. Life possibly beckons the person to "cocoon" and evolve into a deeper soulful life.
Dr. Rose Marie Yenko, Clinical Psychologist and OD Consultant works with The Carl Jung Circle Center. The Center offers workshops that help a person in their Individuation Process. The members are psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors that have a Jungian orientation. You may access their Soul Conversation videos on You Tube. For more information please visit: www.jungcirclecenter.ph