Dreaming of Heroism

Dear Erin,

The things you have to deal with as a parent… But Munchkin is adorable with her cloth diapers on. It looks like she’s wearing balloons on her bum. Thanks for the info! It might come in handy someday.

Last night I dreamt I was Vanellope von Schweetz from the “Sugar Rush” game in Wreck-It Ralph. I was on a train, well, more like a light rail car, and I was sitting on one of those benches along the side. It was a pretty short bench, and for some reason there was a giant ottoman in front of it, so in order to sit down, you pretty much had to slide in. There was another girl on the bench with me. Anyway, these two guys come up and start trying to get me to move because one of them wants to sit on the bench with the other girl. When I refused, they became insulting, but I defused the situation with charm and wit. Thinking back on it now, I have no idea what I said, but you know it’s a dream because I don’t think I have ever been “charming” or “witty” in any kind of real-world conflict.

One of the themes of my dreams my whole life has been about how I have been a hero somehow. In my dreams, I’m always saving people, or trying to save them, from fates worse than death. And from death. I’m not sure I want to know what a proper psychoanalyst might say about such dreams, but for the most part I chalk it up to an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

Lately, though, I’ve started to wonder if it might be something else as well. I’m currently in a rather antagonistic relationship with my body, and as a result I feel much more physically weak and vulnerable than I have in the past. Just to be clear, that’s an emotional feeling about my physicality, not a physical feeling of weakness. And I started to wonder this morning as I got ready if maybe these dreams about being a hero, of performing amazing physical and mental feats, are partly a way to deal with the feeling of helplessness I have in other parts of my life. In real life, I have to make concessions to my limitations, and I have to develop patience. In dreams, I am sometimes the way I’d like to imagine myself – practically perfect in every way – and no forbearance is necessary.

Except last night, I dreamt I was at a disadvantage to everyone around me, and it was only my mind that could save the day. If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph, Vanellope is a little girl and an outcast. Her major qualities are determination and spunk, but she has no luck and is rather a brat. She’s certainly not charming or strong or any of the things I was musing about above. So I wonder why I dreamt I was her. Maybe the feeling of vulnerability was stronger than usual in my subconscious, so I became a physically vulnerable character? Or maybe my subconscious recognizes a need to be determined in the face of setbacks in my real life? Or maybe my subconscious just really likes her outfit and wanted to wear it in my dreams? Hmm, yes, I like that last one; I’ll go with that.

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2 thoughts on “Dreaming of Heroism

  1. I have very similar dreams. Are they to distract us from our unfulfilled lives or are they saying that we want to become something else?

    • Hi Kyle,

      It’s really an unanswerable question, isn’t it? Our minds are complicated and mysterious, and such dreams could conceivably arise from any combination of sources – anxiety, desire, frustration, a late movie or cheese sandwich. I tend to think that my dreams mix what I dwell on in my waking life (personal frustrations or hopes or work) together with stimuli I spend my time on (movies, books, etc.).

      Your suggestions are interesting, although I don’t think the answer lies in an either/or dichotomy. And I would ask if you believe that life must be “fulfilled” in all areas in order to be worthwhile to the person living it (as opposed to something to be distracted from because it’s so awful).

      To be honest, I enjoy the questioning more than I would enjoy seriously trying to pin down answers – an exercise in futility, don’t you think? There is great pleasure in using the imagination to find or create as many different reasons as possible.

      Thanks for your comment! Despite the fact that I’ve only responded with a long-winded non-answer to your question, I really appreciate knowing that you’ve read the blog and took the time to comment.

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