Thursday, November 3, 2011

Displacement, real-world and dream-world

Last night, I had a dream. It's actually a recurring dream: The nitty-gritty details are different every time, but the main themes and images are the same. I'm going to call these dreams feeling-of-displacement-dreams. They begin with me being with family and people I have not seen in a long time, and places I have not been to in a long time. And they always, invariably end with anxiety, fear and a feeling of being stuck; all of which are associated with family, and people and places I have not seen in a long time.

But last night's dream one such dream. I dreamt that I was halfway across the world (in Singapore, if you must know :-)), meeting friends that I have not seen in a long time. Such dreams can usually be divided more or less neatly into two parts.

Part 1: A nice setting and mood. I am hanging out or doing stuff with my friends, and we are enjoying ourselves, being totally immersed in the moment.

Part 2: Many anxious thoughts suddenly assail me: What the hell am I doing here? Aren't I supposed to be back in the States like, now? Hasn't the semester already started? And wait, I only bought a one-way ticket! Is there time to catch a flight back before the semester starts back up? And what about my immigration documents? Are they in place? 

In all these dreams, once Part 2 sets in, the whole dream is basically... fucked: Everything kind of spirals down into a whirlpool of overwhelming anxiety, and I wake up shortly after. In fact, the feeling of displacement is so strong that I sometimes need a moment after waking up to reorient myself to the reality of my waking life.

Last night's dream was one such dream, as I mentioned. But there was a different twist to it this time. Specifically, Part 1 was different this time: I was having a strong disagreement with my friends, and ended up disagreeing with them in a very disagreeable way (i.e. I was being an asshole). And the gathering/encounter ended on a bad note. And then Part 2 set in. But the dream did not end with Part 2 this time. As I was worrying about how to catch a flight back to the States, etc., I found myself walking along the street. I walked right into the path of two people who were taller than me, and who exuded an aggressive hostile energy. I decided that turning around and trying to run would probably make me even more vulnerable, so I continued walking toward them. As I got close to them, I think one of them tried to grab me, but I managed to wrench myself free. Then the other person whipped out a pair of scissors, and tried to stab me with it. I reached out my hand and succeeded in grabbing the scissors from him. He then produced another pair of scissors, and made a motion as if to throw the scissors to the ground. I thought that meant that he wanted to fight me unarmed, with no weapons, so I immediately threw the pair of scissors I was holding to the ground. Then I realized I had been tricked: He was only making as if to throw his scissors onto the ground, but was still holding on to them. Great, I thought to myself, how much more gullible can I get?

At that same exact moment, I heard footsteps behind me. I whirled around, and realized that another two hostile attackers had arrived on the scene. Great, I thought. Now I am really, really fucked. Four to one. What are my chances? My heart racing, I turned back to face the first two attackers.

At this very moment, I woke up with my heart racing, my eyes staring straight up at the ceiling. I looked at the time on my cell-phone. It was only slightly after 1:00 a.m. Darn... It felt like so much time had passed in the dream world. Yet there's still more than three hours to go before it's time for me to get up. How can this be?


I've always noticed that I tend to sleep less well the night before a trip: It's probably excitement and pent-up anxiety, as well as the stress associated with (real-world, real-time) displacement. Right now, it's 7 p.m. CDT, and I'm sitting in the departure lounge at the airport in Fargo, waiting for my flight to Portland, Oregon: I'm presenting a paper at Lewis and Clark College this weekend. I think it will be a fun trip. But I must remind myself not to try to burn the candle at both ends. I always try to pack in too much when I go on trips.

I don't have a proper way to end this post. So I guess I'll just sign off here. Maybe I'll blog this weekend in Portland. Maybe not. We'll see.


  1. Pack some scissors.............just in case:) Safe travels Nobel:)

  2. Have a safe and fun trip! I really really love Portland, if you like Thai food and have the time to check out some restaurants you should definitely check out Pok Pok :)

  3. Thanks JayaKrishna. I didn't pack the scissors. Fortunately, I have not needed to use it thus far :-)

    Thanks, Savasanaaddict. Haven't had the time to check out any restaurants today. Will definitely try to go to Pok Pok tomorrow :-)