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Dreaming has long been a fascination for scientists, psychologists, and regular people alike. While some consider dreams a benign byproduct of the sleeping brain, there's also accumulating evidence that dreams help with memory formation, processing complicated emotions, or as a way to practice facing threats or dangers. Dreams might help lead us to new insights and problem-solving; other research has supported that dreaming could be therapeutic.With coronavirus dreams, we're learning something more simple that we've known before: Sweeping historical events have a way of making it into our subconscious. In the book, The Third Reich of Dreams, writer Charlotte Beradt collected about 75 dreams from people living during Hitler's rule. One dream from 1933 was about a mind-reading machine—one of several about thought control. “These dreams—these diaries of the night—were conceived independently of their authors’ conscious will,” Beradt wrote. “They were, so to speak, dictated to them by dictatorship.”If we follow this line of reasoning, our dreams have been dictated to us by the virus. Silly, scary, or strange, having coronavirus dreams right now reveals, at the very least, that we're all going through something together and trying to figure out what these events mean to us, the people we love, and the lives we lead.Jeanne, a 37-year-old in Brooklyn, recently had a vivid dream in which an entire wall in her home collapsed, leaving it open to the street. Over time, as the economic situation deteriorated, people from outside started to come in and live in her former bedroom.
Deirdre Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Committee of Sleep, has started to collect COVID-19 dreams to analyze and compare to dreams before the pandemic; she currently has about 50 dreams. (You can contribute yours through this link.) She said many submissions so far are about someone very close to the dreamer getting sick, along with more metaphorical dreams about bugs, like maggots or worms, or hordes of flying bugs.Here’s a section from one bug dream: "Suddenly, I feel pain in my right shoulder, and see a huge grasshopper-like insect there. It has already chewed through the fabric of my sweater and is now gouging my flesh. Someone immediately comes over and helps me get rid of it…[Then], a thin white worm lands on my hip. Its touch is like acid, also burning through my clothes…As my friends gently tug on it, the worm becomes [an] obscene thick coil of sickly white, at least an inch thick. I cry out as it’s pulled out, now blood smeared, until it’s completely out of me."Barrett has studied dreams brought on by unique circumstances before: The dreams of 79 British officers who were prisoners of war between 1940 and 1942. The dreams were recorded by Kenneth Hopkins, who wanted to use them for a doctoral dissertation, but died of emphysema two years into captivity. He took notes daily of their dreams, totaling around 640.
Many are about someone close to the dreamer getting sick, along with more metaphorical dreams about bugs, like maggots or worms, or hordes of flying bugs.
Another way to process your dreams is to talk about them. Blagrove and his colleagues have been investigating what the effects are of considering your own dreams, and found that when people share their dreams, it can increase empathy and help with communication around what people are going through right now.
When divulging a dream, you inadvertently share something very deep and personal, even if you don’t realize it.
Then there’s the sense of foreboding we feel about our families, and our own health:
I had a dream that Oprah was trying to kill me and my gang of friends. We escaped her henchmen, but she captured us and sent us to a giant gymnasium filled with hundreds of people, all spread out on mattresses on the floor. Then, Oprah comes to the mic and announces that some of her lucky guests are going to get an amazing 'happy ending.' She then proceeds to take out a handheld circular saw. I wake up out of terror.
By sharing your dreams with someone, you may ignite a sense of connection that we're all craving right now, Blagrove said. Because when divulging a dream, you inadvertently share something very deep and personal, even if you don’t realize it before uttering it out loud.Because of this, Blagrove often compares dreams to blushing—the blushing of the mind. “The blushing reflex reveals yourself to other people," he said. "It’s useful because it makes people a bit more honest, forces them to be honest, even if they don't want to be. People have better recognition of who else around you is feeling emotional, or embarrassed, or delicate even. Maybe our dreams are like that.”Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.Follow Shayla Love on Twitter .
I was with my mother. I had gone for doing a test of coronavirus in a hospital. It was positive. My mother told me that if I got the virus she would get it too. They were measuring the percent of virus that people have in the body. At one moment they gave me a lethal injection, for me to die. I can't remember what happened after that.