Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/481

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465
DREAMS AND THE MAKING OF DREAMS.

is something to say, but it must be said briefly, and rather by way of suggesting inferences to other minds than in argumentative support of my own conclusions.

First, as to dreams of the present—it is important to note that, though these are seldom precisely what they seem, when there is a tendency to employ very recent mental pictures, records, and impressions as the material of dreams, the faculty engaged in dream-making is either jaded or lethargic. Thus we get the same result, as regards the constituents of the dream, from two opposite causes. When that part of the brain which performs the function of re-collecting the records of memory is very weary—perhaps too distressed by excessive or disorderly work to sleep—it worries the mind with the subjects of immediately previous attention, being unable to leave them, and busying itself with them in a purposeless and distressful way, as a somnambulist or very sleepy person labors at a task he is unable to leave. The result will be a dream consisting of thoughts and scenes and impressions of the scenes which, as it were, cling to the mind and will not be dismissed. There are, doubtless, especial states of the mind, or its organ, the brain, which may be loosely described as "sticky," and which create a strong tendency to dally with objects of thought, and hold impressions of the senses before the consciousness longer than is necessary, instead of putting them away promptly in the memory. We know how the clumsy-fingered or bewildered workman clutches his tools and hangs over his task instead of using each tool deftly, doing each stroke of work cleanly, and passing on to something else. The same faults of method are to be recognized in the operation of many of our mental faculties, and this is one cause of dreams constructed of recent materials. Dreams of this class, as would naturally be expected, are deficient in that characteristic which is due to an active play of the dream-making faculty with the materials it employs, namely, the quality of "originality." They are apt to be little more than worrying recitals of the words spoken, the books or letters read, and reproductions of the scenes and impressions of the previous day, without much modification or embellishment. When reminiscences of this nature occur at night in the false sleep that mocks real rest, they are likely to be exaggerated and intensified in an extraordinary and generally painful degree, simply because the mind is isolated by sleep from its immediate external surroundings, and all the energy of consciousness it evolves is, so to say, turned in on itself. Dreams of the present, produced by lethargy or exhaustion of the faculty which collects and reproduces the pictures and records of memory, are generally distinguishable by their tumultuous or oppressive character. The faculty is, as it were, overburdened by the subjects it strives to manipulate. It can neither bring them fully and clearly before the consciousness, nor can it remove them at pleasure. The mind does not so much itself hold them as feel oppressed by their presence. It