Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/482

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

would fain be rid of the thoughts and scenes pressed on its attention, not because they create a painful interest, but because they bore it. On the other hand, dreams of the present, which are more directly due to the general state of mind previously described, take an agonizing hold on the consciousness, and will not be shaken off, so that it struggles to be free as in a state of mental nightmare. Dreams of the present which are produced by a lethargic rather than an exhausted state of the faculty that makes them, are characterized by the slow progression of scenes and the tardy flow of thoughts rather than repetition. The consciousness seems to be in a dreamy condition, while some slow and stupid exhibitor is unfolding a story or panorama lazily. The resulting feeling is one of simple fatigue from loss of rest, rather than the head-and heart-aching, as from worry and prolonged irritation, which follow on dreams of the present that have been produced in the ways already indicated. It may be set down as a rule, that dreams of the present are of graver import as clews to the mind-state than the other classes of dreams on which we must now bestow a few moments' attention.

Dreams of the past and future do not call for detailed consideration, and may be most conveniently noticed together. When the faculty which makes dreams dives deeply among the lumber for its materials, it is either very active, and probably not sufficiently worked in the waking hours, or it has not much interest in recent events, because these have not made a very strong impression on the mind. It often happens that at a period of life when there is not any particularly keen interest in the present, the dreams are of the past. When a man is growing old, he dreams of his early life, not merely because there is in all respects a tendency to revert to the beginnings of life when the power of vitality is on the wane, but because there is a loss of interest in the present. The heat of the struggle is over, and the emotions are no longer as active as they were, so that self-consciousness comes to be increasingly a retrospect of experience. Dreaming only occasionally of the past may be the simple result of the association of ideas, the dream really consisting in a present recollection of records relating to the past: but I am now speaking of the habitual reproduction of long-past and possibly forgotten pictures and records of memory in dreams. Dreams of the future are, for the most part, anticipations arising out of the affairs of the present. They are, properly speaking, forebodings, or eager foretastes, of the dreaded or desired issue of plans and experiences which belong to the present. There is no reason to suppose that the mind is capable of prophesying while the supreme cerebral centers sleep. Most of the so-called dreams of the future are really vaticinations of the imagination while on its way to sleep or slowly emerging from the state of self-forgetfulness.

The inchoate dreams which approximate to paroxysms of delirium constitute the fourth class into which I have divided these experiences.