Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/483

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467
DREAMS AND THE MAKING OF DREAMS.

They are often exceedingly distressing, and bespeak a troubled or disorderly state of mind, but they are not, in themselves, so threatening to mental health as certain varieties of the dream of the present, to which we have already adverted. Dreams consisting of disconnected and fantastical pictures and ideas are commonly of short duration, and occur more frequently in the act of going to sleep than in that of awaking. They may be amusing or annoying; and they are not uncommonly the causes of bad sleep—or, more accurately speaking, of delay in going to sleep. The brain is awakened by the merriment or the disgust occasioned by these dreams. Sometimes the would-be sleeper rouses himself by laughing at the grotesque imagery presented to his mental vision, or the strange ideas which occur to him. The mind may be so disturbed by these awakenings that sleep becomes impossible. Probably the most common cause of this class of dreams is an undue excitement of the organs of sense immediately before going to bed. Such dreams occur after visits to the theatre, reading novels, or hearing music late in the evening. They also frequently follow gay and dissipating scenes or experiences. The sense-organs are overexcited, without being wearied, or so much agitated that they can not rest. Except when they indicate a generally excited brain, dreams of this class are not of great moment, and are easily obviated by giving the mind regular and methodized work, which lowers the excitement and induces moderate fatigue without distressing it. Sufferers from this trouble may generally cure themselves by reading aloud some not very exciting but sufficiently interesting book for half an hour before retiring to rest. The aim should be to give the mind a subject of thought with which it may engage its attention, and shut out the troublesome crowd of imaginings which obtrude the moment the head is laid on the pillow and the eyes are shut.

It follows from these general considerations, that dreams are made out of the pictures and records of thought, that the making of dreams must be, to a much larger extent than we are wont to suppose, under the control of the will. The difficulty of believing this to be the truth lies in the fact that the will is not able to call up or prevent a particular dream or class of dreams. The making of dreams is not an affair of now, at any period of life. The material employed in their production is the stock of pictures, impressions, conceptions, and feelings previously accumulated. Meanwhile, he who would dream pleasantly in adult life must see to the material with which he stores his mind in youth; while, in the heyday of manhood, we are heaping together the material of dreams for old age. The mind is not conscious—or does not notice—one half the impressions it receives from its surroundings. To this circumstance, in fact, is due the surprise with which we view, as for the first time, many of the unconsciously received or treasured impressions which are reproduced in dreams, and hence the feeling that they are original. It is not, therefore, possible to prevent the