Source: Review of Religions
By Sabahat Ali Rajput, Missionary
Covid-19 has left such a traumatic trail in its wake that it has hijacked our sleep.
At 0.125 microns, the virus has pronouncedly shaken the deepest foundations of economy and sent the bleeding edge of science spiraling back to the drawing board. The relentless hustle and bustle of our timetables – always competing with the microseconds of our clocks – have come to a screeching halt.
For the first time in a generation, we’ve stopped to smell the roses.
Still, the virus has also thrust upon us the occasion to ruminate and introspect, to the point that scores of people are reporting having seen more frequent, vivid, and disturbing dreams than ever before. Hashtag trends like #CovidDreams and #CoronaNightmares furnish some superbly fascinating insight into the more invisible tentacles of the novel Coronavirus. And why wouldn’t it? Every screen, discussion, update, alert, and notification has become about one thing.
Our neurological defence mechanisms are being forced to take over and try to make sense of this emotional and informational bombardment.
With the innumerable factors weighing in on our thoughts, what is the common denominator influencing our dreams?
Until Covid-19 rolled in unsolicited, we enjoyed a level of emotional, financial, and societal stability in most of the western world – the everyday hustle notwithstanding. But the novel Coronavirus has latched onto our minds parasitically. Like a dulling psychological ulcer, the total uncertainty of jobs, livelihood and life itself, is causing our minds to bleed out, and dreaming, psychologists argue, is nature’s self-regulating emergency patchwork.
Sander Van der Lindin, in The Science Behind Dreaming, concludes:
Dreams seem to help us process emotions by encoding and constructing memories of them. What we see and experience in our dreams might not necessarily be real, but the emotions attached to these experiences certainly are. Our dream stories essentially try to strip the emotion out of a certain experience by creating a memory of it. This way, the emotion itself is no longer active. This mechanism fulfils an important role because when we don’t process our emotions, especially negative ones, this increases personal worry and anxiety. In fact, severe REM sleep-deprivation is increasingly correlated to the development of mental disorders. In short, dreams help regulate traffic on that fragile bridge which connects our experiences with our emotions and memories.
While great strides are being made about the chemistry and parts of the brain responsible for conjuring dreamscapes, a gaping void sits unaddressed to satisfaction: what do our dreams mean, if anything at all? After all, not all dreams are based on memories. We often have dreams of places we’ve never seen, places which cannot actually exist in the physical world. We fly and eat foods we’ve never encountered. Such elaborate universes are fashioned through the agency of spectacular brain chemistry as are inconceivable and simply cannot be dubbed as convoluted memories.