Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fear of Flying

Most people have probably experienced the school "stress" dream at one time or another in their lives. They can involve high school or college settings. You show up at class to discover that you have to take a test that you didn't know about. Or you're trying to find the classroom that you need to get to take a test and you're late and lost. Or you show up at a class to discover that for some reasons you missed all the previous classes that semester. Or you show up at registrar's office to drop a class that you attended once and find out it's past the deadline so you get an "F" (wait, that actually happened).

When your brain really wants to screw with you, it adds additional stress to these dream scenarios by stripping off your clothes. Not only are you late for the big test, but you're naked as well. Gee, thanks.

While I still have one of these school nightmares on occasion, I've found that most of my stressful dreams now involve travel. I'm late for the plane and trying to get to the gate. Or I can't find the right gate in an impossibly vast and complicated airport. Or I get on the plane for a long flight and find the space that I'm supposed to occupy incredibly claustrophobic (yes, even worse than real life). Or I get picked up from the airport in a tiny car crammed with other people for a long ride to wherever we're going knowing that we can't stop. And I have to go the bathroom.

Not all of my travel related dreams are nightmares. Sometimes I board an airplane to discover that it's roomy and comfortable beyond all expectations. In one particularly vivid dream, I can still recall the full-length bar available for passengers. My fellow travelers were attractive, entertaining and fun and the entire flight was more like a club scene than anything else. Unfortunately, those dreams are few and far between.

What's interesting is that for the most part, my real life travels haven't been all that bad. The travel nightmares are usually unlike anything that I've actually experienced, but they seem so real and so authentic that the stress and fear they induce is quite palpable. It's as if my subconscious knows to keep it close to the surface of reality so as to not allow my dreaming self to recognize it as a dream. It's also fascinating how it picks and chooses real life experiences to turn into dreams and how those experiences are different at various stages of your life. The mind is a mysterious and mischievous thing.

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