I had a very odd dream last night, one that has left me vaguely shaken-up and ill-at-ease all day. I dreamed I had to go to a meeting with all of the team from the first floor office I work in, plus one other person who works at Kew, with whom I used to share a flat and who was at the time a very good friend - up until about two years ago when we had a huge bust-up, as a result of which he has cut me dead ever since. In the dream, I was dreading having to spend a couple of hours in his company but was trusting that we’d be civil to one another and hoping we’d be able to sit far enough apart not to have a problem. Incidentally, if we were to have to go to a meeting together, this is exactly how I would feel.
However, when I arrived at the meeting room it was to find everyone else had turned up early, including my former flat-mate, and I was the last to get there. I tried to slip in quietly but he crept round behind me and suddenly grabbed me from the back, catching me round the waist with his left hand and very firmly by the elbow with his right, and to my disbelief having thus trapped me he then leaned over my shoulder from behind and kissed me on the cheek as one might a good friend. He said – to me, but loudly enough that everyone else would hear too – “It’s okay, I’ve explained to them about everything.” I thought, what the heck has he been saying? One of my closest colleagues then said to me cheerfully “So, Imogen, are you going to apologise?” - and I woke up shaking with shock and anger.
Dreams are the brain trying to sort things out, shake them up and look at them from a different angle, right? They don’t mean directly what they show, right? I certainly hope not, in this particular case. I made very full amends, nearly two years ago, for the relatively minor fault that ended this friendship. The idea that I could be considered still to owe anyone an apology for anything about this made me so angry that I woke up outright. But in that case, always assuming I am not merely being horrendously self-deluding about the whole topic (which is always possible), what the heck was this dream telling me?
Imagine that someone you once loved and trusted appears to have told a group of people you work closely with and see every day a version of past events that makes you out to be a Bad Guy. You have always seen yourself as essentially more sinned-against than sinner with regard to this particular issue, and you believe you did everything you could to make amends. You have always felt your conscience was clear. Being confronted by a group of familiar people all convinced of the opposite is both painful and angering, and leaves you feeling helpless and manipulated.
If someone told me this dream as one they had had, and filled me in on the background, I’d suggest they tried to move laterally from the central image. I think I need to remember that – the central image is, to coin a phrase, doing my head in. Perhaps something has left me feeling vulnerable, feeling that I am about to be wrong-footed, and, too, feeling guilty when I know I’ve done nothing to merit it. I know what it’s like to feel guilty when I have merited it (= ghastly), so I know the difference. And the fact I was grabbed from behind could be significant. It’s hard to think of a more unpleasant way for someone to catch hold of you. The unanticipated kiss was upsetting, too; a friendly buss on the cheek, something one would normally welcome, something I once would have been happy to receive from this person, transformed into something that made me feel bad about myself and completely unsure of what was going on.
Yes, yes, this blogger-therapy thing is working! Of course, the dream is so obvious once I think about it; it’s all about vulnerability and feeling vulnerable. The only problem is, why?
Bizarre things, brains. Can’t live with them, can’t live without.
On which idiotic platitudinous note I’ll go home and pack for WOMAD.