This is being written from Paso Robles- we're on vacation! And I passed the CSET. But onto the real story...
Dreams and nightmares- where do they come from? How do they form? I am sure that many psychologists, psychoanalysts and shamen have better knowledge and understanding of that than I. Some where, deep in our core being, our hidden selves, there are reasons for why specific images and stories manifest and repeat over and over again like so many bad television re-runs. Why certain things we see grip us- and why other things we see fall away- is a complete puzzle to me. I was recently listening to a podcast of This American Life. This particular show is titled, The Fear of Sleep. In each show there are chapters with a different stories and interviews. As you can guess, this show featured people who have had a fear of sleeping for one reason or another. One of the more sedate stories was told by a man who had a series of nightmares as a result of watching the movie The Shining as a child. I connected with this story because I too had an almost inexplicable series of nightmares that began around the time I was six years old, and lasted about fifteen years. This radio show brought it all back.
My nightmare usually started with me being in a forest. My family liked to take camping vacations, and I was in an outdoorsy, active, Brownie troop, so I was pretty comfortable with the idea of being in the outdoors, especially a forest. This part of the dream was not scary. Beautiful trees, clean, crisp smelling air... then came the realization that I didn't really know this forest; I didn't know where I was. This was when the dream begins to get scary. I was alone. It was day time, but dark in the forest. I was walking and walking. Nothing looked familiar. Until suddenly, I realized I was being followed. I picked up the pace; the forest got darker. My pursuer got closer. I could hear the cracking of twigs and branches... it was bearing down on me... I feel sweaty, shaky... Now I'm running, going faster and faster, until I turn my ankle and fall just as a giant, bloody, foaming white rabbit springs out of nowhere directly at me. This is when I wake up. I am drenched in sweat, sheets twisted. Sometimes in the dream the rabbit springs at my back and on these occasions I wake up- my back bent in a concave contortion- paralyzed. It takes a moment or two before the realization that it was just a dream hits and my body is able to relax out of its pose. This dream, or variations of it, always have a rabid, terrifying rabbit. And it haunted me. It was this reoccurring nightmare that caused me to dislike rabbits. To me they were never cute and cuddly. They were quiet, secretive creatures that sat and stared at you, chewing their cud (or whatever) during the day and tortured you by night. You can imagine that this ruined Watership Down for me, both the book and movie. Easter was okay, because it never involved real rabbits. As I grew up and got older it got less and less frequent. This fear became something of a joke to me, but a joke I never really shared with anyone. If one of my friends said, "Look at that cute rabbit!" I'd awww and agree. No one really knew this secret. Actually- that is another fear I have- discussing my fears. But that's another blog.
So as everyone, I got older. The dreams tapered off and became incredibly infrequent. I didn't often have to think of rabbits or hang out with them, so I guess the fear just slipped away. But one day in college I found the source of all these nightmares and psychic pain. I was studying with my then-boyfriend and for a study break he suggested we watch a movie. He wanted to watch something funny, lighthearted. He puts in the VHS of this movie some of you may be familiar with. It's called, Monty Python's Holy Grail. He knew I hadn't seen it because at that time I was not much a fan of Monty Python, except for The Flying Circus. But I saw no harm in being distracted a while from our exhaustive studying. So as we watched there came a scene where the nights in said story are walking through a forest. It is there that they are confronted with a rabbit- which they think at first to be just a furry, cute little creature- but no! This fuzzy white creature would lunge and behead any being that stood unsuspectingly before it. At that moment I gasped and stood up. The realization hit me- I had seen this movie before. Or at least this scene. I believe I was five or six years old. My family was at the drive-in. My brother and I were asleep in the back. I wake up, eyes blinking, and squint at the screen. Before me was the murderous rabbit scene. I surely could not make sense of such a scene as a child. I fell back asleep.
I am glad that moment happened; it was good to understand where the nightmares began. I don't have them any more, thankfully. Not really afraid of rabbits now. But I also don't have an affinity towards them. With my luck I'll have a child who loves rabbits someday. That would be okay too, I think. One thing though- you can bet I'll never let my child watch something that I can't explain to them. I have to wonder at parents sometimes, however. The other day my friend and I went to go see the latest Harry Potter movie. It was our bad luck to buy tickets for the 'Mommy and Me' showing. There must have been at least fifteen parents in there with their babies. I guess those parents are unwittingly setting up the next generation of witch-hunters. Or possibly just causing a really bad string of nightmares. Only time will tell.