In everyday life we belong to groups – most closely, our immediate family, fanning out to our extended family, our region, our nation, our continent, our culture; ultimately all of humanity. On the dreaming level of consciousness we have access to the collective experience and archetypal symbols of all our dreaming tribes.
My friend and fellow-author, Katherine Langrish, told me the extraordinary story of her family dream over dinner at a conference some years ago, and I’m delighted she has agreed to share it here.
Roughs and smooths, by Katherine Langrish
When I was a child, I used to have a recurrent dream – or nightmare – in which I would be lying in bed, apparently awake, and see a thing like a stone or boulder come rolling from one corner of the ceiling (and yet as if from a million miles away) – and as it came, everything went crumpled. It would roll and roll across the ceiling, and with it came a sickening sensation as if I was seeing the skin of the world pulled off and chaos underneath. Then it would roll back again and everything would go smooth, but the feeling remained, because I knew that underneath the appearance of smoothness, the sickening crumples were still there.
It was a dream that was often repeated, and the feeling often heralded it, so that it was possible to say to myself, Oh, it’s coming. As I grew older the feeling would sometimes come without the dream, and after the age of about 11 or 12, it vanished for ever.
While I was still having them, I told my mother about them, and she said, “Oh, do you get those too? I used to have them, and so did my father; he called them roughs and smooths.” My mother’s and grandfather’s versions were slightly different. I think she said my grandfather saw ‘it’ as something like a barrel. For herself she said, “something came towards me rolling, and everything broke up. But you stop getting them when you’re about twelve.” I remember feeling a mild but real relief that she knew what I was talking about.
I never told my own children about the dream, because I didn’t want them to have it, and I didn’t want to suggest anything to them which might influence them into having it, but they both did get variants after all, and one daughter in particular was prone to them. Aged about seven, having woken upset, she told me, “I see squiggly lines” – she drew one in the air with a finger, “squiggly lines, and it all goes wrong.” Asked next morning, she said she’d be half asleep, half awake, and see “squiggly lines, jagged lines, calm lines. They come and go. There’s a horrible feeling with them.”
I reassured her that she’d simply got the family dream, and it wasn’t anything to worry about, and would take itself off when she was about twelve. And it did. I don’t know if anyone else has ever had an inherited dream, and I feel it’s got to be something to do with brain patterns, but I’m happy to leave it at that and not know anything more about it. I hope it doesn’t get handed down any further – as a family heirloom, it’s one we could well do without.
Katherine’s blog, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, dips deep into the realm of myths and fairy-tales, and her books likewise have a wonderfully mythic feel. You can see a brilliant trailer for her new book, ‘Forsaken’ on her website