Toddlers and dreams

“It is scary and dark out, and there are aliens…” In your dreams, young lady!

On the bus yesterday, there was a particularly loud toddler. I was a little irritated by the loud screams for a short while, but reflected on myself and noticed something. The way the toddler goes through intense emotions seemingly at random, or sparked by small impulses that cause extreme reactions. It is a lot like dreams, is it not?

I know some people, especially with old age, begin to dream so prosaic dreams that they cannot in the end tell them from real life. Such as the old man who naps after dinner and snores loudly for quite a while, then assures everyone that he did not sleep, he was just thinking with his eyes closed. To not be able to tell your dreams from your thinking, I am not sure whether that says most about your dreams or about your thinking… but at least when we are much younger, this is not the typical dream.

Even at my age, at over 50, I often experience stark fear during my first dream of the night. Whenever I can remember one of those, it is usually about some immediate threat, like a car accident about to happen, or a thief, or big spiders, that kind of thing. In waking life, extreme and immediate danger is very rare. While an armed burglar may eventually take my life, it is very much less likely than dying from fat like so many Norwegians do, unless I keep up my exercise schedule.

At the end of the night, dreams of great pleasure are more common: Flying, sexual activities, or wielding magic. Again, not spectacularly realistic. Especially not the sex…

Anyway, what strikes me is that dreams express extreme feelings and may change suddenly,  just like the waking life of a toddler. Could it be that toddlers are actually living in a dream? That until they learn to impose narrative on their life, there is no “real world” as we know it? There is the self, and the (m)other, but they are both rather nebulous, and the world even more so. A cat is not extremely much more realistic than a monster. The laws of nature could suddenly change. And some small thing – or even just the passage of time – could turn triumph into tragedy, then disappear just as suddenly.

I wonder: How much does our toddlerhood continue in our subconscious? Or, opposite, how far does our narrative reach beyond the realm of speech? If we had to face the world without being able to tell ourselves what is real and not, what would the difference be between our daily life and our nightly dreams?