You’re at happy hour when someone nudges you and launches into a story about a dream they had last night. They can’t remember how it started or ended, only that it was so trippy, so random, so f-ed up. You’re so bored.
Meandering, disjointed tales about adventures of the subconscious mind are self-indulgent and dull. We should all be able to tell when our dreams don’t pass the “should I tell someone about this?” test. But that’s easier said than done.
So, here’s a list of dream-sharing rules. Feel free to consult them whenever you get the urge to bore friends or family members or random strangers with stories from slumberland.
1. Make sure you actually remember your dream
And do it before you hold some unsuspecting listener hostage. If you don’t recall the dream’s basic arc from start to finish, then you don’t remember enough to retell it. No fragments, no exceptions.
2. Surreality is nothing new
Dreams defy the laws of physics and metaphysics. People morph into tarantulas. Traffic jams become tea parties. You start out as a character in your dream and end up as a disembodied observer, watching it all go down. If you think any of this happened in your waking life, then please go talk to someone. Otherwise, bizarre phenomena are par for the course. Welcome to REM mentation.
3. Same goes for randomness
Sure, you think it’s weird that you dreamt about Zachary Guy-Frank, who brought your first-grade class unflavored pie — “it’s just regular pie!” he insisted — and then moved away to Pittsburgh. But his randomness holds no value to anyone else, unless they were also present for the regular-pie incident. (Regular pie is not a thing.)
4. … and perversion
You and Donald Rumsfeld crashed a baptism and writhed naked together on a church pew? And things got even more twisted from there? Neat. Dreams aren’t subject to standards of ethics or ickiness or good taste. In the words of Missy Elliott, get ur freak on.
5. Know your audience
Resist relaying every detail of your recurring dream to your Tinder date. People with whom you share dreams should be people who a) already care about you or b) get paid to listen to you complain. Is there a faster way to make someone swipe left on a new relationship than by prattling on about yourself for no clear reason? (No.) Also, keep in mind that you open yourself up to psychological evaluation when you divulge the entrails of your mind.
6. Consider your own dream-telling abilities
If you can’t recount a real event without going off on 14 tangents, do you think you tell dream-stories any better? Remember that you don’t have to share your dreams aloud to keep them alive. Plenty of soul-searchers find great value in penning dream recaps. And then, of course, there are online dream forums. Let’s give it up for these private and/or self-contained endeavors.
7. Embarrassing sex dreams are fair game
If you had an uncomfortably vivid sex dream about the IT guy and can’t keep yourself from blushing when he walks past your desk, then you should definitely tell a coworker about it. Work gets boring. (All other rules still apply, of course.)
8. Mind the 60-second rule
This rule applies both to the dreams you shouldn’t share and the ones that provoke uproarious laughter. Eliminate the elements of your dream that bog down the narrative — peripheral characters, changing landscapes, erratic time jumps. Once you trim the fat, there’s no way you have more than a minute’s worth of solid, entertaining material.
9. Silence your inner Freud
“But what does it mean that I married my cousin who turned into my accountant who then lowered me into my own grave, which actually turned out to be the orchestra pit at a Jadakiss concert?” Probably not much.
This is not to say dreams are devoid of meaning. Recurring dreams, nightmares, acted-out dreams, demon-haunted dreams and pre-death dreams may all have psychological or other diagnostic significance. And, I know, creative geniuses write songs in their dreams.
I get it.
But your standard-fare “so crazy, right?” dreams are devoid of meaning worth exploring with an audience present. Most neuroscientists agree that the bulk of dreaming thoughts are the refuse of consciousness. Can’t get your dreams off your mind? Plenty of Freudian disciples will gladly go deep with you.
One more thing
I’m not a monster. These rules apply to literal dreams, not figurative ones. Go share your hopes and aspirations with the whole subway car. People love that.