I realized something interesting last night. My dreams very rarely contain a somatic component, despite the fact that the defining experience of my life these past few years has been the profoundly somatic experience of cancer and its treatments.
(The exception, of course, is erotic dreams. I don’t have them all that often, but when I do, they can be real doozies. And they tend to be deeply somatic, partly because my sexual style is very touch-oriented.)
Otherwise in my dreams I am a point of view, like a movie camera. Occasionally I dream in something like third person, where the point of view is following me or a surrogate for me, but most of the time I’m seeing from within.
My dreams are always intensely visual. Colorful, rife with imagery, often plentiful action. I dream, frankly, very much the way I write, by visually experiencing setting and action as if I were immersed in it.
Also, they are frequently auditory. It’s not unusual for me to experience a soundtrack, or what Hollywood calls occasional music. This often runs to jazz scores, or 1950s style studio orchestra melodies. This is odd, because in real life I am so unmusical I border on amusia, yet music can be prominent.
I do dream of taste sometimes, as my recent food dreams attest, but like erotic dreams, those seem to be in a special class by themselves, rather than an occasional property of my ordinary dreaming. I literally can’t recall ever dreaming of scents. The kinesthetic sense shows up mostly in the erotic dreams, thought that somatic/kinesthetic element also turns up in my infrequent classic anxiety dreams, for example, when I have the sensation of falling. Other senses such as temperature and pressure likewise rarely if ever express themselves in my dreams.
It’s all about the visual language. Which is very closely connected to how I mentally visualize and express story.
I’m surprised that the cancer experience hasn’t shifted me to a more somatic expression, either directly, ie, dreaming of pain, or indirectly, through dreaming of my body.
Is this the usual way of dreams? Are your dreams almost entirely visually-driven? Or do you dream somatically?
This is weird, fascinating stuff, and I think reflecting more deeply on it may illuminate my writing process.