By James Wallace Harris, June 29, 2015 (Updated 5/9/21)
I hope this doesn’t reveal some sort of deep embarrassing Freudian complex, but my whole sleep last night was filled with dinosaur dreams. Ever since I was about five years old I’ve had occasional dreams about dinosaurs. They aren’t real common, but they happen now and then, and they vary in details. Last night’s dreams were somewhat typical. I’ll be with a bunch of other people, at home, school, work, outside in a city location, on a crosswalk, etc., and suddenly a dinosaur or dinosaurs would show up, and everyone panics.
In the dream we all know the way to avoid being eaten is to be lying down, don’t move, and be quiet. But there’s always someone nearby that keeps blabbing or moving around that draws attention to the dinosaurs causing me to fear for my safety and makes me very annoyed at the noisemaker. For some reason, the dinosaurs won’t notice us if we don’t move or make noise. I never get eaten myself, or the people I know, but I’m always afraid some dumbass is going to get me, or us, killed. I’m always annoyed in these dreams that other people are not freezing and shutting up.
The funny thing is I had these dreams all night long. Even after I got up and went to pee, and went back to sleep. Even very early in the morning when I was waking up over and over again, every time wondering if I should get up. Each time I fell back asleep I had another dinosaur dream. It was one scene after another, with different groups of people, in different locations, and in each scene, there was a dinosaur attack. One scene involved my sister, and another my wife Susan, but it was always strangers causing trouble. I don’t think I ever saw a dinosaur eat someone, but I knew they were in the distance, so the panic to hide was strong. These dreams last night weren’t quite nightmares, but they did involve a kind of anxiety.
If dreams are sorting through the day’s events and filing long-term memories, what did I do yesterday to deserve dinosaur dreams last night? And do other people have dinosaur dreams? I hope these dreams don’t indicate some kind of weird psychological disorder.
When I was young, I guess around five, I had my first dinosaur dream. I lived out in the country in South Carolina in an old two-story house. My family didn’t use the second story, but my three-year-old sister and I would go up there to play, but it was creepy. I would dream about those upstairs rooms as if they were evil. That was one of my earliest reoccurring dreams, along with dreams of flying. But it was during this time that I had my first dinosaur dream. I and other people were working in this huge gravel pit, and we were slaves to dinosaurs and had to stand in dinosaur shit as we worked. Later on, when I saw The Flintstones, the pit we worked in reminded me of this show. But this dream was three or four years before The Flintstones appeared in 1960.
I’ve always wondered when I first learned about dinosaurs. My oldest memories of dinosaurs are from these dreams, but how did I learn about dinosaurs to dream about them? I remember as a kid after I started having these dreams, of playing with plastic dinosaurs and learning their names. My little buddies and I liked to collect and trade these plastic dinosaurs, and we seem to know all about them. I don’t remember being taught about dinosaurs in school, or even reading about them. I’ve always assumed knowledge about dinosaurs is imprinted in little boys’ brains, like some kind of ancestral memory.
I’ve written about dinosaur dreams before, back in 2008. I had completely forgotten I had written this, and the dream I described. The dream back then was somewhat different, a more science-fictional version, because people were protected from the dinosaurs by force fields.
Does dreaming about dinosaurs mean anything? At Dream Moods, which has a page explaining animal symbols in dreams, it says this about dinosaurs:
To see a dinosaur in your dream symbolizes an outdated attitude. You may need to discard your old ways of thinking and habits.
To dream that you are being chased by a dinosaur, indicates your fears of no longer being needed or useful. Alternatively, being chased by a dinosaur, may reflect old issues that are still coming back to haunt you.
I wonder if I have a problem with outdated attitudes? But this commentary seems no more scientific than astrology. I am not the only person troubled with dinosaur dreams as reflected in the Yahoo Answers column. It’s odd, but a couple of people who replied copied the statement I quote above, and it’s repeated on other websites. Just shows how bullshit spreads across the internet. At least at the Dream Dictionary, they had something a bit deeper, but still on the woo-woo side. It reassures me that other people have dinosaur dreams, so I ain’t the only crazy one here. In fact, there are many dream interpretation sites that cover dinosaurs in dreams, and many people posting about dreaming of dinosaurs. At Jurassic World, they even have a page collecting dinosaur dreams.
Are dreams even symbolic? I have no idea. It seems my dreams are saying something very big will destroy me if I stand out, and that other people are constantly being destroyed for making themselves known. Hunkering down and being quiet sounds rather cowardly to me in waking life. When I was young and had nightmares I used to kill anything that tried to hurt me. The violence of my dreams was disturbing because it was like the violence of modern video games, but these dreams were decades before such games were invented.
I can’t think of anything I did or experienced yesterday that would trigger dreams about avoiding death, or large issues. I had a nice quiet day of reading books and listening to music, and then last night my friend Anne came over for dinner and we watched Empire Falls, an old HBO mini-series based on the Richard Russo book. Empire Falls is about a man with a repressed past that never speaks his mind. I did identify with Miles Roby, the Ed Harris character because I hold things in to avoid emotional conflicts. Are the dinosaurs of my dreams potential emotional conflicts? At least this theory works with dreams because the way to be safe in the dream is to be quiet and avoid attention. Also, the people who get eaten by dinosaurs are the loud people who won’t shut up.
This is embarrassing because now I am revealing something.
I guess I’ve got to wait for the dinosaurs to show up.
I had a dream last night where aliens were attacking people in the same way dinosaurs attack people in the dinosaur dreams. Instead of eating us, they zapped us with some kind of energy gun. I’ve had similar dreams where giants were attacking people, and they killed people by crushing them. In each of these dreams hiding is the key to survival, and those people who stick out are the ones caught by dinosaurs, space aliens, and giants.
I realize now that the role of T-Rex, space alien, and giant are the same in all these dreams. They represent the bad things in life, threats that kill people. And the message of the dream is some people do survive by avoiding these dangers of life. Evidently, my subconscious is telling me to keep a low profile because that’s the best way to avoid getting hurt or killed.
However, I think last night’s dream was inspired by reading chapter 3 of Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. That chapter was scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote. It’s about how our bodies decay as we age and how we become less capable of taking care of ourselves. This was illustrated with horrifying case studies. Gawande does give an overview of how society has helped the elderly over the years, and what people can do to help themselves, but death is the only escape from this fate. There is no avoiding old age by hiding like I do from the dinosaurs, giants, and space aliens.