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Blog 22: Pandemic dream (1)

7th March 2021

In my last Blog I looked at the associative patterns in pandemic dreams, in this one I identify the associative pattern in one of my own pandemic dreams.

I’ve called the dream:

The woman whose arm has red lumps with wings

I am in the spare bedroom of my house or, maybe, it’s the house where I lived as a child. In the left hand corner, as you enter the room, there’s a bed with a woman on it, she is holding out her arm, which has raised red lumps all the way down. The lumps, like insect bodies, have silver wings attached, but only on one side.

Sketch of the red lumps/bodies with wings

This woman is very agitated, scratching the silver off the wings, it’s coming off in flakes and going all over the bedclothes. Then it seems as though the woman might be me. Also, although the lumps and wings are raised, they are very discrete and horribly artistic, like a 3D tattoo all down the arm.

Elements of my experiences/memories that are merged in the dream

Two recent memories: the day before the dream I discussed with my sister R whether we shared a room or slept alone as children; the night before the dream I saw a man on the TV with a bird tattoo across his neck. I thought it horrible.

Four remote memories: First, as a child, I suffered a badly infected vaccination site, leaving me with a disturbing, large, raised round scar on my left arm, which remained red for a long time after the infection. I often wished I could rid myself of this scar but I never scratched it. Second, I read a distressing story about boys pulling the wings off flies. Third, one of my in-laws had a son with eczema. She scratched his arms so hard the skin came off in flakes. Finally, I saw a woman in a restaurant. I thought her arm diseased until I realized what I had taken for a scarring of her arm was actually the result of the silver-grey tattoos all over it.

A woman with scarring or silver-grey tattooing?  

The woman above is not the one I saw in the restaurant but this photo captures the impression I formed of her, before I realised that what I thought was scarring was actually silver-grey tattooing.

Associations between the red, lumpy, winged arm dream and Covid-19

How does this dream relate to Covid-19? Most clearly in the vaccination element. Vaccination is intended to protect against infection by the virus but, as a child, a vaccination actually resulted in an infection for me .  Other associations to the virus lie with the wings and insect-like bodies/lumps. The virus is invisible. To feature in a dream it has to take a visual form. One survey of pandemic dreams identified flying bugs as the most frequent occurrence[i]. The virus spreads through droplets that fly out when people cough or sneeze, pulling the wings off bugs would prevent them flying but we cannot control droplets in this way. In the dream, skin flakes fly out rather than droplets. Tattoos, like vaccination, can result in scarring .

Diagram showing the patterned dream associations

The diagram below portrays the nexus of associations that underlie the woman whose arm has red, lumps with wings dream. I have added colour to those elements which were most striking in the dream image.  The lumps with silver wings are red. This is the most distinctive, bizarre and prominent aspect. Ernest Hartmann, a notable dream researcher called this the “central image”. But the agitation of the woman in scratching off the silver from the wings is also very remarkable.

The double ended arrows conveys the dual nature of the associations. For example, for me, my childhood vaccination both protected me from infection but caused an infection.

In my next Blog I will compare this diagrammatic nexus of associations with  visual dream illustrations of  “The woman whose arm has red lumps with wings”.




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