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Blog 23: Pandemic dream (2)

12th April 2021

In Blog 22 I introduced one of my pandemic dreams, I’ve repeated the dream narrative below, with more detail.  In this Blog, I include visual illustrations of the dream.

The woman whose arm has red lumps with wings

Scene 1

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. The woman is quite vague in the sense that I’m not aware of what she looks like or is wearing. But I am very aware that 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.

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, the lumps and wings are raised, they are very discrete and horribly artistic, like a 3D tattoo all down the arm.

Below is a zoomed-in version of the woman’s arm.


Suddenly a blue bird/small dragon takes off from the bed the woman is lying on or, maybe, it is coming from her arm. This bird/dragon is toy-like, it goes straight up in the air, rather like a helicopter, then, flies over to the other side of the room where two children are in bed. The bird  has one wing which also forms a tail, which propels its flying very well. This bird isn’t horrible like the tattooed/ diseased arm, it’s attractive but strangely unreal in appearance- flat and 2-dimensional.  Maybe, it’s a Phoenix rising from the silver flakes/ashes on the bed?

In Blog 22 I mentioned two recent memories that seemed to drive this dream: First, on the day before the dream I discussed with my sister R whether we shared a room or slept alone as children, when I thought about this afterwards I decided that, over the many years we lived in this house, I had my own room when I was older but, when I was younger, we shared. The dream seems to reflect this because at the beginning, the woman (who may be me) seems to be alone in the room but later in the dream, after the bird appears there are two children sharing the room. But what about the blue bird?

The night before the dream I saw a man on the TV with a bird tattoo across his neck. I thought it horrible. The memory of this bird tattoo may be why the blue bird is flat. The blue bird only has one wing/tail. This may be because the bird seems to rise from the 3D tattoos of bodies and wings on the woman’s arm – where there are only wings on one side of the bodies. But why is the bird blue? In the dream the room is ambiguous- it seems like the guest room in my present house but at the same time it may be the room where I lived as a child. The guest bedroom is painted blue. This may be why the bird is blue.

In Blog 22 I presented a diagram demonstrating how the different dream elements are associated in the winged arm dream- before the blue bird appears. Making associations between experiences makes them more much memorable. Associations work like “hooks” in our memories. These associational “hooks” connect up people, places and events- making it much easier to remember them.

An illustration or image is much more memorable than a diagram or verbal description. Also a bizarre or striking image, like this woman with the winged arm or the blue bird/dragon, is much more easily remembered than a mundane, everyday one.

Back in 1973, research predicted that if you saw 1 million striking images you would retain 731, 400 of them.  More recent work confirms the impressive capacity of visual memory. In a 2008 research study, participants  viewed 2500 pictures of objects, then they were shown two images and asked which of the two they had seen before; the participants successfully discriminated between an object they has seen before and a new one with 87% accuracy. This seems remarkable until you realise how dependent we humans are on our visual sense and, therefore, how good our visual memories have to be.

In following Blogs I will discuss more about how dreams work in our memories, even though we forget almost all of our dreams!

Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Alvarez, G. A., and Oliva, A. (2008). Visual long-term memory has a massive storage capacity for object details. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 14325–14329. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0803390105

Standing, L. (1973) Learning 10,000 pictures. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 25:207–22.


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