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Sleep Is Not Rest

March 21, 2015

We all must sleep.

Like eating and not freezing or frying its one of the bio mechanical necessities.

Unlike calories or hypothermia, science really does not “get” sleep: its woven into us (we are not, after all, Vulcan), but its a trait billions of earth rotations has ground into the warp and woof of our genomes, and the genome of almost every living thing. Maybe like the defragging of hard drives in the 1990’s or power washing mold off our brains or just the spin cycle of our daily dance with life, sleeping is natural and necessary.

We must sleep. And dream, apparently.

Dreaming is when our mind completely disengages from our control. In adolescence sex dreams thrill and scare, in school (and seemingly forever after) we are naked and late to a final we did not know was happening, or we are suddenly able to fly without crashing.

Or we have nightmares.

Apparently nightmares and night terrors are not just “bad dreams”, they actually stress more than they relieve stress or depict fears. Nightmares take damage: PTSD, rape, wrecked childhoods and transform their problematic presence while waking into uncontrollable terror while sleeping.

I am pretty sure I have not had a happy dream in my adult life.

Of course the 18oz grease blob barely chewed into a belly 20 minutes before going comatose has created any number of bad dream outcomes, but every sleep I fall into has an unannounced revelation of the paper-thin coping that must be my brain.

Inarticulate extremity, unremembered ruinous failures: all with a single egomaniacal lynchpin: somehow I screwed up.

Here the usually tenuous lurch to metaphor is not strained: we all live with the reality that we have failed, will fail again, and are in deep anxiety over failing. We are, by necessity living 99% of our lives in the niceties of a world under relative calm, sometimes control, and, for me, blessed outcomes.

But our fragility amid happy circumstances is made brutally ominous when our minds are not in a world we have created, but when we have no choice but live in the world our lives have been shaped by.

Psychotherapy could help, but it will not change the first 15 years of my life: which I remember well, and kind of understand.

We want understanding to reduce fear – and it does in the places we control – but before understanding was possible, those fears became part of who we are, just like the necessity of sleep.

The living of that comes from a Greater Place than my puny brain. Working at resolution pushes it farther away, as coping is not curing. So I have no choice but to trust what I cannot earn – Grace.

The place where dreams come from is not heaven, or for me, hell. But the place where peace comes from is certainly, assuredly, not from me.

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