"This fascinating little volume explores the stuff that dreams are made of and the role the pandemic is playing in them. The dreams from Barrett's survey are riveting vignettes--from terrifying to touching to hilarious. Her decades of scientific research and clinical practice inform incisive commentary on what these dreams reveal about society's response. She offers simple exercises for managing anxieties over COVID-19 and for inspiring adaption in this unique period of history. A great read!" -Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club
DREAM: I looked down at my stomach and saw dark blue stripes. I "remembered" these were the first sign of being infected with COVID-19.
DREAM: My home was a Covid-19 test center. People weren't wearing masks. I'm taken aback because I wasn't asked to be a test site. I'm worried that my husband and son (who actually lives out of state) will catch it because of my job as a healthcare worker.
DREAM: I was a giant antibody. I was so angry about COVID-19 that it gave me superpowers, and I rampaged around attacking all the virus I could find. I woke so energized!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world, people have reported unusually a vivid and bizarre dream lives. The virus itself is the star of many--literally or in one of its metaphoric guises. As a dream researcher at Harvard Medical School, Deirdre Barrett was immediately curious to see what our dream lives would tell us about our deepest reactions to this unprecedented disaster. Pandemic Dreams draws on her survey of over 9,000 dreams about the COVID-19 crisis. It describes how dreaming has reflected each aspect of the pandemic: fear of catching the virus, reactions to sheltering at home, work changes, homeschooling, and an individual's increased isolation or crowding. Some patterns are quite similar to other crises Dr. Barrett has studied such as 9/11, Kuwaitis during the Iraqi Occupation, POWs in WWII Nazi prison camps, and Middle Easterners during the Arab Spring. There are some very distinctive metaphors for COVID-19, however: bug-attack dreams and ones of invisible monsters. These reflect that this crisis is less visible or concrete than others we have faced. Over the past three months, dreams have progressed from fearful depictions of the mysterious new threat . . . to impatience with restrictions . . . to more fear again as the world begins to reopen. And dreams have just begun to consider the big picture: how society may change. The book offers guidance on how we can best utilize our newly supercharged dream lives to aid us through the crisis and beyond. It explains practical exercises for dream interpretation, reduction of nightmares, and incubation of helpful, problem-solving dreams. It also examines the larger arena of what these collective dreams tell us about our instinctive, unconscious responses to the threat and how we might integrate them for more livable policies through these times.
Deirdre Barrett, PhD is a dream researcher at Harvard Medical School. She has written five books including Pandemic Dreams and The Committee of Sleep, and edited four including Trauma and Dreams. She is Past President of The International Association for the Study of Dreams and editor of its journal, DREAMING.