Tuesday, August 24, 2004

What Are Prodromic Dreams?

Prodromic means 'before running' and refers to dreams which seem to give a symbolic or even direct indication of something, in particular an illness, that has not yet manifested physically in the dreamer. Thus, a worrying, perplexing dream or series of dreams about a system of underground pipes could refer to an impending vascular condition.

The usual rationale for such dreams is that the unconscious has such an intimate link to the body that it becomes aware of minuscule symptoms long before they can be consciously perceived.

The dream provides the communication channel to consciousness - but of course the information may not be interpreted and appreciated. In fact, two possibilities exist here : either, as stated, the unconscious passively picks up the early symptoms, or the unconscious causes the physical condition. However, yet another theoretical possibility is that the prior information arrives, via some psychic means, as a premonition - before anything can possibly be detected - or caused.

We must not allow any biases of thinking to influence us here - we must look only at the facts. Here are two cases of apparent symbolic indicators of developing illness, reported by the same man : 'I had an upsetting dream in which I was holding a baby and running along a cliff-top, being pursued by my brother in law - who was shouting to me to drop the baby. Suddenly a man in a black cloak appeared in front of me. The man held up a large crucifix and told me to hand over the baby. However, on looking at the child, I saw that it had turned into an ugly creature. As I looked at it, the creature gave out a terrible howl, lashed its long tongue round the top of my arm and I felt this painful burn and dropped the baby. The pain was still present that morning as I was telling my wife about the dream.

A few days later a rash developed at the site and shingles was diagnosed. Interestingly, I discovered later that shingles was in earlier times known as the curse of Satan.' 'I dreamed that I was sleeping on a water bed but that it developed a leak. I had a finger in the hole trying to stop the water escaping. I woke up with my finger pressed into my navel. I was taken into hospital a few days later with a cyst near my navel.'

A dream diagnosis that one woman had may have saved her life : 'I was living in California. I worked in a hospital. I'd recently had my annual physical examination, including a cervical smear. I dreamed that a man, maybe eight feet tall, dressed in white, stood before me. He told me I had cancer. I decided to go anonymously for an extra examination at a woman's clinic.

Three days later I received a call telling me that I had a positive result indicating a pre-cancerous condition. I had surgery.' A dream cure seems to have been given to this woman : 'I was in hospital expecting a baby. My blood pressure was extremely high and no medications could lower it. One night, after two weeks of being in hospital, I dreamt that my granddad, who is dead, walked into the ward and handed me a tiny bottle with some dark substance inside. He told me to drink it - so I did.

After the dream that night, the night nurse took my blood pressure. It was still high. However, in the morning I was told that my blood pressure had gone back to normal. The doctor, looking at my chart said that it was a miracle. I wanted to tell them what had happened that night, but I thought they would laugh at me.'

Some cases seem to include a psychic, precognitive, component : 'In my dream, I was looking down on myself in an operating theatre and could see a man leaning over me. He turned around and I could see he was a surgeon cutting open my throat. The dream ended there and although it was disturbing, I quickly put it out of my mind. Two years later I started to have problems with my eyes and needed an operation for an over-active thyroid in my throat. When I met the surgeon I was amazed to find he looked just like the man who operated on me in my dream !'

To assume that the dream simply reflects unconsciously detected symptoms is to put the unconscious in an uncharacteristically passive role. Actually, we know that the unconscious can cause a range of illnesses or worse, as indeed it can improve a person's state of health.

The 'conversion reaction neuroses' - such as hysterical paralysis, blindness, deafness, and so on - exhibit the power of the unconscious over the body. The Aboriginal 'bone pointing' curse can apparently sometimes cause death for the selected victim. Equally, a positive attitude in a person stricken with illness can cause a miraculous reversal in what might usually be a downward path.

It must therefore be likely that some prodromic dreams reflect an intention on the part of the unconscious to hurt the individual. The reason is not sensible and does not aid self-protection, so it must be for some distorted, psychological purpose concerning an unresolved issue. Darwinian self-preservation does not enter into the equation in such cases.

It is rather mind-blowing to consider that some of our illnesses may be self inflicted symbols of an inner psychological conflict, but it is even more of a challenge to the logic we have been used to, to think that the future state of the body can be viewed in dreams purely psychically. Once again though, that may actually be the case.

When the impossible has been eliminated, then whatever remains - no matter how unlikely - must be the truth. If that is so, we must adjust our mind-sets accordingly and not pretend otherwise. From the point of view of the passive unconscious illness detector, a possibility that already exists is that dreamers utilize 'lucid' dreams - in which they become conscious and can manipulate the dream - to conjure up a 'dream doctor', who using fantastic equipment, can diagnose future illnesses.

An alternative view is that the method will detect illnesses the individual is going to make happen - as if they are deserved or pre-programmed in some way. Or perhaps the individual's medical future as such might be observed by supernormal means. Whatever the process, this is a potentially very important area for medical research because it could give incredibly useful forewarning of bodily malfunction.

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