Dreams Reflect Our Waking World

(Santa Clara Magazine, Spring 2003, 8-11)

Are dreams meaningful revelations of truth, or just deceptive gibberish? That is a question humans have been debating for thousands of years. Some of the earliest written documents from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India are texts on dream interpretation that provide instructions on how to separate the sense from the nonsense in dreaming. Most cultures through history have agreed that at least some dreams are genuinely meaningful and relevant to people’s lives.

Over the past century, Western psychologists have used new methods to study this age-old question, and their research has confirmed the basic meaningfulness of dreaming. Clinical psychotherapists from Sigmund Freud on have found that dreams bear strong relevance to people’s emotional concerns and personal conflicts. For example, psychotherapists have repeatedly found that if a client is going through a divorce, or suffering an illness, or experiencing a crisis situation at work, the client’s dreams are likely to provide informative, insightful reflections of his or her emotional situation in waking life.

In addition to the abundant clinical evidence from psychotherapists, the meaningfulness of dreams has also established by cognitive psychologists who have studied long-term dream journals—personal diaries in which people have recorded their dreams over a period of years or even decades. Content analysis of these journals has revealed a remarkable continuity between people’s dreams and their waking lives. The characters, settings, and modes of social interaction in the dreams have clearly identifiable connections with journal keepers’ everyday waking experiences. Thus students frequently dream about school, parents about their children, athletes about their sports, artists about their creations, etc. The upshot of this research is, whatever it is you do in waking life, you probably dream about it, too.

Taking the last 100 years of psychological research as a whole, the evidence is quite strong that dreaming is not deceptive gibberish (at least not entirely), and it does have genuinely meaningful relevance to people’s lives.

Now that we have a well-grounded answer to that initial question, a new question can be addressed: What kinds of meaning does dreaming convey? Most researchers have focused on the personal dimensions of dream meaning—how dreams relate to the private life concerns of the individual dreamer (health, sex, family relationships, etc.). While I value and appreciate the work of these researchers, my own studies have followed a different path. I have become increasingly interested in the communal dimensions of dream meaning. My research over the past several years has been building a case for the idea that dreams offer meaningful reflections of the broader cultural, political, and economic environment in which people live.

As you might expect, this idea has struck many people (including a number of my fellow researchers) as highly implausible. How can dreams, the bizarrely idiosyncratic products of an individual’s sleeping mind, have any significance for the waking world of public life?

One way I have tried to answer that question is by studying people’s dreams during times of unusually intense political activity—namely, Presidential elections. I have done research during the past three election cycles (1992, 1996, 2000), and each time I have found numerous instances of dreams with explicit themes and images from the waking world political scene. By 1996 I had gathered a sufficiently large number of politically-related dreams from people all over the country to begin sorting them by theme and content into three broad groups:

Political cartoons of the mind: Dreams expressing in succinct and sometimes very humorous ways the dreamer’s waking life political perspective. Here’s an example from a 36-year old man from Florida: “I’m playing golf with Bill Clinton. I’ve heard people say he cheats, and I understand what they mean, because he frequently improves the lie of his ball. But he encourages the people he’s playing with to do the same. He says, ‘It’s just a game, and just for fun!’” This dreamer voted enthusiastically for Clinton in 1992, but in 1996, when he had this dream, he wasn’t sure if he would vote for Clinton in the upcoming election. The dreamer saw the golf imagery of his dream as an expression of his concern that President Clinton is a “cheater” who frequently “improves his lies” and then tries to smooth-talk other people into letting him get away with it.

Personal symbols: Dreams using the figures of politicians as “personal symbols” to express strong emotions that the dreamer is feeling toward some matter in his or her waking life. Here’s an example from a 55-year old woman from New Mexico: “I’m back in college, in one of the classrooms, and Bill Clinton is one of the students. Then he’s the teacher, and he asks me how alcohol manufacturers get us to drink so much. I say I haven’t given the question much thought.” This dreamer had long struggled with alcoholism, and in her dream she sees the President as voice of “executive authority” within her, a voice that is prompting her to think more carefully about why she drinks.

New political perspectives: Dreams directly calling into question the dreamer’s waking life political attitudes, leading the dreamer to think anew about his or her accustomed beliefs about a politician or a political issue. This example comes from a 44-year old man from New York: “I’m on a camping trip with the President and his party in a heavily wooded area. Suddenly, Clinton darts up a hill into the woods. He sees a bear approaching the camping area. None of us moves, as the President confronts the bear; Clinton is very expert and competent as he does this, not wild or frightened. He manages to drive the huge bear, the size of a Grizzly, into a snare set for him. The FBI in the entourage are angry at the close call, but the President seems unperturbed.” This dreamer said that from the start he had been skeptical of Bill Clinton’s leadership qualities, but he awoke from this dream surprised by Clinton’s swift, assertive, and fearless response to the threat of the huge bear. As a result of his dream, this man reconsidered his generally dim view of Clinton’s executive abilities, wondering if he had been overlooking the President’s skills as a fighter.

My next research project tried to build on those earlier findings by taking a different approach to the general question of dreaming and politics. Beginning in the Fall of 1996 I began gathering most recent dream reports from college undergraduates of varying political persuasions. In addition to writing down their most recent dreams, I asked the students a series of questions about their political beliefs and activities: were they registered to vote? If so, in which party? Did they vote in the election? If so, for whom? How would they describe their political views, as conservative, liberal, moderate, other? I then compared the dreams of 28 highly conservative people and 28 highly liberal people (half men, half women in both groups) and found the following:

People on the right had more nightmares and dreams in which they lacked power. They had a greater frequency of lifelike dreams. Female rights were especially anxious about family relationships, and male rights had dreams almost devoid of girlfriends.

People on the left had fewer nightmares and more dreams in which they had power. They had a greater frequency of good fortunes and bizarre elements in their dreams. Female lefts had an especially high frequency of good fortunes, and male lefts had an unusually high percentage of female characters.

What do these findings mean? When I presented this research finding at an academic conference in the summer of 2001, I said my pilot study was far too small to support any certain conclusions. However, to my surprise and amusement, this little research factoid—“Republicans have more nightmares than Democrats”—was quickly seized by the national news media and bandied about by pundits of all persuasion (Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Schneider, Bob Edwards, Peter Jennings, etc.). Despite my cautions, political partisans on both sides did not hesitate to assert their interpretation of my findings. As reported by UPI correspondent Mike Martin, Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chairman, declared “If George W. Bush were the leader of my party, I’d have trouble sleeping at night, too.” Not to be outdone in the game of “dream spinning,” Kevin Sheridan of the Republican National Committee quickly replied, “What do you expect after eight years of William Jefferson Clinton?”

As you can imagine, this episode taught me a humbling lesson about the manipulation of academic research by the mass media. But beyond that, it encouraged me to expand on this small but promising project and continue exploring dreams as a means of gaining new insight into the unconscious roots of people’s waking life political beliefs.

On a more sober note, I have over the past year been gathering dream reports related to the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. As you can imagine, many of these reports have been nightmares—frighteningly vivid dreams of planes being hijacked, terrorists with bombs, tall buildings exploding, all the horrifying imagery of that unforgettable day. In a forthcoming book (Dreams of Healing: Transforming Nightmares Into Visions of Hope, Paulist Press) I discuss these dreams both in terms of their relevance to the dreamer’s personal life and to the profoundly changed communal world in which we all now find ourselves. I have found that many of the post-September 11 dreams not only express the dreamer’s private emotions but also envision creative new possibilities for meaning and order in the life of the community.

This capacity of dreams to convey meanings of both personal and collective significance is beautifully illustrated in the experience of Mandy (not her real name), a twenty-nine year old artist from California. A couple of days before September 11 Mandy had flown to New York to visit a friend who happened to work in one of the World Trade Center towers. On the morning of the 11th her friend had gone to work as usual, leaving Mandy asleep in her apartment (right across the river from the towers), with plans to meet at the WTC for lunch. When the attack occurred, Mandy rode her bike to a spot where she witnessed the towers collapsing. It was several hours before she learned her friend had survived. That night, Mandy had this dream:

“I’m walking through a forest that has been chopped down. It is a sea of stumps. Every single tree has been cut. I stand in the middle, sobbing. Who could do this? I walk up to one of the stumps and see the huge beautiful spiral inside. I get lost in its magnificence. These trees are so old. I can see all of history in these trees, and I’m struck with the beauty and power of seeing this part of the tree. It’s a part that I don’t get to see. This spiral is taking me so deeply down into myself, to a place so powerful that it overwhelms me.”

Mandy knew right away that her dream was directly related to her harrowing personal experiences the previous day. She felt “so much calmer and clear-headed” when she woke up, and she said the beautiful image of the spiral helped her get through the agonies of the next day. She also recognized that her dream had a broader, almost allegorical dimension of meaning: Amid a scene of apparently total devastation and ruin, a previously hidden source of power, beauty, and strength is discovered. Mandy understood that this message was relevant not only to her but to everyone who was consumed by fear, confusion, and despair in the immediate aftermath of September 11. When she returned home she made a painting of her dream, and since then she has shown it in public exhibitions as a way of sharing its inspirational meaning with others.

My current research project on the social dimensions of dreaming is a collaborative effort with Prof. Tracey Kahan of the Psychology Department of Santa Clara University. Prof. Kahan has taught a class on Sleep and Dreams for several years, and one requirement of her course is to keep a sleep and dreams journal. At the end of Fall Quarter of 2001 Prof. Kahan and I gathered the journals of 22 students who volunteered to participate as anonymous subjects in our study. We are currently in the process of analyzing the journals for evidence of explicit incorporations of September 11-related imagery (e.g., hijacked airplanes, terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, etc.), and we will present our findings at the 2003 conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams, to be held in Berkeley from June 27 to July 1. In previous studies Prof. Kahan has examined the various types of thinking, awareness, and self-reflection that occur in dreaming, and one question we will be examining is whether dreams with clear incorporations of September 11 themes have distinct qualities of awareness as compared to dreams without such content. Do dreams with explicit images of terrorism have less self-reflection (because of overwhelming fear) or more self-reflection (because of heightened vigilance)? The results of our study should cast new light on this and other questions relating to the profound psychological impact of September 11.

My interest in how dream content relates to major events in public life is not intended to disparage the value of dream interpretation for personal insight. Particularly in the practical contexts of psychotherapy, counseling, and spiritual direction, dreams are a wonderful resource for individual growth and self-knowledge. My concern is to rather to complement the personal meanings with communal meanings by heightening people’s awareness of their deep and often unconscious relations to broader forces in their communities and in the world. Like many social commentators, I lament the tendency in American society to segregate private and public spheres of existence, and my research is providing evidence that even in the seemingly isolated realm of dreaming we are still dynamically involved with the political, economic, and cultural forces shaping our lives. My guiding belief is that the more aware we become of those forces, the better able we will be to guide them in creative and fruitful directions.

Dream Content and Political Ideology

LIST OF THE DREAMS

Appendix 1

FL 1 COOK KILLS HER MOTHER

I was at my house with my mom, my younger sister, and my younger brother and his friends. My brother and his friends were watching a sports game on TV. Out of nowhere the cook at my parents’ restaurant came to my house and murdered my mom in my bathroom. My dad came home a little while later, went into my sister’s room and killed himself. When I found him there, I went to call 911 and our phone wouldn’t work. I finally got through on a cell phone, and suddenly my dad was alive again. My sister then took his hand and led him into my bathroom. She said, “Look, there’s mom,” and pointed to her dead body. We went back out to the living room and my dad said, “Let’s get out of here.” Just as I said, “We can’t, Tom (the cook/murderer) took mom’s car,” Tom pulled up in the driveway. I was terrified as he walked up our walkway and into our house again, but my dad wasn’t. Tom then proceeded to explain the procedures and the logic behind killing my mom, as I stuffed my face with a huge bowl of raviolis.

FL 2 BOYFRIEND’S HAPPY PARTY

I dreamt that I was at a party that my boyfriend was hosting at his house. I cannot remember the specific details of how/why I was at this party, but I do remember that it was at his house. I can remember it was very warm in the house, and all the lights were on. Everyone was very happy and seemed to be enjoying everyone’s company. What made this dream memorable was that my high school friends were there, who I haven’t seen in two years. I remember their faces being extremely colorful (red lips, pink cheeks), and just full of life. Both my friends and I were extremely excited to see each other.

FL 3 HUGGING HER CONFUSED AUNT

I am in my house I lived in when I was younger. My aunt and little cousin Marcus came to visit me. I was back home from going to school in Hawaii. When I saw my aunt I gave her a hug but she was hesitant at hugging me back. She looked extremely confused. Marcus was playing with my mom, he was restless and he wanted to leave. I was just standing there. I was confused myself. I wasn’t sure what was going on.

FL 4 EX-LOVER’S MASSAGE

I was dreaming about a past relationship. I ran into my ex-lover at the mall. We went back to his house and I began speaking with his mother. He and I went upstairs and he began to massage my body. When his hands touched the small of my back, I quickly woke up and called my boyfriend to tell him how much I love him.

FL 5 MOTHER CUTS HER HAIR CRAZILY

I had a dream that my mom cut my hair all crazy, giving me bangs and cutting it uneven on the sides. We were on a vacation and the house in which we were staying was located right on the beach. My parents were there and I believe my brother was there as well. I remember looking out the glass doors and seeing the ocean directly outside. The waves kept getting closer and closer and taller and taller. Then I realized that there was an emergency warning being sounded out, but no one was taking it seriously and I had to try and get everyone out of the house.

FL 6 A WATCH IN THE WATER

I dreamt that I was in the ocean near the shore, with people. As I was floating I noticed a male watch and swam down to reach it. The watch kept slipping out of my hand and then I noticed the clasp was floating away. I managed to catch the watch but not the clasp. Then when I looked at my hand with the watch in it, it was a female watch that I had grabbed. I went back and took the male watch as well but both were damaged when I brought them back to shore. On the shore there is a little girl with a nose piercing that is almost grotesque. It is revealed that her mother made her wear it because it is trendy. Then her father notices that the piercing is infected and removes it.

FL 7 BOYFRIEND’S MOM YELLS AT HER

My boyfriend and I were watching tv in his living room and he went outside to smoke. So, I was just sitting by myself watching TV. Then his mom comes home and starts yelling at us and yelling at me because she didn’t know that he smokes. I was really scared and sad because I didn’t want his mom yelling at me. I wanted her to like me.

FL 8 TAKING CARE OF HER YOUNG NIECE

My family had a reunion get together at a hotel and I was in charge of taking care of my young niece. We were outside and walking on this pathway that was very slippery and we kept falling. My niece would cry every time we would fall and I would try to distract her. Suddenly I realized I didn’t have her milk bottle, so I asked my dad to watch her while I went inside the hotel to get it. I managed to get up the slippery pathway again and go inside the hotel, but suddenly it turned into a mall and I could not find my family anywhere. Although I had never seen the mall before, I somehow knew my way around. The rest of the dream I spent looking for my family (very vague at this point).

FL 9 TEMPTED TO LEAVE HER BOYFRIEND

I dreamed I was lying on my stomach and a friend of mine who I might have crush on came next to me. We were in a corner of a room. He kissed me on the ear. The next thing in the dream was us sitting on a sofa in the living room (mine??) talking, and I’d assume stuff happened in between that I did not actually dream. He was offering to give me a lot of things, I don’t know what exactly for, something like, leave my boyfriend and run away with him. He offered things like spending his savings on me, and when I didn’t give an answer, neither yes nor no, he offered more. I didn’t speak, just cried. I knew what was the right thing to do, but I didn’t want to commit myself. Out of the parlor? Came the chair of my department and I thought, oh great, now I’m in trouble. (the chair knows of my boyfriend, and he’s met him. But instead, he talked to my friend as if they knew each other and asked, “were you the one that did this (made her cry)?” When he nodded, the chair said, then it’s your responsibility to make it better.

FL 10 CRUEL SOCCER GAME FLYING

I was walking in a park-like area toward some sort of museum, there was a lot of statuary (Greek?) leading up to the museum and I remember thinking how far (unusually far) the walk to the door was. I was with a friend, Pat, I have had since second grade. I noticed a soccer match going on to our left and it consisted of many adult men but there was a line of children (6-7 years old) who had their shirts pulled over their heads, and their parents were lining them up. I remember thinking how odd and cruel that was to send the children into a violent game with older men. At this point I became lucid and remembered that I could fly in my dreams if I wanted to. I began to fly and I thought to myself, “If only I could remember how to do this while I am awake, it is so easy.” Pat was up ahead and as I flew towards him I awoke.

FL 11 BLISSFUL PREGNANCY

I am not sure of where I am exactly; however, that does not really concern me. It is not dark yet not overly bright. I do realize I am indoors because though there is not a mirror visible to me I know I am looking at myself and through my eyes. It is pleasantly warm and quiet; I can feel this in my arms, back, face…through my whole body. I may be reclined in a bed or a very soft and big easy chair. I am very comfortable and peaceful. I feel my abdomen, large and warm, and I know life is within me. This is a recurring dream in which I have the baby in my arms and I am nursing the baby. It is so real that the baby’s smell and gurgling, suckling, etc. I feel physically. I have to emphasize the calm and contentment, the overwhelming love I have for this child welling up within me.

FL 12 SEEING THE GIRL SHE LOVES

In the dream there was me, the girl I’m in love with, and her boyfriend, who is a friend of mine also. We were in this really large bathroom like thing and she wanted he and I to escort her to the bathroom. The weird thing about the bathroom was that some stalls had doors and others had shower curtains. Like the almost clear kind but you can’t really see through it. She wanted to go to one that had the shower curtain, but was afraid to because she thought we would look at her.

FL 13 HAUNTED APARTMENT

I was moving into a new apartment, from the 3rd floor to the 3rd floor-across a grassy area, there were other people helping me with boxes, when I got in to the new apartment I loved it, I remember climbing up the stairs, I looked around and liked it, but I knew it was haunted, I can’t remember what happened so that I would know, but I knew and I didn’t mind.

FL 14 GEORGE W. BUSH STEALS HER CHIPS

I was in my room watching the news on the election and eating chips and G.W. Bush came into my room and stole my chips. I was surprised and caught off guard. I looked up at the TV and Gore won because they miscalculated the votes.

Bin Laden’s Dreams, and Ours

The recently released videotape of Osama bin Laden openly discussing the September 11 terrorist attacks does more than offer compelling evidence of his role in organizing the attacks. The video also provides the best insight yet into the religious and psychological world of bin Laden and his followers. A major portion of the video involves bin Laden, an unnamed sheik, and several other men discussing prophetic dreams and visions relating to the September 11 attacks. Many American commentators have expressed amazement at bin Laden’s interest in such tribal superstitions. But in fact this seemingly nonsensical conversation is quite revealing of the deepest motivations guiding the behavior of bin Laden and his followers.

Dreams and visions have played an enormously important role in Islam from its very beginning. The Prophet Muhammed is said to have received the first revelation of the Qur’an in a dream visitation from the angel Gabriel. Throughout his life Muhammed experienced dreams he believed were communications from Allah, and he encouraged his followers to tell him their dreams so he could interpret them. Many of these dreams included images of violence and warfare, and in each case the dream was interpreted as a sign of God’s support and guidance in the battle against the unbelievers.

Viewed in this light, the video portrays a ritual reenactment of the dream interpretation practices of the Prophet Muhammed. Bin Laden, playing the role of the religious/military/political leader, is taking time out from the war against the infidels to speak with his followers about dreams, visions, and other reassuring signs that God is on their side and will guide them to ultimate victory. This is identical with what Muhammed practiced with his followers on a regular basis almost 1400 years earlier.

The video is perhaps the clearest evidence yet found that bin Laden is patterning his life after the Prophet Muhammed, and feels himself blessed with the same degree of divine approval for his violent struggle with the enemies of God. His perverse success in persuading thousands of young Muslim men to fight and die for him is very likely due to their perception of him as a Muhammed figure—an inspiring warrior-prophet who embodies the wrathful power of Allah.

Can anything be learned from the particular dreams discussed in the video? Bin Laden and his followers mention a total of seven dreams and dream-like experiences. The first involves a strange soccer game between American pilots and Muslim pilots, which the Muslim team wins. Three other dreams portray airplanes crashing into tall buildings. A man is reported to have had a vision of carrying a huge plane on his back to the desert, while another man envisioned a group Muslim faithful leaving for jihad in New York and Washington. Bin Laden says a soldier told him he’d dreamed of a tall building in America, and then of learning from a spiritual teacher how to “play karate.”

What’s most striking about these dreams is how similar they are to the dreams reported by Americans about the terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan. Since September 11 I have gathered several hundred dream reports, most of them highly disturbing nightmares, from people all across the U.S. The predominant themes in these fear-ridden dreams are airplane crashes, military conflict, building explosions, terrorist attacks, and threats to children and family members. Many of the American dream images are almost identical to the bin Laden dreams, but the emotions they evoke are radically different: the American dreams are suffused with fear, confusion, and a horrible sense of vulnerability, while the bin Laden dreams are welcomed as good omens. What terrifies the Americans brings joy to the Muslims. Nothing could make clearer the distressingly huge psychological gap separating the two warring sides.

Many of the dreams people have reported to me came before September 11 and appear, like the bin Laden dreams, to have “prophetically” foreseen the attack. There is of course great scientific controversy about whether dreams can actually anticipate future events. But for people who feel they’ve had such dreams, the experience often bring a terrible sense of guilt—“Did I really see this coming? Could I have done anything to stop it?” For those people, the most chilling part of the bin Laden videotape surely comes right after he tells about the young man who dreamed of a tall building in America: “At that point,” bin Laden tells his followers, “I was worried that maybe the secret would be revealed if everyone starts seeing it in their dreams. So I closed the subject.”

Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., teaches religion and psychology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is editor of Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming (Palgrave, 2001)

Joe Lieberman’s Farewell Dream

Joe Lieberman's Farewell Dream by Kelly Bulkeley“He [Lieberman] was feeling loose now, so much so that he began telling aides about a dream he’d had the other night in which long-dead Democratic Connecticut Governor John Dempsey had walked across a stage and waved at him.  Lieberman was puzzled by the dream.  It was hard not to wonder what his unconscious was telling him: Was this the Democratic organization from the past wishing the senator well or waving goodbye?”

“Joe Lieberman’s War: The Hawkish Senator Finds Himself in an Epic Battle—With his Own Party,” by Meryl Gordon, New York Magazine, August 7, 2006.

On August 8th, 2006, Joseph Lieberman, the incumbent Democratic Senator from Connecticut, lost the Democratic primary to newcomer Ned Lamont, whose anti-war campaign stirred up sufficient liberal opposition to reject Lieberman and his unwavering support for President Bush’s campaign in Iraq.  His defeat seemed to mark the end of his career, a dramatic and precipitous fall given that just six years earlier he was the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate alongside Al Gore.

Lieberman did not accept defeat, however.  Instead he ran as an independent in the November 2006 general election and handily beat Lamont, retaining his senate seat for a fourth term.

From our vantage today, his puzzling dream visitation from the late Governor (Dempsey died in 1989) might qualify as a kind of prophetic anticipation of the political near-death experience he was about to endure  (Lieberman, an observant Jew, would likely know of his religious tradition’s long belief in the prophetic power of dreaming, especially in times of mortal danger).  Lieberman did indeed come within waving distance of his political demise.  A classic theme in visitation dreams is a welcoming gesture from the dead, which is often interpreted as a sign that the dreamer will soon depart this world and journey to the next.

After he lost the primary, Lieberman could have accepted the Democratic voters’ verdict, followed the path taken by Dempsey (a loyal member of the state’s Democratic party who retired in 1971), and left the political scene.  Instead he fought against the Democrats, and won.  He survived the threat to his political life, but perhaps at the cost of losing connection with his ideological ancestors.

[I wrote the above in the summer of 2008.  Recent days have given new reasons to wonder about the psychodynamics of the Senator’s movement away from the Democratic party.]

Sarah Palin Dreams

Sarah Palin Dreams by Kelly BulkeleyWhen Sarah Palin was first named in late August 2008 as John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate, several people (both supporters and opponents) began reporting dreams of her.  An article posted on Slate by Abby Callard and David Plotz, “Your Dreams (and Nightmares) about Sarah Palin,” appeared on September 12, 2008.  The article includes twenty of what they judged to be the most interesting dreams sent in by their readers, with some comments from me. 

 Since then I have gathered several other dreams involving Sarah Palin.  At some point soon I will set up a website for people who want to share dreams they’ve had of Sarah Palin, comparable to the www.idreamofobama.com site for people to share dreams of President Obama. 

Till then, here’s one that came in response to the 2010 Zogby survey question asking, “What is the most recent dream you can remember?”:

 “You’re not going to believe this, but it was a dream with Sarah Palin. It wasn’t sexual, it was a situation where she was with me at my boyhood home in San Antonio, Texas, whereby I was in the front yard with her standing with me. I was showing her a Christmas ornament I made along with a table and chair I made. Next thing I know we’re in my older brother’s 1965 Chevrolet Impala. I was in the driver’s seat and she was sitting next to me real close like we were an item. I don’t remember any words being spoken, but it was very cool since she is such a beautiful woman. I hated the dream to end, but it did after only a few frames. It’s amazing to me because I remember very few dreams that I have so this one was very cool to have remembered.”

 The dream came to a 50-year old Hispanic man in Texas, a Catholic and conservative Republican who voted for McCain and Palin in the 2008 election. 

 Not knowing anything else about the dreamer personally, it’s impossible to say what the dream means to him.  But it does seem to accurately reflect his positive feelings toward Palin.  Indeed, the dream’s intensity and strong memorability suggest that Palin represents ideals, aspirations, and values that are especially meaningful to this man.

 In light of previous research I’ve done, the dream sounds similar to the dreams of Bill Clinton that liberal Democrats reported in the early 1990’s.  In those dreams, people found themselves in close, casual, rather intimate contact with a political candidate they greatly admired in waking life.  Often there was an aura of romantic ambiguity, as if the dreamer was struggling to understand powerful feelings of attraction that were more than friendly but not exactly sexual. 

 Then, as now, it seems that dreams offer a kind of “charisma index” that shows the deep psychological impact a politician can have on his or her supporters.