Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
[excerpt from Pandemic Dreams, Oneiroi Press, June, 2020]
There was a tarantula that was somehow also COVID-19 coming thru the mail slot. (I have no mail slot)
I dreamt I had a roach infestation and that two of my friends had got it and one had died.
In one I remember very clearly, strange bugs (like a centipede or millipede) were released into a room where I was sleeping. We could only find one bug of many, so I was terrified to sleep until the other bugs were located.
Not all dreams about the virus are literal. After 9/11, I saw some metaphoric dreams. However, due to the dramatic images associated with that event, a majority dreamed of buildings falling, planes smashing into things and/or hijackers with knives. Our dreaming mind is intensely visual, so when it feels fear, it searches for an image to match that feeling. Bugs express what many are feeling about covid-19. Swarms of flying insects–bees, hornets, wasps, gnats, horseflies—attack. Masses of toxic worms writhe in front of dreamers. Armies of cockroaches race toward them. Bedbugs, stink bugs. One woman dreamed of giant grasshoppers with vampire fangs.
They are the definitive metaphor now partly because of our slang use of the word “bug” to mean a virus or other illness, as in “I’ve got a bug.” Dreams often represent words with visual images in pun-like fashion. At a deeper level, however, lots of tiny entities that cumulatively could harm or kill you makes a perfect metaphor for covid-19.
I dreamed they had started evacuating London but I was stuck there. I could see a “ghost” or “force” moving from one apartment to the other. It was possessing people and moving through them. Then it jumped from the building across onto my balcony and into me—that’s when I woke up terrified.
. . . It was right behind me, breathing in low heaves and grabbing with invisible long fingers and hands. It was a dark, violent and hungry entity.
I’m with my family and lover and we’re being chased by silent, almost invisible rats. I only see their tiny eyes and flashes of teeth behind us as we run.
Another metaphoric creature unique to this epidemic is the invisible monster. Some dreamers must cross exposed outdoor areas and know there are monsters that could kill them but which they can’t spot. Others wander through building complexes and hear steps behind them or spot subtle shadows moving when they can’t directly see the monsters. One woman dreamed that she was watching others being knocked down one by one. Terrible wounds appeared on their bodies until they died but she couldn’t see the attacking creature. She remembered that it could jump to anyone within six feet after their former victim’s death and realized she was standing too close. As with bugs, the invisible monsters haven’t appeared after other crises but are unique to the elusive imagery of the coronavirus.
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, PhD, is on the faculty of Harvard where she does research on dreams and creativity and teaches courses on dreaming. She is the author of five books including The Committee of Sleep and her most recently published book, Pandemic Dreams.More Posts by Deirdre Barrett