“What dreams do we have in the era of COVID-19?” (by Eleni Konstantatou, published in tovima.gr on 14/01/2021)

Since last April the Draumar team has been collecting dreams in order to create a record of the dreams we see in the era of the coronavirus in Greece.

Every new year brings with it new goals and dreams. This year was a little different. Dreams for the next day were lost among the hundreds of victims of COVID-19. Now our dreams are limited to what we see during our sleep. It’s interesting to see what our dreams were during this special year.

There may not be a database of dreams, but the Draumar team has been working since last April to create a database of dreams at the time of the coronavirus Greece. It all started from the idea of the anthropologist at the University of Palermo Matteo Meschiari and the author Antonio Vena last March in Italy. The team was created by anthropologist Alessandra D’Onofrio and journalist Dafni Scaglioni, who were joined later by historian Leoni Thanasoula. 

The project

The imaginative name given to their project by the Italians comes from the Icelandic word “draumar” which means dream. The inventiveness of the name, however, is evident in the play on words that unites the English concepts of dream and trauma in one word.

“What is happening to all of us is clearly social and the pandemic has many social implications. Draumar began with the intention of recognising the social dimensions of dreams, drawing a map of the collective fantasy emerging from this collection. In the hope that this map can serve in the times before us, to support future discussions of collective, more visionary and informed responses in connection to what is happening to all of us,” notes Ms. D’Onofrio.

In total they have collected around 300 dreams. Although at first the public was hesitant, because they were asked to send them by email, however along the way the solution of the anonymous form, a possibility offered by Google, “reassured” the Greeks. From November onwards, the project, which was communicated through social media, gained more dreamers. Currently the group is in contact with people in nursing homes, but also in refugee reception centres, who have offered to collect dreams with the first material already in their hands.

The first conclusions

The first phase of Draumar’s dream collection, during the period of the first quarantine, involved “dreamers” aged 18-74 years – mostly between 23 and 46 years old – and the vast majority of them women. “As they wrote, at the time of quarantine they often saw intense dreams, more adventurous and vivid, with plot, location and history that they had never seen before, “all highly absurd.”Now my dreams have turned into a ‘soup-like’ state”, one writes characteristically”, says Ms. Scaglioni.

When asked if there are any images or feelings that keep coming back into their dreams at this time, the “dreamers” mentioned those of anguish, rejection, fear, anxiety, stress, confinement and drowning, while returning as main characters in the dreams are old loved ones, such as grandparents, parents, former friends, pets, stressful situations from the past and old houses.

Dreams during the quarantine
"Outside a big building was Dad (he's dead) and I wanted so badly to hug him!" 
"I dreamed that in a part of the house the floor had rotted and cockroaches were coming out from the inside. My kids were there too, but there seemed to be nothing we could do.”
"I'm going home. The house is being crushed by a terrifying earthquake. But only its left section, where the entrance to our house is located. It is leaning heavily, it's falling like someone who's diving with his head... My father made it to the ground floor and went out into the yard, and I'm so relieved. His gaze is agony and pain together. But then the building collapses and he's shattered by debris."

It’s just some of the dozens of dreams they receive every day.

The collection of dreams does not miss the association with the pandemic and what it has brought with it, such as the one narrated by the 13-year-old dreamer: “My birthday was approaching while we had coronavirus. My parents were so mad at me for wanting to have a party, and we had a really bad fight. At the end of the fight the parents kicked me out of the house.”

Other dreams are similar: “Last night (22 to 23/11) I dreamed that I was at El. Venizelos [airport] all alone, there was no one else in the whole area of the airport and I was running to catch a flight. The moment I was running and anxious not to miss it I realised I wasn’t wearing a mask and I panicked as I was afraid I wouldn’t be allowed on board and there was no one to give it to me. In the meantime, the loudspeakers announced the last call for my flight. That’s when I woke up.”

Even 5-year-old dreamers contribute to Draumar’s dream collection:

“I had a nightmare. Lots of falling of mice that made holes in our roof.”

However there are some a little funnier and weirder like this:

"What I remember, and it's funny, is this: World War II environment, war thriller atmosphere, I'm going to have pedicure and manicures done in a hidden basement and I'm arrested by the police!".

The closure of beauty centres seems to have been giving … nightmares to this woman.

Dreams from all over the world

Similar dream collections are flourishing around the world, perhaps most famously the study carried out by Deirdre Barrett, assistant professor at Harvard University and editor-in-chief of the journal Dreaming, which launched a research through a questionnaire on dreams during the COVID-19 period in the week of March 22nd. Other initiatives followed, by teams of scientists of different disciplines from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Finland and Italy.

Although some of them have completed their cycle and are in the mapping phase, the Greek one will continue in the coming months “because even if the danger disappears tomorrow, the imprints of collective fear and the trials we have suffered will be intense for a long time. But we have already started to plan actions and collaborations to return part of the material in a creative and participatory way back for everyone” comments Mrs Thanasoula.

How does the recording take place

The simple and spontaneous description of what one dreamed of is enough, but combined with more information about the conditions he lives in as well as a time determination of when he saw the dream is helpful for the Draumar team.

However, how many times have we woken up from a very intense dream and after a while have forgotten what we “saw”? And yet there’s a way we can capture our dreams on paper.

A lot of people tell us they don’t have dreams or that they don’t remember them. We suggest a small trick that we have seen that works to a large extent,” they say.

So here are the instructions for recording dreams.
“Start saying to yourself, “I’ll remember my dreams” every night before you go to sleep. After two weeks, you will see that you start remembering them.But that is not enough. Try, after you wake up, not to activate any of your senses right away. Don’t open your eyes, don’t move, don’t talk! Stay a little in this state between sleep and wakefulness, don’t “wear” your personality right away and don’t go straight into the everyday reality around you. And at that moment, recall in your mind the dream you had. You should have something next to you to write it down as soon as you open your eyes (paper and pencil or even an electronic notebook on the nightstand). If you cannot be bothered writing it down, then record it! Mark the date and put it in Draumar’s time capsule. Sweet dreams!”