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A GREAT NIGHTMARE,
or,
THE AUTISTIC DREAM LECTURER

Dreamed 1997/1/2 by Chris Wayan

I dream I'm a autistic guest lecturer in a class on dreams. I'm so nervous that when they introduce me, I can't stand up and speak. I have to clutch a pillow, sit on the floor and rock a bit before my voice unlocks. I give my lecture rocking and holding the pillow. They listen anyway.

A question from the audience: "You say your dreams are basically friendly. Were they always? Or did you change the contents, reducing your nightmares somehow? Or did you try to become comfortable with nightmares, and then see your dreams change content to match?"

I answer without thinking "It's more like--say you're traveling. Is it exploring the territory that gives you confidence or it is the confidence that lets you explore the territory? They go together seamlessly..." but I pause, think it over, add "but when I was having lots of nightmares, at some point I DID decide to try to appreciate them, look for their constructive advice. After particularly intense ones I'd say" (and here I yell)

"What a GREAT nightmare!"

I'm startled at the volume of my shout and feel embarrassed. Was that an autistic thing to do, yelling like that? Not realizing the volume of your voice, and missing social cues... sure seems autistic.

I better say something calm and quiet to reassure them. Again I don't think about the content, just add mildly "I really did that; I'm not just talking theory. Try it--it worked."

And wake.

NEXT MORNING

So if even an autistic can cure nightmares, what's your excuse?

TEN YEARS LATER: GEEK WISDOM

Today I think this dream had a second lesson: how geeks can flourish socially. Just show you're aware you're acting weird--it reassures others, at least in a city like San Francisco, with lots of kooks on the streets. Big-city people care less what you do than that you consider their feelings about it. I've found I can get away with almost any behavior as long as I frame it, comment on it, make it seem under control--even if it's not. Because meta-comments work nearly as well on humans as on nightmares. Similar beasts!



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