Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer of Fear: Safe as Houses

I consider myself lucky that when I wake up in the morning, I almost always remember at least one dream I had the night before. Not everyone does, and I find many of them full of insight that help me understand myself better. Sometimes they even help inspire me to a song or story. I can even still recall highlights of dreams I had when I was a child, although many fade from memory after a few hours.

There was one particular dream I had a few years ago that I found helpful in another way.

I don't recall anything else in the dream besides the fact that the sliding door that led to my balcony had been left unsecured. In our apartment buildings, they have both a lock and a bar that would keep even an unlocked door from being opened. I had left the door unlocked, and the bar out of place, and I know it led to some unwelcome consequence. I can't say that someone or something definitely got into my apartment, because I don't remember that detail, but I can only assume that was the result. I didn't consider it remarkable, and had almost totally let it fade by the time I was leaving my apartment for work the next morning. But some piece of the dream nagged at me, so I stopped before walking out the front door and checked my balcony door. Sure enough, I had left it completely unsecured, just as I had in the dream.

Some part of my mind had obviously realized what I had done, even though I didn't know it consciously. The dream reflected that unconscious concern, and it was enough to make me pause in real life. I don't believe that anything bad would have necessarily happened just because I dreamed it did- but it was definitely a fear being expressed, in a more constructive way than usual.

I've had a lot of nightmares about people breaking into my home. I'm not unusually paranoid about it, but the thought does seriously frighten me, and I end up on high alert rather easily. Sometimes all it takes is a strange noise outside a door or window, and where I live, if the exit is facing the outdoors it's very likely it's a squirrel (and it has been, most of the time.) But I once had a pulse-pounding experience when I still lived with my parents.

I was home alone at the time, and we had an alarm system that the last person leaving the house had set that day, knowing I was there by myself. The alarm went off while I was puttering around the house, and I, of course, panicked. Now I should mention that we would occasionally get a false alarm, I believe from one of the windows. That's the only reason I can think of for explaining why I didn't just call the police. But I did call a friend to come over, grabbed the biggest knife in the kitchen, and had her come with me to check around the outside of the house for... I don't know what. If someone had tried to get in and heard the alarm, surely they wouldn't have stuck around "just in case" I didn't call the police. I also did not think about how it might look to the neighbors, to see me creeping around the house with a giant kitchen knife in my hands. But for some reason, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable course of action. Behavior made out of fear is not always very reasonable, of course.

But this is one reason why films like "Black Christmas" scare me so much. The whole "he's calling from inside the house!" is terrifying to me. That someone would invade the one place you should be safe. The outside world intruding with intent to do harm. Anyone would be shaken by a robbery, worse than shaken if the intruder intended to do something more horrible. For me this fear is not technically specific to what the intruder does once inside- not that I like the idea of being murdered, for example- it's of the primary violation of home and safety.

It's an instinctual assumption I think, which must be why so much horror does play on the idea of home not being as safe as you would like it to be. Serial killers, hauntings, possessed family members, Indian burial grounds. It's all very spooky, but break-ins are a separate animal. They happen every day, they're entirely possible, even in the safest neighborhoods. How do we each deal with that? Well, as I said earlier, I consider myself lucky to remember my dreams. I guess that's how I deal with it, and sometimes that's the only way to process and convert the negative energy of that fear.

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