The Dream Scheme

Join me in my 'dream scheme' as I research more about dreams and their meanings and then attempt to analyze my own, strange dreams.

June 2, 2022

The Dream Scheme

Hi everyone, my name is Alefiya Presswala. I’m a senior at EBHS, and I have some pretty weird dreams. If you’re friends with me, you know I’m always texting long paragraphs about my dreams. But, what do they mean? Where do these bizarre images come from, and why does my brain create them? According to multiple instances of research, dreams are a reflection of our personal experiences and realities, oftentimes becoming more vivid during times of transition or trauma. In many ancient civilizations, dreams were seen as another spiritual world in which the future could be predicted and hidden illnesses could be diagnosed. Is my brain really this powerful? This is what I’m setting out to find out more about during the last month of my senior year as I prepare to say goodbye to my teachers and friends and move to New York for college. I will be recording, painting, and interpreting five to seven of my most vivid dreams over the remainder of the school year, so stay tuned through these chapters to analyze my subconscious along with me- and maybe learn a little more about your own dreams as well.

In the meantime, check out this soothing playlist that helps calm me down and fall asleep. Happy dreaming!

A Little Bit of Dream History

A Little Bit of Dream History

Read this section to get a little more context about the importance of dreams.

Before I start analyzing my own dreams, I think it’s important to have a little more background information. When speaking to Ms. Alimonti, a psychology teacher at EBHS- who just happens to teach a dream unit in her class- she directed me to this resource which includes the different types of dreams and the common symbols that tend to appear in dreams. I’ll be referencing this website a lot, especially when I look at my own dreams.
Ms. Alimonti told me, ‘Although not all dreams are meaningful, or helpful, some dreams have been extremely helpful in people’s waking life, in important aspects such as problem-solving, emotional healing, memory consolidation and creativity. Many people credit their dreams with helping them in achieving these things that they were not able to achieve while consciously trying to do so during waking hours alone. So whether we remember our dreams or not, it’s important to dream, even if we don’t know for sure what the actual dream story, as a whole, may mean.”
For me, analyzing my dreams is important because I feel like I dream a little differently than most of the people I do talk to about my dreams. For one thing, I tend to dream in third person- meaning that when I dream, it’s like I’m watching myself do things instead of just doing them myself. I also dream in black-and-white sometimes. Called cinematic dreams, third person dreaming is actually more common than people think and might mean a number of different things such as that I may feel out of control or disconnected from my life, or that I just feel equal to everyone else around me so I don’t need to be the main character in my dream. What’s interesting about cinematic dreams as well is that they sometimes play out like an actual movie with zoom-ins and different scenes. As for dreaming in black-and-white, only about 12% of people dream with no color. What’s interesting about that is that in the 1940s, studies showed that 75% of Americans actually reported that they rarely or never dreamt with color; those numbers are now reversed. Many scientists attribute this to the amount of exposure to black-and-white media in the past versus the new technology now, which is why my frequent black-and-white dreaming confuses me. Maybe I’m just an old soul.
In the next few chapters, I’ll actually be reporting my dreams and then painting them. Stay tuned, and happy dreaming!

Dream 1: June 2, 2022

This visual interpretation of my dream is self-explanatory. I depicted the ending of the dream where the weeds pop up from my ground and trap me in my house. The paper collage is a recreation of my actual prom dress.

Dream 1: June 2, 2022

This dream occurred the night before prom and it also centered around prom and prom preparations, so I think it’s fair to say that this dream was a manifestation of all the anticipation surrounding the big senior dance.

The dream started off with me arriving home after the half-day. Keep in mind that I mostly dream in third-person, so I am watching myself just as you, the reader, might be imagining this dream as you read. As I walked into my house, I saw a black cat walking through my front yard. A black cat is a well-known symbol of bad luck in many pieces of folklore and urban legends, but according to Ms. Alimonti’s dream resource, dreaming of a black cat can also mean that I am “experiencing some fear in using your psychic abilities and believing in [my] intuition”.

After seeing the black cat, I immediately went inside to eat my lunch and get ready for prom. I’m not sure why, but instead of getting ready in my bedroom, I was getting ready in my basement- but my brain made it feel like my room. After I was done getting ready, I went upstairs to show my mom the final look and put my corsage on. However, when I went to put the corsage on, I noticed that there were bugs crawling in the white roses of the arrangement and the petals were withered and browning. This itself seems like a bad omen, but confirms that “to see withered or dead flowers in your dream denotes disappointments and gloomy situations.” I am afraid of bugs in real life, dream-me is too, so I tried to shake the bugs out of my corsage, but as I did, some of the petals fell to the ground. As the petals touched the ground, weeds sprung up from the tile floor in their place. They slowly wrapped around me, holding me in place and rendering me unable to move and leave my house. The more I struggled against the weeds, the tighter they wrapped themselves around me, almost like they were alive. Weeds are another bad omen, they can be interpreted as a sign of neglect or despair. I think that describes perfectly what I was going through during this dream.

That’s about all I can remember from this particular dream. I’m sure more happened or maybe the scene completely switched and I somehow ended up happily dancing with my friends at prom. That’s what I like about recalling my dreams: they throw me into crazy situations where I’m forced to analyze my own behaviors and think about myself and my personality in a different way.

What would I do if crazy monster weeds trapped me in my house right before my senior prom (which, in reality, was a really fun experience)? What would you do? That’s something I’ll leave you to ponder as I move on to recording to my next dream.

This visual interpretation of my dream is self-explanatory. I depicted the ending of the dream where the weeds pop up from my ground and trap me in my house. The paper collage is a recreation of my actual prom dress.
Dream 2: June 5, 2022

Like I mentioned in my description of the dream, parts of it felt dramatic like I was in a sitcom or some type of TV show. I wasn’t sure how to portray a sitcom through artwork, so instead I tried to show the moment where the water balloon breaks in a comic book style (sort of). I don’t think I was really that successful, but there’s still a cool abstract feeling to it.

Dream 2: June 5, 2022

The first part of this dream took place in the terminal of the high school. For some reason, the tour that the seniors give to the incoming sophomores at the end of summer was happening in the middle of the school year, and the tour was being given to fellow seniors instead. I don’t remember many specific details about this dream or about who else was in it, but I do remember a strange series of events.
The dream started with me finishing off the tour of the high school and waving goodbye to a group of students. I headed to the parking lot and unlocked my car (which was white instead of black in this dream). When I stepped inside my car, there was already a student inside. They didn’t really have a face (or I just can’t remember it), but I knew they were a senior. They asked me for a ride home, and I remember being confused as to why they would need a ride home when they were also a licensed driver. Just when I was about to give in and say yes to the student, they pulled a bright green water balloon out of their pocket and broke it over my head, indicating that they were participating in senior assassin- which I was not. I tried to look up what certain symbols might mean: for example, a car can represent navigating or traveling into a new phase of life, which makes sense for where I am in my own life. But the color of the car changing from black to white is supposedly supposed to represent a change from evil to good, or from negative to positivity, which I’m not sure has any distinct meaning to me. According to, “to dream that someone throws water at you implies that you need to show more of your emotions. You have been too disconnected from others. Alternatively, it may mean that you need to cool off.” While this is an interesting meaning, I was actually surprised while reading this description of water because I feel like I’m actually a very open person who shares her feelings a lot. Maybe it was just really hot in my room that night?

Like I mentioned in my description of the dream, parts of it felt dramatic like I was in a sitcom or some type of TV show. I wasn’t sure how to portray a sitcom through artwork, so instead I tried to show the moment where the water balloon breaks in a comic book style (sort of). I don’t think I was really that successful, but there’s still a cool abstract feeling to it.

This dream was another one of my cinematic dreams, and right before the student dropped the balloon over my head, there was a zoom-in on the balloon, and then another one on my face, like we were in a sitcom. Another thing that was interesting about this dream was that it was a recurring one. There are 8-10 types of dreams, which you can read about here. A recurring dream is one that occurs over and over again with barely any change in storyline. Usually, they are negative and may be repeating because of an unresolved conflict. For me, this was the third time this dream had occurred and as I write this about a week later, I’ve had the same dream two more times. Needless to say, I’m tired of getting ambushed by water balloons.

Dream 3: June 7th, 2022

This is again pretty self explanatory; I just painted the lizard that steals my jewels. Like I said earlier, I believe this dream was influenced by the ancient Islamic fantasy book I was reading during the day. I wanted my painting to sort of feel like it could’ve been made by a merchant from that time, so I tried to ‘blur’ the background with paint to ‘age’ the canvas paper. I also loosely outlined my paintings of the lizards and jewels as if someone had quickly sketched them out.

Dream 3: June 7th, 2022

This is a dream where I remembered less of the details of the dream and more of the vibes and what I was feeling. The setting of the dream was sort of like Agrabah, the fictional land in the Disney movie Aladdin. I was some type of secret jewel trader or merchant, wearing a large beige scarf over my head to hide my face. Hidden in the pockets of my very baggy clothing was a satchel full of shining gems. As I was walking across the market that I was hoping to trade in, a huge green lizard crawled onto my foot. I tried to shake it off, but instead it crawled into my robe and nestled itself inside my bag of jewels.

The lizard somehow stuck a few jewels onto its back and ran off. That’s the last thing I can remember, but this is a dream I keep coming back to because of the vibes of it. There was a mystical atmosphere in this dream, kind of like I was in an enchanted kingdom and there was some sort of magical force surrounding me. This was another cinematic dream, and it definitely felt like I was in a movie following a pre-written plot. There was also a distinct color scheme in this dream, which was white, a royal purple, magenta, and emerald green.

This is again pretty self explanatory; I just painted the lizard that steals my jewels. Like I said earlier, I believe this dream was influenced by the ancient Islamic fantasy book I was reading during the day. I wanted my painting to sort of feel like it could’ve been made by a merchant from that time, so I tried to ‘blur’ the background with paint to ‘age’ the canvas paper. I also loosely outlined my paintings of the lizards and jewels as if someone had quickly sketched them out.

This dream may have also been influenced by the fact that I read about 300 pages of The Kingdom of Copper that day, which is the second book in an epic ancient Islamic fantasy trilogy where the setting looks a lot like Agrabah. Because I can barely remember the dream and I can see where most of its elements came from, I don’t really see a point in trying to interpret the symbols.

Keep reading through the next chapter, though- because that one is a little more interesting! Happy dreaming!

Dream 4: June 9th, 2022

This fourth dream is another one that takes place at EBHS, but the school functioned simultaneously as a jail and bead factory instead of as a place of education. For an unknown reason, I was in prison, being forced to make beaded bracelets. The security guards at our school were prison guards in this dream. In my cell (which was simply an EBHS classroom), instead of a place to sleep and bars holding me inside, there was a factory line with plastic beads in a variety of colors like orange, green, and yellow, and thin wire coming my way. My job was to use some sort of firing machine to quickly string those beads onto the wire and place the completed bracelets into a bowl. Once the bowl was filled up, a prison guard would come and replace the bowl with a new one and order me to continue making bracelets.
The bracelet making went on for a while until the prison guard watching me got up and announced to me, “I need to go to the bathroom. Don’t you dare move or I will come find you.” Then he exited my cell and went to the bathroom.
Of course, I didn’t listen to the guard and I took this as my chance to try and escape. Somehow, I unlocked the door and ran out. My cell turned out to be in B-hall, so I quickly turned towards the stairs that lead to the main office. I was stopped by a group of three students. Their faces were unfamiliar to me, but I know that they were my friends in the dream. However, they weren’t prisoners like me. They were all wearing thick gold bands on their wrists, indicting that their status at EBHS was somewhere in between prisoner and prison guard.
I pleaded with them: “Please help me get out of here!”

In this painting, I first created a red blotched background to represent the despair and betrayal I was experiencing throughout this dream. Then, of course, I painted the gold bands to represent my so-called friends. In the middle is an example of one of the beaded bracelets (represented by mini pom-poms) I was forced to make in the school/jail.

I expected them to immediately say yes and help me escape from the prison. After all, they were my supposed friends and they seemed to be in much better condition than me.
Instead, they shook their heads and circled around me so I had no space to escape from them. The last thing I remember dreaming before waking up is that I was forcibly dragged back to my cell and forced to start making bracelets again.
Some obvious symbols are the prison/prison guard, which can mean feeling trapped or feeling like someone will betray you. I guess that sort of played out in the dream with my friends refusing to help me, but I don’t necessarily see what that has to do with my current relationships. Bracelets in dreams symbolize the need to rekindle old friendships or reach out to people you haven’t talk to in a long time. The contrast in the meanings of bracelets vs. prison guards is an interesting juxtaposition that makes this dream even more confusing to interpret.

This was sort of a morbid and strange dream, which had negative connotations once again- a theme I’m starting to notice as I reflect on these dreams. As I interpret the symbols, I can’t seem to correlate the symbols to my current situations, but that leads me to wonder: could my dreams be prophetic dreams? Could they be symbolizing something to come for me in the future? At the rate these reflections are going, I certainly hope not.
Keep scrolling for the last dream featured in the Dream Scheme- it’s not as morbid as this one, but still a little strange.

Dream 5: June 10th, 2022

For this final dream, we travel to Ithaca College in upstate New York, the school I will be attending in fall. I don’t remember the actual plot of this dream; in fact, I can only remember one specific scene.
I was walking to one of my classes (I’m majoring in Journalism, so let’s assume it was some sort of introductory writing course), when all of a sudden I noticed that the other students weren’t humans: they were life-size plastic Barbie dolls functioning as humans. They were writing in notebooks, answering questions and talking to each other, conducting lab experiments, and even participating in athletics outside the building. What was really unsettling was that every single doll looked exactly the same: the stereotypical blond Malibu Barbie doll with the pink dress and pumps.

Now, you might be looking at this piece of art and wondering if I’m really that bad at drawing. The answer is yes, but that’s not why Barbie looks like she was drawn by a kindergartener. In my description, I talk about how dolls can be a symbol of wanting to be someone else and escape from reality. Well, another meaning of dolls can be immaturity or youth. For this last visual interpretation, I wanted to draw my dream the way I would’ve in elementary school, which explains the triangle dress, stringy hair, and line grass.

Obviously, Ithaca College and dolls are the main symbols in this dream. “To dream that a doll comes to life signifies your desires to be someone else and escape from your present problems and responsibilities.” Maybe this dream was reinforcing my excitement to move away from East Brunswick and grow as a person. Or maybe it was reiterating my long-held belief that going to college will solve some of the problems that I’ve dealt with in high school.
I have another theory. On June 10th, I was mainly working on two things after school: housing applications for Ithaca and a Barbie-themed escape room for my final project for AP Statistics. I think it’s clear to see how the events of the day influenced my dream.
One thing I’ve learned from this project is that sometimes dreams are just dreams, and there doesn’t always have to be a deep meaning to them.

And now that I’m finished reflecting on my dreams, head on over to the last chapter of the Dream Scheme where I provide some tips on how I helped myself remember my dreams in more detail and some final thoughts.

Dream Reflections

As the Dream Scheme comes to an end, here are my final thoughts on how this project came along.

When I first started this project, my goal was to chart five of my dreams and see if I could interpret them, and by doing so, also interpret my own subconscious and inner feelings. As I went through this project, I felt frustrated because even though I was describing my dreams to the best of my ability, there was no real way to truly put readers into the mindset of experiencing my dreams. I’m also not the best artist, and it was annoying that my paintings didn’t always reflect what my mind was seeing.
As for actually interpreting my dreams, most of them centered around school and larger school events. As this project gets published, there’s a week until I graduate and only two months until I move out of state. Scientists say that dreams can be more vivid or referential to certain things when going through a large transitional period, so it makes sense that so many of my dreams focused on senior year events. Over the past few weeks, I have definitely become more emotional about high school ending and I think I already knew that I was feeling nostalgic about senior year, but it was definitely interesting to see the bizarre ways in which my brain reflected that.
I also noticed that when I had had a particularly rough, anxiety-inducing, or just simply eventful day, my dreams were a lot more vivid and weird. They were also more strange when I got less sleep than usual, but much harder to remember. When I got a good amount of sleep and woke up feeling refreshed, it was definitely easier to remember moments from my dreams and piece everything together as I jotted points down.

Some tips for remembering your dreams better:
1.Get more sleep

2. Keep a dream journal and write down as many quick things as you can about your dream as soon as you wake up
-More tidbits will come to you as you go
-You can also decorate your journal and make it more fun for yourself!
-If writing stuff down isn’t really your thing, try sketching what you can remember

3. Try keeping a journal for before you sleep as well
-Write short reflections on how your day was and how certain events made you feel
-I journal at least once everyday and not only does it help me process and deal with my emotions a lot better, but when I’m interpreting my dreams, I can clearly see where certain symbols and feelings are coming from

Overall, even if this project didn’t teach me anything super new about myself, I’m still glad I did it and looked at myself through a new lens. As for you, dear reader, I hope you enjoyed going on this dream journey with me. Thank you for reading and tagging along with me- happy dreaming!

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