Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Have you ever had a lapsing dream? It’s a very real thing, but I don’t talk to many people and I pay little attention to the media, so it is difficult to know what is unique to my mind and body. I turned the concept into a creepypasta because it scares me, or it frustrates and upsets me at the very least. A lapsing dream is entirely separate from more widely discussed occurrences in sleep like lucid dreams or paralysis incidents. It is not as immediately scary as sleep paralysis, but as someone who has suffered from both types of dream, I believe lapses to be the more insidious of the two. A lapsing dream lies somewhere between the illogical realm of fragmented dreams, which don’t seem to be very different from normal dreams except for their poorly defined and difficult to remember chronologies, and the timeless void of dreamless sleep. Lapsing dreams only seem to happen, or at least I remember them to only happen, at either edge of a period of restful sleep or throughout the course of poor, non-restful sleep. During a lapsing dream, random shards of thought or information spontaneously dart through the dwindling stream of consciousness, popping in and out in extremely quick succession as if hopping crossways over the mental flow. Sometimes, a lapse is composed of succinct, discrete bits of meaningless information that are too small in volume to hold any meaning. Other times, a lapse is composed of an amorphous mesh of many little thoughts ran together. All thoughts experienced in a lapsing dream do not appear in any tangible format such as text, imagery, or sound. They are all raw and unprocessed, and how they are able to be perceived, let alone remembered, is unexplainable. Any perception of self and existence is lost during a lapsing dream, but the experience is still present and able to be remembered. When someone has a lapsing dream, they do not see black or any other color, which separates this type of dream even further from all other kinds.
So why are lapses more scary than nightmares or sleep paralysis? Well, I think that lapses have the ability to slightly alter a person’s perception of reality. Lapses have a strange place within the continuum of the mind and sleep. Having a lapsing dream is probably as close as one can get to “experiencing” a deep, dreamless sleep, yet they occur at the times when the mind is most active and the consciousness is strongest during rest. That said, they seem to draw together areas of the mind that are usually kept separated, and the residual effects of lapsing dreams extend into the waking world in strange ways. After any given lapse, I woke up with memories that were entirely real to me until I noticed the absence of a particular object, location, or person, or someone belied the truths that had just manifested in my head. I know from reading various forums that it is not a very rare occurrence for dreams to cause false memories, nor is it a phenomenon exclusive to lapses, but this is somewhat different. Memories created by a lapse are very strong regardless of how implausible or glaringly false they are. After a lapse, somebody who had lost a loved one after a major tragedy might believe that the person lost was still very much alive, or that a tragedy had never taken place at all. And when that person’s memory is nullified by the truth, they might suffer the same grief that they went through when they were first exposed to news of the death. I know this to be true because I have been affected by lapsed memories multiple times. There have been many times throughout my life where I remembered owning items, usually things that I greatly desired, that I did not actually possess, or where my knowledge of the layout of a building or environment was overridden until I visited the altered locations. The most notable and exceptional cases concern a long-dead family pet and a grandparent who had died long before I was born. When I woke up one morning, I went into the living area of my house confident in the knowledge that I’d be greeted by my parents’ fluffy white dog Princess, who had been around since before my conception. I soon found out that Princess had died years ago, but I felt like I just lost my pet. I do not want to talk about my grandparent’s death in detail, but it is important to point out that I felt someone who I had never met was with me.
The incident with my dog presents another strange anomaly caused by lapsing dreams: distortion of the perception of time. After waking up that morning, I was missing a huge chunk of my memory. Of course, this occurred during the earlier portion of my childhood, and the hippocampus tends to be rather unreliable during that period. But what I experienced was far different than the gradual fading of memories. Additionally, I have the gift of being able to remember many scenes from my early life with extreme detail, including some from before the lost period. My recognitive ability does not, however, negate the fact that I am missing multiple years’ worth of memories, including the time when my dog died. I still do not remember witnessing or even hearing about my dog’s death even though I remember almost every detail about her looks and some details (although they may be confabulations) about my interactions with her. That is the power of a lapse, and they have not stopped since my childhood. The extent of their effects does not end with the alteration of experiences committed to memory, either. Lapses can also alter a person’s moment-to-moment perception of the passage of time.
By the supple age of 15, I felt like a centenerian in a few respects. I didn’t have the maturity or the experience of someone so old, and I knew that, but I was speeding through time like someone who had already experienced their entire life. Of course, the acceleration of time is a constant that affects everyone, but the shift in perception that I experienced was far too large and obvious to simply discount as a mere unpleasant marker of aging. Even now, when I look at my old digital clock sitting behind me on my dresser, I can see the delimiter blinking twice as fast as I remember it going in the past. Whole minutes run freely by whenever I do not concentrate on the clock. Even when I do focus on every instance of a second, trying to limit the implacable forward drive of time like an under-equipped traffic officer, every moment still seems fleeting. I am not sure why lapsing dreams do this, but I have noticed that during instants occurring on the latter end of a rest, there are sometimes very brief periods where the afflicted will regain a nominal level of consciousness. When these short bursts of wakefulness happen multiple times between intervals ranging from a few minutes to a few hours every morning, a cognitive effect of “time travelling” is created. It does not seem unreasonable to believe that an individual’s sense of time might be residually skewed from witnessing chronologically distant moments in quick succession (time is barely perceived during a lapsing dream), but I do not have the knowledge or the means to prove such a belief with empirical evidence or anything else. It is also impossible to tell if the problem is caused or exacerbated exclusively by interrupted lapses, or if this phenomenon is no worse than segmented sleep.
Lapses clearly diverge from regular dreams by a large amount. They present no tangible images, feelings, or sounds. All of their effects on temporal perception and the psyche are latent and lasting as opposed to contained within the dream, or, in the case of a nightmare, a short period during and after a dream. And they only seem to be partially connected to the unconscious system, holding no meaning or symbols unlike normal dreams. They certainly do not represent a defense mechanism or a manifestation of desire. I was not particularly regretful that I never got to meet my grandfather until I lost his confabulatory phantom to the truth, and I was much too young to understand the solemn concept of death when my dog actually died. Although objects that I desired were commonly written into my memory, so were random items and locations that had nothing to do with my emotions. If I am the only person afflicted by this, then perhaps lapsing dreams are an unappreciated but necessary mechanism of my powerful memory? It may be plausible, but there are a few other details about lapses that might negate such a possibility.
If a memory of a location is overwritten or created by a lapse, there is a chance that the mental image of the location will be extremely mesmerizing. The arrangement of light within the visualization will have an intoxicating effect on the mind, and the visualization might stay even after the overwritten memory has been corrected. The effect is impossible to describe beyond this, as the manner in which the light in the image is configured and the way that it influences the afflicted cannot be communicated verbally. The phenomenon is far too idiosyncratic and intangible for anybody to fully understand without experiencing it themselves. However, despite being hard to describe, these otherwise normal images steeped in an otherworldly aura are very real and very powerful to me. They are so pleasant that I have gained a love for nature and the inadvertent aesthetic of the environment just by being exposed to them, and as if being driven by Jung himself, I find myself drawing trees and other natural structures at random. It is when I make drawings and doodles that I think about those hexing visages, and I wonder about their cause and purpose. The most memorable of the images are usually very similar in form to an actual location that I have visited, but glazed over with a magical sheen. Others are more unfamiliar, and some are even abstract, but they all show an empty environment filled with nature, certain pieces of infrastructure, or a stark sky. A lot of them seem expressionistic in a way, which brings me to my point. I believe that the images of real locations are skewed by an enigmatic force because they show something that we cannot normally see. The rapid exchange of impalpable information during a lapse may serve to decode a moment of perception that the occipital lobe is not capable of handling. But what is a lapse doing when memories of people or events are falsified, or entirely fictional locations are generated?
I believe that lapses are as close as any being can get to witnessing and knowing Nihility: the Zero State. When a person dies, their brain goes out with a flurry of activity, and final dreams may occur. When a person is anesthetized, there are no dreams to be had, and nothing is experienced or remembered. I have walked in the fog, blind and deaf and stripped of somatic being, but I was still able to know something and remember it. Maybe the images of unseen things and the dead come from somewhere further down than the bright lights of our great scientific and analytical minds have yet shone? Maybe a lapsing dream is a toe dip into the watery membrane demarcating the eternal spaces? Maybe I have written nothing special, and a worldly, predictable logic that I am totally ignorant of tightly binds and regulates the dreams? I have no way of understanding the enigma that both plagues and blesses me. I am a weak, sentimental little thing who is probably only drawn to the mystical for fear of a harsher, scientific truth about my problems. Every tick in a tock pangs my existential fears as time is continually quickened, and my prized achievements and emotional treasures are slid to the edge of a steep mantle every time I go to sleep. I cannot help but speak of the lapsing dream like both a common affliction and a condition unique to me because I would like to think both cases are true. I am rendered lost by its mysteries, and I am too confused to write. Can I walk into that terrible fog even during the day? My mind has rolled onto a tangential track, and I am lost. It seems that this curse of mine is not something that I can speak about freely.
It is awfully late. The server administrator can confirm this if the submission date is accurate when this is sent in. It is time for me to sleep.
Credit: Sprite of the Wold