A play of the mind

Author: Tina Kikalisvhili


A dream is like a play written for the brain, which enforces us to catch the moments before everything gets blurred. My project is also part of this game, telling the stories we receive from our subconscious during the pandemic. Through interviews and photographs, I explore how the brain deals with the changes caused by the pandemic.
Dreams move from us, or rather from the physical world, and find themselves in the brain.
How have dreams been affected by our daily emotions, fears and thoughts about the future during the pandemic? What are the images our brain selects from the archive in our subconscious? Millions of people see unusual dreams, filled with various symbols. Neuroscientist Perrine Ruby believes the symbols might be a mechanism used by the sleeping brain to regulate emotion.
I spoke with 70 people, of different ages, occupations and interests, about their dreams—what they can recall, which symbols they see, and how the pandemic has influenced their sleep. Deirdre Barrett, a professor of psychology at Harvard University who studies dreams, believes that as the virus is invisible, our subconscious transforms into many different things, including dreams.
My main focus was to determine how our subconscious defends us during the Covid-19 pandemic and takes part in the process of restoring details that are being lost or missed along the way.
While gathering other people’s dreams, I have discovered that in most cases people recall emotions, feelings, shapes and things they were the most worried about or, the opposite—things that amazed them. It was rare, however, that they could remember a dream in its entirety.


Giorgi, 7

I miss the freedom. I do not want this isolation any more. My dreams are usually more interesting during the COVID-19.  They are mostly cartoons. It’s as if I am a superhero and I’m saving others. Yesterday, for instance, I was wearing a uniform of Dracula’s grandchild and I was flying around. Later I saw a monster that was drowning a little girl. I went there and dropped him in the water. Then I gave his head to a crocodile to eat. Afterwards I flew again and saved the girl peacefully. It was not the first case though; during the coronavirus I am always flying and helping others in my dreams. 



Anastasia, 18

I enjoy reading science fiction and it always follows me at night, in my dreams. During the last several months I have experienced dreams like films, as if I was traveling to another planet. Once I travelled there and saw so many fireflies.  As I looked at them, I was wondering where they had come from, I was feeling happy they were alive. I was walking in the woods, and sand had been thrown down onto the path for some reason, however I believed that the road led to the seaside. It seemed to me that I was hearing the sound of waves and fireflies were illuminating the way to the sea.  I was looking up at the sky and I felt as if I was in the jar and I became really scared. Once I felt this, all the fireflies went away and I woke up.



Mikhail, 27

A dream by itself can provide some hope and be seen as a sign of irrational or unexplained support that evokes action. My girlfriend and I were sitting on a bus. The bus seemed to be the same I had seen in Berlin before, however the environment reminded me of something totally different. Suddenly we saw one Jewish man on the bus with long curly hair who was wearing a kippah. I exited the bus when it came to my stop. My girlfriend did not follow me. Later the entire space turned into an abandoned cabin and a wide-open field.
Instead of waiting room seats, there were bus chairs. My girlfriend was sitting on the chair and this Jewish man took a seat just next to her. The girl went away. While walking around we ended up at Delisi (Tbilisi Metro) station. We saw a long queue near one of the booths and people seemed to be very serious.  I do not really remember what was their response, but I guessed it right: on behalf of God they were selling or distributing human meat, saying it would save them from the virus. I cannot recall other details but I clearly remember the long queue and the sense that what was going on was a bit silly.  On the other hand I was trying to make it serious but I couldn’t. 


Ani, 29

Every time I am anxious my dream is the same: I see two mattresses with green, blue and gray stripes in space, you can imagine them on a blue, dark green background with lots of tiny stars around. I used to see something similar in films or in photography. It frightens me, it is a sign that something bad will happen soon. It is my responsibility to take those mattresses from one place to another but I can not.  Moreover, there is someone stuck between these mattresses and I can’t even move anything to save this person. Everything takes place in an airless space. I think it’s a very common experience for all of us when you are moving forward in the dream and all of a sudden you cannot move anymore. You are calling out but nobody hears you. You think that you are close to the line, but that’s not true.  You are still far from it.
I always call my mother for help as my only hope. Then I wake up and before I feel better, I still call my mother. Each time I see this dream I feel uncomfortable. I have no idea what could have been worse.
I can count up to 20 houses I’ve lived in since my childhood. My mother, my sister and I used to move from one house to another, taking all the things that we had received as gifts from our neighbors and relatives.  I distinctly remember mattresses among them, more specifically two of them in green, blue and gray colors. I usually see this dream when I don’t feel like I have the strength to deal with something serious and there is total mess around.


Nika, 32

I see dreams more often during the pandemic and they are mostly surrealistic. A week ago I dreamed about small clouds similar to the Northern Lights. They were approximately one meter long. They were moving really slowly, however they were not alive.  They could even come across my window, waving from outer space with no sense of time. Later my grandma came and at her request I started washing the handles of a coffin. I did it with total focus and then I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. I was more impressed by the cloud, that’s why they stayed in my memory more clearly. I forgot details from the second part of my dream when I woke up. 



Keto, 34

Most of my dreams continue my daily thoughts and emotions. My friend and I discovered in a dream that we could no longer speak French. I was crying and saying to my friends that this was the worst thing that could have happened to us.  She was smiling and adding that speaking French was only a burden for her and now she felt happy that she got rid of it. 



Rezo, 46

The more time passes the more I think about dreams. It has become a shelter for me during the pandemic, a space where I feel secure. The last dream I saw was a city, which was visually a mix between Tbilisi and Paris. While people, buildings and almost everything around reminded me Tbilisi, the main protagonist of my dream, a deserted cathedral, was from Paris. The building was on the verge of collapse, it was covered with moss, and the windows were broken. I was looking at them and I was completely mesmerized by this dying building.  Later somebody put his arm on my shoulder, an old man was looking at the building too and said that I was already late. Then something strange happened. All of a sudden I felt that I was this old man and I could not look myself in the eye. As soon as I thought about it I woke up. I do not remember any other details. I was trying to repeat everything in the dream so as to not lose it, but with the passing of time I usually forget my dreams anyway. It’s also true that sometimes we see the same dreams.



Dali, 58

I see dreams quite often, especially when I encounter a lot of problems. For instance, if I see that I remove a tooth or cut my hair I know that I will lose someone for sure. I realize that it’s a false belief but it’s a fact, too.  I was afraid of these kinds of dreams during this period. It is worth mentioning that my dreams have been more complex and vague during the pandemic. Lately I saw a hole from which I was trying to escape, unsuccessfully. I was looking for ways to sneak out, testing some methods and was getting myself ready to leave. If I could not do it, the following challenge was to reach greater heights and grab them. I didn’t really understand how long it should last. I do not remember any other details, I always woke up frightened. 



Kakha, 60

One thing I know for sure is that if I break a tooth in a dream, it means that someone close to me will leave this planet. I have already experienced it. Otherwise, I cannot see any links between my dreams and my emotional state of mind. I do not remember a single case when it resonated with the future or reality. I slept well during the pandemic and cannot recall vivid dreams.  I am almost sure I had some, but the files have been deleted. My father died in 2004 and since then in all my dreams I see him either standing up or sitting down and staring at me. 



David, 72

Usually I do not see dreams but I remember some from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was night and the stars were waving slowly instead of being stuck at one place. I thought that it was a perfect time to go fishing and suddenly I found myself at the seaside holding a fishing-net. Lightning came from the tails of the fish instead of the stars. This was why I thought that the sea might have reflected the stars. Later I sat down and started fishing, but for some reason I could not catch any. It was as if I was sitting there for years. The night was calm and beautiful but I worried about the fish. The lockdown rules were more strict for people over 70 and my dreams might be a response to that.



Ia, 61

I used to remember dreams when I was young, I loved observing them. Later I had a bit of a difficult period and paid less attention  to my dreams. As opposed to the past, now once I wake up, I always remember my dreams. I used to often see my mom, who passed away years ago.  I felt happy; in the dream, my mom went somewhere and disappeared, but I didn't search for her. I was very judgmental in my dream, thinking maybe she was alive. I think all dreams have roots in the past and they come from real life. My dreams are like this anyway. Some days ago I dreamed I had a little girl, I had to take her to the village but it turned out that somebody else took care of it, instead of me.  When I realized that, I worried a lot. Later I remembered that my mother was in the village and the girl would have been in safe hands. I am thinking now about this dream, this little girl is my third child whom I lost and I hope ise together with my mom.


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