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How do the blind dream?
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I prefer not to attempt a very general answer, since more investigation on this topic is required. However, I will try to answer this question based on my own experience and the testimonies of many blind people, whom I thank for their cooperation.
Generally, those blind from birth and those who have lost their sight at an early age (up to 3 or 4 years) do not dream with visual images, but in their dreams they can speak, listen, feel, smell, taste, etc.
Those who have lost their sight at a later age (7 or 8 years) can at first dream with visual images, but they begin to lose these images as time goes by. In some cases, visual images disappear altogether.
Those who have lost their sight at an adult age usually can dream some days with visual images, and other days without them.
I quote below the testimonies of eight blind adults, who have voluntarily cooperated by describing their own dreams. This will give the reader a clearer idea about how blind people dream.
(Some of these people have used pseudonyms. Their testimonies were collected in 2003, and the age given for each person refers to that year).
“Usually my dreams are repeated, and people that I dream about are also repeated. I dream I am with my parents, or that I am at home or in the car or walking with my friends; in my dreams I don’t see them, but I know they are there and they talk to me and I hear them.
Once I dreamed that I was traveling to Cusco, Peru, on an airplane with my sister and some friends. And I said to them:
–But, how are we going to arrive? Cuzco is very high; the altitude might affect us.
And they said:
–Don’t worry. Come on! If we have some problems, we will go back.
In my dreams I don’t see, but sometimes I can smell.
Also, one day I dreamed I was eating and I could smell and taste the food.
“I dream of the things I always do. For example, I like to talk about sports very much. Also I dream about the people that are usually with me (friends, relatives, etc.).
“In my dreams I never see, but I can hear, speak and also smell. Also, I very rarely dream that I am walking along the street with a cane. However, in real life, I do it very often.
Sometimes I have dreamed that I talk with or hear people whose voice I have never really heard. For example, when I was 6 years old, I dreamed that I talked to a girl and obviously I could hear her voice. However, in real life I had never heard her, and people only talked to me about her.
At the time I was reading the famous novel The Count of Montecristo, I dreamed that I was talking to a woman who was one of the characters in the novel, and even though she was only a fictitious character, in my dream I could hear the voice of the woman.
Once I dreamed I was on the beach with some friends that I knew only in my dream. I was talking to them happily when suddenly a huge wave came. But before the wave reached me, I was lifted into the air by a great wind; I could clearly feel how that strong wind lifted me and I stayed in the air for about 6 or 10 seconds. Then I fell slowly onto a little wall that was very close to the beach, where my friends were, and they were making comments about what had happened to me. Then I continued to talk to them, happy and unhurt”.
“In my dreams there are sound images, that is, voices and other sounds. I can also dream with smells and flavors. Obviously I don’t dream with visual images. I don’t often dream that I am walking with a cane. Usually, in my dreams I walk by myself in places I know, or in any case I walk with people who guide me.”
“Until I was 10 or 12 years old, I was able to see in my dreams. Then I started to dream without seeing.
When I could see in my dreams, I used to dream of places I knew, but when I started to dream without visual images, I dreamed about places I didn’t know.
I remember that when I was a child, I dreamed I was with a friend, and we were walking in the yard of a house, and I saw a stain at the back on a wall, and I told him it could hurt us. So he started to run. But when I tried to run, I felt as though my legs were made of lead and I couldn’t run or I ran with very slow heavy steps.
However, since I was 10 or 12 years old, I have not seen images in my dreams.
In the first dream where I could not see any more, I was in the school where I studied and I was walking in different parts of the school”.
“I lost my sight when I was nine years old and as time went by, I used to dream the way I perceive things now, that is, without sight.
When I was 15 or 16 years old, I dreamed I was in a colliseum with several people. And they asked me to give 3 numbers. And the first number I gave was 8. Then everybody shook his head to show disagreement with me, and everything started to be destroyed and people were smashed. Then I appeared in a desert land where there were mountains and hills, and it was as though there had been a great disaster. I could see the colliseum with the people and I could also see how everything was destroyed.
When I was 18 years old, about half of my dreams still were with sight. Now in my dreams I have less perceptible visual images. Seldom I dream of white things; I dream everything in semi-darkness or in grey color.
Since I have been blind I remember having dreamed only two or three times with light colors like white.
When I dream of people, I only hear them, but I dream of things with more detail. I dream most frecuently of the sea and of mountains and in my dream I can remember them, but I can not remember faces of people”.
“Sometimes I dream I am seeing and sometimes I dream like it is now, that is, without seeing, but I can hear.
Usually in the dreams that I can see, I am anywhere, but it is in a place where it is night, and only very few times I dream that I am seeing in daylight.
Also in my dreams I can see people I have known since losing my sight and I see them according to the descriptions people give me about them and I make in my mind a kind of inconscious visual projection of their faces”.
Víctor Hugo Vargas, 37 years old. (Blind since he was 20 years old)
“I had sight for a long time, so I have a fixed and precise idea of some things, but there are other visual images that with time are fading from my mind like a fog.
In many of my dreams I can see, but I don’t always dream that I am seeing.
Sometimes in my dreams there are simply sound images. There are dreams where I don’t remember whether I have seen or not. But there are other dreams where I see clearly, for example, a while ago, I dreamed I was reading a newspaper.
Generally my dreams are related to landscapes or to all kinds of events”.
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