A few nights ago, I had my first Donald Trump dream. It wasn’t a baroque nightmare of mass deportations or panic in the nation’s emergency rooms. I recall only that he was a vivid character in a memorably immersive dream.
And I thought: Other people must be having these dreams too.
Indeed they are. It is one of the lesser-known prerogatives of the US presidency that the man in the White House becomes a common visitor in Americans’ slumber. With Trump, all the more so. Think of how he struggles, every minute of every day, to be “front of mind” for the American public. “He is different from past presidents and celebrities in that he wants to be in your consciousness in a way that surpasses previous presidents,” says Patrick McNamara, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University.
You may think the daytime Donald Trump is a nightmare, but that is not his only role in dreams. Both McNamara and Kelly Bulkeley, a psychologist who curates the Sleep and Dream Database, have taken an interest in dream-presidents. As you can see in some examples below, sometimes Trump is a passive rather than an active presence. “The president is an important symbol of male power for Americans, sometimes even a father figure,” Bulkeley says. “So he appears in dreams the way a king or high priest might have functioned in other civilizations.”
Bulkeley has been cataloguing Trump dreams since early 2016, at the website idreamoftrump.net. “I’m surprised by the relatively small number of nightmares about Trump,” he reports. “What I’ve found is more interesting — people are grappling with Trump, they are trying to understand where he fits in. And that’s the classic task of dreams.”
I asked some area residents to share their Trump dreams with me, and many did. Perhaps the two most startling claimed to be premonitory dreams. The second time psychologist Kathleen Curzie Gajdos dreamt about Trump, “[he] was torturing me while white men watched and did nothing.”
“I considered the second dream as a warning that [Trump] would be elected,” Gajdos wrote in an e-mail. “Being very disturbed by its message, I decided in no way would I let this man make me into his victim, and have become very active politically.”
Psychologist Donna Ricci reported a more involved dream in which Trump shape-shifted into an older, overburdened Hispanic woman to trick Ricci into letting him pass her on a footbridge. Several hours later, a friend who lives near Mar-a-Lago told her about a frustrating experience driving across a Florida bridge where traffic slows to get a full view of the Mar-a-Lago mansion.
“[Psychologist Carl Gustav] Jung might even say that my friend and I tapped into the collective unconscious and had a shared experience,” Ricci wrote.
Here are some other dreams featuring Trump:
West Roxbury resident, trapped in a dorm
Two nights ago I had a dream in which I was giving Donald Trump a tour of a Boston-area private school. That night we both stayed overnight in different guest quarters at the school. Before I went to sleep I locked my door and checked it twice out of fear that Trump would try to get in. In the middle of the night Trump tried to reach into my room through a window. I was horrified and pissed off. I yelled at him, “I’m trying to sleep here. Go away!”
Joel Schwelling, of Bedford, N.H., on Air Force One
My wife and I were on Air Force One with the Donald and Ivanka. We landed and then we were all at the Ritz in some unknown location. My wife and I walked to a garden out back that resembled the courtyard at the Boston Public Library. We then met up with our dog Phoebe in the garden, a small black Lhasa apso that had somehow been magically transformed into a huge, sleek black panther. Somehow this all seemed normal.
Rachel Legare of Providence, R.I., with a “humanized” Donald
I am not a Trump supporter, yet in my dream he was very grandfatherly and humanized. That experience of feeling an interpersonal human connection with him was unsettling to me, which makes me realize how defensive and demonizing my regular daily feelings of him are.
Acton’s Jane Barnes, in the White House
I had a dream a couple of weeks ago that President Trump invited me to come to the White House to be with him for a day. He knew I was a liberal, but he wanted me to follow him around and take notes at all his meetings.
So, being in a dream, of course I did. As we walked down the hall of the West Wing, we passed a foreign “king.” Mr. Trump asked me if I had a piece of paper. All I had was a cocktail napkin, which of course I gave to him. He wrote “irrigation” on it and handed it to the King.
(Yes, that was irrigation, not immigration . . . perhaps I was thirsty?)
Deborah Rossetti Sullivan of New Hampshire sees a Trumpsicle
I was at some location with familiar and unfamiliar faces and everyone seemed to be worried and moving in all directions, not in a panic, but concerned. Among the crowd there he was, walking around. No one paying any attention to him. I could not help but take a second look at what he was wearing. And I have no idea where this came from, but he had on an orange suit with short pants, and matching socks and what looked like Keds sneakers. I was beginning to wake up, and I remembered thinking to myself — Dreamsicle color.
Ann Guyer, Manchester-by-the-Sea, sees her ex
Oddly, Trump shows up as a surrogate for my narcissistic bipolar ex-husband. He invited me to join him in the mansion on top of the hill that I was forced to sell in our divorce. It was the new White House. I didn’t trust him and didn’t go but he kept trying. And lying.Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.