It is a land where the impossible becomes possible, and the nonsensical appears completely plausible and practical. It is the land of DREAMS that has neither boundaries nor limitations: a land where you can, and do, achieve whatever you aim for. However, as with any other land you need to be able to understand, to be able to speak the language of that place and that is why these dreams are always followed by interpretations. Delving deep into the thoughts and brains of a variety of dreamers, scientists are asking important questions about the purpose of this mysterious realm we escape to at night.
Do dreams allow us to get a good night’s sleep? Can they solve our problems or even help us survive the hazards of everyday life? Each night, as we close our eyes and slip away from the waking world, we may enter an even richer one, the elusive realm of dreams. I don’t know anybody who isn’t fascinated by dreams. They can be bewildering, terrifying, inspiring, but do they mean anything? Are dreams the nonsensical byproduct of a sleeping brain or a window into our unconscious mind, rich with revelations?
After more than a century of searching, scientists may finally be nearing an answer, by literally watching dreams unfold and testing their impact on both our sleeping and waking lives. Matthew Wilson(Professor MIT) said Dreaming is a process, and not only is it useful, it might be essential for making sense of the world. He believes dreams have been responsible for two Nobel prizes, the invention of a couple of major drugs, and innumerable novels, films and works of visual art. Usually they fly through the mind unremembered.
Yet they may be key to understanding the mind itself. If you want to understand human nature, the human mind, what makes us tick, you need to look at dreams. The scientist most associated with dreams is still Sigmund Freud, who saw them as brimming with symbols, mostly sexual. Such symbols took form as the sleeping brain tried to disguise forbidden urges welling up from its unconscious, though even Freud cautioned that this kind of thinking could be taken too far. At some point, he said you can be too literal.
You can say every single thing is standing for something sexual. And you know, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Today, advances in brain science have inspired new theories about dreams, building on a discovery made years after Freud’s death, when science finally got a look at the sleeping brain. The breakthrough came in 1953, when Nathaniel Kleitman and Eugene Aserinsky began recording people’s brain waves as they slept through the night. They put electrodes onto the head that could pick up the electrical activity of the brain underneath.
And they had known when people are awake, that signal looks very fast and not too interesting—it looks almost like noise—but that when people fall asleep, that you would sometimes have the brain activity start to go up and down in a slow pattern, and you could then tell whether someone was awake or asleep; or so they thought. The researchers had assumed sleeping brains were resting brains. But every 90 minutes or so, as their subjects slumbered, something odd happened. Their eyes were closed, their head had drooped; they didn’t answer when you called them by name.
They were clearly asleep but the electrical activity of the brain said they were awake. And it wasn’t just their brain waves that seemed strange. They were sexually aroused. Their heart rates and breathing had become irregular. Their eyes darted about beneath shut lids. It was these eye movements that gave the state its name: Rapid Eye Movement, or REM sleep. During REM sleep, what the researchers invariably found, when they woke up a subject, was the subject would report, “Hey I’m dreaming, and I just had a vivid dream. Another feature of REM sleep is that your muscle tone just goes absolutely down to zero. You become functionally paralyzed. If you’re sitting up in a chair watching TV, you know, and the head nods and falls and you fall asleep, that’s not REM sleep. If you fall into REM sleep, you would literally roll off the chair onto the floor, because your body becomes absolutely relaxed, almost paralyzed, in the sense that you can’t make your muscles actually work. And it becomes absolutely calm and non-responsive.
Nature, it appeared, had devised a special state of paralysis to house our dreams, one in which they remained internal experiences. It was a conclusion that seemed impossible to deny, when researchers learned to switch the paralysis off. This cat looks as if it’s awake; in fact, it’s deep in REM sleep. This dog appears to be running; it too is in REM sleep, and, like the cat, dreaming. To see these dreams played out, scientists disabled the part of the brain that paralyzes muscles during REM sleep.
And what we see when you do this, with cats in particular, is that they can walk around during REM sleep, and their behavior is not random, it’s not chaotic. They’re not just doing any old crazy thing. They appear to be doing the kinds of behaviors that cats like to do, like stalk a prey, you know, play with a mouse or something. So presumably that’s what they dream about when they go into REM sleep, so that’s what we think is happening. And it stressed the fact that there’s a particular part of our brainstem that triggers REM sleep, sending up signals to the higher parts of the brain that were kind of random and chaotic.
Dreams, the researchers argued, were more physiological than psychological: the result of our higher brain doing the best it could to make sense of meaningless neural impulses. Now that led them to say that dreams have some psychological coherence, some pattern, but they have no purpose. And certainly not the psychological purpose that Freud claimed for them. So are dreams basically gibberish, or, as Freud maintained, a doorway to the unconscious or something else entirely? For the debate to move forward, scientists would have to make yet another key discovery.
My sense is that when we’re asleep and when we’re dreaming, we are actually conscious and figuring out what’s important about what happened to us and how that relates to everything else that’s happened to us in the past and figuring out what that means about our future. And when you think about the challenge that animals, that we as humans and the brain in general faces, it is the unknown of the future. And in REM, we may have the opportunity to step into that future world with no risk, because the consequences are simply things don’t work out as you might have expected, and then you wake up.
So these states may be what are essential for allowing us, as individuals, to reach our maximal level of potential. When you dream, you dialogue with aspects of yourself that normally are not with you in the daytime and you discover that you know a great deal more than you thought you did. What we want to see is a whole series of dreams so that we can then detect patterns that recur over that entire dream series and thus get a better idea of what this person’s dream life is generally like.
Freud explains that Dreams in general were expected to yield important solutions, but not every dream was immediately understood, and it was impossible to be sure that a certain incomprehensible dream did not really foretell something of importance, so that an effort was made to replace the incomprehensible content of the dream by something that should be at once comprehensible and significant. Dreams are odd and confusing because the ego is trying to stay in denial and thus hides the base nature of the person.
The more confusing it is the harder it is to know the truth about yourself. Analysis is good because you uncover the truth and stop being neurotic and unhappy and can just be unhappy. Carl Jung believed that human beings were basically good, but that the unconscious was naturally separated from the conscious world. The unconscious was closer to God and generally wiser, but was not able to act fully in the psychical world. Dreams were the means by which the unconscious tried to transmit its wisdom to the conscious person.
The unconscious, not being physical speaks mainly in symbols, and generally ones that need a lot of thought and interpretation. However, it is worth doing because understanding the unconscious will integrate the personality, enhance the soul and perhaps save the life. Jung’s level of consciousness was higher than Freud’s, according to Dr David R Hawkins and his Map of consciousness. So, from what I’ve read Jung’s philosophies are closer to the truth than Freud’s. Freud was still very intelligent though, and his work extremely valuable.
There are many types of Dreams, I’ve compiled some down here: ? Chasing Dream Dreams of being chased are second only to dreams of falling as far as being the most universally experienced dream scenario. Often, we have the same recurring dream of being chased from childhood through almost our entire adult life. What is doing the chasing – be it a monster, a mugger, or an animal of some sort – is quite a personal thing and varies widely from individual to individual, so do make note of it because YOUR pursuer will definitely turn out to have unique significance for YOU.
In general, chasing dreams signify some sort of anxiety, fear, or feeling of entrapment in daily life, such as a stressful job or unhappy marriage. Chasing dreams are literally “fight or flight” situations where you choose “flight. ” These dreams don’t occur if you have faced and dealt with whatever it is you fear during waking hours. Chasing dreams very often signify vulnerability, and the reason these dreams often recur over a lifetime is that certain situations trigger memories of childhood vulnerabilities. When trying to interpret such a dream, look inward first – it may turn out to be your own demons haunting you.
Whether internal or external, try to pinpoint what exactly it is that is making you feel insecure or threatened, and take positive steps to relieve the pressure. Do write down any conclusions you come to and revisit that page in your journal in a few weeks to see if the issue has been reduced or resolved. ? Nightmares A nightmare is a dream that can cause a strong negative emotional response from the sleeper, typically fear and/or horror. The dream may contain situation of danger, discomfort, or psychological or physical distress.
Sufferers are usually woken in a state of distress, and might be unable to go back to sleep for a prolonged period. Nightmares can have physical causes such as sleeping in an uncomfortable or awkward position, or having a fever; and psychological causes, such as stress and anxiety. Eating before bed, which triggers an increase in the body’s metabolism and brain activity, is a potential stimulus for nightmares. Occasional nightmares are commonplace, but recurrent nightmares can interfere with sleeping patterns and cause insomnia, and may require medical help. A recently proposed treatment onsists of imagery rehearsal. This approach appears to reduce the effects of nightmares and other symptoms in acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. ? Falling Dream Falling dreams are another theme that is quite common in the world of dreams. Contrary to a popular myth, you will not actually die if you do not wake up before you hit the ground during a fall. As with most common dream themes, falling is an indication of insecurities, instabilities, and anxieties. You are feeling overwhelmed and out of control in some situation in your waking life.
This may reflect the way you feel in your relationship or in your work environment. You have lost your foothold and can not hang on or keep up with the hustle and bustle of daily life. When you fall, there is nothing that you can hold on to. You more or less are forced toward this downward motion without any control. This loss of control may parallel a waking situation in your life. Falling dreams also often reflect a sense of failure or inferiority in some circumstance or situation. It may be the fear of failing in your job/school, loss of status, or failure in love. You feel shameful and lack a sense of pride.
You are unable to keep up with the status quo or that you don’t measure up. According to Freudian theory, dreams of falling indicate that you are contemplating giving into a sexual urge or impulse. You may be lacking indiscretion. ? Flying Dream Flying dreams fall under a category of dreams known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreams occur when you become aware that you are dreaming. Many dreamers describe the ability to fly in their dreams as an exhilarating, joyful, and liberating experience. If you are flying with ease and enjoying the scene and landscape below, then it suggests that you are on top of a situation.
You have risen above something. It may also mean that you have gained a different perspective on things. Flying dreams and the ability to control your flight is representative of your own personal sense of power. Having difficulties staying in flight indicates a lack of power in controlling your own circumstances. You may be struggling to stay aloft and stay on course. Things like power lines, trees, or mountains may further obstruct your flight. These barriers represent a particular obstacle or person who is standing in your way in your waking life.
You need to identify who or what is hindering you from moving forward. It may also be an indication of a lack of confidence. You need to believe in yourself and not be afraid. If you are scared while you were flying or you felt that you are flying too high, then it suggests that you are afraid of challenges and of success. Dreams of flying are some of the most interesting types of dreams for dream researchers and psychologists. Unlike dreams of being naked, dreams or running, dreams of falling and other common dreams, flying dreams represent an ability that humans do not have in their waking lives.
No matter what the dream of flying represents, it remains one of the most fertile fields in the world of dream interpretation. There are many reasons to dream of flying, and many ways such a dream can play itself out. Chances are that dreams of flying have been around as long as humans have been dreaming, and that they will continue to be around for millennia to come. ? SEXUAL DREAMS The meaning of sexuality in dreams depends on the emotional element. If you wake up sexually aroused, that is common. Sexuality is a fundamental part of living and sexual dreams express part of your being.
Only if the content is disturbing or if your arousal is more intense from dreams than from waking experience, do you need to explore your dream’s meaning. If you dream of sexual experience but are not sexually aroused, the traditional meaning is one of general happiness. Your love relationship is deepening or about to be renewed. Although some people argue that they don’t ever dream, there are those of us who dream constantly, night and day. And while the majority of us say that we can’t even remember our dreams, one thing is scientifically certain, dreams exist.
Because the topic of dreams has yet to be extensively researchable, there are still many unanswered questions. Yes, we all dream. Even most animals fall into this category of dreamers. It is just a natural mental process of our brains. As our bodies lay relaxed at night, our minds go into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. With this regular occurrence of REM sleep every night, we can hardly imagine dreams to be meaningless. Simply, our bodies aren’t designed to complete meaningless tasks. We don’t breathe, eat, and sleep because we want to, but because we were designed to in order to survive.
And who’s to say that our uncontrollable body functions are meaningless? Quite frankly, our brain has created this unconsciousness, mainly uncontrollable thought process for definite reasons. Researcher Jonathan Winston says ‘Dreams are indeed meaningful. Studies of the hippocampus (a brain structure crucial to memory), rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and a brain wave called theta rhythm suggest that dreaming reflects a pivotal aspect of the procession of memory. In particular, studies of theta rhythm in subprimate animals have provided an evolutionary clue to the meaning of dreams.
They appear to be the nightly record of a basic mammalian memory process: the means by which animal form strategies for survival and evaluate current experiences in light of those strategies. The existence of this process may explain the meaning of dreams in human beings. ’ Dreams are relatively transparent. And I think there is good evidence to suggest that dreams tend to reflect people’s emotional concerns and also things that preoccupy them in their social lives. Preoccupations that we seem to be trying to work out as we sleep.
What’s amazing is it looks like those processes of extracting what’s important, integrating it with our other memories and projecting it into our future, those critical, brilliant functions of the human mind and the human brain might actually occur, not while we’re awake, not while we’re trying to figure it out consciously and intentionally, but, instead, while we’re asleep and while we’re dreaming. So what is science telling us about our dreams? That they’re a crucial tool which helps us learn; a key to creativity, even survival; a window onto our secret selves?
Throughout the long night, our mind seems to be preparing us to face the coming day. The important thing is just to go through the training, and then we get all the training benefits, even if during wakefulness we have no idea we’ve been training all night. I think that their value lies in what a different mode of thought they are. They’re so much more intuitive and visual a mode of thinking, and in our culture we spend so much time in this very logical linear mode of thinking that their main benefit lies in presenting such a different point of view.
Our brain is working on figuring out the importance and significance of events from our days, how they fit together with old events in our past, what they mean about likely events in the future. And we don’t know whether it’s going to be fun, whether it’s going to be scary, whether it’s going to be poignant. It’s a whole new adventure, every time. So the next time you enter the elusive world of dreams, know that your brain may have good reason to send you on these adventures of the night.