The few exceptions are usually very clear. Example: ‘My mother-in-law died of cancer. I had watched the whole progression of her illness, and was very upset by her death. Shortly after she died the relatives gathered and began to sort through her belongings to share them out. That was the climax of my upset and distress, and I didn’t want any part of this sorting and taking her things. That night I dreamt I was in a room with all the relatives. They were sorting her things, and I felt my waking distress. Then my mother-in-law came into the room. She was very real and seemed happy. She said for me not to be upset as she didn’t at all mind her relatives taking her things. When I woke from the dream all the anxiety and upset had disappeared. It never returned (told to author dunng a talk given to the Housewives Register in Ilfracombe).
Although in any collection of dreams such clearcut problem solving is fairly rare, nevertheless the basic function in dreams appears to be problem solving.
The proof of this lies in research done in dream withdrawal. As explained in the entry science, sleep and dreams, subjects are woken up as they begin to dream, therefore denying them dreams. This quickly leads to disorientation and breakdown of normal functioning, showing that a lot of problem solving occurs in dreams, even though it may not be as obvious as in the example. This feature of dreaming can be enhanced to a marked degree by processing dreams and arriving at insights into the information they contain. This enables old problems to be cleared up and new information and attitudes to be brought into use more quickly. Through such active work one becomes aware of the self, which Carl Jung describes as a centre, but which we might think of as a synthesis of all our experience and being. Gaining insight and allowing the self entrance into our waking affairs, as M L. Von Franz says in Man and His Symbols, gradually produces a wider and more mature personality’ which emerges, and by degrees becomes effective and even visible to others’.
The function of dreams may well be described as an effort on the part of our life process to support, augment and help mature waking consciousness.
A study of dreams suggests that the creative forces which are behind the growth of our body are also inextricably connected with psychological development. In fact, when the process of physical growth stops, the psychological growth continues.
If this is thwarted in any way, it leads to frustration, physical tension and psychosomatic and eventually physical illness.
The integration of experience.
which dreams are always attempting, if successful cannot help but lead to personal growth. But it is often frozen by the individual avoiding the growing pains’, or the discomfon of breaking through old concepts and beliefs.
Where there is any attempt on the pan of our conscious personality to co-operate with this, the creative aspect of dreaming emerges. In fact anything we are deeply involved in, challenged by or attempting, we will dream about in a creative way. Not only have communities like the American Indians used dreams in this manner—to find better hunting, solve community problems, find a sense of personal life direction— but scientists, writers, designers and thousands of lay people have found very real information in dreams After all, through dreams we have personal use of the greatest computer ever produced in the history of the world—the human brain.
1- In Genesis 41, the story of Pharaoh’s dream is told—the seven fat cows and the seven thin cows. This dream was creative in that, with Joseph’s interpretation, it resolved a national problem where famine followed years of plenty. It may very well be an example of gathered information on the history of Egypt being in the mind of Pharaoh, and the dream putting it together in a problem solving way. See dream process as computer.
2- William Blake dreamt his dead brother showed him a new way of engraving copper. Blake used the method successfully.
3- Otto Leowi dreamt of how to prove that nervous impulses were chemical rather than electncal. This led to his Nobel prize.
4- Friedrich Kekule tned for years to define the structure of benzene. He dreamt of a snake with its tail in its mouth, and woke to realise this explained the molecular formation of the benzene ring. He was so impressed he urged colleagues, ‘Gentlemen, leam to dream.’
5- Hilprecht had an amazing dream of the connection between two pieces of agate which enabled him to translate an ancient Babylonian inscription.
6- Elias Howe faced the problem of how to produce an effective sewing machine.
The major difficulty was the needle. He dreamt of natives shaking spears with holes in their points. This led to the invention of the Singer sewing machine.
7- Robert Louis Stevenson claims to have dreamt the plot of many of his stories.
8- Albert Einstein said that during adolescence he dreamt he was riding a sledge. It went faster and faster until it reached the speed of light.
The stars began to change into amazing patterns and colours, dazzling and beautiful. His meditation on that dream throughout the years led to the theory of relativity.
To approach our dreams in order to discover their creativity, first decide what problematic or creative aspect of your life needs ‘dream power’. Define what you have already leamt or know about the problem. Write it down, and from this clarify what it is you want more insight into.
If this breaks down into several issues, choose one at a time. Think about the issue and pursue it as much as you can while awake. Read about it, ask people’s opinions, gather information. This is all data for the dream process.
If the question still needs further insight, before going to sleep imagine you are putting the question to your internal store of wisdom, computer, power centre, or whatever image feels right.
For some people an old being who is neither exclusively man nor woman is a working image.
In the morning note down whatever dream you remember. It does not matter if the dream does not appear to deal with the question; Elias Howe’s native spears were an outlandish image, but nevertheless contained the information he needed. Investigate the dream using the techniques given in the entry dream processing. Some problems take time to define, so use the process until there is a resolution.
If it is a major problem, it may take a year or so; after all, some resolutions need restructuring of the personality, because the problem cannot disappear while we still have the same attitudes and fears. See secret of the universe dreams; dream processing. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
A hallucination can be experienced through any of the senses singly, or all of them together. So one might have a hallucinatory smell or sound.
To understand hallucinations, which are quite common without any use of drugs such as alcohol, LSD or cannabis, one must remember that everyone has the natural ability to produce such images. One of the definitions of a dream according to Freud is its hallucinatory quality. While asleep we can create full sensory, vocal, motor and emotional expenence in our dream. While dreaming we usually accept what we experience as real.
A hallucination is an experience of the function which produces dreams’ occurring while we have our eyes open.
The voices heard, people seen, smells smelt, although appearing to be outside us, are no more exterior than the things and images of our dreams. With this information one can understand that much classed as psychic phenomena and religious experience is an encounter with the dream process. That does not, of course, deny its imponance.
There are probably many reasons why Sue should experience a hallucination and her husband not. One might be that powerful drives and emotions might be pushing for attention in her life. Some of the primary drives are the reproductive drive, urge towards independence, pressure to meet unconscious emotions and past trauma and fears, any of which, in order to achieve their ends, can produce hallucinations.
A hallucination is therefore not an ‘illusion’ but a means of giving information from deeper levels of self. Given such names as mediumship or mystical insight, in some cultures or individuals the ability to hallucinate is often rewarded socially.
Drugs such as LSD, cannabis, psilocybin, mescaline, pey- ote and opium can produce hallucinations. This is sometimes because they allow the dream process to break through into consciousness with less intervention.
If this occurs without warning it can be very disturbing.
The very real dangers are that unconscious content, which in ordinary dreaming breaks through a threshold in a regulated way, emerges with little regulation. Fears, paranoid feelings, past traumas, can emerge into the consciousness of an individual who has no skill in handling such dangerous forces. Because the propensity of the unconscious is to create images, an area of emotion might emerge in an image such as the devil. Such images, and the power they contain, not being integrated in a proper therapeutic setting, may haunt the individual, perhaps for years. Even at a much milder level, elements of the unconscious will emerge and disrupt the person’s ability to appraise reality and make judgments. Unacknowledged fears may lead the drug user to rationalise their reasons for avoiding social activity or the world of work. See ESP and dreams; dead lover in husband under family. See also out of body experience.... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
Example: 4I had backed my car into a big yard, a commercial area. My wife, two of my sons and I got out of the car. As we stood in the yard talking I realised there was a motorbike where my car should be. I said to everyone, “There was a car here a moment ago, now it’s a motorbike. Do you know what that means? It means we are dreaming.” Mark my son was now with us, and my ex-wife. I asked them if they realised they were dreaming. They got very vague and didn’t reply. I asked them again and felt very clearly awake’ (William V). William’s is a fairly typical lucid dream, but there are features which it does not illustrate. During the days or weeks prior to a lucid dream, many people experience an increase in flying dreams.
The next example shows another common feature.
Example: In many of my dreams I become aware that I am dreaming. Also, if anything unpleasant threatens me in the dream I get away from it by waking myself (Alan). Lucidity often has this feature of enabling the dreamer to avoid unpleasant elements of the dream.
The decision to avoid any unpleasant internal emotions is a common feature of a person’s conscious life, so this aspect of lucidity is simply a way of taking such a decision into the dream. Some writers even suggest it as a way of dealing with frightening dreams. Avoidance does not solve the problem, it simply pushes the emotion deeper into the unconscious where it can do damage more surreptitiously. Recent findings regarding suppressed gnef and stress, which connects them with a higher incidence of cancer, suggests that suppression is not a healthy way of dealing with feelings.
Another approach to lucidity is that it can be a son of playground where one can walk through walls, jump from high buildings and fly, change the sofa into an attractive lover, and so on. True, the realisation that our dream life is a different world and that it does have completely different principles at work than our waking world is imponant. Often people introven into their dream life the morals and fears which are only relevant to being awake in physical life.
To avoid a charging bull is cenainly imponant in waking life. In our dream life, though, to meet its charge is to integrate the enormous energy which the bull represents, an energy which is our own but which we may have been avoiding or running away’ from previously. Realising such simple differences revolutionises the way we relate to our own internal events and possibilities.
To treat lucid dreams as if they offered no other attainable expenence than to manipulate the dream environment, or avoid an encounter, is to miss an amazing feature of human potential.
Example: ‘In my dream I was watching a fern grow. It was small but opened out very rapidly. As I watched I became aware that the fern was simply an image representing a process occurring within myself which I grew increasingly aware of as I watched. Then I was fully awake in my dream and realised that my dream, perhaps any dream, was an expression of actual and real events occurring in my body and mind. I felt enormous excitement, as if I were witnessing something of great importance’ (Francis P).
It is now acceptable, through the work of Freud, Jung and many others, to consider that within images of the dream lie valuable information about what is occurring within the dreamer, perhaps unconsciously. Strangely, though, it is almost never considered that one can have direct perception into this level of internal ‘events’ without the dream. What Francis describes is an experience of being on the cusp of symbols and direct perception. Considering the enormous advantage of such direct information gathering, it is surprising it is seldom mentioned except in the writings of Corriere and Han, The Dream Makers.
Example: After defining why I had not woken in sleep recently, i.e. loss of belief, I had the following experience. I awoke in my sleep and began to see, without any symbols, that my attitudes and sleep movements expressed a feeling of restrained antagonism or irritation to my wife. I could also observe the feelings were arising from my discipline of sexuality. Realising I did not want those feelings I altered them and woke enough to turn towards her’ (Francis P). After the first of his direct perception dreams, Francis attempted to use this function again, resulting in the above, and other, such dreams. Just as classic dream interpretation says that the dream symbols represent psychobiological logical processes which might be uncovered by dream processing, what we see in Francis’ lucidity is a direct route to self insight, and through it a rapid personal growth to improved life experience. Such dreams provide not only psychological insight, but very frequently a direct perception of processes occurring in the body, as the following example illustrates.
Example: ‘Although deeply asleep I was wide awake without any shape or form. I had direct experience, without any pictures, of the action of the energies in my body. I had no awareness of body shape, only of the flow of activities in the organs. I checked over what I could observe, and noticed a tension in my neck was interfering with the flow and exchange of energies between the head and trunk. It was also obvious from what I could see that the tension was due to an attitude I had to authority, and if the tension remained it could lead to physical ill health’ (Tony C).
An effective way to develop lucidity is frequently to consider the events of waking life as if they were a dream. Try to see events as one might see dream symbols. What do they mean in terms of one’s motivations, fears, personal growth? What do they suggest about oneself? For instance a person who works in a photographic darkroom developing films and prints might see they were trying to bnng to consciousness the latent—unconscious—side of themselves.
A banker might feel they were working at how best to deal with their sexual and personal resources. In this way one might actually apply what is said in this dream dictionary to one’s outer circumstances.
The second instruction is, on waking, at a convenient moment, imagine oneself standing within one’s recent dream. As you get a sense of this dream environment, realise that you are taking waking awareness into the dream. From the standpoint of being fully aware of the dream action and events, what will you now do in and with the dream? Re-dream it with consciousness.
For example the things you run from in your normal dreaming you could now face. See dream processing for fun her suggestions. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
The house only had two bedrooms, and the children’s room was directly opposite ours. Both of us had had the same thought—”Oh no, it’s the children again.” Much to our annoyance they had been waking in the middle of the night claiming it was morning and time to play. We had tried to suppress it, but here it was again.
As these thoughts went through our minds we heard the sound of feet clomping down the stairs. This was strange as the children usually stayed in their room. Brenda got up, determined to get whoever it was back into bed. I heard her switch the light on, go down the stairs, switch the sitting room light on, and I followed her via the sounds of her movement as she looked in the kitchen and even toilet—we didn’t have a bathroom. Then up she came again and opened the children’s door—strange because we had assumed it had been opened. When she came back into our room she looked puzzled and a little scared. “They’re all asleep and in bed ‘ she said. ‘We talked over the mystery for some time, trying to understand just how we had heard the door handle rattle then footsteps going down the stairs, yet the door wasn’t open. Also, the door handles on our doors were too high for the children to reach without standing on a chair. There was a stool in the children’s bedroom they used for that, yet it wasn’t even near the door when Brenda opened it.
Having no answer to the puzzle we stopped talking and settled to wait for sleep again. Suddenly a noise came from the children’s bedroom. It sounded like the stool being dragged and then the door handle turning again but the door not opening. “You go this time” Brenda said, obviously disturbed.
‘I opened our door quickly just in time to see the opposite door handle turn again. Still the door didn’t open. I reached across, turned the handle and slowly opened the door. It stopped as something was blocking it. Just then my daughter Helen’s small face peered around the door—high because she was standing on the stool. Puzzled by what had happened, I was careful what I said to her. “What do you want love?” I asked.
‘Unperturbed she replied, “I want to go to the toilet.” The toilet was downstairs, through the sitting room, and through the kitchen.
‘Now I had a clue so asked, “Did you go downstairs before?”
“Yes,” she said, “but Mummy sent me back to bed.” * (Tony C).
This is an unusual example of an out of body experience (OBE). Mostly they are described from the point of view of the person projecting, and are therefore difficult to corroborate. Here, three people experience the OBE in their own way. From Tony and Brenda’s point of view what happened caused sensory stimuli, but only auditory. Helen’s statement says that she was sure she had physically walked down the stairs and been sent back to bed by her mother. Tony and Brenda felt there was a direct connection between what they were thinking and feeling—get the children back to bed—and what Helen experienced as an objective reality.
OBEs have been reported in thousands in every culture and in every period of history.
A more general experience of OBE than the above might include a feeling of rushing along a tunnel or release from a tight place prior to the awareness of independence from the body. In this first stage some people experience a sense of physical paralysis which may be frightening (see paralysis). Their awareness then seems to become an observing point outside the body, as well as the sense of paralysis. Then there is usually an intense awareness of oneself and surroundings, unlike dreaming or even lucidity. Some projectors feel they are even more vitally aware and rational than during the waking state. Looking back on one’s body may occur here. Once the awareness is independent of the body, the boundaries of time and space as they are known in the body do not exist. One can easily pass through walls, fly, travel to or immediately be in a far distant place, witnessing what may be, or appears to be, physically real there.
Sir Auckland Geddes, an eminent British anatomist, describes his own OBE, which contains many of these features. Example: Becoming suddenly and violently ill with gastroenteritis he quickly became unable to move or phone for help. As this was occurring he noticed he had an A and a B consciousness.
The A was his normal awareness, and the B was external to his body, watching. From the B self he could see not only his body, but also the house, garden and surrounds. He need only think of a friend or place and immediately he was there and was later able to find confirmation for his observations. In looking at his body, he noticed that the brain was only an end organ, like a condensing plate, upon which memory and awareness played.
The mind, he said, was not in the brain, the brain was in the mind, like a radio in the play of signals. He then observed his daughter come in and discover his condition, saw her telephone a doctor friend, and saw him also at the same time.
Many cases of OBE occur near death, where a person has died* of a hean attack for instance, and is later revived. Because of this there are attempts to consider the possibility of survival of death through study of these cases. In fact many people experiencing an OBE have a very different view of death than prior to their experience.
Early attempts to explain OBEs suggested a subtle or astral body, which is a double of our physical and mental self, but able to pass through walls. It was said to be connected to the physical body during an OBE by a silver cord—a son of lifeline which kept the physical body alive. This is like the concept that the people we dream about are not creations of our own psyche, but real in their own right. Whatever one may believe an OBE to be, it can be observed that many people in this condition have no silver cord, and have no body at all, but are simply a bodiless observer, or are an animal, a geometric shape, a colour or sound (see identity and dreams).
The person’s own unconscious concepts of self seem to be the factor which shapes the form of the OBE. If, therefore, one feels sure one must travel to a distant point, then in the OBE one travels.
If one believes one is immediately there by the power of thought, one is there.
If one cannot conceive of existing without a body, then one has a body, and so on.
This approach explains many aspects of the OBE, but there is still not a clear concept of what the relationship with the physical world is.
The many cases of OBE which occur during a near-death experience also suggest it may be connected with a survival response to death; not necessarily as a way of trying to transcend death, but perhaps as a primeval form of warning relatives of death.
If there is survival of death, then the OBE may be an anticipatory form, or a preparatory condition leading to the new form. See hallucinations, hallucinogens. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
For instance most times this happened I have been in the middle of a dream in which there is a sense of absolute imperative that I must make love/have sex.
It is like being lost in a storm of glamour and fantasy or vision in which I am totally involved.
The whirl of the “dream” is towards the wonder, totality of the need to have sex. As this imperative is expressed in my still spontaneous, dreaming physical action, the experience of sex is also visionary and enormous’ (Charles W).
This fairly common dreaming experience demonstrates powerfully how dreams are an expression of a self regulatory or compensatory action in the psyche and body. Charles says that he had been restraining his sexual activity. This shows the enormous gulf which can exist between what we will to do as a conscious personality, and what our being needs to do or wishes to do outside conscious decision making.
The ‘glamour and fantasy’ Charles describes are regular features of how these deeper needs make themselves known, or attempt to coerce the conscious mind, into fulfilling the need.
If we reject the fantasy, the unconscious processes will attempt a more radical approach, as in actual physical movement while we sleep. This may have given rise to ideas about possession or devils in past ages, when it was not understood that we can split our mind by such conflicts. Fear of the possessing’ influence actually heightens its power through suggestion.
It is much better to understand what one’s needs are, and seek an acceptable fulfilment. See abreaction. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
If it is the cry of an animal, the emotions are likely tied to whatever that creature represents.
The cry of a child can represent your own inner child trying to get attention (see Baby). Alternatively, for new parents this is a circumstantial dream caused by normal concerns, and by being woken up so frequently by the newborn.... The Language of Dreams
If it is you who is asleep, the same applies, only in a more general way—it’s time to wake up to more awareness or action.... Complete Dictionary of Dreams
Thus, to dream of a certain animal could suggest an aspect of your personality that is instinctual, hidden or striving for recognition. It could also represent a part of yourself you find hard to control. And because we often assign characteristics or personality traits to animals, dream animals may also symbolize gut feelings we have about others. An attacking lion, for example, may depict how we see someone who is being aggressive toward us.
Animal dreams rouse special interest because they contain images that are familiar to us, but at the same time we recognize something that is unfamiliar and obscure. Traditionally, the characteristics of the dream animal are applied to the world of humans, often seeing the animal as a harbinger of misfortune or good luck; for example, a wolf is often thought to predict thieves or misfortune. According to Freud animals in dreams are not predictive of future events but a classic expression of repressed or unexpressed sexual and aggressive tendencies. Jung, however, argued that animals in dreams should be analyzed individually, depending on the character they portray in the dream and the association the dreamer has to them.
Jung believed that animals are sublime and, in fact, represent the ‘divine’ side of the human psyche. He suggested that animals live much more in contact with a ‘secret’ order in nature itself and—far more than human beings—live in close contact with ‘absolute knowledge’ of the unconscious. In contrast to humankind, the animal is the living being that follows its own inner laws beyond good and evil—and is, in this sense, superior and a source of inspiration and guidance.
Although animals are one of the most common dream symbols, dreams that feature them can be complex and hard to interpret. Perhaps the simplest way is to first think about how you feel about the specific animal in your waking life.
You may, for example, adore cats and think of them as lovely creatures because you have a much-loved pet cat, or you may associate cats with feeling unwell because you are allergic to them. Thinking about how that animal makes you feel within the context of your dream should help you recognize if that feeling is struggling to the fore, or is already expressing itself in daily life.
If, on the other hand, you have no feelings in particular about the animal in your dream, you need to think about the quality you typically associate with it; for example, a fox with cunning and stealth, an elephant with strength and mystery, or a dog with unconditional loyalty and love. Because animals are thought to represent unedited feelings and drives, it’s possible that your unconscious used the symbol of the fox in your dream to alert you to your own or someone else’s cunning. Thinking about that aspect of yourself—again within the context of your dream—should tell you whether you need to nurture and develop it, tame it or be on your guard against it in someone else.
If you still feel puzzled, it may be that the hidden meaning lies in archetypal, traditional, legendary, mythical or magical associations. Dream animals may also embody a pun. For example, if you dream of a badger, are you feeling badgered or aggravated in some way? If you dream of a zebra, could this refer to your black and white view point?
Dream animals, no matter how problematic, offer us an opportunity to contact and explore both the parts of ourselves that we have shut away and the parts that we have yet to discover. In general, researchers believe that animal dreams mean that the subconscious has woken up and has come to life.
Our dreams will be selective and personal in the choice of animal used to portray our life situation, but as you interpret never forget that animal symbols in dreams typically represent a fundamental push toward life and living it with passion. See also BIRDS; REPTILES, FISH AND AMPHIBIANS; PETS.... The Element Encyclopedia
If you felt guilty, perhaps there is something in your waking life that you feel is wrong or is destroying your peace of mind.
If you are actually caught in the act in your dream and find yourself awaiting or being sentenced to punishment of some kind, this is a clear message of disapproval from your dreaming mind and a warning that if you don’t change your ways, you will be in danger of being found out in waking life. Try to identify who punished you in your dream.
If it was someone you know, you may be feeling remorseful towards them in waking life, but if it was someone you do not know, you may be feeling guilty about breaking a law or rule in waking life or showing disrespect for authority.
If a lynch mob attacked you, have you committed a crime against society in general by not paying your taxes or dropping litter? If you dreamed of being accused of a crime you did not commit and nobody believed your protestations of innocence, do you feel you are being treated unfairly in your waking life? When the punishment was pronounced in your dream, did you feel that is was out of proportion to the wrongdoing.
If you felt the punishment was far too severe, this suggests that you are feeling extremely guilty about someone thing you have done in waking life.
If you were whipped in your dream, do you feel as if life has dealt you some harsh blows?
If you were arrested in your dream, this suggests the need for some kind of restraint in your waking life, or a fear of authority in general.
If a crime scene or forensic team appears in your dream, your dreaming mind is encouraging you to understand your motives.
If you were chained, imprisoned or sentenced to death in your dream, see NEGATIVE EMOTIONS.
If your dream features the ultimate crime of murder, see NIGHTMARES.... The Element Encyclopedia
Perhaps you have woken up from a dream with feelings of euphoria or unexplained happiness, or found yourself laughing without knowing why. Every now and again your dreaming mind may give you an emotional and psychological boost by creating images in which you feel deeply secure, happy and loved. It may also conjure up images of freedom, adventure, success and excitement to spur you on. Dreams that leave you with such lingering feelings of joy and exhilaration are less common than those that leave you with feelings of dread and uncertainty. This may be because there are always constant challenges and responsibilities to face in the real world and your dreams tend to reflect your anxieties about meeting these challenges. Even though they are relatively rare, feelings of immense happiness in dreams are just as important to understand as feelings of sadness according to Jung and most other dream analysts. Joyful, uplifting dreams allow you to focus on the real-life experiences and situations that evoked them, as well as the way you feel about yourself and your life.
See also AMBITION AND SUCCESS; NEGATIVE EMOTIONS; RELATIONSHIPS; SEX.... The Element Encyclopedia
Most of the dreams you remember occur during the REM stage when the brain is fully active. After about ten minutes of REM you enter stages two, three and four again, and keep moving backwards and forwards through the sleep cycle. As the cycle continues, however, the REM phase gets longer and longer with the longest phase being around thirty to forty-five minutes. Of all your dreams during all the stages of REM and NREM (it has recently been discovered that we can dream then too), the final REM stages are the ones you are most likely to remember.
Because sleeping and dreaming are so crucial, your brain may sometimes demand the sleep it needs so that you don’t get into mental or physical overload. That’s why you may sometimes drop off for no apparent reason when you’re traveling by car or train, or watching TV.
Research on sleep-deprived animals shows that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, whilst rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about five weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about three weeks. Other studies have shown that subjects repeatedly awoken during REM—which means they were deprived of dreams— become anxious, bad tempered and irritable. This suggests that sleep is vital for physical rest and repair, and REM sleep, when we are most likely to dream, is essential for our emotional well-being. Therefore, although we still aren’t sure about the whys, whats and hows of sleep and dreams, it’s possible to conclude that the reason we sleep is to dream.... Dreampedia
We all dream several dreams a night and it’s been suggested that we each have 100,000 dreams over the course of our lives. So you might be wondering why you can’t remember a single one. Medications, alcohol, too little sleep and anxiety about the content of our dreams can all block dream recall.
We’re most likely to remember the dreams closest to awakening, but with a little effort you can boost your dream recall. In fact the more attention you pay to your dreams, by thinking about them, writing them down, working with them, the more likely you are to remember them. Keeping a note pad and a pen beside your bed and recording your dreams immediately on waking is one of the best ways to help your dream recall.
Some dreams fade quickly from memory, so it is crucial you capture them as soon as you can. Immediately on waking, write down your dream or dreams —even if this is in the middle of the night; don’t brush your teeth first or leave it until your alarm clock goes off. If you do that, you’ll probably forget all about it and will lose a valuable dream. If you record your dreams in words, you create permanent reminders that you can use to help you figure out what they are trying to tell you.
Later in the day, transfer the information to a dream diary, specifically set aside for your dreams. In this diary include: the date of your dream, any people involved, the moods and feelings expressed, prominent colors, numbers, or shapes, the problems and conflicts encountered, prominent symbols or stories, information about the dream landscape, whether it was past, present or future and, finally, how the dream ended.
With practice, you will soon get the hang of remembering and writing down your dreams. Use this encyclopedia to help you unlock the meaning of your dream themes and symbols, but never forget that the best book you will ever read about dreams is the one you write yourself: your dream journal.
Programing your mind for dream recall
Some dreams are so vivid you can’t forget them but many are so fleeting they can vanish without a trace. One way to make sure you remember them is to talk to yourself in a positive way. Before going to sleep tell yourself that you will remember your dreams on waking. Try this visualization technique.
When you feel sleepy, turn off the lights and settle down in your favorite sleeping position. In a relaxed way, think about your dreams. Breathe in for a count of five, and out for a count of ten. Repeat this, and then breathe normally. Now imagine you have just woken in the morning and, as you slowly move back into consciousness, you reach for your pen and write down your dream. Bring your attention to the present again, and feel comfortable, warm and sleepy. Tell yourself that in the morning you will remember your dreams.... Dreampedia
What happens when we sleep?
Why do we sleep? The answer is not as simple as it seems. We sleep so that our body can rest, we think at first. However, science has not been able to prove concretely that sleep is necessary for physical recuperation of the body. Experiments performed on rats have proven that when deprived of sleep, these animals die.
But human nature is not as simple as that of rats. Everyone knows people who barely sleep. The most extreme case, published in some scientific magazines, is that of a man who claims not to have slept since contracting a serious illness. In a similar vein, some individuals with a highly developed spirituality are able to remain conscious all night. We’re not referring to a student during exam time drinking coffee or taking stimulants to stay awake more than twenty-four hours straight. We’re talking about people who can achieve advanced levels of relaxation through deep meditation.
It is known that anxiety and lack of concentration increase considerably after a night or two without sleep. One theory related to sleep affirms that we sleep to conserve energy. However, another suggests that we rest to conserve our food stores, since when we lose consciousness, we repress the hunger mechanism.
How much do we sleep?
Sleep at different ages
In the course of his life, a person has, on average, 300,000 dreams. As we age, both the time we spend sleeping and the time we spend dreaming decrease gradually.
Newborns sleep almost all day, alternating hours of sleep with short spells of wakefulness. By one year of age, they sleep fewer sessions but for longer in total: they have cycles of 90 minutes of sleep followed by another 90 minutes of waking time. Gradually, the child will sleep more at night and less during the day. By 9 years of age, most need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a day.
The average for an adult is between 7 and 8.5 hours. But after age 70, we return to the sleep phases of childhood and sleep fewer hours continuously.
There are arguments that even claim we have slept since ancient times in order to appear a less tasty snack for nocturnal predators (when we sleep, our body looks like a corpse).
There are theories to suit everyone, but we shouldn’t forget the fundamental: for almost all of us, sleeping is a relaxing and pleasant experience that lasts between six and eight hours each night, an experience that is utterly necessary to “recharge the batteries” of our bodies.
It’s no coincidence that we choose nighttime to sleep. In the darkness our vision is reduced, the world becomes strange, and as a result, our imagination runs wild. Our minds remain occupied with images (that is, dreams). At night, our eyes don’t work, but we have a need to create images. If for some reason we are deprived of sleep, the following nights our dream production increases, since we spend more time in the REM phase (the period of sleep when oneiric thoughts are most active). Therefore it seems evident that we need dreams to live.
Some ancient civilizations believed that dreaming served, more than anything, to be able to dream. They were convinced that oneiric activity wasn’t the result of sleeping, but rather the reason for it. Some scientists, however, don’t share the theories of our ancestors when it comes to the reason behind our dreams.
There is a scientific school of thought that asserts that oneiric thoughts are simply a neurophysiological activity that comes with sleep. According to this theory, when we sleep we generate spontaneous signals that stimulate the sensory channels in the mind. The brain transforms these signals into visual images and induces the dreamer to believe that he is living real experiences.
Up to that point, perfect. But, why do dreams have such an interesting narrative? Why do they so often express metaphoric language? Why do they narrate stories that directly affect us? There is no concrete or scientific answer to these questions.
Percentages of REM sleep
Cold-blooded animals never dream; the cold temperatures at night cause them to hibernate and all their vital functions, including the brain, slow down. Only when the sun comes out or the temperature rises to an acceptable level do they recuperate all vital functions. The only cold-blooded animal that has shown signs of dreaming is the chameleon.
On the other hand, we know all warm-blooded animals dream, since REM-phase activity has been detected in all of them. Birds dream only about 0.5% of the time they spend asleep, while humans dream up to 20% of the time. There are exceptional cases, such as that of the Australian platypus, that never dream.
Other theories suggest that dreams serve to eliminate unnecessary facts from memory, since we can’t store everything that happens every day. According to this thesis, at night we erase the “archives” we don’t need, just like a computer. The sleeping mind tests the process of erasing in the form of dreams, which would explain why they’re so difficult to remember. There are obvious limitations to this theory if you keep in mind that, occasionally, oneiric thoughts work creatively (they go beyond the information that we give them). These don’t have much to do with the merely “hygienic” function that the aforementioned scientific community claims. Often, dreams don’t eliminate the useless leftovers of daily experiences. Quite the opposite: they give them a surprising new shape, so when we wake up, we can reflect more deeply on their meaning.
The phases of sleep
Even though we don’t realize it, when we sleep at night we pass through four different phases of sleep. Each phase is distinguished by the deepness of sleep. That is, when we are in phase 1, it is a fairly light sleep; during phase 4, we reach maximum intensity.
When we go to sleep, we enter a period in which we gradually pull away from the exterior world. Little by little, our sleep deepens until finally (phase 4) our breathing slows and becomes regular, our cardiac rhythm slows down, and our body temperature decreases. Therefore the body’s metabolism also reduces its activity.
More or less an hour after falling asleep, your body has already gone through the four phases. At this point you begin to go back through the levels until you return to phase 1. This brings along an increase in respiratory and cardiac rhythm. Parallel to this, brain waves once again start to register an activity close to that of consciousness. You are therefore in a moment of transition, demonstrated by the fact that at this point the body tends to change position.
All signs indicate that any noise might wake us. But that’s not the case: since your muscle tone has been reduced, this is actually the moment when it’s most difficult to regain consciousness. At the same time, your eyes begin to move behind your eyelids (up and down and side to side). This ocular phenomenon, which anyone can observe easily, is known as the REM phases, which stands for “rapid eye movement.”
Certain areas of the brain are associated with different functions and human skills, translating external sensory stimuli into a well-organized picture of the world. In dreams, those same stimuli produce different reactions. If a sleeping person hears a sound or touches something repulsive, those stimuli will probably be integrated into their dream before they wake up.
The REM phase
The REM phase is particularly important for those interested in dreams. All studies indicate that during this brief spell (from five to ten minutes) we typically experience the most intense oneiric activity. Some of these studies, done in a sleep laboratory, have observed that eight out of ten individuals relate very vivid dreams when woken up right at the end of the REM phase. These periods alternate at night with what we could call non-REM phases, that is, periods when no ocular movement is registered.
How many times do we reach a REM stage at night? It is estimated that each cycle is repeated four to seven times. As the hours pass, each phase gets longer. This way, the final REM stage might last twenty to forty minutes. On average, an adult enjoys an hour and a half of REM sleep each night, although for older individuals it may be less than an hour and a quarter. Babies, on the other hand, remain in the REM phase for 60 percent of the time they spend asleep.
In any case, let’s make this clear: not all dreams are produced during this period. It has also been demonstrated that humans generate images in other stages. However, these are dreams of a different quality, since during the non-REM phases, our oneiric activity tends to generate only undefined thoughts, vague sensations, etc. Nothing close to the emotional content that characterizes dreams produced in the REM phase.
The oneiric images produced in the most intense phase (REM) are more difficult to remember. One method to remember them consists of waking up just after each REM phase.
As we’ve commented already, those who wish to read their dreams have to first do the work of remembering them. If we want this work to be 100 percent effective, we can use a method that, although uncomfortable, almost never fails: wake up just after every REM phase. If you want to try this method, set your alarm (without music or radio) to go off four, five, six, or seven and a half hours after falling asleep. You can be sure that if you wake up just after one of the REM phases you go through each night, you will enjoy vivid memories.
This is the process used in sleep laboratories, where oneiric activity is studied through encephalographic registry of electrical brain activity.
The people in the study—who are volunteers—sleep connected to machines that register their physiological reactions (brain waves, cardiac rhythm, blood pressure, muscle activity, eye movement, etc).
At certain points during the night, these reactions indicate that, if you wake them, they will be able to tell you what they dreamed. This is because the phase that produces the most intense dreams (REM) is characterized by a physical reaction easily observed: the rapid movement of the eyes of the dreamer.
With this method, sleep laboratories can collect proof of precisely
when subjects are dreaming. And given that oneiric images are difficult to remember, the lab techniques have been a great advance in dream research. Some experts assert that thanks to the scientific advances of the second half of the twentieth century, we have learned more about sleep processes in the last fifty years than in all the history of humanity.
What do we dream?
A wide study done in France on the subject of dreams produced these results:
Hypnagogic images: between waking and sleep
As we’ve seen, throughout the night our sleep is divided into four distinct phases. But what happens just before we sink into the first phase? Are we still awake? Not exactly. In the moments when our mind decides between wakefulness and sleep, we begin to lose contact with the world around us, without the characteristic physiological changes of sleep.
This intermediate point has been called the “hypnagogic state” by psychologists. This is a period when, despite the fact that we’re not asleep, our brains generate images that can sometimes be very beautiful. In some ways, these images rival those found in our dreams.
Hypnagogic images of great visual beauty evaporate like bubbles when we wake up and are barely remembered.
However, the hypnagogic state cannot be considered a truly oneiric state. Among other reasons, the scenes produced in this phase are unrelated to the episodes with a more or less coherent plot that characterize dreams.
In the hypnagogic state we produce unrelated images that hardly connect to each other and that, unlike dreams, are not linked to our daily experiences. This phenomenon occurs not only before sleeping but also in the moments before waking up, when we are not yet conscious enough to be aware of them.
Sometimes, before falling asleep we also experience a curious sensation of floating or flying, or we may see very sharp scenes, with a clarity comparable to that of real visual experiences. These types of images, like dreams, evaporate like bubbles when we wake up and we barely remember them, which is a shame because their beauty slips from our minds. In any case, unlike oneiric thoughts, the hypnagogic state is little use for understanding the messages our subconscious wants to send us, and we should value it more for its beauty than its transcendental content.
Salvador Dali, painter of dreams.
To remember them you must not lose consciousness during the apparition. That is, you must observe the process of the hypnagogic state without falling asleep. It seems simple but it is not, because you must submerge yourself in sleep while the mind remains aware of the events happening in its interior. With a little luck, we can see some of the marvelous “paintings” of our private museum.
The surrealist artists of the 20s and 30s knew all about this. This is how Salvador Dali, fervent lover of hypnagogic scenes, turned to what is known as “the monk’s sleep.” He went to bed with a large iron key in his hand. With the first dream, the key would fall to the floor and he would wake up suddenly. In his mind he recorded the hypnagogic images he would later transfer to the canvas in his masterful style.
The seven “chakras,” or centers of subtle energy in the ayurvedic hindu medicine (1).
The nadis according to Tibetan tradition (2).
The meridians of traditional Chinese medicine (3).
If you have difficulty retaining the hypnagogic state, try centering your attention on a concrete point. For example the “third eye” of the yogis (that is, between your eyes), in the area of the heart, or in the top of the head. These three positions are, according to the philosophy of yoga, the centers of subtle rather than physical energy in the human body. You need a place to direct the mind. Another trick to hold attention without effort is to think abstractly about the name of the object you wish to see. This doesn’t mean you have to “create” the images; you just have to induce its appearance during the hypnagogic state. Entering through meditation is also very useful and beneficial.
Sometimes, the hypnagogic scenes are not as pleasant as we would like, but we must confront them in order to strengthen our ability for self-control. If they persist, try following the previous advice. Think abstractly about the name of what you want to see, resisting the temptation to construct it in a certain way from the conscious mind.
The main advantage of the hypnagogic state is that it brings us progressively closer to our deep Self . . . and all that helps to understand and better benefit from dreams.
The same subject can have very different meanings depending on the circumstances and personal situation of the dreamer.... Dreampedia