Basics About Dreaming Basics About Dreaming 3 Understanding Dreams as Private Mental Experiences What are dreams? Why do we dream? And also, why do we dream the dreams we dream? In general, “The dream reveals the reality which conception lags behind.” Dreams have been a mystery to us since Adam first breathed life. With the stuff of legends, myths and fairy tales, dreams have always fascinated mankind. Dreams are private mental experiences, which may be described as an alteration in consciousness in which remembered images and fantasies are temporarily confused with external reality. It is a communication of the mind, body, and spirit in a symbolic communicative environmental “state-of-being.” Investigators do not yet understand why we dream at all, much less why they dream what they dream. However modern methods of study have answered many great questions about dreaming.
In the dream state, we have an opportunity to access our private unconscious and the collective conscious. Private unconscious materials are those things that are “exclusively ours.” For example, the experiences and issues that features in our dreams. Jung thought that dreams were generally compensatory in nature. They try to deal with errors, deviations, one-sidedness and other shortcomings in our lives and personality. Dreams that arise out of our private unconscious are generally valuable and relevant to the current time.
(If a dream brings up a past experience, it must be because old issues are unresolved.) Basics About Dreaming 4 When we are dreaming and the dream is about something from our daily life, then that dream comes from our private or personal unconscious. The dream may be ego based and is very important. This type of a dream will increase our awareness and enable us to see some issue, problem, or a personal characteristic in a new, more fulfilling and productive way. For instance, in our society, dreams can be an excuse to say something intimate to someone. It may be a tentative way to see if a deeper relationship is possible, as in “I had a very nice dream about you last night.” People do not want to take as much personal responsibility for their dreams as they do with most of their other thoughts. It then produces a platform to say whatever nonsense, lie, or fantasy someone might have on his or her mind, because there’s no way to determine if the claim is true or not. Conscious thoughts are those that we can control and can be quite aware of.
The word “consciousness” can be substituted with the word ” awareness.” We can think of the conscious and the unconscious as two sides of a coin. The coin being us humans – which is of this physical world, and connected to the ego. Then we must answer why do we dream? Dreaming makes connections more broadly than waking in the nets of the mind. Dreaming produces more generic and less specific imagery, it cross – connects. The connections are not made in a random fashion; they are guided by the emotion of the dreamer. Dreaming contextualizes a dominant emotion or emotional concern. The dream, or the striking dream image, explains metaphorically the emotional state of the dreamer.
Generally stated, dreaming makes connection and it does this extremely broadly. For some, dreaming obviously makes Basics About Dreaming 5 beautiful and interesting connections; but even those who believe dreaming throw things together in a more or less random fashion must admit that a dream image somehow connects material in our memories, imaginations, and so on. Clearly, dreaming makes connections between recently experienced material and old memories. It combines or puts together two different people, two different places, two different parts of our lives, in the mechanism Freud refers to as ” condensation.” Our dreams correlate with age, gender, culture, and personal preoccupations. As Erik Craig (1992) puts it, ” While dreaming we entertain a wider range of human possibilities than when awake; the ‘open house’ of dreaming is less guarded.” Elizabeth Campbell (1987) says, ” Anything can happen in a dream. There are no boundaries.” Emotion guides the process and is the structural background of our dreams.
The emotion – the dominant emotion of the dreamer- is the force which drives or guides the connecting process and determines which of the countless possible connections are actualized at a particular time and exactly which images to appear in the dream. Our dreams ” contextualize” the dominant emotion. For many of us leading fairly ordinary lives, there are many emotional concerns active at any one time, and it is not so easy to determine one dominant emotion. Thus, this leads our dreams to seem confused and almost random at times. However, people who have recently experienced a severe trauma show connections being made between Basics About Dreaming 6 the traumatic event and other images, past memories, etc.
The connections appear to be guided principally by the emotions or emotional concerns of the dreamer. As mentioned above, dreams contextualize emotion. What generally experienced are images. The dream world looks very much like the waking world. We should compare dreaming (how our minds function at night) with our total experience in waking (how our minds function in the daytime) which includes living and navigating in the perceptual world as well as the world of daydreams, fantasy, and imagination. Occasionally, a dream may simply pick up bits of daytime material (day residue), or may consist of a word or a formula, but this is rare. When a dream is fully structured – a true dream – its structure can be understood not only as pictures in motion, but usually as metaphor in motion.
Are dreams simply the way things are, or does dreaming have a function? Does it play a role in maintaining the human organism? ” I believe that above all, dreaming has a quasi-therapeutic function (Hartmann 1995). Dreaming allows the making of connections in a safe place. In dreaming – especially the REM sleep – the safe place is provided by the “well – established” muscular inhibition that prevents activity and the acting out of the dreams. As connections are made between the terrible recent event and other material, the emotion becomes less powerful and overwhelming, and the trauma is then gradually integrated into the rest of life. Thus, dreaming appears to give a quasi-therapeutic adaptive function, which can be seen most easily after trauma.
Basics About Dreaming 7 Dreaming should not be confused with REM sleep, nonetheless most of our memorable dreams come from the REM sleep, which is the ideal place for dreaming activity to occur. The function of dreaming in terms of making connections and cross-connections is at least compatible with the view that REM sleep, especially in young organisms, helps to develop the nervous system. It is also very compatible with the view that REM sleep functions in the ” repair, reorganization, and formation of new connections in amine – dependent forebrain systems” summarized as ” knitting up the raveled sleeve of care” (Hartmann 1973). To conclude, dreams are irreplaceably important in obtaining psychological freedom, spiritual understanding, and spiritual wealth. Life is an adventure, and as Carl Jung pointed out, maybe the most important experiences are our internal experiences. In order to become familiar with our “internal” makeup, we must take the journey inward.
This journey requires that we pay close attention to our dreams and our emotions. We can learn much from our dreams, if we only listen with a trained ear. There is nothing psychic about understanding our dreams. There is just a certain degree of intuition, coupled with logic, and a working knowledge of dreaming. We must reflect and contemplate, and finally get a grip on what is truly valuable and what will bring deep, satisfying, and lasting happiness.