Ever had a dream that seemed so very real that when you finally woke up it was difficult to believe that it had not happened for real? Or a nightmare that you were only too thankful to wake up from? Don’t be surprised, such dreams come to all of us. Dreams have been fascinating human
Ever had a dream that seemed so very real that when you finally woke up it was difficult to believe that it had not happened for real? Or a nightmare that you were only too thankful to wake up from? Don’t be surprised, such dreams come to all of us.
Dreams have been fascinating human beings since the dawn of civilization. Every civilization of note – Indian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Egypt and Maori, to name few – has tried to understand dreams and to take guidance from them. Now scientists and psychologists are trying to find answers to questions like what are dreams, why do we dream and what do dreams signify. And yet, inspite of all our scientific and psychological advances, we do not really know how and why we dream at all. There are many theories, of course.
What is a dream
A dream is a series of images, thoughts, sounds and sensations that we experience while sleeping. A dream can range from most common place and mundane to most bizarre and mysterious. It can include people and places you have never seen or met and acts and ideas you would never ever consider while awake. Dreams can evoke very real emotions like happiness, fear, surprise and sadness. A frightening dream is called a nightmare. Many people dream the same dream again and again. Such a dream is called a recurring dream and usually has some deep significance for the dreamer.
When do dreams come
Our sleep has two stages- NREM (no rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) that keep alternating with each other through the night. While we can dream in both stages of sleep, dreams during REM are longer and more vivid. As the sleep duration progresses, periods of REM sleep get longer and longer and dreams get stronger and stronger. That’s the reason, early morning dreams are most vivid and memorable.
Why do we dream
As we said earlier, we do not know exactly why we dream at all. Many scientists and psychologists have offered theories to explain the phenomenon:
- Dreams help the body get adequate rest. Sleep is essential for healthy living and more the dreams, deeper the sleep.
- Dreams help us analyze day’s events and relieve anxieties.
- Dreams are safe outlets for thoughts, feelings and ambitions we hide from others. You can be school football captain or become a pilot or scold a teacher in a dream, things that may not be possible in real life.
- Dreams are ‘rebooting’ of our conscious minds- expelling what’s not required to keep thinking healthy.
Do dreams have meanings
While some people believe that dreams have no particular meanings, most psychologists agree that dreams are extremely meaningful. Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung, the two great pioneers of psychology in 20th century used dreams of patients as tools to give them therapy. Almost all psychologists agree that dreams are an abstract language consisting of symbols that can provide a roadmap of a person’s personality. Many people undergoing psychotherapy for psychological disorders are asked to record their dreams by mental health professionals. This dream diary then helps in pinpointing causes of disorder.
Many ancient civilizations created records of dream images and their associated meanings. You can find many modern books on dream symbology in libraries and bookshops.
What’s lucid dreaming
Most of the times, we do not realize that we have been dreaming till we wake up from that dream. However there is a type of dreaming called lucid dreaming in which the dreamer retains awareness. Very often, lucid dreaming happens when a person is sleeping and dreaming. Suddenly there is a mental spark of realization while the body is still asleep that it is just a dream. Some dreamers go a step farther to actually control their lucid dream. For example, if they are having a lucid dream about an ogre chasing them, they can script their dream to kill the ogre. Lucid dreaming can be learned but it requires great mental training.
Do you usually recall your dreams clearly? Do you ever get any recurring dreams; or any recurring nightmare? Have you ever discussed your dreams with anyone or kept a dream diary? Do write to share your thoughts and experiences with us.