Dreams Essay, Research Paper
A dream is a series of thoughts, images or emotions occurring during sleep. So why do we have dreams? Is it because, as Marie Louise Von Franz states, Dreams show us how to find a meaning in our lives, how to fulfill our own destiny, how to realize the greater potential life within us. (Tanner P 1) Or is it simply because, Dreams help us solve our problems , as Wilda B. Tanner once said. (P 1)
Dreams themselves evoke a reaction: either negative, in the form of resistance; or positive, often in the form of over-idealizing them; but rarely neutral. Dreams can contain very important messages from our unconscious mind, and always tell the truth. Although it arises out of the conscious mind, the dream s content is specified by the conscious situation of the dreamer: the event s, emotions, thoughts, fears, hopes and conflicts of the dreamer s waking life. (Matoon P 75) The clear thing about dreams is that they have meaning; they are not simply randomly arranged images. Dreams are a symbolic language; they are pictures, images, not thoughts. Everyone dreams, but of what, well that is what distinguishes us whether we can recall our dreams or not.
We have come to regard our awakening state as the state of existence where reason and rationality prevail, and if we can not touch it, explain it, predict it and hopefully control it then it does not have meaning. This is strange because when one reflects on the fact that we sleep on average, eight hours a night sleeping, that we spend roughly one third of our lives sleeping, and that twenty to twenty five percent of our sleeping time is spent dreaming. If this is true then how come some people think that dreams are not real. If we think for a moment that images are not what one sees, but a way of seeing, then to see imaginatively, what a dream does, is to see resemblances of things, people or events. As Peter O Connor says, The stuff of dreams are not unreal they are another reality an as if reality . (P 75)
There are no limits when dreaming. Dreamland is fantasy, fiction and invention. We seemingly cannot control the dream world. Given then the dream world violates our preferred notions of reality. Every night we are subject to another reality, another form of existence, where we invent stories, some about people, places and things we know from our awakening reality. When dreaming we ignore the usual restraints of space and time. We alter reality when sleeping. We can manipulate the size and age of someone we know or we could find ourselves doing two totally contradictory things at the same time.
Our problem is, as Erich Fromm so adequately states, That symbolic language, the language of dreams, has been forgotten by modern man. Not when he is asleep, but when he is awake… By forgetting the symbolic language, he is disconnected from his own plot and thus vulnerable to living out others pre-formed, stereotyped, and pre-packaged myths or plots. In so doing, he is turning his back on his own individuality and, ironically, on his depth of being, which inhibits his awareness of others individualities. (O Connor P 45) Dreaming is the most natural, obvious, and readily accessible means for remembering a symbolic language. Since imagination can be seen as breath to psyche in the same vital way as oxygen is to the body, thus dreams are essential to life. As the medieval author Synesius of Cyrene states, Sleep offers itself to all: it is an oracle always ready to be our infallible and silent counselor. (O Connor P 5)
James Hillman has this to say about a dream: The dream itself is a symbol; that is, it joins in itself the conscious and the unconscious, bringing together incommensurables and opposites. (O Connor P 7) Dreams are intrinsically linked to the process of completing oneself through their capacity to help us recognize parts of ourselves that we may normally be unaware of, thereby integrating into our conscious views of ourselves. Each recognition builds another link between consciousness and unconsciousness. It is the dream world that enables us and assists us to stay literally in touch with the imaginable world and helps us to see through literality and concretism, so that images become available for integration into consciousness, thereby moving us towards completing ourselves.
Dreams have intrigued man since the dawn of time. The primitive man believed in dreams most of all because his belief in dreams was linked to his belief in his soul. He believed that the soul left the body during sleep, leaving to believe that dreams were a real experience of the disembodied soul. The Primitive man believed more in his dreams then his own conscious and relied on them for guidance in his everyday life.
The American Indians believed that the soul was an individual expression of the Great Spirit , but the soul needed guidance, and dreams were this guidance. In a sense dreams were a message from God. Dreams or similar experiences are found all over the Bible. Numbers 12:5-6 states, … And he said Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and speak unto him in a dream . Daniel 2:29 states, As for thee, O king, thy thought came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.
On inspection, a dream proves to be a very meaningful, well-constructed product of the imagination. Hillman says, Our life in soul is a life of imagination . (O Connor P 62) Every person has his or her own style of dreaming. Dreams are communications of a part of us, which had virtually all of our mental facilities at its disposal.
One thing that makes people wish that they could control their dreams is nightmares. Nightmares, just like any other dream carry a message. Donald Broadribb states, The unconscious makes makes use of images familiar from waking life to create a horror story which, like all other dream stories, is meaningful. (P 125) A nightmare may be defined as a dream that frightens, usually terrifies the dreamer both during the dream and upon awakening. Nightmares are pure emotion, they require being felt not merely observed like any other dream. After having a nightmare, one will try to forget what has happened, but soon finds out that they can t. They then need to realize what is causing the nightmare in the first place.
It has been many continuous observation that during sleep when the nasal passages get blocked due to the degree that one can not breath and the oxygen intake to the brain is then reduced to a dangerously low level, the sleeping brain will go first into dreaming and then the nightmare mode in every case. As the level of oxygen to the brain decreases the brain s self-alarm system forces the sleeping brain to wake up via the dreams and nightmares. The purpose of nightmares, as intended by nature itself, appears to function as a mechanism to wake up the sleeping brain in the fastest manner possible to a most alert state so that an awake brain can take the necessary life saving actions. The closer the threat is to the head, where the brain is located, the more violent and terrifying will be the nature of the nightmare. After awakening from nightmares, sleeping becomes difficult and it takes a considerably long time for the brain to subside and go back to sleep.
Most of the time, the majority of people forget dreams after they are awakened by their dream. Normally one will not remember them unless one pays special attention to remember them. Even with special attention one only remembers some prominent features of their dream. The question of why we do not remember is as follows. If the function of dreaming is to wake up the sleeping brain under adverse sleeping conditions, once the dreaming has achieved this objective, then its function stops for that sleeping period. After this purpose has been achieved, there is no need for the brain to remember the dream details. If we remember some parts of some dreams, it is simply redundant after each effect that is not required for any aspect of the body s survival. The dream can be seen to be reminding the dreamer of the fact that life and death are ever-repeating cycles the wheel of life. (O Connor P 49) Essentially, Nature must have intended that the dream contents of each dreaming period be used one time only . Once the dreaming has carried out its function of waking up the sleeping brain, the dream signals are readily erased or replaced by background noise signals such as the light and sound signals of the sleeping environment.
People dream when there is a need to wake up. The movements of sleep subjects during the nightlong sleeping have been recorded. When one watches such visual recordings, one sees that the sleep subject does a lot of tossing and turning during their sleep. Most of the movements seem to be associated and are preceded with dreaming. The sleeping brain wakes up to correct the discomforting situation by commanding the body as a whole or parts of the body to move in a desired way then goes back to sleep. The function of dreaming for this portion of sleep has been achieved. The next section of sleep gets its own dream scenario.
People have always asked questions regarding dreams. What are dreams? Why do we dream? What meaning should be attributed to a dream scenario? Do dreams carry any message about the past present and future of the dreamer? What is the mechanism that generates dreams and many more? Many researchers have put forward theories aimed at answering such questions and also about the functioning of dreaming. Robert Bosnak feels that Dreams seem incomprehensible by nature, nonsensical, and an insult to common sense . (P 27)
Sigmund Freud was one of the dream researchers who is most celebrated in the western world. In his book The Interpretations of Dreams , he puts forward a dream theory in which he proposes that the function of dreaming is to act as guardian of sleep and also means of wish fulfillment for the oppressed wishes. He says that the driving forces for dreams are the repressed wishes that are formed from experiences that the dreamer has had during the day or at other times. Freud attributes meaning to scenes and characters seen in dream and tries to decode the inner world of the dreamer by using these assumed meanings. Modern research does not support Freud s dream theory.
It may be that one of the objectives of Nature as applied to living organisms is that the structure of the living organism must not allow system breakdowns due to its own functions (operations). In other words, the preventive maintenance must be the preferred rule rather than the exception for self-survival. All functions of the body must evolve around this underlying principle. If this principle is in fact being used in real life for sustaining the normal functionality of a living organism, then, built into the system, there must be time allowance for doing preventive maintenance on the system. In human beings, mammals and other organisms, which sleep, this function is probably carried out mostly during sleeping. As human beings, we are able to observe a feeling of relaxed body and mind, freshness and rejuvenation after sleep. These feelings seem to be the indication that some maintenance is taking place during sleep mode. Turning off the brain and body s daytime functions during sleep is itself a form of preventive maintenance. By not operating continuously, the brain prolongs its own and the rest of the body s life.
Dreams should be interpreted as a whole because it reflects an interconnected network of ideas in the mind of the dreamer. One should befriend a dream. A dream is a part of you that nobody else can quite understand. You can try to explain a dream to someone, but they wont know how you were feeling and thinking at the time of the dream. A dream is a personality trait of the dreamer. It keeps one from going insane, without dreams one would not be able to figure out everything in their head. When sleeping, the brain is relaxed and allows the dreamer to focus on the essential things in their life at that time.
Dreams are a window into the mind. These may be our most elaborate, distinctive, revealing, and flamboyant creations; they have fascinated us since ancient times. The Egyptians built temples for dreaming. The oracles of Greece pondered cryptic dreams as the royal road to the unconscious. Dreams allow us to glimpse beyond that which we are and know in daily life; they hint of other dimensions of space and time. What do dreams really mean? Are they mirrors of your days, tunnels into the recesses of the unconscious, or no more than the chance results of biochemical changes in the brain? NO one knows the complete answer yet, but dream researchers are learning more and more about the reasons why we tell ourselves stories as we sleep, and how these tales reflect and relate to the waking life.
Dreams are essential to life; they are the key to imagination, longer life and relaxation. Without these keys how can one live an entirely enjoyable life? Dreams are fun, scary and helpful. They are the explanations of life and problems that one cannot figure out in the awake state. They are what keep us going in life. Without dreams and hopes one would not strive to be the best. So keep dreaming, in sleep and in life, and have a future!