The content and purpose of dreams have never been taken literally, although they have always been the subject of scientific speculation as well as a subject of religious and philosophical interest throughout history.
Dreams usually occur in a rapid stroke of an eye in the REM phase of sleep when brain activity is high, which otherwise reminds a person that he or she is awake. The REM phase revealed a series of continuous eye movements during sleep. From time to time dreams can wake up during the second phase of sleep. However, it is precisely these dreams that we may remember the least.
It is known that dreams can last for a few seconds, or even over ten minutes. Research has shown that people will remember sleep if they are awakened during the REM phase. On average, a person can have three to five dreams a night, although some have as many as seven.
It has been shown that dreams can last longer as the night progresses, so it turns out that we dream for about two hours all together, which is really not that short period of time. So, much of our sleep revolves around the mysterious world of dreams.
Dreams are usually shown as an extension of the unconscious. They can be normal, then a little more unusual, surreal and of course bizarre. They can also be of different natures such as frightening situations, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous or erotic.
The events we dream about are largely beyond the control of the person dreaming them except in the case of lucid dreamers who can control their reactions. It has been shown many times that dreams can serve as a template for inspiration for a work.
Over time there have been various theories about the interpretation of dreams, but the true purpose of dreams is not yet known.
Research shows that during the average lifespan, a human being spends about six years dreaming which is about two hours every night. Some scientists believe that in addition to humans, many other mammals also have dreams.
Despite extensive studies, it is still difficult to answer why people dream and this question remains one of the biggest unanswered questions in the social sciences. Researchers have offered many theories – from memory consolidation to emotional regulation, but none of them can completely answer this question.
PSYCHOLOGY OF DREAMS
The dream, with its compensatory function, tries to point out to people what they consciously do not want or cannot know. A good example of this is a famous dream in which someone is following you. What follows us wants to be noticed and therefore comes to us in a dream. It runs after us for us to pay attention to it. Everything we close our eyes to in everyday life returns to us while we sleep.
Dreams are closely related to psychology, and psychologists state that the strongest argument for the importance of studying dreams is fact that dreams help us solve everyday problems that we encounter. They also believe that dreams have a certain meaning. These are just some of them:
- dreams express a person’s hidden desires
- dreams occur during the reorganization of thoughts and memories
- dreams change a person’s mental pattern
- in most dreams we witness things that happen by visual or auditory perception
- the meaning of a dream depends on what you associate with it
Dreams have been present since the beginning of the world. The ancient Egyptians believed that dreams were communications with higher powers and that they represented prophecies about future events.
However, the interpretation of dreams as a field of psychological sciences began only in 1899 with Sigmund Freud who published his book The Interpretation of Dreams and thus laid the foundations for many dream theories. Although many experts agree with his theories, some still think that dreams mean nothing even though many people after certain dreams wake up with numerous questions about what the dream wanted to tell them.
Sigmund Freud assumed that dreams were means of expressing unconscious desires. He believed that bad dreams allow the brain to gain control over the feelings that result from unpleasant experiences.
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, suggested that dreams compensate for certain feelings during conscious state, in other words, they express something that cannot be clearly expressed. Some theories assume that dreams express repressed emotions.
The famous Austrian psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Heinz Hartmann, believes that dreams allow a person to organize his or her thoughts, and his assumption was supported by a number of theories.
WHEN DO WE DREAM?
It is often misinterpreted that we do not remember dreams because we were not aware of them, because we were in a state of unconsciousness, but this is completely wrong. When dreaming, the state of consciousness is present, in other words, there is awareness and very little unconsciousness, which is why there are difficulties with memory.
When it comes to just fantasizing or daydreaming, unconsciousness and awareness are in roughly the same proportions, so problems with recollection rarely occur. When we compare dreaming with waking state, many differences are observed. When we are awake, there is a lot of awareness and a little unconsciousness. However, waking consciousness is intertwined with various states of consciousness that occur in sleep.
In short, night sleep and wakefulness are two extremes on the same continuum. In sleep there is relatively little consciousness and much subconsciousness while in waking state there is much consciousness and little subconsciousness. All other states are in between.
HOW CAN DREAMS HELP US?
People often misinterpret dreams by trying to find different answers to questions about the future. However, dreams should always be interpreted in relation to a person’s current state and their own personality characteristics. If we approach dreams in this way, they can help us:
- to recognize the hidden feelings and thoughts that stand in the way of our development
- to identify self-destructive and disruptive patterns of behavior and replace them with appropriate attitudes
- to remove wounds and fears from the past
- in a way that points us to new strategies of action and behavior
- in a way that gives us hope and cheers us up
The most famous German dream expert and graduate psychologist Klausbernd Vollmar in his book The Wisdom of Dreams (Die Weisheit der Träume) tries to explain to people how to understand dreams and interpret them correctly. Understanding dreams has been his interest for more than thirty years and he often emphasizes the importance of being aware that we can use dreams to solve certain problems we encounter in everyday life.
He also emphasizes that when interpreting one’s own dreams, one should primarily:
- pay attention to the feelings that the dream evokes in us
- find some associations from everyday life that could explain why we have such content in a dream
- interpret a dream on a subjective level
- pay attention to guidelines or instructions related to possibilities and problem solving
- ask ourselves what the dream wants to tell us and why it occurs at this point in life
- think about what changes in daily life inspire our dreams
At first, this all seems very demanding, but with a little practice it is possible to master these steps. A dream every night presents us with a neglected perspective of our problems we have struggled with in the previous days and will never openly and directly tell us what to do.
For example, if you see in a dream that you are furious at everyone around you, you will wake up in the morning and it will probably not be clear to you why you were so aggressive. You should ask yourself the question – what kind of “I” appears in you?
Author and psychologist Klaus Vollmar advises people to accept this dream as a free therapist who visits you every night because it shows you the “I” that you are desperately suppressing. That doesn’t mean you should actually show aggression.