Do you roll your eyes when you hear people talking about their dreams?
I once did, and It seems to have almost become a reflex for most people.
The traditional western intellectual approach to dreams is to dismiss and even ridicule any attempt to elaborate the significance of dreaming past individual mental phenomenon.
Don’t worry, the fault lies with the cognitive revolution.
A reductionist viewpoint dominated attempting to describe mental phenomenon to a similar fashion of how a computer operates; however, the human brain is not organized in a neat orderly fashion, rather it is an immensely complex dynamic wet super-computer.
Modern scientific paradigms cannot adequately account for the purpose of a dream.
In general, most people report a difficulty to recall dreams upon waking, although failure to do so is regarded with little importance, as dreaming is not considered as having significant impact on modern living.
Conversely, it is interesting how psychoanalytical practises would regard dream recall of having vital importance as dreams serve as a direct mirror of the unconscious which in turn orientates our actions shaping our waking life.
It doesn’t end there. Those who adhere to Jungian psychology would suggest dreams extend beyond an idiosyncratic level, and have the ability to predict major events, and influence entire societies.
Whether or not you believe we are all bound together by an underlying invisible social fabric, dreaming is ubiquitous- regardless of age, culture and creed. We all dream.
Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to investigate your dreams a little further?
Even a minor return on your investment would pay dividends for a lifetime.
Without further ado, let me Illuminate your understanding of the sleep and waking relationship.
When you go to sleep your brain starts its side hustle. It is busy at work removing toxins, consolidating memories, and monitoring your senses.
There is no shortage of activity, research has shown that while we sleep, we actually pass through 5 various stages, each is characterized by its unique wavelengths, and other various attributes.
Of the five stages, ‘REM sleep’ is of particular interest to dream researchers, as it is highly associated with dreaming- an interesting side note to consider is when your sleep is disturbed your body will actually prioritize a speedy return to the REM stage.
Hmm. Must be important.
So, what is happening to you while you dream?
There is a wealth of theories out there, it’s impossible to cover them all but this is my current understanding in brief.
While in a state of deep sleep the conscious mind is finally at bay, and it’s play time for your unconscious mind. Pent up repressed thoughts, emotions and experiences burst from the depths, free to explore unshackled, to operate without the logic orientated rational mind crashing the party.
Psychic energy seeks balance, following the principle of the conservation of energy.
‘energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transferred’.
These repressed thoughts are granted momentary safe haven, like prisoners in the yard, they venture out into the open, no longer sealed in their dark cells, a Freudian perspective would suggest the brains ‘warden’ detects that the emotionally charged memories are free, and produces a dream to disguise them, as to not disturb your sleep.
But we don’t exactly know exactly what is going on. It’s a twilight zone, and the unusual events are so far removed from ordinary stimuli, and the usual narrative we tell ourselves.
This may explain why it’s difficult to remember the exact details upon waking.
Some would even suggest that our recall lacks agency. To say memories are deliberately restricted from consciousness, in order to protect our social identity and keep harmful memories at bay. A scary thought.
Perhaps, the mind is not deliberately working against you to keep you in the dark. Your subconscious is trying it’s best to communicate with you. We just don’t understand its preferred language.
If you manage to build your recall ability there is no shortage of wisdom available to you, you can find solutions to problems, creative insights, and unravel personal truths.
So what is the language?
Each dream has a manifest content (what you can recall) and a latent content (hidden meaning). Pay attention to the rich Imagery, and symbols. Begin to read between the lines, feel the underlying emotions, draw associations until you solve the puzzle.
The use of visualisation techniques in many disciplines demonstrate just how susceptible the subconscious mind is to imagery.
Although this all happens passively, recent findings suggest there are active methods you can implement to utilize your dreams.
We are biologically hardwired to think about problems. We’re not pessimistic, it’s an evolutionary mechanism to increase our chance of survival.
Our brain needs a problem to chew on. Depending on how you spend your time, and what information you feed the conscious mind — will determine the building blocks the subconscious has available.
Like a continuous stream of consciousness which changes its form, rather than simply switching off.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to decide when the Eureka moments hits, the subconscious mind will spit out a solution to the specific problem on its own accord, whether you’re in the shower, on the bus, or 2 hours into a nap in dream land.
There are even techniques recently emerging such as ‘dream Incubation’ where you deliberately think of something you want to solve, using the dream world as an extended training room.
For example, say you wanted to become a professional gamer. Following ten hours of intense Call of duty training before bed, you could consciously think about the mistakes you made, and try to think of solutions.
You’ve input the problem, now your mind will work with this overnight. During an incubated dream you can begin to analyse your plays, and play inside a psychic simulation of the game. When you wake up, and play you will begin to see new strategies, and like a wish come true you’re a better gamer.
You’ll be surprised to learn many scientific breakthroughs came from dreams. Einstein claimed to have great insights handed to him, and the periodic table came in the form of a dream.
Whereas it’s unlikely you will conger up a theory equal to relativity or build the next periodic table. Wouldn’t it be great to have a solution to a few of your problems, improve your skills, and maybe even conquer some fears?
Are you thinking, this is all great, but I don’t even dream!
Fear not, I was in the same boat once. Despite this, while at university I took a dream interpretation module. The group moderator was honestly the most interesting man I have ever met, he looked remarkably similar to Gandalf, and would often lose himself in thought while he stroked his long grey beard.
He was eccentric to say the least and would ditch the prepared PowerPoint slides preferring to free style, as he pranced around the room, praying on shaky undergraduates.
It was extremely difficult to follow him, the way he strung his thoughts together did not flow in a logical sequence, he would jump from visions, to his car breaking down, to star trek — then claim it was all interlinked.
He often made me wonder, how on earth he had managed to maintain a position within a university, he was the antithesis of your typical academic, incredibility spiritual, unorganised, and extremely open.
If this wasn’t enough to throw me off, he once suggested I run through the woods with my bare feet. And proudly shared tales about how he spent his weekend hunting butterflies with his wife.
After these antics, many students couldn’t bear to listen anymore, and began scrolling through Instagram, some even left the room. Dismissing the man’s competence, and the importance of dreams. But having read a little of Jung beforehand, I was determined to challenge my immediate perception, and was open to learn more. I just knew this man had gold to share, it just wasn’t the usual hard-boiled knowledge I had been used to my entire academic life.
After a while he began sharing dreams- I was immediately captivated by the depth and clarity he could establish.
I was hooked, but there was one problem, I still wasn’t dreaming!
The panic really set in when he announced 60% of the module grade would be assessed by an in-depth analysis and presentation of 3 of our own dreams.
Public speaking has never been my strong suit, and as a private person, discussing my dreams to a room of students as they peer into the depth of my psyche was a little intimating.
Regardless, I sucked it up, and over the following months I eagerly awaited a dream to come to me. I hoped for a sudden flash of awareness, an insight to be gained to share with my class, anything. But each day waking up I was greeted with nothing. I was blank as a canvas.
This cycle repeated for a few weeks until I finally asked Gandulf, how to do you recall your dreams?
He told me to:
- Think about dreams often, when I say often, I mean all day long.
2. Tell yourself out loud before you go to sleep ‘I will remember my dream’.
3. Sleep in complete darkness, and reduce your exposure to technology prior to sleeping (this will allow melatonin levels to build).
4. Eat some chocolate.
5. Sleep with a notepad and pen next to your bed.
6. Go to bed in a relaxed state.
7. When you wake up, don’t immediately rush to begin your activities, and resist the urge to touch your phone. Just lie still and think about any fragments you can recall, and pay attention to your mood.
After applying this strategy, magic started to happen. Dreams came pouring in, there was too much content to work with. Some nights I had up to 3 dreams back to back, I even experienced some lucidity!
I have only experienced a handful of lucid dreams, but Paul Tholey, a German dream researcher suggests a reflection technique can enhance the odds of achieving one — this involves asking yourself throughout the day ‘am I awake or dreaming?’.
I began to look forwards to my night life, and the seminars became the highlight of my week. I went on to produce my best ever work in this module, Gandalf successfully stretched my mind and I’m forever grateful to have finished the module with a greater acceptance to the occult, and mysterious nature of the world. Thanks Gandalf.
Pay attention to your dreams!