Dreaming, A beautiful Art Scientists have made drastic improvements in the study of the human brain in the last century. Consequently, the rational, or conscious, mind of the human being is more easily understood. The conscious mind is responsible logic, such as mathematics. This makes the conscious mind fairly easy to understand, for it functions in a sequential process to reach a conclusion. The subconscious mind, however, is more ambiguous.
The subconscious mind contains emotional, creative, and personal aspects of a human being, as opposed to the rationality of the conscious mind. The subconscious mind contains all of the personal elements of a human being, such as desires and phobias, and this therefore responsible for the individuality of a human being. The key to understanding the human personality is dreams, for they are a window into the depths of the human psyche. Everybody dreams several times per night - adults and children alike. Dreams occur in REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep, in which brain activity parallels that of an awake individual.
During REM sleep, the dreaming individual's eyes dart back and forth, and the individual is virtually paralyzed, for only a trace of muscle activity can be recorded at this time. REM sleep is accepted in the scientific community for its importance in recharging the mind and body for the next day. Dreams have various functions, such as helping the brain to sort an individual's memories and remember new tasks. For example, about 80% of dreams parallel events encountered by the individual, usually in the preceding day (Empson, 112). Stronger evidence exists, however, that individuals that learned a new task the previous day dream about it at night in order to allow their brains to sort out the new information. Fo instance, researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel experimented by teaching human subjects new tasks that were generally repetitious, such as playing musical instruments or dancing.
They found that the subjects were markedly better at these tasks after Baker, 3 sleeping than immediately after learning them. The researchers then showed .".. six subjects different figures on a computer screen. Then they tested the subjects on what they had seen. Later that night they deprived half the group of... REM sleep (in which many dreams occur) and deprived the other half of 'slow wave's leep (few or no dreams) " (Litowinsky, 43).
The subjects deprived of REM sleep showed no improvement when retested in the morning, but the other half that did receive REM sleep tested better. "Something occurs in REM sleep that's a critical factor in memory consolidation," according to neurologist Avi Karn i, coauthor of the Weizmann study. Understanding the importance of dreams in the form of memory strengthening and learning is practical to every person. It explains why people often appear confused and have trouble remembering things when they have received little sleep. Dreams are so important that they should not be neglected. Unfortunately, many health care workers, especially highly specialized workers such as surgeons, often work long, grueling days and resultant ly receive little or no sleep at night.
If hospitals hired more doctors and shortened their hours, the doctors would probably be more efficient, and less hospital accidents would occur. For example, it may be wiser for a surgeon who has to do two bypass surgeries to operate on one patient, get a good night's sleep, and do the other operation the next day. The doctor's memory may be strengthened during the night, and the next operation would be more successful. In addition, the importance of dreams to memory consolidation should be known by students, who often stay up late studying the night before a test.
Everybody's mother has told him to get a good night sleep before a test, and increased understanding of dreams by the scientific community has finally given results that support this wisdom. Dreams also help the individual to resolve conflicts. According to psychologist Carl Jung, recurrent dreams, or dreams that persist for a long period of time, indicate recurring problems and bring them to the attention of the dreamer (Freud, 224). Eventually, the dreamer will acknowledge his conflict and solve it, and the recurrent dream will cease. Dreams that solve problems can be considered passive thinking, for it is done freely and unpredictably, and Baker, 4 they generally occur in three stages.
First, the "impact of... a new experience [is examined]" (Litowinsky, 50). This helps the dreamer to understand his problem and his emotions associated with it. Next, the "tension [is examined] from a historical perspective" (Ullman 4). This helps the individual to examine his past to find comparable examples of similar tension in order to resolve the conflict. Finally, the dream makes "an effort at resolution" (Freud, 433).
Thus, certain dreams can help to solve problems. This is an important fact for people to consider when making crucial decisions, for it may be wiser for the person to wait a day before making the choice. The passive thinking the dreaming process will probably give a better answer than an immediate rational one, for the subconscious mind evidently considers the decision as a whole as well as the emotional context of the decision, whereas active thinking is mainly concerned with logic. Dreams can often give better solutions to problems than the conscious mind can. Dreams can also anticipate the future. Jung called these dreams "anticipatory dreams" (Freud, 264).
This occurs when the subconscious mind considers the past and the present, and attempts to predict the future. Many people attach a spiritual or mystical element to anticipatory dreams, especially when the dreams are incredibly accurate, yet it seems that these dreams are merely subconscious predictions and are no different than an individual thinking about the future in an awake state. The unconscious mind is unrestrained, however, for it takes a course that is seemingly uncontrolled by the dreamer. This may explain why people predict certain events in their dreams with accuracy, for the unconscious mind considers possibilities that the conscious mind may overlook. In addition, some anticipatory dreams relate specifically to the future of the individual dreamer, such as birth or death dreams. Canadian psychologist Ian Stevenson noticed that many pregnant subjects had dreams relating to childbirth towards the very end of their pregnancy when birth was near (Empson, 94).
Certain dreams are obviously parallel to the future when considered later, for these dreams are merely the subconscious attempt of anticipating the future. Baker, 5 Dreams can also help an individual to overcome trauma. For example, traumatic experiences, such as car accidents, are often relived in dreams. The dream may be troubling to the dreamer, but these dreams can actually help the individual to overcome the trauma. This trauma can be overcome by "turning" dreams. Turning dreams is documented by the Seno i tribe of West Malaysia, who practice this useful technique often.
For example, if a member had a nightmare about "being chased by a tiger," the dream would be "encouraged" so the dreamer can face the tiger and "vanquish [his] fear" (Ullman, 71). Psychiatrist Morton Schatz man used this technique to treat a patient of his, "Ruth", in order to help her overcome her traumatic past (she had been brutally raped by her father at age ten, and he also had fired a shotgun at her on one occasion). This technique of turning dreams helped "Ruth" to overcome trauma, as it does with many others. (Freud, 24). Trauma dreams often recur until the dreamer does something in the dream to prevent the traumatic experience or "solve" the problem, and are sometimes used in psychiatric work. In this manner, dreams can help an individual to overcome trauma.
In addition to helping an individual cope with trauma, dreams can help an individual cope with death. For example, people often dream about departed loved ones. According to psychologist Alan B. Siegel, "The mind is fully capable of conjuring up vivid images of a relative or friend, whether alive or dead" (Litowinsky, 60).
These dreams are often very vivid and sensual, which cause the dreamer to believe that they are actually interacting with the deceased person. Again, people often associate a spirituality and religion to this type of dream, but it is not an uncommon part of the dreaming process. These death dreams help the dreamer to finally end his mourning, for it is a stage of acceptance. The deceased person in the dream is nearly always accepting of their own death, which allows the mourner to accept it as well. Siegel states: "When the dreamer is reassured that the deceased person is okay, it means that the grieved is finally okay" (Ullman, 27). Dreams of death give a sense of closure to the relationship, especially when there are Baker, 6 still unresolved conflicts.
Nan Zimmerman, coauthor of the book Working With Dreams, felt unresolved feelings of "sorrow, guilt, and anger" at her deceased father (Ullman, 49). Years later, she had a dream in which she vented all of her emotions at him: "My father looked at me and smiled... a smile of complete acceptance. An avalanche of relief rushed over me" (Ullman 49). This sort of dream allows the individual to absolve himself of guilt and unresolved feelings with a deceased loved one. In this fashion, dreams can help bring closure to a relationship, even though one person in the relationship is dead.
A third type of dream about death is the acknowledgment of one's own impending death in order to allow the individual to accept it. James Hillman's Suicide and the Soul gives an account of a 94-year-old woman named Gram Shriver who had two dreams about death that allowed her to accept her own death and help her daughter Lil to cope with the inevitable. In her first dream, she saw Jesus and yearned to be with him, but "[she] felt [she] had more to do" (Ullman 52). Gram, by now in poor physical condition, had a second dream in which she "anticipated with exhilaration the freedom of physical death... [but] she heard her daughter's earnest desire that she live" (Ullman 52). Lil talked to friends and relatives about her mother's impending death, and Gram even ordered her own coffin.
The next day she died, but her death was acceptable to herself and to her daughter because of her powerful dreams. Dreams of impending death, which are often peaceful and pleasant, may explain the human concept of heaven. Dreaming of a bright, white light and a feeling of peacefulness is somewhat universal, and ties in to the concept of God and His divine light. Dreams can then be considered to be of utmost importance, for they help humans to accept the inevitability of death. If no afterlife exists and mundane existence is the only form of human existence, then dreams can help humanity to cope with finality, as the subconscious may be portraying pleasant images to help the person enjoy his last moments of life. Dreams may be the a logical explanation to the universal question of afterlife existence.
This question can obviously never be answered, but if an answer exists, the answer will inevitably be revealed to everybody. Baker, 7 Dreams often tell a person about himself. According to Sigmund Freud, dreams are repressed wishes. Freud reached this conclusion on July 24, 1895, after he had a vengeful dream. After analyzing his dream, he came to his conclusion: "The dream represented a particular state of affairs as I should have wished it to be. Thus its content was the fulfillment of a wish" (Freud, 32).
He believed that the unfulfilled desires plague the unconscious and threaten to disturb sleep because of their persistence, and therefore the mind satisfies the desire in a dream in order to allow the person to sleep. Freud said, "Dreams are the guardians of sleep, and not its disturbers" (Freud, 35). The unconscious desires of dreamers are represented differently as the individual becomes older. For example, Freud said that .".. when his two-year-old nephew... gave his uncle a basket of ripe cherries that he clearly wanted for himself, he dreamed of a cherry feast all his own." Thus, the child's dream of a "cherry feast" fulfilled his desire that was repressed during the day.
The dreams of adults are not as innocent, however. For example, workers at alcoholism treatment facilities note that "during the early weeks of sobriety, many alcoholics report dreaming about bingeing" (Dunlop, 265). Freud acknowledged that since carnal urges are virtually the strongest desires, adult dreams are full of sexual imagery. This imagery is not entirely explicit, however; it is often represented symbolically.
This is because Freud believed that between the conscious and the subconscious was a "superego." This superego tries to censor sexual desires in dreams, so the desires often take the form of other symbols in order to surpass the superego. For example, dreaming of objects that are long and pointed often refer to the penis. Freud believed that helping people to understand the symbolism of dreams was key to understanding oneself. Freud believed that the process of displacement occurs in dreams, which states that everything in a dream represents something else. Besides using symbolism, dreams often use puns or rhymes to convey meaning. Ann Faraday, Ph.
D. , is an expert on dream puns, and sorts dream puns into five different categories. Reversal puns are the reversal of syllables, such Baker, 8 as "a dream of filling full a jar which expresses a sense of being fulfilled" (Freud, 33). Visual puns are puns "in which the dream creates a picture based on one sense of a word in order to express an idea involving a different sense of the same word... for example, [Faraday's] dream of a baseball game to reflect [her] feeling of being involved in a base, underhand game" (Empson, 58). A third use of puns in a dream is using proper names.
Another use of puns in a dream is a literal dream of a slang phrase. Finally, dreams may use body parts as puns. Understanding the meaning of these puns in one's dream can help to better understand oneself. Each symbol represents an underlying emotion about some subject that the unconscious is trying to bring to the attention of the dreamer. Faraday's explanation seems a bit questionable, and is not wholeheartedly supported by other experts. Obviously, the subconscious mind is fully capable of using puns and metaphors, but Faraday may be speculating too much.
An important concept that is generally accepted by most psychiatrists is that dream interpretation is best done by the dreamer; for example, if a dreamer is satisfied with his interpretation of a dream, then that is the best and most suitable interpretation of the dream. Carl Jung supported the notion that overanalzyation of individual aspects of dreams is not an effective method of dream interpretation. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, like Freud, believed that dreams serve an important function in telling the dreamer something about himself. Jung became a disciple of Freud in 1903 when he read a book by him that contained dream theories that closely resembled his own. He respected Freud as a teacher, but began to disagree with him in certain issues about dreams. For example, Jung believed that dreams are mainly helpful, but Freud believed that "the majority of dreams are symptoms of psychic illness" (Freud, 285).
Jung also disagreed on the fact that sex was symbolized in every dream, and that all dreams were the fulfillment of a wish. Jung said, "It is true that there are dreams which embody wishes and fears, but what is there which the dream cannot on occasion embody Dreams may give expression to ineluctable truths, to philosophical pronouncements, illusions, wild fantasies" (Ullman, 73). Jung, although acknowledging the importance of understanding one's dreams to understand Baker, 9 oneself, also sought other possibilities for the meaning of dreams. Jung believed that dreams are messages from the unconscious mind. He believed that they serve various purposes other than wish fulfillment, such as dealing with stress and resolving inner conflicts.
He did not believe that anything resembling a superego existed; rather, Jung believed that dreams are straightforward. For example, the true self is often repressed by society, for people are often influenced in how they act by the people around them. Thus, dreams are the only moment in which the true person can be seen, for dreams are private and known only by the dreamer, and they reveal the true inner self. Jung chastised the Freudian notion that all images in dreams are symbols for something else, for Jung believed that dreams are honest, and that it is more important to understand the emotional impact of a dream on the dreamer than to understand every individual symbol.
Although disagreeing with Freud on the exact method that the unconscious used to communicate with the dreamer, Jung also believed that dreams are important in understanding the true personality of an individual. Dreams can function generally as a form of psychic regulation. Jung subscribed to this notion when he stated: "Dreams are the natural reaction of the self-regulating psychic system. This formulation is the nearest I can get to a theory about the structure and function of dreams" (Empson, 26). Two types of dreams exist that serve a purpose of psychic regulation: compensatory dreams and confirmatory dreams. Compensatory dreams compensate for a strength or a weakness.
It serves to balance the psyche by identifying something ignored by an individual. For example, Ted Williams had a dream that compensated for his feelings of physical inadequacy months after he had a stroke. He dreamed that he was facing the Seattle Mariners' ace pitcher Randy Johnson. Williams' dream of hitting a home run compensated for his negative feelings about himself. The other type of psychic regulation dream is the confirmatory dream. The confirmatory dream confirms something about a person.
This type of dream occurs in two different ways. Baker, 10 First, a confirmatory dream may be an exact repetition of an actual event. For example, "post-traumatic stress dreams... are nightmare repetitions of frightening... experiences... Such dreams underscore the reality of the event and assure the dreamer that his or her response is legitimate and not an overreaction" (Dunlop, 119).
Thus, by repeating the actual event, a confirmatory dream can help the dreamer to understand his emotions and accept them. The other type of confirmatory dream is one that emphasizes an unacceptable truth. Mickey Mantle had a confirmatory dream about his physical condition after retiring from baseball: "I had a recurring nightmare that I was trying to make a comeback and, because of my legs, I couldn't quite make it to first base. I'd get thrown out from right field or left field" (Dunlop, 292).
Mantle's dream was a confirmation of an unacceptable truth, but his dream eventually helped him to accept his situation and resulting emotions. Confirmatory dreams, like compensatory dreams, reveal a person's inner emotions to his conscious mind. Many dreams, such as the types previously discussed, relate to personal situations of the dreamer. This is not always the case, however, for dreams are sometimes universal.
The universality of dreams is means that dreams are mixed experiences of the individual and the species. Jung propounded the theory of the collective unconscious to describe the unconscious as containing a collection of memories from the beginnings of mankind. This explains the archetypes found in dreams that have universal representation, such as a circle representing unity and a snake representing evil. The archetypical quality of dreams is similar to the basic themes of fairy tales, for universal dreams often involve common factors of existence, such as birth and death. Montague Ullman summarizes the universal quality of dreams when he states: "Our dreams are connected with the basic truth that we are all members of a single species" (Ullman 145).
Dreams can also lead to a sort of secular revelation in the form of artistic inspiration. This makes sense because dreams in themselves resemble art, for dreams and art both have qualities of "[visual nature, novelty, concreteness, contrast, vividness, emotion, universality, and metaphorical association]" (Ullman 60). Dreams influenced several artistic genres, such as the Baker, 11 symbolists (like Van Gogh) and the surrealists (like Dali). The nature of dreams serve as an inspiration for artists who try to capture emotion on canvas in the same manner that dreams do. Dreams are universal to the human experience. Studying dreams is useful to all of humanity, for every single person dreams.
Dreams are important to memory consolidation and learning, conflict resolution and anticipation of the future. Dreams can also help to cope with trauma and death, as well as reveal an individual's inner personality. Finally, dreams may result in artistic inspiration, which allows everybody to experience someone's individual dream. One can only hope that the scientific community can further understand the perplexity of the subconscious, but perhaps the subconscious is so complex that it can never be understood. In the meantime, one can dream about the endless possibilities of the human psyche. Dunlop, Charles E.
M. ; edt. , Philosophical Essays on Dreaming. Ithaca, New York: Cornel University Press, 1977. Empson, Jacob, Sleep and Dreaming.
London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1989. Freud, Sigmund, The Interpretation of Dreams. New York, New York: Random House Inc. , 1994.
Litowinsky, Olga, The Dream Book. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc. , 1978. Ullman; edt.
, The Variety of Dream Experience Expanding our Ways of Working with Dreams. New York: Continue Publishing Co. , 1998.