- Mental Health
Dreams: The real information highway
What we know about dreams
I would like to start off by saying this article is not about scientific studies or medical research. I am not qualified to talk about either one. What I can offer is over thirty years of personal experience with my own dreams and dreams of people I know. The goal is to maybe answer some questions and maybe even raise awareness of the importance of dreams.
It is common knowledge that dreaming is one way the brain remains active while we sleep. This explains why sometimes we dream of things and people we know in our everyday lives. Perhaps the brain pulls out random memories and shows them to us like a sort of movie. Depending on the movie, it can be rather pleasant entertainment for our sleep time.
Another thing that is fairly well known is that dreams can be a way of expressing our desires and goals. For example a person that wants to be a lawyer may dream about winning a case in court. This kind of dream might inspire the person to work hard on making that dream come true.
Most of us are familiar with the unpleasantness of bad dreams and nightmares. These are not fun nor entertaining for a dreamer. The good news is that a majority of nightmares and bad dreams can be explained by mundane things. For example, eating foods that don't settle right and then going to sleep. The discomfort of the body trying to digest those foods might cause bad dreams. Another example is watching scary and/or violent movies can cause nightmares.
These are things we know, it is what we don't know that has us curious and confused.
Who, what, where and why
These questions can come up quite often after having a dream that we cannot make sense of. I am going to share with you a dream I had about twenty years ago. To this day, I cannot make any type of sense out of it.
I opened the door and saw a man about to hang himself from light fixture that was in the middle of the room. He had the wooden chair and noose in place and was just standing there. The feeling was overwhelming despair and hopelessness. He was shaking and sweaty. Dressed in a suit, he was obviously about to go to court. The room was a public bathroom in an older courthouse in the deep south. He did not see me and it became apparent that I was not actually part of the scene. He sighed deeply and then got up onto the chair and placed the noose around his neck. I woke up then.
Twenty years later I can remember every detail of that dream as if I had actually been there. When I woke up, I was crying and felt very sad. I do not know who the man was, where the courthouse was or why I had the dream. I had not watched anything on television to cause this type of dream. It was so real I could smell the man's sweat and the bleach used to clean that bathroom. When I think about that dream, I can feel the sadness and hopelessness all over again. The man was innocent of the crime he was charged with, but knew he was going to be found guilty anyway.
I have had other dreams about people and events I did not know in real life. I have also had dreams about things that would happen in the near future. Such as the deaths of friends and family members. Does that make me special? Certainly not. I am not the only one to have such dreams. Do I understand these dreams? Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Anyone that has these types of dreams probably drives themselves about half mad trying to figure them out. Why show us something we don't understand? If we don't know the who's, what's, where's and why's then we cannot hope to do anything about the scene presented to us.
These types of dreams offer a glimpse of things that may or may not happen/have already happened. We have no real way of knowing one way or the other most of the time. Are these dreams the result of our brains just being active during sleep cycles or are we receiving information about real people, places and events?
The dream world
Some people theorize that the dream world is often backwards, or at least off kilter, from the waking world. This may be true in some dreams. In the majority of my dreams, there is nothing noticeably off from the waking world. Now to be clear, I am excluding silly dreams or nightmares about machete wielding undead murderers. Those types of dreams are rare for me. I have dreams that could happen any time. Now to reveal a secret I have learned over thirty years of dreaming.
There is something off kilter in every single dream. I do not pretend to know what it is for each dream or dreamer. It could be the colors, sounds, lack of clocks or even something as simple as a fork being on the wrong side of the plate at a restaurant. Perhaps you just feel like something is not right.
I believe our secondary senses (gut feelings, hunches, etc.) are heightened in the dream world. In my opinion, the reason for this is because we are in a world of brain space (sort of like cyberspace). While in brain space, our physical senses don't matter as much.
In many of my dreams, I could feel something was about to happen before it happened. This feeling had little to do with what I was seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching in the dream. I started keeping a dream journal and began noticing tiny differences between the dreams and my waking world.
Original information source
Some of you may scoff at the idea that dreams can provide any type of valuable or useful real world information. You may very well be right. Although, many people have claimed to garner ideas, creative inspiration and even solve problems while dreaming. I have even located items I thought were lost through dreams.
Is this a supernatural thing? Maybe. Maybe when the conscious mind is resting and the sub-conscious takes over, it relays information we already know but forgot or refuse to acknowledge. The theory has been put out there that our brains actually pick up on more than our conscious selves can process at one time. Perhaps some of that excess information is given to us through our dreams. I do not know if that is true, but it is an interesting thought.
In ancient times, rulers believed that dreams had significance. Ancient scholars and even religious men believed that knowledge and divine inspiration came through dreams. Maybe they knew something we have chosen to forget. We, as a society, tend to blow off dreams as flights of fancy or random silliness. I believe that some dreams may be delivering important information, we just have to be willing to acknowledge it.
Keep on dreaming
I am not an expert on dreams or how the brain works to create them. All I can offer is my opinions and you can take it from there.
If you are interested in what information your dreams may be trying to deliver then I suggest starting a dream journal. It isn't easy, but get yourself into the habit of writing down every detail you can remember the moment you wake up. This might mean grabbing that notebook at two o'clock in the morning.
The reason you want to get into the habit of writing as soon as you wake up is that way you do not forget anything. I have found that if I wake from a dream at say, midnight, and don't write it down then by the time I wake up the next morning I forgot most of the dream. All I am generally left with is a feeling of sort, but nothing at all to go with it.
I would like to say a word or two about dream interpretation. I bought books on the meanings of common dreams such as falling or being decapitated (yes, really it is fairly common). I also bought a couple of books on how to interpret dreams. What I found, only speaking for myself, is that the books did absolutely no good. The books would have me believe that pretty much every dream means I am either going to lose someone close to me or get filthy rich. Well, I am far from rich and losing loved ones is a fact of life. Not much help there. You of course, can make your own decisions on this subject.
The only real advice I can offer is to embrace your dreams, even the unpleasant ones, and write them down. Try to figure out what you can and don't stress over what makes no sense at all. If it is important, it will make sense in the proper time.
© 2014 Tammy Cramblett