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Dreams - Why They Occur, What They Mean, and How to Remember Them

Updated on October 07, 2016

What Really is a Dream?

The Science Behind Dreams is a fascinating book about why we dream what we dream. I learned a lot about myself while reading this and I think you will too!

Defining a Dream

Dreams are involuntary thoughts that occur in succession, typically while sleeping - however people can also dream while they are awake. Dreams are how the mind, body and spirit communicate with each other in a symbolic state of being.

Our concsious mind (also known as our thinking mind) only takes up a tiny part of our brain. The large, and mainly undiscovered frontier of the brain is the part that controls our imagination.

Dreams are controlled by the unconcsious and are believed to reveal things about our lives, our purpose, our relationships and more. What happens when we are not dreaming is what defines what happens when do dream.

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Explaining Why We Dream

Dreaming is the way our unconcsious self attempts to communicate with our concsious self using symolic imagery representing important aspects of ourselves, and our lives.

The subconscious mind that creates dreams sends messages via symbols and imagery, which in turn convey ideas or situations in a visual language.

Experts are divided between why we dream. Some experts say that dreams help us relax and rejuvinate our bodies during sleep. Other experts believe that dreams hold powerful meanings.

Famous psychologist Carl Jung taught that dreams were reflections of underdeveloped parts of a person's personality, and that dreams were compensation for actions performed while the person is awake.

Psychiatry professor Ernest Hartmann, M.D. has theorized that our dreams are reflections of our inner most feelings. This theory is based around the idea that our dreams serve the purpose of coping mechanisms for our unconcsious.

Psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that dreams were powerful tools - reflections of our deepest desires and wishes. Freud suggests that when we dream, we release emotions that we suppress while we are awake.

Some psychologists believe that dreams are our unconcsious mind's way of resolving conflict, stress and problematic situations in our real life. This is why people often here the phrase "sleep on it" when dealing with large problems or obstacles.



Why Do We Dream?

A List of Universal Themes for Dreams

Some dreams are easily identifiable, while other dreams are strange, vague and hard to decipher.

Despite the elusiveness of our unconscious minds, psychologists have been able to come up with fifteen universal themes for dreams, and they are:

  1. Flying
  2. Failing an exam or winding up in class right before an exam starts and you are completely unprepared
  3. Being naked in public
  4. Becoming paralyzed, or stuck in time
  5. Falling
  6. Running late for something important
  7. Losing some or all of your teeth
  8. Being rejected
  9. Being hit by a natural disaster, such as a tornado, a tsunami or a hurricane
  10. Driving or crashing a car
  11. Being chased by someone
  12. Being rejected or abandoned
  13. Finding money or losing money
  14. Going back to your childhood
  15. Being with people from the past, particularly people who have passed away

Although these have been identified as universal themes, psychologists say that if one theme in particular occurs over and over again, it takes on a whole new meaning.

What Do Your Dreams Mean?

Tips for Remembering Your Dreams

Some people have the ability to wake up with a vivid, crystal clear recollection of their dreams, others believe they don't dream at all. But scientists agree that we all dream, where they tend to disagree is how to interpret these dreams.

If you are one of those people who can't ever recall your dreams, it can be close to impossible to try to interpret these dreams. But dreams can hold secrets our unconcsious wants us to discover, or realize emotions we are refusing to face.

Remembering your dreams can potentially help you along the journey called life.

Here are five ways to help you stop dream amnesia and remember your dreams:

  1. Studies show that the more observent a person is, the more vividly the person dreams. Although some people are naturally born more observant than others, you can train yourself to become more observant by carrying a tiny notebook with you as often as possible, and jotting down small things that you notice.
  2. Journal when you first wake up, every morning. Whether you remember the dream or not, just begin writing. Studies show that free form writing is the best way to tap into the unconcsious, which means that this style of writing may help you recall your dreams.
  3. Meditating is a fantastic way to tap into the unconcsious mind, as is yoga. Research shows that people who engage in these types of activities are more likely to recall their dreams that people who live hectic, busy lives and don't make time for themselves.
  4. Get a good nights rest! This may sound silly, or just plain obvious, but some people don't realize that if they don't get a decent night's sleep, they will rarely remember their dreams. Vivid dreams most often occur when we enter REM sleep, one of the deepest stages of sleep and the stage that those who are sleep deprived most often miss the most. You should be getting around 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
  5. Not only does the amount of time you sleep matter, but the position you sleep in matters as well. If you toss and turn all night, you will get restless sleep, leading to an inability to recall your dreams. Tossing and turning is actually a result of falling asleep in a poor position. Typically, the position in which you wake is the position you should go to sleep in order to promote restful sleep, and vivid dreams.

Do Dreams Serve a Purpose?

Learning How to Interpret Your Dreams

Now that you have learned how to recall your dreams, you are left with the decision of how to interpret your dreams. Unfortunately, because dreams are so mysterious, there is no one sure fire way to interpret them.

Some people choose to interpret them with dream dictionaries, which outline common dreams and theories of how to interpret those dreams. Some people choose to use energy healers and other spiritual workers to help them analyze their dreams. Others choose to ignore their dreams completely.

Those who ignore their dreams are often those who believe that dreams are only physiological stimulations. Those who choose to interpret their dreams believe that dreams are necessary psychologically.

There are many online tools you can use to help decipher your dreams, but there is no scientific way yet to know which method is right, if any are. For those who are interested, here are some helpful tools for dream interpretation:


What are Lucid Dreams?

Those who have either been gifted with the ability to experience lucid dreams, as well as those who gain the ability to experience lucid dreams are often highly spiritual individuals.

A lucid dream occurs when the person dreaming is aware that they are inside of a dream. It is believed that lucid dreamers have the ability to manipulate their dreams, and interact with the people and situations they encounter in the dream world.

Lucid dreams are not the same as false awakenings - when a person is dreaming that they are sleeping, and dreams that they wake up, but remain in the unconcsious.

What are Day Dreams?

Day dreams are a bit of a mystery to psychologists and there is no one definition set in stone to describe this phenomena.

However day dreams are believed to be a dissassociative state while we are awake in which we escape into the dream world for a short period of time.

Some people experience very vivid day dreams while other people experience mild day dreams. Psychologists are unsure whether or not both qualify as true dreams, but most agree that the more vivid the daydream, the more power the dream holds.

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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 2 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      BraveWarrior, I wish I had an idea of what your dreams mean, but you got me stumped! Maybe one of the dream interpretor tools can tell you more!

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 2 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thanks Frank!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      what an interesting hub, most of writings start off as dreams.. maks me wonder hmmm.. awesome hub Kathleen :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Kathleen, I've always been fascinated by dreams. I dream all the time and remember them when I wake up. Some I remember for years and years. When I was younger I would have flying dreams. They were always the result of someone chasing me. I'd tread air until I was just above the treetops. This was how I escaped the "bad guy". I still have flying dreams but they are more to show the other participants in the dreams that I can do something they can't. That's my subconscious telling me I have a gift and should be confident in that gift.

      I've also been dreaming of people from my past lately; many of whom are now gone from this world. The odd thing is, they all have sexual themes. I haven't quite figured that one out yet. It'll come to me, I'm sure. What are your thoughts on this?

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      This is fascinating. Dreams are such a fascinating field of study. I've always been able to vividly recall my dreams or lucid dream if I wanted to, but since coming a parent I don't bother to try as often, lol. For years I didn't just 'go to sleep'-- I 'crashed'. Awesome work here, voted up.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hey Maria....thanks for the honorary mention....LOL.....except, how is poor Kathleen supposed to know WHO "Effer" is!?....LOL. That's like me referring to you as "Coochie!"( I still think that's a body part, Maria!)

      Now we've warned Kathleen that one day she too will have a Hubber-given Nick name!!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Hi Kathleen,

      I have long been fascinated with dreams as my Momma and I would discuss/ interpret them ever since I could remember. I have her books now and treasure them, often consulting them for myself or family.

      Your writing is just as wonderful as my friend effer promised it would be. I was originally lead to you because of your kindness to my friend, Sha(una).

      You exemplify why HubPages is worthwhile...welcome to our community. Hugs, Maria

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very interesting information about Dreams!

      I do have lot of dreams and I also believe in interpreting them.

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Voted up!

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