- Mental Health
Living in a world of dreamers
What is a dream?
A simple definition of a dream is a picture show to keep the sub-conscious part of the brain engaged during sleep. Scientists and doctors have many theories as to the reason for, or function of, dreams. Sleep studies and dream analysis are ongoing and have been for over a century. Even with all of the time and effort being put into the study of dreams, they remain a mystery..
Some people believe dreams are a way of keeping the brain somewhat active during sleep cycles. Others believe that dreams are the brain's way of processing information taken in during waking hours. Still others believe dreams are messages delivered through the sub-conscious and are only processed while the conscious mind is asleep.
Any one or all of these theories could be true of dreams. Until the scientific and medical communities can get a better understanding of the brain itself, we will not know for certain what dreams are, or their purpose.
Types of dreams
There are certain types of dreams that are fairly easy to categorize. These are the ones most commonly reported and can be quite interesting in and of themselves.
Most people are all too familiar with nightmares. These are dreams in which something is happening that scares the dreamer. Common physical signs of a nightmare include increased heartbeat, sweating, crying out, heavy breathing/feeling out of breath and in some cases, physical pain.
Nightmares are thought to be triggered by certain factors. These factors include foods, stress, emotional/physical trauma in the waking world and even horror movies. These are not the only potential nightmare triggers, but are some of the most common.
These dreams are extraordinary in that the dreamer becomes aware that they are in a dream. This heightened awareness allows the dreamer to control what happens in the dreamworld. This may sound impossible to some people, but it can, and does, happen. A lucid dreamer can turn a nightmare into something positive, for example.
There could be possible benefits to lucid dreaming. For example use as a form of stress relief. It is a fact that when people feel they have control over a situation, they tend to be less irritable and happier. Less stress often leads to more peaceful and restful sleep.
These are typical dreams which generally feature mundane activities. For example a person dreams about a typical day at work. Very little happens in the dream to make it seem surreal. The dreamer accepts the dream content because it mimics their waking life.
While no dream could actually be considered "normal" because each person is different. What one dreams about as an average day, another might consider odd. The term normal refers to what is normal to the individual dreamer.
People ranging from the scientific community, to spiritualists, try to decipher the meanings of dreams. Some people believe that dreams are messages, omens or even premonitions of events yet to come. These messages are not always straightforward and that is when an interpretation from a professional can come in handy.
The problem with interpreting dreams is that the dream language is often backwards from what would be understood in the waking world. For example, dreaming of holding hands with a movie star does not necessarily mean that it will happen in real life. It could mean that the dreamer is going to meet someone with influence in their own community or that the dreamer has a crush on the movie star.
Another problem is that dream interpretation is not an exact science. Therefore, opinions on symbolic meanings vary from one interpreter to the next. As with the above movie star example, the interpreter cannot definitively say what a dream means to an individual.
Are dreams another form of reality?
Since dreams are not really understood, this question is up for debate: are dreams a different version of reality? Most people accept what their five basic senses deem as real. For example, you order a cheeseburger for lunch. When the burger arrives you add ketchup and mustard and then proceed to eat it. The burger is in your hands, you can taste the burger and you can smell the burger. Therefore, the burger is real. Then you wake up and realize that you had only been dreaming of that cheeseburger. How is that possible? You held it, smelled it and tasted it, but it was not real; or was it?
Does this mean you cannot trust your own senses? No, your senses are there for good reasons. They keep you from accidentally hurting yourself and maybe even others. Your senses are awakened by certain triggers both real and maybe not so real. It is up to you to decide how to react to the information your senses are giving to your brain. This is harder to do while dreaming, but there is belief that it can be done.
It has been said that the mind is a very powerful thing. It must be, if it somehow convinced you that you were eating a delicious cheeseburger while fast asleep in bed! Perhaps you really were eating that burger in an alternate reality. One where time and space have little bearing on what happens. Now there is some food for thought.
© 2014 Tammy Cramblett