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The Purpose of Dreams

Updated on October 2, 2022
Sue B. profile image

Sue writes about dreams, real estate, mental health, human resources, and parenting.

Dreams can be very meaningful for the dreamer and can have many purposes. Dreams may allow us to solve a problem, process information, remind us of something important, heal ourselves psychologically, grow personally and spiritually and make better decisions about our futures.

Dreams can help you work out a problem and see possible solutions you couldn't find when awake.
Dreams can help you work out a problem and see possible solutions you couldn't find when awake. | Source

To Solve a Problem

Dreams may allow us to solve problems. Our dreams allow us to consider a different perspective and listen to our unconscious. Our conscious minds filter out a lot of information every day in order to allow us to make sense of our environment. Some of this information may be useful when we are faced with a problem. Many scientists, artists, inventors and writers finding solutions and inspiration within dreams.

Examples of dreams that either solved problems or inspired an invention:

  • A Nobel Prize winning physiologist,Otto Loewi, had a dream about a study he later conducted that led to his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses.
  • Organic Chemist Friedrich August KekulĂ© von Stradonitz discovered the molecular structure of both carbon and benezene through his dreams.
  • Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine thought of the concept himself but could not get his invention to to work until he dreamed of the solution and changed his design.
  • Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan solved mathematical problems within dreams. A Hindu goddess named Namakkal would appear in his dreams and present him with mathematical formulas.

a quote from Alfred Alder explaining the purpose of dreams as they relate to solving problems.
a quote from Alfred Alder explaining the purpose of dreams as they relate to solving problems.
Dreaming and help you make sense of all that has happened during the day.
Dreaming and help you make sense of all that has happened during the day. | Source

Processing the Content of the Day

Have you ever noticed the morning after a very emotionally charged day things seem so much clearer? Dreams can allow your mind to filter through the information of the day and reprioritize. Our brains tend to exaggerate emotionally charged content making our perspective a bit more skewed than necessary.

Every day, we are bombarded with tons of information- more information than we could ever process. We have an opportunity to weed through this information at night. We can re-prioritize, catch something important we had ignored, take on a new perspective, and muster up the strength to face the next day refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

Most people agree that they learn more after a good night's sleep but now recent studies are supporting the idea that we learn more from day if we get a good night's sleep the night after. This supports the idea that dreams allow us to process the content of the day, organize ourselves and complete important lessons within our dreams.

To Highlight Something Important that Demands your Attention

So much happens in our day that we may miss something important. Perhaps our priorities are off or perhaps we were preoccupied with the wrong issue.

Sometimes dreams, especially nightmares, are highlighting something that we must pay attention to and have either not noticed or are ignoring. Dreams can act as our internal gauges. The gauge light may go on if there is an issue or a particular part of us needs to be checked out.

Many people report waking up and being haunted by a certain fact of their recent experience. The detective awakes to identify an inconsistent within a suspects statement, the doctor awakes to identify signs and symptoms within a patient that are inconsistent with the current diagnosis, the lover becomes aware of the inconsistencies within her partner's behavior.

Dreams can reflect our paranoia, worry and fears but they can also help us take notice of important and realistic details we may have missed in the day's bluster and chaos that are important to our lives and future decisions.

Dreams can help you heal emotionally and psychologically.
Dreams can help you heal emotionally and psychologically. | Source

Psychological Healing

Dreams often serve as a way for us to heal psychologically as well as spiritually. Dreams often represent the dreamer's current mental health and progress towards resolving psychological challenges and issues.

Psychological Healing dreams tend to allow the dreamer to work out deep and core issues that may be influencing their waking life but are not taking priority in conscious thought.

For example, the individual that was abandoned by his parents may struggle with intimate relationships and have trouble trusting others in his waking life. His dreams may assist him in addressing the unresolved emotional and psychological stress he suffered from being abandoned. By resolving the core issue, the dreamer may resolve some day-to-day struggles he faces.

Frederick Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, on dreams
Frederick Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, on dreams

Personal Development & Growth

Dreams can not only reflect our current psychological, spiritual and emotional states but can also help us make important breakthroughs within our personal development and growth. Many people report having inspirational dreams as they move on to new and exciting stages of their lives. It is the dream experience that is often credited as the catalyst to important internal developments.

Famous and powerful figures often associate personal dreams with their success and inner strength. Not only can dreams help us process problems, they can also provide us with a platform to work out our internal struggles and challenges allowing us time absent of waking life distractions. Dreams allow dreamers to take a look inward, evaluate their current status, current progress on their current stage and determine what they need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to achieve their goals and foster greater self-awareness and discovery.

Carl Jung on dreams
Carl Jung on dreams

To Foretell the Future

Many dreamers claim they have prophetic dreams that foretell future events. While this type of dream, sometimes labeled psi dreams or psychic dreams, are being studied, there is much debate on the topic.

It is logical to consider that most, if not all, dreams that foretell a future event may result of the dreamer's unconscious tying together a lot of information the dreamer is not fully conscious of. This unconscious information is often utilized by trained investigators. The human mind filters a lot of information throughout the day in order to make sense of the environment. Sometimes, important clues are filtered out of the person's consciousness.

Information within the unconscious is still available during dreams. A dream may tie together information that is conscious to the dreamer along with other clues that were not fully recognized forming an educated assumption of what will happen next.

These type of dreams often warn us of what could happen if we continue on our current path or we do not intervene and take a different course of action.

Many individuals report having prophetic dreams that come true. What is also interesting are the dreams that appear prophetic that do not come true. Perhaps the dreamer changed circumstances enough to avoid the event or perhaps the dream was not prophetic at all and provided a reflection of the dreamer's current psychological, emotional, mental, spiritual, and/or physical health.

From my perspective, dreams about the negative future tend to relate to the dreamer's fears, anxiety, and/or anticipation of negative consequences to their current or past actions.

The Purpose of Dreams

What have been the purpose of your dreams lately?

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