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On Dreams

Updated on February 12, 2018
CJStone profile image

CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

— W.B. Yeats (1865–1939) "He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"

Nothing happens unless first we dream.” Carl Sandburg.

Joseph's dream

My son is named Joseph.

The day after he was born I came to the hospital to see him and his mum. He was fast asleep and dreaming. There he was, this little body in a cot, his eyes rolling around in his sockets as if there was a war going on in his head. Maybe there was a war going on, who knows?

It was clearly something stupendous.

His tiny hands were clenching and unclenching as if he was climbing a ladder to the stars.

At the time I was reading a book by Laurens van der Post which referred to the biblical figure of Joseph, the perennial dreamer whose dreams came true. I knew immediately that this was my son’s name.

In the bible Joseph dreams that he is a sheath of wheat and that all the sheaths around him bow down to him. Later he dreams that the sun and the moon and the stars also bow down to him. Out of jealousy his brothers sell him into slavery; but Joseph shows himself to be adept at the interpretation of dreams and in time becomes the Pharaoh’s trusted servant and the governor of the land of Egypt. When his brothers come to Egypt to buy corn they are forced to bow. In this way his dream comes true.

In the biblical version of dream interpretation, then, dreams tell the future.

At the beginning of the 20th Century Sigmund Freud, a secular Jew, wrote a book called The Interpretation of Dreams. He was inspired to this by the tradition amongst Jewish mystics, dating back to the earliest times, of interpreting meaning in the seemingly irrelevant jumble of people’s dreams.

Freud’s version of dream interpretation is that they represent wish fulfilment. This is the example he gives. A little boy wants to eat cherries in the day, but is stopped by his mother. That night he dreams he is eating cherries, thus fulfilling the wish denied to him in the day.

Lucid dreaming

Modern science offers us another interpretation of what dreams might mean. According to Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley they mean nothing at all. Their theory is called the activation-synthesis hypothesis and it suggests that dreams are just random electrical impulses in the brain. The only reason we see a “story” in them is that the waking mind cannot cope with disorder, and therefore adds its own narrative to the random muddle. It tries to make sense out of the nonsense.

This may or may not be true, but it fails to explain a number of important things.

So, for example we can be highly creative in dreams. Paul McCartney first heard the melody for “Yesterday” in a dream; Mary Shelley envisaged the plot to Frankenstein; and Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz discovered the structure of the Benzene molecule. Over the centuries a number of people have made many important discoveries in their dreams.

Also it is possible to be dreaming and awake at the same time.

This is called “lucid” dreaming. The dreamer wakes up in the dream to know that he is dreaming.

I have had a number of lucid dreams in my life. Almost invariably it ends up with me attempting to fly. I think, “hey, I’m dreaming, so I can fly!” At which point I will launch myself upwards to go soaring and spiralling in the air. The sheer exhilaration of being able to fly, even for a brief moment, is enough to keep me excited for days.

As for what dreams may “mean”, this is up to you to interpret.

My belief is that very often dreams represent hidden desire. In this sense both Freud and the biblical Joseph were right. Dreams are wish-fulfilment. They tell the future because they reveal your own secret wishes. If you act upon them, then your dreams will, indeed, come true.

© 2010 CJStone


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    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 6 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I have great action-filled dreams; I'm usually flying a single-engine plane, although in real life I don't know how to fly and never give a thought to learning how. The strange thing is that my best friend and I often have similar dreams on the same night. The next time we talk on the phone, one of us will begin to relate our latest dream and we are amazed to find that out. This has happened at least a half a dozen times. We only see each other about once a month and live busy lives. It's quite odd!

    • profile image

      sandieganliz 7 years ago


    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

      In my dreams I am chasing rabbits and squirrels...oh, wait...that's my dog. But I do believe in that dreams can not only help make sense of things that have happened to us, but can prepare us for things that are going to happen. Even if we don't remember them, there is a whole subconscious world inside our heads that influences more than we can imagine.

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Everyone dreams, msorensson, you just don't remember them that's all. Probably a consequence of you being such a sound sleeper.

      I expect you are still running KoffeeKlatch Gals. That's an anxiety dream.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      In my dreams I was always running away from something or someone. I don't remember my dreams as much anymore. I wonder if I'm still running.

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      First I love your description of your being in the hospital and looking at the baby Joseph.

      Second..dreams..I don't dream anymore..or very rarely as you define dreams as an activity while asleep.

      I dreamt a lot when I was younger. Some of them I stopped myself. I willed them to stop. They scared me and I did not know how to handle them at the time.

      You will find the meaning of your dreams later on when you are ready. Only you can interpret them accurately.

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      In my dreams flying is associated with exhilaration and freedom rather than anxiety. I've had that falling dream though, and that one definitely makes you feel anxious! Thanks for dropping by. Dreams are always fascinating.

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 7 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      For many years I had a recurring dream of falling from some very high places. I would wake up, startled, just before I hit bottom. Finally, one day I didn't wake up and did hit the bottom under a high cliff. I bounced up and walked away. I never had the dream again after that. I guess whatever had been bothering me all those years turned out not to be so bad after all.

      It has been several years since I had one, but I used to regularly have dreams of escaping by flying.

      In retrospect, I believe those dreams, apparently related to fear anxiety and/or escape, diminished as my faith in God increased, CJ.