Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Dreams Are Made of?

"All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams."

Elias Canetti

My mother has a simple but strong explanation for why we have particular dreams. She says "What ever we think during the day, follows us in the dreams." I don't know about others but with me its 60 percent true if not more. The remedy for the bad dreams which she prescribes is- remember God for 5 minutes before you go to bed. In case it fails the second thing would be- take the left shoe, touch it 7 times to the ground and put it upside down by your head side under your bed (along with a glass of water). You might call me a superstitious but it always works for me. I believe that dreams are suppressed fears or thoughts which we afraid or are hesitant to express. Or they are the ambitions we always had.

The national sleep research project reveals that an average human being spends one-third of its life sleeping. Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. On the other hand, some physicians like Robert (1888, Hamburg) reckons that the dreams are to forget and clean the memory (to eliminate overlapping).

In 1952, Eugene Aserinsky identified a particular behavior of the eyes during the dreams, called REM or Rapid Eye Movement. REM occurs when a person is having a dream; it is similar as a person moves his eyes to scan the situation around while one is awake. Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams. Dreams also occur during the non-REM sleep, it might be to a lesser extent, but there is no such thing as sleep without dreams. Elephants, during non REM sleep stand, bur lie down for REM sleep.

The recalling of dreams is extremely unreliable, although psychologists believe that it is a skill that can be trained. Commonly, 95 percent of all dreams are not remembered. Women are believed to be better in recalling a dream than men. Mostly, a dream may be recalled upon viewing or hearing a random trigger or stimulus. A 'dream journal' can be used to assist dream recall for psychotherapy or amusement purposes.

There are so many cultures, communities and faiths in the world and so are the interpretations of the dreams. The Chinese people believed that the soul leaves the body to go into the dream world. If a dreamer is suddenly awakened the soul might not return to the body. For this reason some Chinese even today are suspicious of alarm clocks. One of the Hindu Scriptures 'Upnishads' (900-500 BC), emphasize two meanings of dreams first says that dreams are just expressions of inner desires and the second believes (like Chinese) that soul leaves the body but is being guided until it is awakened. The Mexican civilization and some Native American tribes (I am an Indian myself but from India) believe that the dreams are a way to visit and contact their ancestors.

Some religions e.g. Christians and ancient Hebrews believe that the dreams are of supernatural element and they might have a divine power to communicate or to warn. Even in Islam, Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammed received much of the writings of Quran from a dream he had.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) believed that the cause of dream is physiological activity and that the dreams are able to analyze illness and predict diseases. Hippocrates, similar to my mother, had a simple theory on dreams which suggests that during the day, the soul receives images; during the night, it produces images.

More recently Sigmund Freud revolutionized the study of dreams. According to Freud wish-fulfillment was the root behind most of dreams and that the dreams are reflection of the dreamers' deepest desires. Later a student of Freud, named Carl Jung gave his teacher's ideas a new horizon. Similar to his teacher he believed that dreams are related to the dreamer's wishes, which enables them to realize the things they unconsciously desire. Jung believed that the dreams were messages to the dreamer and should not be ignored. He described the dreams as capable to present the dreamer with revelations that uncover and help to resolve emotional problems. He said "Who looks outside, dreams; who looks outside, awakes."

Whatever is hiding behind the mystery of dreams, nobody can help dreaming. There are some people who dream black and white. Color or black and white, life is itself more or less a dream. For some it is more good dream and less nightmare, for others, vice versa. I believe there is a much permanent and happy place out there. A super-conscious state beyond the consciousness. But until we reach there, lets keep dreaming.

"Married or unmarried, young or old, poet or writer, you are still a dreamer, and will one time know, and feel, that your life is but a dream."

Donald G. Mitchell

Harmander S. Maan

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