Hippocrates was a Greek physician who is considered to be the father of modern medicine. He thought that dreams were a sign of diseases in the body that had yet to be diagnosed. A lot of military leaders and ancient rulers made military and political decisions based on their dreams and interpretations of them. And, in Sigmund Freud’s book, The Interpretation of Dreams, he theorized that our dreams reflect thoughts and emotions that our egos repress. (Basically, he thought that we live out our fantasies in our dreams.)
Our theories about the reasons we have dreams are as varied as they have been through the ages. Currently, the most popular theory is that our brains are like computers, and dreams are their way of processing data, such as our memories, hopes and fears.
What Happens to Our Brains During Dreams?
Scientists have wondered about what causes dreams, too, so they’ve done extensive research to see what our brains do when we dream. There are still a lot of unknown and mysterious brain processes that take place, but they did find out a great deal about which parts of our brains “light up” and become active during dreams. The part of your brain that is most active during a dream is the limbic center, which is what controls our emotions. The dorsolateral cortex, which controls reasoning and logic, is disabled during dreams. This is why what happens in your dreams seems perfectly logical while they’re happening, but not when we wake up and think about it.
Is Dream Interpretation Easy?
You would think that interpreting your dreams would be as easy as performing a simple Google search, right? But, it’s not that simple. There’s no one-size-fits-all interpretation for dreams. There are a wide variety of cultures, beliefs and feelings. A dream about a snake may mean one thing to one person, but mean something completely different to someone else. One person may love snakes, while another may be terrified of them. And, in some cultures they symbolize rebirth, while in others they can symbolize vengeance. So, there’s not really a universal system for dream interpretation.
Dreams are very personal and everyone interprets them differently. If you want the best possible insight into your dreams, start keeping a dream journal. As soon as you wake up, write down the main subject of your dream and as much of the details as you can remember. Over time, you’ll get better at recalling details. You may also notice that there are recurring themes. These could indicate things you’re stressed out about, things you’re afraid of, or things you’re dealing with at the time.
The rate of scientific and medical advancement in the past century is astounding, and yet much of the human mind remains a mystery. So, we still don’t know as much as we would like to about dreams. It’s very likely that people will be mystified by them for years to come.