For centuries, people have wondered about the meaning of dreams. The early civilizations thought dreams were a medium for communication between humans and the gods and some were certain that dreams predicted the future. Since then, many new theories about dreams have been formed. In this article, we will look at what happens as we dream and if they really have significance.
What Happens When We Dream?
Dreams are basically stories we play out when we sleep. They may follow a linear format or be highly abstract in nature. Scientists estimate that most people have three to six dreams each night with up to 95 percent being forgotten shortly after waking up. Dreaming happens during REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement when our eyes move in different directions very quickly. REM sleep usually occurs within 90 minutes after falling asleep and since the brain is much more active during this time, the dreams are most intense.
One dream analyst described dreams as a thinking process based on the thoughts we have during the day. The waking thoughts get incorporated into dreams as symbols and metaphors. When we enter REM, the brain works differently from when we are awake. This is because the prefrontal cortex, which controls rational thought, becomes dormant, but the amygdala, which controls emotions, becomes increasingly active. Dreams tend to be more emotional and focused then thoughts when we are awake.
Do Dreams Have Meaning?
It can be fun to recall dreams the next morning, but it can also be important to decipher if there is any significance to our dreams. There are different theories when it comes to looking for meaning. One theory is the activation-synthesis hypothesis as proposed by John Allen Hobson and Robert McCarley, psychiatrists from Harvard. This theory states that dreams are meaningless and are just random thoughts and imagery pulled from memories when the brain has electrical impulses. The theory goes further to suggest that humans construct dream stories when they wake up to try to make sense of the imagery.
By contrast, Freud believed dreams uncovered the repressed unconscious of our wishes and conflicts. Freud believed dreams are imagery of what has been repressed. Freud studied dreams to gain understanding of the unconscious mind. Yet another theory known as the threat simulation theory, described dreams as a form of defense mechanism. This allows us to face our fears in a safe way. If this theory is to be believed, we should assume that when in a state of fear or overly anxious, we dream more. It can be impossible to choose one theory, but people are more open to trying to search for meaning from dreams.
Interpreting Dream Meanings
Dream interpretation allows people to learn from their dreams that seem to be revealing something. There are some things you can do to understand your dream meanings. Pay attention to the dream content in comparison to your waking life. You may start noticing connections. While we know little about dream meanings, the benefits of dreaming are well known. The REM stage allows us to commit things to memory and helping with the cognitive processes. Dreams also provide emotional benefits. Many dreams can aid in creativity, serving as the basis for songs, painting, and much more.