Dreams have fascinated humankind from the beginning of time. As a result of endless efforts to explain their purpose and content, presently, extensive research is being conducted while thousands of tomes on dream theory and their interpretation are available in every library around the world.
Broadly, every attempt made at explaining dreams and what their content signifies has brought about the unconscious as primary key to unlocking their mysteries. Freud believed that dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious” and therefore to forgotten childhood memories and unfulfilled desires. Today, dream theory and scientific research focuses on a rather unconventional approach called lucid dreaming while the Jungian interpretation is still held in high regard and neuroscience gains more and more ground revealing startling facts about dreams and how we could record them in the future. Let’s have a look!
Lucid dreaming is a conscious process defined as the dreamer’s ability to be aware that he/she is dreaming. During such an occurrence the dreamer is also able to control the unfolding dream experience by consciously choosing one thing over another (i.e. a nightmare can be transformed into a happy dream). Scientific results have established that lucid dreaming is real and furthermore, that it can be associated with other phenomena: RED (rapid eye movement), false awakening, sleep paralysis, and out-of-body experiences.
Lucid dreaming happens spontaneously to a small number of people. However, research has shown that it can be approached as an ability that has to be exercised on a daily basis. The mental exercise proposed is that of constantly asking ourselves if what we are experiencing is reality or a dream, followed by comparing and analyzing our surroundings in order to find any possible mismatches.
Jungian approach to dream interpretation
Carl Jung rejected parts of Freud’s interpretation of dreams, and refused to postulate their inner connection with unfulfilled childhood sexual desires. However, he believed that dreams are gateways to a better understanding of the individual and collective unconscious by deciphering the symbols or the archetypes (anima, animus, and the shadow), and the images manifested during the experience. His efforts went on to uncover the premonitory messages, the philosophical pronouncements and the ultimate truths that he thought dreams convey, through a subjective and objective analysis method.
Jung theorized that dreams are made up of daily experiences which may not be consciously recognized as important, but which remain stored in the unconscious and surface through dreams only if they have a vital role in our lives. Thus, repetitive dreams occur in order to draw our attention upon something that we have not fully understood or dealt with -an aspect that is of primary importance for our well-being.
Video recording of dreams
Latest scientific research suggests that in a few decades we will be able to video record our dreams during the night and watch them the next morning. Specifically, a team of researchers at UC Berkeley, California, have used brain imaging data extracted with the help of an fMRI, to develop a computer model based on the brain activity of several subjects while they were watching YouTube videos. Although the computer model’s ability to predict is at an incipient stage, you can actually decode from the image what the individual is seeing: a person or an object. Due to the difficulties in recording all neural activity in the visual cortex, the images are extremely blurry and one dimensional, but the captures are in color, which is pretty amazing.
Why we can’t live without sleep and dreams
It is common knowledge that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations, to cognitive impairing, extensive memory loss, low immune system, and even death. But what does sleep provide us with that is so vital for our existence and why can’t we artificially induce it? Neurobiologists have proven that during the night, when our brain’s activity is at its low point, except when we are dreaming, the exhausted resources of neurotransmitters are gradually replenished. These neurotransmitters are then used during the day for regulating brain cell activity, being essential to every action or decision that we make, and also responsible for how we feel (mood). Interestingly enough, our bodies will automatically and naturally compensate a sleepless night by dreaming twice as much the next one. Thus, both sleeping and dreaming are essential for our mental and physical health overall.
Dreams have undoubtedly influenced the way we perceive ourselves and how we see the world around us. They are depicted in paintings and are a source of inspiration for artists all over the world. To what extend do you feel that dreams have enriched your life?