26 Mar I HAVE A DREAM
I HAVE A DREAM
Why Do We Dream &
What Do Our Dreams Mean?
What did you dream about last night?
Perhaps you were giving a presentation at work and it didn’t quite go to plan in some way. Sounds pretty standard. Or maybe your dream was a bit more absurd. Perhaps you sprouted wings and flew over France with a flock of flamingos.
Could be that last night’s dreams were actually nightmares, where you ran as though you were wading through mud, your pursuer just a breath away before you woke up with a jolt.
Or maybe you don’t remember dreaming about anything at all.
Wherever your nocturnal adventures fall on the spectrum, they are one of the mysteries that links humanity as a whole. Dreaming is something that we all do, throughout our lives, even if we don’t always remember them. We all have this fascinating, mysterious lump of grey matter in our heads that produces meaning and life-like experiences even when there’s nothing really happening and we’re actually just lying there at our most vulnerable. When you think of the incredible acrobatics your imagination is capable of, it’s kind of inspiring.
But you have to admit, it’s weird that we dream whether we want to or not and that we have no control over their seemingly random content.
There’s a mystical quality to dreams because they’re something that we still don’t fully understand. Doctors and scientists have been conducting sleep and dream studies for decades, yet the reason for why we dream may never be fully understood. Where rest and sleep seem to be crucial for our physiological function, dreams appear to be important for our psychological health. And it stands to reason. After all, our subconscious is a facet of consciousness. But that consciousness and the way it works is one of life’s greatest mysteries, and we’re no closer to figuring that out either.
Throughout history, we have tried to interpret and explain the nature of dreams. Ancient cultures believed that time spent asleep is time spent in other worlds, only possible to cross into whilst we are slumbering and the veils separating them are at their thinnest. In contrast, Freudians believe that the time we spend sleeping is when our subliminal selves work through the repressed urges we have. But the truth of the matter is, there have been plenty of investigations into what our dreams might mean yet all of them remain inconclusive.
So, many people who are left wondering when they wake up from a particularly weird night. What does seeing an ex, being a ghost or running away from something mean in the context of a dream? It’s kind of maddening and there are definitely some dreams that leave more of a residue on us than others. A quick search on Google for ‘dream dictionary’ throws up over 49 million results, so there are a lot of people doing their best to understand their own visions.
In the end though, regardless of what anyone else or a dictionary might say, your dreams are completely and totally unique to you. The likelihood is, only you can interpret their meaning. Yes, your subconscious may have constructed a strange dream about a birthday bbq you were at with your childhood friends who are all wearing blue tracksuits and Lady Gaga had come to sing – but maybe it’s the single detail of some jelly on the countertop that really left a weird impression and that would only ever resonate with you.
Those details are why dreams are inherently personal and can never really be shared. Anyone who has babbled to their partner or friend in the morning will know that. You can never convey the entire holistic 3D experience that you had in your mind. How do you explain what the air smelled like? Or what you heard? How you felt? Whether you had a particular taste in your mouth? How long it lasted? What was in the background? It’s all locked away in your head, built of your own experiences, associations and exposures.
For some people, the language of dreams are sacred. They might be where we can tap into our intuition, receive messages or gather inspiration. Paul McCartney wrote the famous song “Yesterday” after a nocturnal doze. It’s also how James Cameron came up with the concept for the Terminator series. And those are just two of many examples. Lots of people attribute one or more serious decisions that they’ve made in their lives to dreams. And it’s not so crazy. We all get gut feelings now and again, and it would be easy to imagine that they arise from the same place in our psyches.
However, we’re also far from being the only being in the animal kingdom that dreams. Anyone with a pet cat or dog can tell you that their little paws often kick and stretch as their brains recreate an imaginary situation in which they would be running or jumping. So what is a dream to them? What do they dream of? Do their dreams even have meaning?
We’ve all had that experience of waking from a slumber that was so wonderful that we’ve wanted to stay in the trance, in a realm where anything has seemed possible. And now, there are businesses who want are trying to sell you those dreams. Literally. Lucid dreaming is the latest hack that tech start-ups are trying to crack. By stimulating brain activity or ingesting chemical concoctions, the idea is that people will be able to dream about whatever they want – without the usual months or years of practice and dedication required. In the near future, you might have the power to control your dreams and guide them in whatever direction you so choose. Which begs the question – what would you choose to dream about, given the chance?
In any case, there are things you can do right now to at least improve your chances of having a good night’s sleep populated with happy dreams. Being aware of the effects of any medications can have a huge effect for example. Nicotine patches are just one which are well known to enhance dreams… and also nightmares. Being mindful of what you eat can make a difference too – there is some truth to the whole ‘no cheese before bed’ rule after all. Also, consider the position that you sleep in. Sleeping on your tummy might initiate a racy sex dream, whilst sound and smell can also play a part in what occurs in your noggin while you’re napping.
It will be an amazing time to be alive when we are able to exert more power over our subconsciousness – and yet it will also be sad to say goodbye to the random mysterious lottery where our brains are allowed to romp around and behave exactly as they choose. Who knows what effect that may have on our intuition or our ability to learn, process or file memories in the long term? For now, maybe it’s best we just enjoy the enigma.