What are dreams and what do they mean?
To many people, dreams are a somewhat cryptic, mysterious thing. They contain strange symbols/pictures and often an act which is completely out of hemp. Additionally, there are many who do not remember their dreams – so why even be interested in one’s dreams?
The scientific opinion about the meaning of dreams is very varied. Some scientists – with American Allan Hobson in charge – believe that our dreams are simply the result of random chemical signals in the brain, and therefore dreams contain nothing. Many others are of the belief that the content of our dreams reflect an adaptation of thoughts, experiences, etc. which we have in waking life.
Especially the Americans Calvin Hall and Robert L. Van de Castle have been the proponents of this theory – more specifically in their continuity hypothesis. With that said, there is continuity between that which engages our brain and mind in the waking, conscious life and what we dream at night. They developed a complex coding system in great detail to identify what we people dream, for which they have become very famous for. It turns out that humans generally dream about the same – but in many different ways. For example, we all dream about the people that we are in a close relation to – but these people are different for all of us. Other researchers still believe that our dreams include the ability to help us to a better memory (memory consolidation), as well as to clean up the infinite number of inputs we get during the day. Psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung believed that dreams are a reflection of what is going on in our unconscious. Freud is often quoted as having called dreams the “route to the unconscious”.
Meaning of dreams – help from yourself to yourself.
I think our dreams are an invaluable source of input on who we are and what we grapple with in life, to increase self-awareness and more. Dreams are therefore undoubtedly an elaboration of the things that fill in waking life (continuity hypothesis) – and also an expression of the things that goes on in us that we may not yet be fully aware of (Freud and Jung). The sticking point – and the great thing about dreams – is that they come from within us. This means that we contain the resources to solve our challenges and to develop us in healthy directions.
The dream is always about what is relevant and important to you in your life. They are not only an attempt to deal with things you are struggling with right now – but they also point towards future problems and possible development opportunities for you. The content of dreams is not the result of random chemical signals (Allan Hobson’s thesis has also repeatedly been disproved), but important messages from your unconscious to yourself. The challenge is that you – when you dream – are on another level of consciousness, and therefore your brain uses a second language (symbols, unrealistic stories, etc.) than what you’re used to.
Fortunately, this language can be learned. But it is certainly no coincidence that the processing and interpretation of clients’ dreams is a permanent element of the therapy done by many psychologists (see this post about the widespread use of dream interpretation in psychotherapy). My hope is that the work with dreams also gets brought outside the clinic/therapy situation, i.e. as an invaluable tool, even for those who do not attend therapy.
What is your experience with and attitude towards dreams?