Sweet Dreams

Dreams are the most curious asides and soliloquies of the soul. When [we recollect our dreams], it is like meeting the ghost of [ourselves]. Dreams often surprise us into the strangest self-knowledge…Dreaming is the truest confessional, and often the sharpest penance. ~ Alexander Smith 

  • Do you “get” your dreams?
  • Are your dreams “soliloquies of your soul?”
  • Do you dream in technicolor?
  • Are they filled with long, memorable story lines or brief snippets of scenes?

My dreams have always been a bit of a mystery to me.

But I do know this:

Whatever they are, however they come, dreams are important. They’re gateways to the subconscious.

It’s been said dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions. Vincent Van Gogh said, “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” 

Dreams define our nocturnal existence.

It’s not uncommon for Marsha and me to share our dreams in the morning. While Marsha’s reflection can take a few minutes, mine takes maybe 30 seconds.

Marsha is not afraid to visit her subconscious life. I am. 

Fear keeps me from probing the meaning of my dreams because I’m afraid of what I might find. 

As a child I was haunted by nightmares and often walked in my sleep looking for a way to escape whatever was frightening me. As a consequence my feelings about my dreams have been influenced by my childhood experiences.

I’ve been told dreams are a treasure trove of useful information about the self. Erich Fromm says, “A dream is a microscope through which we look at the hidden occurrences in our soul.”   Carl Jung observes, Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” 

So, Pat, what’s really to be afraid of? The studies suggest there’s nothing to fear. Indeed, dreaming during REM sleep performs a vital function. By helping to take the sting out of the turmoil of the day dreams help us reach closure to those very events.

All kinda like a nocturnal car wash for the spirit.

One study analyzed the topics of 10,000 dreams. The most common involved: physical aggression, interpersonal conflicts, feelings of helplessness and inability to escape from a difficult situation.

Yup — all stuff most of us wrangle with every day.

“It’s said that time heals all wounds, but research suggests that it is time spent in dream sleep that is what heals.” ~ Dr. Matthew Walker

Dreams are about healing, not hurting.

According to some scientists who study sleep, what’s happening when we’re dreaming is “emotional memory reactivation.” Doing so in a stress-free brain allows the brain to re-process upsetting memories in a safer, calmer environment.

Now, how cool is that!

There are clinical studies that prove dreams relieve stress.

In one study, healthy young adult participants were divided into two groups to watch a set of emotion-inducing images while inside an MRI scanner. 

Twelve hours later, they were shown the same emotional images.

For half the participants, the two showings and the 12-hour break occurred within the same day, while for the other half the 12-hour break included a night of sleep.

Those who slept in between the two sessions reported a significant decrease in emotional charge they felt in response to seeing the images a second time, and a follow-up MRI scan supported their subjective reports.

In contrast, those who remained awake between the two sessions showed no such decrease in emotional reactivity over time.

So there you have it — dreaming has the potential to mend disturbing memories so we can learn from them and better manage the stresses of everyday life. 

It’s no exaggeration to say dreams stand guard over our mental health.

But while I understand the importance of connecting the dots between my conscious and unconscious life, for me it ain’t easy. I find it really difficult because my dreams are so crazy weird. As I heard one dream specialist say, “Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.

And understanding dream language takes some work. But as Freud reminds us, Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” 

So maybe my crazy dreams aren’t so crazy after all.

My takeaway is nothing conquers fear quite like knowledge, and dreams are a gateway to knowledge of the inner self. Which means that little boys can grow up — even when they’re old men.

“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.” ~ Sigmund Freud

Sweet dreams.

Just a thought…


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