DREAMS



Whether in ancient or in contemporary times, dreams are a mystery of the mind that everyone has experienced. Quite likely, most individuals have also pondered the meaning of their dreams. Whether these sleep-time adventures are considered voyages of the soul, messages from the gods, the doorway of the unconscious, or accidental byproducts of insufficient oxygen in the brain, down through the ages thoughtful men and women have sought to learn more about this intriguing activity of the sleeping consciousness.

Among the ancients there were the dream incubation temples of Serapis, Egyptian god of dreams; and later, of Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing. Thousands of people made their pilgrimage to these holy places to seek advice and healing from their dreams. After rigorous periods of fasting, prayer, and sacred ritual, they would attempt to induce revelatory nocturnal visions by spending the night in the temple. This practice was commonly employed by the cultic prophets and the kings of the ancient cities of Lagash in Sumer and Ugarit in Syria.

Plato (c. 428–348 or 347 B.C.E.) saw dreams as a release for passionate inner forces. In the second century, another Greek, Artemidorous of Ephesus, produced the Oneirocritica, the encyclopedia that was the forerunner to thousands of dream books throughout the ages.

In Hinduism, it is believed that the immortal soul within the physical body is able to leave the "house of flesh" during sleep and to travel wherever it desires. It is also thought that the passing to the next life after death may be compared to a sleeper awakening from a dream. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states that the soul, the "self-luminous being," may assume many forms, high and low, in the world of dreams. "Some say that dreaming is but another form of waking, for what a man experiences while awake he experiences again in his dreams.…As a man passes from dream to wakefulness, so does he pass at death from this life to the next" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.3.11–14, 35).

The Mesopotamian and Egyptian courts employed skilled professionals who sought to interpret dreams and visions. The Israelites, by contrast, believed that interpretation of dreams could be accomplished only with the Lord's guidance. "For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet a man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when sleep falleth upon men in slumberings upon the bed; then He openeth the ears of men, and speaketh their instructions, that he may withdraw man from his purpose and hide pride from man" (KJV: Job 33:14). The Talmud, the Hebrew sacred book of practical wisdom, reveals that the Jews gave great importance both to the dream and to the one whom the Lord gave the knowledge to interpret the dream. Joseph and Daniel were two Israelites who attained high regard for their skill as dream interpreters.

Dreaming of worlds beyond. (ANDREW C. STEWART/FORTEAN  PICTURE LIBRARY)
Dreaming of worlds beyond. (
ANDREW C. STEWART/FORTEAN PICTURE LIBRARY
)

Dreams, or night visions, might be auditory and present a direct message (as in Job 33:15–17, Genesis 20:3,6) or at other times be symbolic, requiring skilled interpretation. Jacob had a dream of a ladder set up on Earth, the top of it reaching to heaven. He beheld in this dream angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder with the Lord standing above it, confirming the covenant of Abraham to Jacob (Genesis 28:12). King Solomon received both wisdom and warning in dreams (I Kings 3:5, 9:2).


The New Testament accounts surrounding the birth of Jesus (c. 6 B.C.E.–c. 30 C.E.) record a number of revelatory dreams. Joseph was instructed to wed Mary and was assured of her purity (Matthew 1:20), in spite of the apparent fact that she was already pregnant. Later, Joseph was warned to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13), return to Israel, (2:19) and to go to Galilee (2:22). The Magi (the three wise men) were warned in a dream not to return to their native land along the same route as they had come (2:12) because of Herod's evil intentions. Acts 2:17 contains the prophetic verse: "And it shall come to pass in the last days saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy [preach] and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."

By the late nineteenth century, dreams were being examined from a physiological perspective. The ancient notion that God spoke directly to men in dreams was pretty much dismissed by a culture that was becoming more scientific and materialistic. Then came the groundbreaking work of Sigmund Freud and Carl G. Jung.

In 1899 Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), a Viennese psychiatrist and the founder of psychoanalysis, brought dreams into the realm of the scientific community with the publication of his monumental work, The Interpretation of Dreams, in which he maintained that the dream is "the guardian of sleep" and "the royal road" to understanding the human unconscious. Freud's theory was basically that the dream was a disguised wish-fulfillment of infantile sexual needs, which were repressed by built-in censors of the waking mind. The apparent content of the dream was only concealing a shockingly latent dream. Through the use of a complex process of "dream work," which Freud developed, the dream could be unraveled backward, penetrating the unconscious memory of the dreamer and thereby setting the person free.

According to Dr. Stanley Krippner (1932– ), former director of the Dream Laboratory at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, contemporary experiments in sleep laboratories have confirmed many of Freud's speculations and cast doubt upon others. Some psychiatrists, including Lester Gelb, argue that the concept of the unconscious should be totally abandoned in explaining human behavior. Gelb feels it would be more useful to recognize several states or types of consciousness—working, sleeping, dreaming, daydreaming, trance, and so forth—each of which can be productively studied by behavioral scientists. Krippner stated that possible confirmation of Freud's emphasis on sexual symbolism does occur occasionally in modern electroencephalographic dream research, but he further observed that human thought processes are too varied to allow any single, unitary explanation of dreaming to be adequate.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1875– 1961), a student and later dissenter of Freudian techniques, added new dimensions to the understanding of the self through dreams. From Jung's perspective, Freud expressed a contempt for the psyche as a kind of waste bin for inappropriate or immoral thoughts. In Jung's opinion, the unconscious was far more than a depository for the past; it was also full of future psychic situations and ideas. Jung saw the dream as a compensatory mechanism whose function was to restore one's psychological balance. His concept of a collective unconscious linked humans with their ancestors as part of the evolutionary tendency of the human mind. Jung rejected arbitrary interpretations of dreams and dismissed free Freudian association as wandering too far from the dream content. Jung developed an intricate system of "elaborations," in which the dreamer relates all that he or she knows about a symbol—as if he or she were explaining it to a visitor from another planet.

Jung found startling similarities in the unconscious contents and the symbolic processes of both modern and primitive humans, and he recognized what he called "archetypes," mental forces and symbology whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual's own life, but seemed to be "aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind." Jung believed that it is crucial to pay attention to the archetypes met in dream life. Of special importance is the "shadow," a figure of the same sex as the dreamer, which contains all the repressed characteristics one has not developed in his or her conscious life. The "anima" is the personification of all the female tendencies, both positive and negative, in the male psyche. Its counterpart in the female psyche is the "animus."

The most mysterious, but most significant, of the Jungian archetypes is the self, which M. L. von Fram describes in Man and His Symbols (1964) as the regulating center that brings about a constant expansion and maturing of the personality. The self emerges only when the ego can surrender and merge into it. The

The god Hermes pours sleep into the eyes of mortals. (GETTY IMAGES)
The god Hermes pours sleep into the eyes of mortals. (
GETTY IMAGES
)
ego is the "I" within each individual. It is the thinking, feeling, and aware aspect of self that enables the individual to distinguish himself or herself from others. In psychoanalytic theory, the ego mediates between the more primitive drives of the "id," the unconscious, instinctual self, and the demands of the social environment in which the individual must function. (Jung saw the self as encompassing the total psyche, of which the ego is only a small part.) Jung called this psychic integration of the personality, this striving toward wholeness, the process of "individuation."


Many authorities consider Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman (1895–1999) to be the father of modern scientific dream research, for he pursued the subject when his colleagues dismissed the area as having no value. As a professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, Kleitman asked a graduate student, Eugene Aserinsky, to study the relationship of eye movement and sleep; and in 1951, Aserinsky identified rapid eye movement (REM) and demonstrated that the brain is active during sleep, thus establishing the course for other dream researchers to follow. Although discussions of REM are now commonplace in the conversations of informed laypeople, it should be noted that prior to the work of Kleitman and Aserinsky most scientists maintained that the brain "tuned down" during sleep.

Pursuing the REM research, Kleitman and another of his medical students, William C. Dement, found what may be the pattern for a "good night's sleep." They discovered a nightly pattern of sleep that begins with about 90 minutes of non-REM rest during which brain-waves gradually lengthen and progress through four distinct stages of sleep, with Stage Four the deepest stage. It is then that the first REM episode of the night begins. Rapid eye movement is now observable, but the body itself remains still. The central nervous system becomes extremely active during REM. It becomes so intensely active that Dr. Frederick Snyder, of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), termed the activity "a third state of earthly existence," distinct from both non-REM sleep and wakefulness.

The breathing is even in non-REM sleep. During the REM episode breathing may accelerate to a panting pace. The rhythm of the heart may speed up or slow down unaccountably. Blood pressure can dramatically fall. Other physiological changes also occur during REM. The flow of blood to the brain increases about 40 percent. Then the individual stirs and returns to the non-REM sleep cycle. This pattern repeats itself throughout the night.

Dreaming, in Dr. Stanley Krippner's estimation, is a primary means of brain development and maturation. Newborn infants spend about half of their sleeping time in the rapid eye movement or dream state. Although such dreams probably are concerned with tactile impressions rather than memories, he believes that these dreams probably prepare the infants' immature nervous systems for the onslaught of experiences that come with the maturation of vision, hearing, and the other senses. To further support this theory, Krippner cites studies done with older subjects that indicate that young adults spend 25 percent of their time dreaming while the proportion decreases to 20 percent among the elderly. It seems that the brain, once it is functioning well, does not need as much dream time.

Recent experiments demonstrate that simple forms of mental functioning go on at night even when the individual is not dreaming. The brain appears to require constant stimulation even during sleep and may use dream periods to "keep in tune" and to process information that has accumulated during the day.

In the mid-1950s, Drs. William Dement and Charles Fischer, working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, asked a group of volunteers to spend several nights in the laboratory. When the volunteers fell asleep, they were awakened throughout the night each time the electroencephalographs indicated the start of a dream period. These volunteers got all of their regular sleep except for their dream time. After five nights of dreamlessness, they became nervous, jittery, irritable, and had trouble concentrating. One volunteer quit the project in a panic.

Another group of volunteers in another part of the hospital was awakened the same number of times each night as those in the first group, but they were awakened when they were not dreaming. In other words, they were allowed approximately their usual amount of dream time. These volunteers suffered none of the troubles and upsets that afflicted the first group.

For the first time, the Dement and Fischer experiment presented evidence that regular dream sleep is essential to physical well-being. Some of the volunteers went as long as 15 nights without dream sleep, at which point they tried to dream all of the time, and the researchers had to awaken them constantly. When their dream time was no longer interrupted, the volunteers spent much more time than normal in dream sleep and continued to do so until they had made up their dream loss.

Dement summed up the results of their experiment by concluding that when people are deprived of REM sleep, a rebound effect occurs. If individuals are not getting their proper share of REM and non-REM rest and are feeling sleepy, they can become a menace. People who have accumulated a large sleep debt are dangerous drivers on the highway, for example.

Krippner believes that dreaming is as necessary to humans as eating and drinking. Not only does dreaming process data to keep the brain "in tune," but there is also evidence that a biochemical substance that accumulates during the day can only be eliminated from the nervous system during dream periods. Individuals should be just as concerned about receiving adequate dream time at night as they are about receiving adequate food during the day. Any disturbance that interrupts sleep will interfere with dream time, thus leaving the individual less well prepared—physically and psychologically—to face the coming day. Alcohol, amphetamines, and barbiturates depress the amount of dreaming an individual can experience during the night, and users of these drugs should be aware of the fact. Coffee, however, does not seem to depress dream time.

Today there are at least 170 sleep clinics operating in the United States, and their analyses cite more than 50 sleep disorders. A general consensus of the researchers at such clinics expresses the opinion that—second only to the common cold—sleep disorders constitute the most common health complaint. In March 2001, the National Sleep Foundation released the results of a poll that revealed that 51 percent of adults complained of insomnia, the inability to fall into a restful sleep, a few nights per week over the period of a year; 29 percent said that they had experienced insomnia almost every night over a year's time.

Researchers also have noted a mysterious kinship between mental illness and sleep— and even longevity and sleep. Daniel Kripke, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, led a study that tracked the sleeping habits of 1.1 million Americans for six years and concluded that, contrary to popular belief, people who sleep six or seven hours per night live longer than those who sleep eight or more. The controversial study, the largest of its kind, was published in the February 15, 2002, issue of Archives of General Psychiatry and provoked criticism from other sleep experts who stated that the main problem with America's sleep habits is deprivation, not oversleeping.

Dr. Patricia Carrington, a Princeton University psychologist, has expressed her hypothesis that humankind would be better served if it followed the natural rhythms, the biological alternation of rest and relaxation that is seen in animals. Only in human beings is there such a thing as 17 hours of constant wakefulness.

Many sleep and dream researchers have theorized that one of the reasons why humans use drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and other means of altering states of consciousness may be to somehow manipulate the body-mind structure into obeying the schedule forced upon it— rather than permitting it to follow the natural cycles and rhythms of life itself. Dr. Jurgen Zulley, psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, has found evidence for a four-hour sleep-wake cycle with nap periods at approximately 9:00 A.M., 1:00 P.M., and 5:00 P.M. Zulley feels that individuals shouldn't try to combat their natural drowsiness at these times with coffee breaks or with exercise. In his opinion individuals should seek to be biologically correct. It would be better for human health, Zulley advises, if individuals took a short nap or just leaned back in a chair for a bit of relaxation rather than reaching for a soft drink or a cup of coffee to keep the mental motors running.

Dream researchers also have learned that environment appears to have a marked effect on dreams. One may have unusual dreams when spending the night in a friend's home or in a motel room. In their series of studies at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory, the research team found that the subjects' dreams often contained references to the electroencephalograph and to the electrodes on their heads, especially during the first night in which they participated in the study. Charles Tart, one of the nation's most eminent sleep and dream researchers, suggests that dream content also will differ with the demands placed upon the dreamer; dreams that are written down at home and given to a researcher will differ from dreams given to a psychotherapist, because in the latter instance the emphasis is on the person's inner life and his or her attempts to change his or her behavior.

It has been noted that patients who go to Freudian psychotherapists eventually begin to incorporate Freudian symbols into their dreams while patients who see Jungian analysts do the same with Jungian symbols.

Opinions on the degree to which external events influence dreams vary widely. Some dream researchers contend that all dreams are the result of presleep experiences, while Freudian psychoanalysts emphasize the internal determinants of dream content (i.e., one's unconscious drives and defenses). Others argue that the presleep experiences of one's daily activities may be used by the unconscious, but they are not of major significance in dream interpretation.

In 1967, Tart presented a list of the various items that influence dreams. Tart's list included the dreamer's actual life history; the dreamer's memories of what has happened to him or her, especially during the past week; the "day residue," which includes immediate presleep experiences; and currently poorly understood factors such as atmospheric concentration, barometric pressure, and paranormal stimuli such as telepathic messages.

Dream researchers are not sure how the visual dimensions in dreams compare with the visual dimensions in everyday life. Dream reports indicate that most often the dream is on a "cinemascope screen" rather than on a small "television screen." People usually are seen full-length and in about the same dimensions as they appear during waking hours.

One reason REMs (rapid eye movements) are associated with dreams may be that the eyes scan the visual scene just as they do during the waking state. On the other hand, eye movements also occur when subjects report no movement in their dreams, suggesting that the relationship between rapid eye movements and dreams is highly complex.

There is not a one-to-one relationship between waking time and dream time. However, extreme time distortion rarely occurs in dreams despite the fact that many psychologists used to believe that dreams lasted only a second or two.

The subjects at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory recalled the visual elements in their dreams most clearly, but auditory (sound) and tactile (touch) impressions also were common. While subjects in the dream laboratories report auditory and tactile impressions in addition to vivid visual dreams, some individuals stubbornly insist that they "never dream." Since researchers have established that dreaming is as necessary to mental and physical health as eating and drinking, it becomes apparent that individuals who claim that they never dream simply are not remembering their dreams, or are having dreams they wish to forget—the nightmares.


DELVING DEEPER

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Basic Books, 1955.

Hall, Calvin S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Jung, C. G., ed. Man and His Symbols. London: Aldus Books, 1964; New York: Dell Publishing, 1968.

Kramer, Milton, ed. Dream Psychology and the New Biology of Dreaming. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1969.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Perls, Frederick S. Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Lafayette, Calif.: Real People Press, 1969.

Sechrist, Elsie. Dreams—Your Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Stekel, Wilhelm. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Washington Square Press, 1967.

Tart, Charles, ed. Altered States of Consciousness. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1969.

Vedantam, Shankar. "Study Links 8 Hours' Sleep to Shorter Life Span." Washington Post, February 15, 2002. [Online] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12305-2002Feb14.html.


DELVING DEEPER

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Hall, Calvin S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Krippner, Stanley, with Montague Ullman and Alan Vaughan. Dream Telepathy: Experiments in Nocturnal ESP. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland Publishers, 1989.

LaBerge, Stephen. Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine, 1986.

Lucidity Institute. [Online] http://www.lucidity.com/LucidDreamingFAQ2.html.

Sechrist, Elsie. Dreams—Your Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Van de Castle, Robert L. Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine, 1994.


DELVING DEEPER

Conklin, Mike. "Plague of Nightmares Descend on Elm Street." Tribune, October 2, 2001. [Online] http://chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/chi-0110020007oct02.story?coll=chi-leisureterr.

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Hall, Calvin, S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Kramer, Milton, ed. Dream Psychology and the New Biology of Dreaming. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1969.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Sechrist, Elsie. Dreams—Your Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Tart, Charles, ed. Altered States of Consciousness. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1969.


DELVING DEEPER

Hellmich, Nanci. "When Sleep Is But a Dream." USA Today, March 27, 2001. [Online] http://www.usatoday.com/life/llead.htm.

Hufford, David J. The Terror That Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.

Krippner, Stanley, with Joseph Dillard. Dreamwork: How to Use Your Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving. Buffalo, N.Y.: Bearly, 1988.

Rowlands, Barbara. "In the Dead of Night." The Observer, November 18, 2001. [Online] http://www.observer.co.uk/life/story/0,6903,596608,00.html.

Dr. Carl Jung (1875–1961). (THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
Dr. Carl Jung (1875–1961). (
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
)

DELVING DEEPER

Faraday, Ann. Dream Power. New York: Berkley Medallion Books Edition, 1973.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Basic Books, 1955.

Hall, Calvin S. The Meaning of Dreams. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1953, 1956.

Jung, C. G., ed. Man and His Symbols. London: Aldus Books, 1964; New York: Dell Publishing, 1968.

Krippner, Stanley. Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decod ing the Language of the Night. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990.

Krippner, Stanley, with Mark Waldman. Dreamscap ing: New and Creative Ways to Work with Your Dreams. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1999.

Perls, Frederick S. Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Lafayette, Calif.: Real People Press, 1969.

Sechrist, Elsie. Dreams—Your Magic Mirror. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969.

Stekel, Wilhelm. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Washington Square Press, 1967.



User Contributions:

Sandeep
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 7, 2007 @ 5:05 am
I feel that our minds are pre-programmed and unconciously we know what next would happen, that's why we feel happy, sad feared.

If there is a device that could read out unconcious mind our future shall not be a secret.
You are right in that dreams are a mystery. Even when using things like binarul beats it is still impossible to control the dream itself. All we can do is look at them afterwards to discover their meaning.

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