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Dream on

Dream On

by Phil Uebergang

There are so many serious topics discussed in Webdiary. How about relaxing for a moment and putting the cares and troubles of the world aside? Get comfortable in the chair, close your eyes and just drift away…

Can you remember your last dream? How often have you woken up and thought, ‘What the hell was that all about?’ Everyone dreams, and our dreams are rich in emotion, imagination and grandeur.

People average a hundred thousand dreams in a lifetime. Presuming the average lifespan is 75 years, that’s about 3.7 dreams per day. That’s a lot of dreaming going on.

Tests have shown that not only is sleep essential for our survival - sleep deprivation will kill you faster than starvation - but so also is the division of our sleep into dreaming and non-dreaming. In other words folks, you have to dream to survive.

Many civilisations have recognised the impact of sleep and dreaming on our lives. We in our over-rationalised, scientific mindset tend to place anything a little obscure on the sidelines and treat it with some disdain. But freed from the chains of empiricism, other societies have been more open to explore their relationship with their dream lives.

Some went over the top of course, relying on dreams as oracles and even building deities around their dream creatures. This includes the likes of the Assyrians, Greeks, and Egyptians. But perhaps this dream culture was in part related to sorcery, as much as to natural sleep.

Australian Aboriginal culture is based on their ‘Dreaming’ which is a mystical, magical part of both past and present, in which miraculous events and god-like creatures shape the natural world.

The Hebrews placed great importance on dreams. They claimed that God often communicated with them in dreams, and indeed one of the most important aspects of their history involved a Pharaoh’s dreams and a chap whose claim to fame was his devastating dress sense. In fact the entire Jewish culture is founded upon a dream about a ladder that resulted from a bloke falling asleep with his head on a rock.

With their permeating affect on society as well as our personal, everyday lives, dreams play a big part in being human. But given their obscurity and often frightening nature, what is the point of dreaming and does it have anything substantial to offer us?

Although it’s tempting to interpret dreams as strange oracles or a direct reflection of our character, this is to over simplify what are, apparently, complex messages from our inner selves about what is going on in our lives.

Since Freud’s time we’ve come to understand dreams a little differently, realising that they are an essential part of our living function operating on a different level to our physical sensory processes.

I don’t trust a lot of the claims made regarding the depth and power of the subconscious mind, which seem to be little more than catchall theories for unexplained human phenomena without any burden of proof. But in the matter of dreaming a concession has to be made that there is something going on that our waking minds aren’t capable of.

Here is a process of thought that’s able to cut straight to essential matters with complete honesty, and without the protective barriers we erect when awake and reasoning. This implies then that it is not our mystic subconscious sending us messages, but that we are undergoing a different ‘style’ of thinking while dreaming. It is an unrestricted style, which is evidenced not only by its honesty but also by the vibrant and chaotic imagery used.

What really stands out about dreams is that they are not as individual as we might think. Similar dream imagery is shared by everyone. It is a human collective, and doctors utilise this commonality in their treatment of patients to gain valuable insights into their problems.

Now I don’t know about you, but I find this amazing. How can such weird and wonderful fantasies be common to us all, let alone have meaning, when they seem so uniquely chaotic? How has contemporary imagery such as the motor car, with its associated specific dream meaning, inserted itself into the common psyche? This question prompted me to explore further, so I warily crossed to the dark side and read a book on basic dream interpretation.

What I found was really quite surprising. While expecting something of the tea leaf reading mentality, what eventuated was a simple demystification of an incredible natural phenomenon. It’s actually not that difficult to interpret your dreams. In fact the hardest part is getting into the habit of remembering them.

Since then, even though the image explanations in the book are quite basic, twice I have been able to crystallise a moral dilemma by interpreting recurring dream images.

In one instance the problem was complex, as were the dreams, but after some perseverance it was possible to reach a conclusion that should have been realised from the beginning, but had either been avoided or ignored. To have not heeded the ‘dream warning’ would have resulted in, at best, an unhappier situation.

I may have reached the conclusion anyway, had I ignored the dreams. But the solution to the dilemma would have taken longer to eventuate and/or been less understood in the process. What was particularly interesting was that the dilemma was the cause of some emotional turmoil that I was pretty much ignoring until I started to understand the dreams.

In the second situation the dreams merely reinforced my knowledge of a dilemma of which I was already becoming aware, prompting swifter and more concerted action against it.

It’s not just the symbols and events of dreams that are important, but also the emotions and colours associated with them which allow for great depth and greater levels of interpretation. This is something that is particularly attractive about dream interpretation, in that like anything worthwhile the skills can be improved over a lifetime.

But if dreams really are a common language, why aren’t they more direct in their approach and instinctively understood? Perhaps if dreams did speak to us in direct and obvious terms, they would reduce their effectiveness as they would not force the introspection required to interpret the message.

As for the second part of that question, it is probably because dreams are the children of the very ‘instincts’ that we ignore, or fail to understand. Perhaps we have been remiss as a society in not learning and teaching how to understand dreams, as we do with spoken languages.

There must be a link between the fact that sleep is our time of information processing, and also the time that we speak most honestly to ourselves. There is a synergistic and logical lack of impediment there. Not only that, but this ‘need’ of our brain to process and inform is so important that it’s literally a matter of life or death for us, which must surely say something about the relevance of our night time ramblings.

My current understanding of dreams and ability to interpret them is extremely basic, and yet has already proved useful. I suspect that a greater understanding would lead not only to a clearer picture of the dilemmas in life, but could also provide the best solutions to those problems. And that could remove much trial and error, and the resultant suffering and regret.

But although dream interpretation tells us what our dreams are about, it says little about why or how they exist. In this respect I am none the wiser.

If anyone has any explanation for the common links between our dreams, please step forward. Perhaps it’s related to the fact that we share the same logical and physical interpretive capabilities. How does our common dream language develop, even if as individuals we are ignorant of its messages? And is there any evidence to suggest that our dreams can also provide insights into problems that extend beyond our selves? Or that groups of people may have related dreams in response to their group dynamics?

Anyway, I recommend dream interpretation to everyone. Have a go at trying to understand what you’re trying to say to yourself. It may even make the world a slightly better place.

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re: Dream on

"I don’t trust a lot of the claims made regarding the depth and power of the subconscious mind, which seem to be little more than catchall theories for unexplained human phenomena without any burden of proof."

Rather like Intelligent Design, eh?

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