Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Understanding the Language of Dreams

My friend is a big time mystery lover. He hasn’t reached his 30s, yet he has been to mysterious places we all read and heard about. Indeed, one fourth of his life is spent in wondering whether Ghosts exist or not or is there any truth to the Legend of Dragons. With this huge appetite for unidentified, he keeps me digging out more mystery topics, now and then. One day I took him by surprise when I asked him to unlock intentions of Dreams. He opened his mouth, wondering how could he forgot about the biggest mystery, we wrestle with on daily basis, – Dreams.

For the sake of defining them they can simply be called successions of images and sensations, occurring during stages of sleep against dreamer’s permission. Since the content and purpose of them are not totally understood yet, throughout history, dreams have been the topic of many scientific speculations, as well as the subject of religious interests.

Different meanings of dreams varied with time and culture. Ancient Egyptians believed that dreams were like oracles, bringing messages directly from the gods. Egyptians would rather sleep on special "dream beds" in hope of receiving advices from the gods. In fact, the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus believed to send warnings and prophecies to those who slept at shrines and temples.

It was the 19th century when dreams were understood beyond religious contexts. An Australian Psychotherapist, Sigmund Freud theorized that the content of dreams reflects the dreamer's unconscious mind and are often related to early childhood memories and obsessions. Carl Jung, a Swiss Psychiatrist proposed that recurring dreams show up because they are demanding dreamer’s attention who has been neglecting an issue appearing in the dream.

Despite these theories, scientific research went on. It was found that Dreams mainly occur in the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. At this stage, there is a continuous movement of the eyes during sleep so as the brain activity is high. People who wake up during this phase are more likely to remember the dream. At least 95% of dreams are not remembered unless they are particularly vivid, intense or unusual. Specifically, people who have unusual experiences during the day tend to have more memorable dream content. People who score high on creativity, imagination and fantasy tend to show more frequent dream recall.

dreams interpretation

It is interesting that despite us being scientific progressive, it is still unknown where dreams originate from. Is there is a single origin for dreams or multiple portions of the brain are involved? Certainly, there has to be some purpose of dreams to body or brain if they can, at times, sprinkle a creative thought or a sense of inspiration to the dreamer.

If we believe Jie Zhang, then the function of the dream is to transfer data from temporary memory to the long-term memory store. However, evolutionary psychologists argue that the objective of dreams is to create new ideas. Some of these ideas may be rejected by the brain as useless, while others are seen as valuable and retained. It is also remarkable to know that the most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety.

A small minority of people claim that they dream only in black and white. A 2008 study found that people who were only exposed to black & white television or film in childhood reported dreaming in black & white more. It verifies Sigmund Freud’s definition of dreams – the manifestations of our deepest desires, relating to our repressed childhood memories or anxieties.

Now the real question is if science and psychology can’t completely understand what Dreams are, then what are they – philosophical encounters, messages from God & evil or a neurological phenomenon. Of course, things will be clearer in times to come.

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