It is suggested, and also evidenced, that sleep is a sort of conscious relaxation. It imposes a separation upon the sleeper from reality, while passing through different stages during the resting process. Psychologists maintain that one such phase, which entails the point of ‘separation from reality,’ forms the terra firma for dreams to take place during sleep. Paradoxically, it has been suggested that the sleeper too may break their links with reality with a view of achieving balance, perception and awareness.
From the medical viewpoint, it is suggested that most of our emotional disorders are due to lack or shortage of dreams, including vitamin B deficiency — which is highlighted by the sleeper not being able to remember, or recall, dreams. It is also evidenced that a pattern of rapid eye movement [REM] sleep, in fact, sets the tone for dreams to take place during sleep. REM encompasses of phases of nervous stimulation and dreaming at regular intervals of time. Mind research contends that, in the anatomy of a dream, the pons, located at the brain stem, acts as the ‘control tower.’ It sends excitory messages to the cortex to start dreams and inhibitory impulses to the body’s muscular system to prevent the physical enactment of dreams — the dream, to be specific. Thank nature for big mercies. Or, else dreams would have had both mental and physical components and also, perhaps, ‘performance.’
Yet another formidable cause for dreams is wish-fulfilment. When one has a certain unfulfilled cache of desires, it leads to disappointment and frustration. Dreams provide the contentment of viewing oneself in the context of having achieved the desire that was unsuccessful in real life. For example, a person obsessed of winning the lottery ticket, or lucky draw. Sadly, as in most cases, the contemplation flops and with it the person’s wish as well. It is precisely under such circumstances that dreams become the magic wand to overcome frustrations, when ‘wild’ expectations don’t blossom into realities.
What’s more, a force, which cannot be expressed in realistic terms when one is awake, may find a medium of expression, no less, in a dream. Nevertheless, most expressions may not be expressed in forms — disguised or symbolic. It is, therefore, suggested that a dream is supposed to contain two parts, 1. visible, and 2. concealed, or hidden. The former is something we remember and report after sleep; and, the latter, the most unpalatable entity, which is most likely not reported, is often associated with pain. Besides, there is what is called dream-work in the whole act. This is thought to dissipate dream substances into complex forms, so as to cause confusion to the dreamer.
For aeons, people have pondered over the significance of dreams. Early civilisations believed that dreams were a medium between our earthly world and that of the celestial gods. The ancient Greeks and Romans were convinced that dreams had certain prophetic powers. A new research study published in The Journal of Neuroscience offers persuasive insights into the mechanisms that lie beneath dreaming, aside from the compelling association our dreams have with our memories.
The research team invited 65 students to spend two consecutive nights in their research laboratory. During the first night, the students were left to sleep, while getting used to the sound-proofed and temperature-controlled rooms. During the second night, the researchers measured the students’ brain waves, while they slept. Our brain experiences four types of electrical brain waves: ‘delta,’ ‘theta,’ ‘alpha,’ and ‘beta.’ Each represents a different velocity of oscillating electrical voltages and together they form electroencephalography [EEG]. The technology was used to measure the participants’ brain waves during various sleep-stages, including REM. The students were woken up several times and asked to fill out a diary, detailing whether or not they dreamt, or how often they dreamt and whether they could remember the substance, or content, of their dreams. The research team headed by Cristina Marzano, PhD, at the University of Rome, Italy, reported, for the first time, how humans remember their dreams, while also predicting the possibility of successful dream recall, based on the ‘signature pattern’ of brain waves.
In yet another new study, a research team from ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratory in Kyoto, Japan, used brain scans to identify the visual imagery of dreams — and, gathered new insights into the brain’s activity during dreaming. The researchers used a technique called neural decoding — a measurement of brain activity to predict visual content. They reported that brain activity during dreaming was similar to the brain activity associated with processing visual information in the wakeful state. What does this connote? That we ‘watch’ our dreams in a manner similar to the mode in which we visually perceive things while we are awake. The patterns were so similar that researchers were able to predict the visual content of their subjects’ dreams with 75-80 per cent accuracy.
Oneirology — from Greek, oneiron, ‘dream;’ and logia, ‘the study of’ — is the scientific ‘swot up’ of dreams. The ‘speciality’ aims to establish correlations between dreaming and current knowledge about the functions of the brain, our understanding of how the brain works during dreaming, memory formation and mental or emotional disorders. The study, in other words, aims to quantitatively analyse the process of dreams instead of deciphering the meaning behind them.
According to Sigmund Freud, the plumber of the psyche, whose work on interpretation of dreams forms the core of scientific thought, in its modified, augmented and polished form, most of the symbols one sees in dreams have a sexual meaning. Apples, for instance, may connote a woman’s breasts. This is also one reason why in dream ‘diagnosis,’ the individual, or patient, is asked to describe his or her dream, in detail, to the therapist, who may encourage the person to dream and, in turn, help them to separate the dream ‘chaff’ from the ‘grain.’
Freud believed that dreams represent the unconscious trying to express itself consciously. The fact remains that followers of different schools of psychology have widely conflicting views on dreams — primarily because not all dreams have explicit meanings. On the other hand, they may sometimes be prophetic, bearing in mind the psychical expression, or presentiment, of dreams. One famous case in point was reported by Mark Twain, the legendary American writer and author, who ‘had a clear dream of his brother’s body lying in a metal coffin supported across two chairs with a bouquet of white and crimson flowers resting on his chest.’ The evidence? Just a few weeks later, Mark’s brother was killed when a river-boat boiler exploded. When Mark saw the body, he found it laid out exactly as the dream had forecast: the metal coffin supported on two chairs. While he watched in hapless desolation, a woman entered the room and placed a bouquet of white flowers, containing one single crimson bloom, on Mark’s dead brother’s chest. This was a macabre-dream-come-true, all right, yet it may be common experience for some of us to visualise ‘dream’ prospects — both good and not-so-good — in everyday life.
You get the point. People often come up with anecdotes of ‘futuristic’ events. Most of us respond in two ways: you may take it on face value, or not at all. This is because when one is awakened during REM sleep, they will find that their dreams are interrupted and yet they can recall several details. Thus, the study of dreams, in the format, offers great possibilities for important forays in the scrutiny of the paranormal [especially, ESP, or extrasensory perception] phenomena. As a matter of fact, some advanced, new techniques in the area have evolved to allow dreams to be researched in minute detail. In addition, the use of hypnosis and laboratory tests has demonstrated that the psychical or paranormal faculty of individuals could be fostered and enhanced through dreams.
To go back in time and also cull a famed ‘subject’ example. A person was given a hypnotic suggestion that he dreamt of Martin Luther King Jr., and of the riots. He actually dreamed of King’s assassination. Someone, he inferred, had thrown a rock and rioting was feared. The other subject, who was not given hypnotic prompting, dreamed of a black policeman who was beating up another man. He feared that someone would throw a brick and precipitate a riot. There you are. Dream analysts have been conducting a diversity of such experiments to go more deeply into the heart and soul of dreams. Each dream, as such, they attest, ‘taps’ a special temperament and denotes a change in the individual. This not only includes the workings and deviations of all organs and their functions, normal and abnormal, but also every facet of information that delves on and/or into our thoughts, ideas, emotions, and sentiments, not to speak of our subconscious and unconscious states.