Catching Dreams Dreams are a window into the mind. These may be our most elaborate, distinctive, revealing, and flamboyant creations; they have fascinated us for thousands of years. The Egyptians built temples for dreaming. The oracles of Greece pondered cryptic dreams as the “royal road to the unconscious.” Dreams allow us to view beyond that which we are and know in daily life; they hint of other dimensions of space and time. What do dreams really mean? Are they mirrors of your days, tunnels into pauses of the unconscious, or no more than the chance results of biological changes in the brain? No one knows the complete answer yet, but dream researchers are learning more and more about the reasons why we tell ourselves stories as we sleep, and how these tales reflect and relate to waking life. Dreaming is a product of the brain and its activity. Whether a person is awake or asleep, the brain continuously gives off electrical waves that can be measured by an electroencephalograph.
At most times during sleep, the brain waves are large and slow. But at certain times, they become smaller and faster. During periods of fast brain waves, the eyes move more rapidly–this is known as Rapid Eye Movement, or REM sleep. Most dreams occur in REM sleep. During REM sleep, the pathways that carry the nerve impulses from the brain to the muscles are blocked. Therefore, the body does not move much during dreams. Actually, it has been said that the body lies completely still during REM sleep.
Also, the cerebral cortex (the part of the brain involved in higher mental functions) is much more active during REM seep than during non-dreaming sleep. The reports of the dreams that fill our nights become more interesting and intriguing as days go by, but they sidestep a very fundamental question: Why are we dreaming at all? Traditional psychologists and psychiatrists may say that dreams are the arena in which we parade and encounter fears and wishes banished from daytime thoughts. But two Harvard psychiatrists, J. Allen Hobson, M.D., and Robert McCarley, M.D., believe that dreams are caused by stimulation of the brain, and that neurons and neurotransmitters, not buried memories and pains, are the “stuff” of which dreams are made of. But out of all theories before his own, and of all these theories thought today, Sigmund Freuds is the one that stands out the most.
He believed that a dream represented an ongoing wish along with the previous days activities. They may even portray wishes that have been inside us since early childhood. In fact, he believed, every dream is partially motivated by a childhood wish. Another interesting idea was that nothing is fabricated during a dream and that they are biologically determined, derived completely from instinctual needs and personal experiences. Another psychologist whose theories never went unnoticed and did, as well, stir many opinions in the Dream field was Carl Jung. Jung disagreed with Freuds theories stating that the most effective method of dream interpretation was the use of series correlation.
Series correlation is a process involving the analysis of dreams over a period of time. Jung suggested taking similar dreams and mounting them together to form a bigger dream in which then you begin to correlate any waking experiences with the images in your dreams. Like Freud, Jung categorized the mind into three parts: the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, and the conscious. However, putting aside Freud and Jung, Hobos and McCarley beliefs on dreams are a bit different. According to the Harvard psychiatrists, dreams may be nothing more than the thinking brain’s effort to make sense of confusing signals from the brain regions involved in REM sleep. They view dreams as the psychological accompaniment of biological and chemical changes in the brain stem.
Many believe that dreams are a way to get in touch with who we are and why we are here. They can give us answers to questions and solutions to problems. Dreams make us aware of underlying feelings and situations. But despite all these different thoughts and views on dreaming, there is still no proven fact on WHY we dream which is why there are so many opposing views on the topic. Whichever theory is true, we may never know, but from all the thoughts and ideas previously mentioned we can begin to decide for ourselves what we believe to be true and further help us into understanding our dreams.