Why should we bother with fantasies? Aren’t dreams just nonsense? Just neurons randomly shooting? Or can they help to heal, feel better and solve problems?
Importance of Dream Sleep
Sleep researchers tell us that all people and lots of animals dream many times every night. Dream sleep is so important that experimental issues prevented from experiencing REM sleep, the part the sleep in which dreams occur, start to hallucinate after only a few nights of deprivation. They effectively start to dream when they’re awake. It’s that important to fantasy. The ability to dream has been evolutionarily selected because it serves a very important role in human life.
Human beings in all times and places have analyzed dreams with attention and interest. Mythical and spiritual characters are depicted as valuing and being affected or changed by fantasies. The ancient Greeks dedicated temples and educated priests and priestesses to interpret dreams. Sigmund Freud, the originator of psychoanalysis, from which developed most other contemporary treatments, called fantasies “The royal road to the unconscious” and Moses Maimonides, the famous Jewish philosopher is famous for saying that “A dream unexamined is like a letter unopened”.
Psychoanalyst Paul Lipmann (2008) provides us the following list of what he believes that dreams offer:
- They say and solve problems.
- They say emotion… subtle and loudly.
- They could express in stories and images those feelings and experiences which are most difficult to think or talk about when awake.
- They could express hidden feelings about one’s relationship to powerful and others less powerful.
- They can both dissociate and bind together aspects of traumatic or some other experience.
- They could help cover shame and pain or can tear apart a scab of protection.
- They depict our existing issues, past issues, and future possibilities.
- They exude wishes.
- They could give expression to the life not lived.
Dreams are unconscious products
Cognitive psychologists tell us that we could hold roughly seven (plus or minus two if your memory is exceptionally good or poor ) “chunks” of information in our heads at the same time.
That’s seven digits in a telephone number, seven things of a grocery list. That isn’t very many and we have access to a huge reservoir of thoughts, concepts and psychological experiences that are called up effortlessly and seamlessly into that famous set of seven chunks. And just as seamlessly those notions not in immediate use slide out and are put away. It’s really a amazing system when you consider it… effortless and taken for granted. But what’s the mechanism which reaches down and pulls up the information that’s needed? Most of the time it’s not “conscious intention.”
Unconscious processing is a natural and essential part of believing. It consistently underpins and facilitates conscious thinking. It’s the system that receives, organizes and makes available all the experiences and concepts that we have. It’s just impossible to be consciously aware of what we understand or to consciously make all of the relationships between facts that we have to in order to make sense of our expertise.
Importantly related facts, thoughts and feelings might have been gathered over a lifetime, arriving at different times and from different life experiences. Consciousness, which is busy figuring out what to make for dinner, rarely takes some time to sniff around and explore all of the possible associations… even to pressing life issues.
Fortunately we’ve got an alternate system to perform this job… psychoanalysts call this the personal unconscious. Cognitive researchers call it “automatic processing”, “implicit thought systems” or even “deep emotional processes”. Nobody tries to pretend that consciousness is large enough or powerful to do all of the work alone.
When we are concerned about some aspect of our lives or relationships, the subconscious has been work on the issue while consciousness is busy doing other things. Anyone who has ever had an “Aha!” Moment has had the experience of things being brought together unconsciously and introduced as a now obvious fact or alternative.
Sleep on it!!
The unconscious attempts to provide us bigger access to what we understand. One of the principal ways that the subconscious is positively incorporated in our lives is through dreams. Dreams include attempts by the subconscious to bring us information and make the discussions that complicated or counterbalance the conscious mindset.
Typically, our feelings about persons and situations are more complex and nuanced than what positive thinking, common sense or good manners will endorse.
We’ve mixed feeling about most adventures.
- The birth of a child brings joy but also a curtailment of liberty.
- We love and respect our very best friend but her achievement makes us jealous.
- We believe we would like to study for a lawyer but is it really our father’s dream for us?
Understanding our dreams helps us understand ourselves more completely.
- When the conscious mindset agrees pretty well with the subconscious one, dreams will underline, endorse or strengthen belief and solve… they support a sense of assurance or “rightness”.
- When understanding overvalues a person or situation dreams may shrink it down to size by portraying it in an unpleasant or poor way.
- When consciousness doesn’t sufficiently value a person, situation or aim that the unconscious may elevate the thought, by symbolically representing it appropriately precious.
Dreams can add new knowledge to understanding, raise questions or suggest goals or things to be avoided.
An image is worth a thousand words
A massive quantity of the information that we take in about the world is visual. Almost every significant experience has a visual memory of people, places and things attached to it. Since most life knowledge and thoughts are tied up in some way with visual images, it isn’t really surprising that images ought to be the substance that the subconscious uses to represent its ideas.
Dream images might appear odd at first glance, but they’re often proven on examination to be quite precise visual metaphors of a situation which concerns the dreamer.
A very personal Perspective
- There’s no “one size fits all” in dream interpretation. The images in dreams are frequently mysterious and eccentric, they may refer to other times and places or show the dreamer as someone entirely other what they are in reality.
- Dream dictionaries should be used sparingly and treated mainly as sources of inspiration.
- The dreamer is the one person who can say if an interpretation “functions”.
Dreams in Psychotherapy
A psychologist who works with dreams in therapy draws on her knowledge of the client’s life situation and life history in addition to her training in normal patterns of human reaction. She works with her clients to comprehend the fantasy images compared to what the customer is struggling with or has experienced in life. Together they try to understand what special relevance and associations that these pictures have for this specific individual.
- Dream work in treatment results in the process of deepening self awareness.
- Understanding of the complete assortment of the needs and responses permits the consumer to devise new possibilities for decision and action… to alter their life in ways which produce their desires and their activities more congruent.
- Dream work deepens therapeutic intimacy and produces a collaborative atmosphere between client and therapist.
Psychotherapeutic work with dreams might be a part of an on-going treatment or could be helpful as a brief term process which focuses on understanding a specific situation, such as:
- In periods of regular transition like life rhythms,
- In times of crisis,
- When tough decisions are being contemplated
- When radically new life experiences have to be assimilated.
- Sometimes a particularly striking fantasy or fantasy series will evoke a desire to question or know a present or past experience or situation.
At these moments it may be helpful to consider working with a psychologist or therapist who provides advice and emotional support and help steady you as you research the questions
That fantasy examination raises
Dreams are a part of the system of unconscious re-organization and creative problem solving. They pull the gist of a problematic situation from the clutter of everyday experience so we can see it clearly. They remind us of what we have almost forgotten, or of that which we have tried to forget and bring together ideas that we understood separately but that “click” and create new understanding when brought together. They help us determine what we really need and they point the way to future chances that grow out of previous experiences.