Dreams are noted to be among the strongest reaction of the human mind to help a person relax from all the pressures of the day that one has encountered with. Most often than not, the dreams that are recorded within one’s mind has a strong impact on the ways by which one thinks and reacts to things the next day. Psychologically, this situation is noted as something that is related with how a person actually perceives things that he faces everyday. Dreams are natural occurrences in the human mind that is dictated by the mind itself during the REM cycle when one is sleeping.
However, no matter how real or unreal dreams may appear, it is undeniable that they in so many ways affect the actions and the reaction of the dreamer towards certain things after they wake up the next morning or just after they wake up. To understand the matter in a deeper context, the need for discussing how dreams actually occur is a necessary issue to be tackled in the system of discussion that shall be presented herein. What are Dreams and How Do they occur? Everyone dreams,” says The World Book Encyclopedia (1984, Vol. 5, p. 279). “Most adults dream for about 100 minutes during eight hours of sleep.
” So dreams are a normal human experience. Said Dr. Allan Hobson, of Harvard Medical School: “They are ambiguous stimuli which can be interpreted in any way a therapist is predisposed to. But their meaning is in the eye of the beholder—not in the dream itself. ”(Plato-The Allegory of the Cave) When reporting this, the “Science Times” section of The New York Times added: “Within the school that places great value on dreams, there are many approaches to finding the psychological message of a dream, each reflecting different theoretical outlooks.
A Freudian will find one kind of meaning in a dream, while a Jungian will find another, and a Gestalt therapist will find still another meaning. . . . But the view that dreams have psychological meaning at all has come under strong attack from neuroscientists. ”—July 10, 1984, p. C12. A normal night’s sleep is most easily divided into two types: what is commonly called REM (rapid eye movement, or dream) sleep and non-REM (nondream) sleep. You can tell that a person is in REM sleep when the bulge of his eyeballs can be seen rapidly moving under his eyelids. Non-REM sleep can further be divided into four stages.
After lying down, you gently enter stage one—drowsiness or shallow sleep. During this stage your muscles relax and your brain waves are irregular and rapid. Its first occurrence each night typically lasts between 30 seconds and 7 minutes. When you move into stage two—true sleep—where you will usually spend 20 percent of the night, brain waves become larger. You may have fragmented thoughts or images passing through your mind, but you are unaware of your surroundings and cannot see even if your eyes are open. Next come stages three and four—deeper to deepest sleep.
Here, in what is also called delta sleep, your brain produces large, slow waves. It is now that your body is most difficult to rouse, as most of your blood is directed to the muscles. During this time (usually about 50 percent of the night), body recovery and repair take place, and it is during delta sleep that young bodies grow. It is important to note that anyone, youth or adult, who does not experience the deeper delta stages will likely feel fatigued, apathetic, or even depressed the next day. Finally, each cycle is completed by the radically different REM stage.
During this dreaming stage (typically occurring about every 90 minutes), more blood is directed to the brain and your brain waves are almost the same as if you were awake. However, you cannot move your muscles. This immobility apparently keeps one from acting out dreams and hurting one’s self or others. These REM, or dream, cycles get longer each time they occur during the night and appear to be crucial to mental health. In computer like fashion, the brain sorts through short-term memory storage, deleting unimportant data and retaining what is desired for long-term memory.
Abnormally infrequent dream cycles are known to result in emotional difficulties. Insomniacs, for example, spend less time than average in REM sleep, contributing to a vicious downward spiral of increasing anxiety. What of the Scientific Explanation of the Dream Cycle? During the past twenty years scientists have devoted much study to the mysterious world of dreams. With the aid of volunteers in specially equipped “dream labs” some interesting facts have come to light. Scientists have noted, for instance, that a sleeping person experiences rapid eye movements (REM) about once every ninety to a hundred minutes through the night.
These REM periods, which suggest that a person is dreaming, may last from ten minutes to half an hour and recur three or four times a night (Rene Descartes-Discourse Four). Experiments have shown that dreaming is a necessary part of restful sleep. Calvin Hall, director of the Institute of Dream Research at the University of California, writes: “If a person is deprived of dreaming for a number of nights, his waking behavior appears to be adversely affected. He manifests various aberrant ‘symptoms’ that border on being pathological . . .
These results seem to indicate a ‘need to dream. ’” This “need to dream” is so strong, explains Hall, that “when a person’s dreaming is reduced by awakening him every time his eyes begin to move, there is a significant increase in REM time when he is finally permitted to sleep undisturbed. ” Thus people “make up” for lost dreaming time. But why is there a need to dream? Is it, as some say, that dreaming aids people to cope with the stresses of life? Does it help people to sort out and process information that they have taken in while awake?
Or does dreaming perhaps benefit the nervous system by recharging the brain cells? Dr. Julius Segal and Gay Gaer Luce admit there are no scientific answers to these questions. In their book Sleep they say: “Many conjectures about the purpose of the REM state are plausible. Yet they are not answers and the purpose of the dream state remains a mystery. ” A small percentage of dream content results from stimulation of the senses from the outside or within the body of the sleeping individual. Thus lights, sounds, hunger, thirst or the need to urinate all have some effect on a person’s dreams.
Research has shown, however, that recent events especially influence what a person dreams about. The book Sleep explains: “Perhaps the best established, out of all the factors that influence our dreams, is the role of events in the preceding day. ” These become mingled with past experiences, including ones from childhood. A study made at the National Institute of Health revealed that dreams early in the night surround current events. As the night progresses, dreams center on things of the past and become more vivid.
Then, as waking time rolls around, dreams once again focus on current events. Sigmund Freud, known as the founder of psychoanalysis, stated that dreams are “the royal road to the unconscious. ” Many individuals believe that they can gain deep insight into their own personalities through dream interpretation (Sigmund Freud-The Oedipus Complex). Books that encourage self-interpretation of dreams are available in abundance today. But are dreams really a sound guide to a better understanding of yourself? That depends on whether interpretations of things seen in dreams are reliable.
Are they? George Nobbe, in an article entitled “What Your Dreams Mean,” observes: “One of the vagaries of dream analysts . . . is that they seldom agree on the meaning of anything in a dream. Talk to two of them and you’ll get two different notions of the meaning of the plot of the same dream and the objects that appear within its framework. ”( Sigmund Freud-The Oedipus Complex) Freud, for example, theorized that people dream about wishes, particularly of a sexual nature, that they repress during waking hours.
The psychoanalyst’s job, according to Freud, would be to probe through the things actually seen in the dream and to lay bare its hidden meaning. This, he thought, would be related to repressed wishes that arose from events of the preceding day and desires established in the patient’s early childhood. Others disagree radically with Freud. The well-known columnist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, writes: “Freud’s view of dreams, however suggestive, doesn’t provide a complete explanation, because human adults are not the only dreamers. Dogs, cats, cows and horses dream. So do babies.
Fifty percent of the newborn infant’s sleep is spent in dreaming. ” Certainly these are not all dreaming to fulfill repressed wishes. Numerous other theories to explain the meaning of dreams have appeared during the last two decades. Concerning them, Calvin Hall writes: “The ratio of research to speculation is still so small that it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions regarding the validity of these speculations. The Philosophies of Dreams In view of all the factors involved in dreaming, it becomes increasingly clear why it is unwise to attach special significance to our dreams.
Since everyone dreams nearly every night, should we feel that our dreams are unusual and have a special meaning? In one book, entitled “Sleep,” the writers declared: “The analysis of literally truckloads of dream stories, and the use of laboratory methods lend no hope that there will ever be a quick formula for understanding dreams. ” (Carl Jung-The Personal and the Collective Unconscious) It is true that there are many who would interpret your dreams for you, but the differences of opinion among them are one of the strongest arguments against trying to attach certain meanings to your dreams.
Dr. Rosalind Cartwright declared: “Probably the most impressive thing we’re finding out is the huge range of individual differences [among dream interpreters]. ” She also wrote: “Many psychotherapists still insist that they know the correct interpretation of your dream . . . apparently quite oblivious to the fact that their colleagues, on the basis of the same dream, may see quite different things for you. ” (Carl Jung-The Personal and the Collective Unconscious)