Do we need to dream?

Theories behind dreams from a spiritual and mental perspective

We all have dreams whether we remember them or not. When we fall to sleep our minds let go of the information that we no longer need so that we can function better the next day. Some of us experience very vivid dreams, whilst others experience a jumbled up version of what happened yesterday.
It can be hard to determine what dreams mean sometimes and even though dream decoders can reveal the obvious, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the underlying issue of our dreams.

When we experience strange or disturbing dreams it’s important to ask ourselves what’s going on at the time in our lives. Are we a little more stressed than usual? Have we recently gone through trauma? Or are we searching for something deeper in life? For instance, to dream you had an affair with the postman on Friday night may not mean that you are desiring to as such, it may just simply be an indication that you are wanting to experiment more or that you are bored in your current relationship. Whatever the dream, there is no harm in digging a little deeper and keeping a journal by your bed can be a very useful thing to do as notes and dates can often reveal patterns and sequences which you were not entirely aware of before. There are many theories on dreams. Some theorists have argued that dreams are simply a way of clearing out the software, just like a computer, whilst others believe in the more spiritual aspects that many dreams tend to create. For example, JRR Tolkien said: “Not all those who wander are lost”, perhaps meaning that the soul travels when we sleep to different planes of consciousness which could explain why many of us wake up feeling as if we have been on a journey.

The science of soul travel is something that has intrigued seekers on a spiritual path for years and our dreams speak a lot about the way we feel. However, most of us fear losing ourselves in our inner most, deepest thoughts, this is because when we dream, we lose control of our thoughts and allow them to rise to the surface. Because the subconscious mind is clever, it knows how to travel, and in our dreams we give ourselves permission to go further. We can see jumbled images and fanciful objects, we can even turn the impossible into a reality and we can pretty much do what we want in our dreams!. We can see people we have never met, or see loved ones and we can also receive messages in the form of clairvoyance.

Much of our dreams are about understanding ourselves and sometimes when we receive messages in dreams it’s not always easy to work out the hidden meaning behind them. But people have spoken about visitations that have clearly meant something important, such as seeing a loved one appearing after they have passed over or seeing a reassuring light from an angel when they are doubting ourselves. Sometimes we even receive warnings in dreams. For example, God used a dream to give a warning. The twelfth verse of Matthew 2 where the Bible says, "And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way to avoid danger." Sometimes our own dreams can remind us about danger and it can be an interesting journey or a frightening experience. Most of the time, however dreams pass over useful information and help us to transform and see things under a new light.
Not even in my dreams!

In normal day to day circumstances it is quite normal to sweep our true desires and feelings underneath the carpet because they can be considered groundbreaking and a little out of the ordinary. We often say to others: “No way, not even in my dreams”. But in our dreams, we see our aggressive impulses, our desires and perhaps things we never knew existed about ourselves. Some researchers have argued that dreams serve no real purpose whilst others believe that dreaming is essential to our mental, emotional physical and spiritual health.

For example, Freud believed that through our dreams we are able to catch a glimpse of our unconscious state of mind , along with our id which is centred around unchecked urges and unfulfilled wishes. Therefore because our guard is down during the dream state the unconscious then has the opportunity to act and express the hidden desires of the id. Sometimes desires of the id can be disturbing because in a normal day to day society we feel inclined to hold back our urges, some of which we may even be unaware of, which is why we are often shocked by the things we dream about. Carl Jung on the other hand managed to prove to the world that our dreams follow a sequence, helping everyone evolve as they learn more about the content of their psyche. He believed that this helped people to transform so that they would then accept other aspects of life, which they were not able to absorb before the dream analysis.

He spoke about the unconscious mind being divided in persona and collective distinctions.
The personal part contains someone's individual experiences, while the collective part has general content which exists in all human beings. The collective part is represented in dreams by the archetypes, which are symbols that appear in everyone's dreams, in all historical times and civilizations.
The main dream symbols that appear in everyone's dreams according to Jung are:

1. The Persona-This is the image that the individual presents to the world, like a social mask. The persona would reflect the person's social position, profession and status quo.
2. The Shadow-This is the part of the human psyche that is not developed yet. The shadow contains positive and negative characteristics, depending on someone's personal evolution.
3. The Animus or Anima-This is the image of the ideal type of man for a woman, or the ideal type of woman for a man. The animus, or anima, is an idol, but could represent a real person from the person's environment.

Carl Jung then concluded that each dreamer who decides to discover the content existent in his or her own psyche through the interpretation of dreams would make a trip to the Self. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are searching for help, yet in our dreams we can connect with something that answers our questions. Such as a lady who experienced a powerful dream after her husband after he had passed over:

She was at a place where she had met him before, and someone came into the room which turned out to be him. She then remembers staring at him for a very short time, and then ran over and threw her arms around him, where they just held each other. She then looked at him and asked, "Where have you been, and why did you leave?" It was then that she remembered, and she said, "You died."

She then woke up crying, but remembering that she had felt the strength of his arms around her and held on to that feeling. Although the dream had happened many years ago she speaks about it being the clearest dream she had ever had. She was also able to rediscover herself through the dream, in the sense that it was a repressed feeling she had held onto for so long. Through the dream and through meeting her loved one, she was able to rest her mind.

This concludes that dreams really are very powerful to us and do help us in our day to day lives. It is clear that we need to dream to filter, to search and to answer our own questions. Dreams can form part of our identity and can help us to understand ourselves better and some of us are able to connect to dreams spiritually, whereas others see dreams as a way of letting go. Sometimes we can even receive messages from loved ones through dreams which can offer reassurance and enlightenment. We can also use our dreams as personal, meaningful experiences that we can hold on to for comfort. Dreams are there to help us untangle what is often blocked in our minds and is up to the dreamer to interpret the meaning. It has been recorded that most of us dream every 90 minutes and the longest dreams, lasting 30 to 45 minutes, occur in the morning. Studies have also shown that half of us wake during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) and recall our dreams but the rest wake during non-REM sleep and are less likely to recall a dream. This may well explain why many people believe that they “never dream”. The truth is that we all dream- every night- but most of us forget we’ve been dreaming!

The study of dreams continues today and some researchers do not yet even understand the full purpose of dreams and scientists are still unravelling the exact purpose and function of sleep. Some of the latest theories propose that dreams are merely the body’s way of ‘rebooting’ the brain. Dreams dispose of memories that would otherwise clutter the mind with unnecessary remembered experiences. In particular they enable the emotions to become balanced. Dreams get rid of the junk and allow the brain’s complex chemistry to stabilise. Without dreams we would overheat!

Craig Hamilton- Parker


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