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INFORMATION & EDUCATION
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Surveys & Research


Diva E. Foldebrun presents:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does everybody dream?
Yes. Everybody dreams. Not only all humans, but in fact all mammals are shown to have REM sleep, which is generally associated with dreams. Dreaming is a normal and necessary function of the body and the mind. If people are being deprived of REM-sleep, and thus of their dreams, they are starting to malfunction already within a couple of days. So if you think you don't dream you probably just don't remember
 
Why is it that I don't remember my dreams?
People vary greatly in how much they remember of their dreams. The perhaps most important reason why people forget their dreams is that they don't want to remember them. Western culture does not regard dreams as especially important, rather it regards getting out of the bed in time as a prevalent survival factor. This is bad in two respects: 1) most dreams occur at the end of the sleeping cycle and are therefore often interrupted, and 2) the necessity of getting up fast and keeping up with the schedule occupies peoples' minds more than thinking about their dreams in the morning.
 
How do external stimuli affect my dreams?
Sensual "input" while sleeping is incorporated in your dreams. Most notably, while sleeping, you hear as well as while waking - the ears are never turned off. This leads to the consequence that what you hear while sleeping, you'll hear in your dreams. The sound is always coming from "somewhere". Common experiences of this kind are a telephone ringing or music from the radio. The same holds for the other senses. Note that it is not important how loud some noise is to get noticed while sleeping - even an otherwise unnoticed sound, like a mouse knawing the floor boards, can wake you up if it is uncommon or otherwise alarming to you. On the other hand, you can get accustomed to high levels of noise, like construction work nearby.
It is an interesting experience that you can hear exactly what is going on, but will forget it on waking up along with forgetting the rest of your dream. This includes things such as news broadcast heard on the radio - after waking up, you have forgotten it. It is like you have dreamed the news broadcast as well - but distinguishing this fact is a good clue to lucid dreaming and the way "lucidity inducing devices" work
 
How do my dreams interact with my waking life?
Dreams seem to be a way for the subconscious mind to sort out and process all the input and problems that are encountered in waking life. Therefore, a scientist could be working on a problem ... say the structure of the benzene molecule. Then he could have a dream in which he sees two snakes intertwining in a double helix. When he wakes, he has discovered the structure of the benzene molecule. This is the true story about the German chemist Kekule von Stradonitz.
It is a scientific fact that dreaming can improve your emotional well-being, reduce stress, improve your creativity, and provide a playground for your mind while your body recovers and repairs itself.
 
What causes dreams, anyway?
There are many different theories on the causes of dreaming, but nobody really knows for sure. According to the Freudian school, dreams are the result of subconscious thoughts and desires, things we are likely to repress in our waking life. An opposite theory claims that dreaming is a collection of random neuron "noise" in our brains, and are without special meaning.
 
How long do dreams last?
REM-sleep periods, and therefore dreams, last typically in the range of 5 to 45 minutes. Often, the subjective time spent in a dream is much longer. One possible explanation for this time-stretch effect is that dreams are combined from pieces that have their own different setting in time. You first dream of something that occurred a year ago, then - following - of something that occurred just recently, mix them up and we are left with the remembrance of a dream that lasted a year.
There have been experiments that suggest that dreamed actions run in "real time" - what you do in your dream takes exactly this time to dream. With external influences like the radio playing in the morning, you have both the real time in which you hear something and - sometimes - the feeling that it lasted considerably longer. The only thing we are sure of is that time is one of the perceptions that are heavily distorted in our dreams.
 
Is my dream filled with symbols that represent something else?
Yes. Symbols are a way of interpreting dreams. Researchers have tried to find, for each common dream occurrence, a psychological situation that matches the dream in some way and link it as a cause. A well-known example of this approach is Freud's interpretation. Asking for symbols allows for interpretation of dreams by certain given rules.
Other people question this approach. Dream interpretation by catalog of symbols alone doesn't take into account the individual's meaning attached to these symbols. For instance, the cultural background of the dreamer is an important point that should not be neglected. Nonetheless, in a certain given context, these symbols can have a valuable meaning.
 
Can people dream about the same things?
Yes. It can be assumed that much, if not most, dream imagery follows common patterns in all people. Most important, we should not forget that dreams are based on actual experiences and imaginations, some of which are just widespread. For example, we all think about how nice it would be to fly. On the other hand, people who report flying dreams use a number of different flying techniques in their dreams, from breast-strokes like in swimming to simply lifting off, Superman-style. It is our imagination that sets the limits here.
An often cited example is that of teeth falling out. The common symbolistic interpretation associates this with fear of loss of something, perhaps someone, valuable. The next common explanation is remembrance of losing teeth during childhood, which could have been a somewhat traumatic experience. But it can also be easily linked to a sleeping position where some external pressure or muscle contractions cause your teeth to grind against each other, or tooth-aches caused by illnesses.
 
Can people dream of their own death?
Yes. This has been reported many times. The reports vary widely in what actual experiences are made when dreaming of dying; there seems to be no common pattern. Most probably the prevalent influence is again the thoughts of the individual about death. It can not be figured out whether dream-death experiences which match patterns given in actual near-death experiences are just based on reading about near-death experiences. A widespread old wives tale is that when you dream of your own death, you will soon die. Given the usual understanding of "soon", experience has proven this false.
A sharp line has to be drawn between dreams of death and actual near-death experiences. The latter occur in people with blood circulation failure just before they actually die, and sometimes are reported when medical art brings these people back to life. What constitutes the real source of these experiences is still not known. Dreams of death have no connection to this, they are like all dreams just imagination.
 
Why do I keep dreaming the same thing over and over?
Recurring dreams are a sign of thoughts that occupy the dreamer frequently, consciously or unconsciously. Such thoughts have influence on our dreams and they are often remembered better than "random" dreams. Sometimes those dreams are unpleasant, a sign or symbol of some conflict situation that you still have to overcome.
Of course, there are also pleasant recurring dreams. Some people build their own dream world which they explore, meeting friends there, etc. Some claim they are in fact entering a different world, and others attribute this to remembrances of old dreams creating new ones.
 
Sometimes I dream of disgusting things. Am I a disgusting person?
No. Even people who deny it: everybody dreams of unspeakable things once in a while! In our society, the moral pressure of doing the right thing is very high. We are taught that for instance feelings of envie, anger and hate are "bad". And yet, everybody harbours these feelings: the woman nextdoor, your cousin in Atlanta, Tom Cruise and the president. Dreams are a way to vent our less desired and repressed emotions, and our imagination allows them to become the evil atrocities in our dreams. The best thing you can do is not to worry about it, or, even better, educate yourself in human psychology.
 

The Dream Explanatorium© is created and coordinated by The Somniloquy Institute.

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