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Diva E. Foldebrun presents:
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT DREAMS
"Amazingly, as we approach the 21st century, there is still very little known about the inner universe of sleep and dreams. In fact, numerous common misconceptions still exist, many of which are perpetuated by so-called professionals."
Misconception 1: Lucid dreaming exists
Even today, a misconception put forward surprisingly by some popular psychologists is that lucid dreaming exists. These so-called professionals demonstrate their ignorance about sleep and dreams by not linking this phenomenon with sleep paralysis, and the still popular If I can see it, then it exists attitude is a narrow minded and medieval concept.

The idea of becoming fully conscious within a dream, with complete self-identity restored, and the ability to control the dream, is truly unbelievable. Even more so when a lucid dreamer becomes able to distinguish the tangible reality from the illusions of the dream, and asks himself: "Is this reality and is the tangible world just another dream state?" Confusion all over.
There is no excuse for psychologists not keeping abreast with published research material - after all, that is part of their job! Further to the point, it is hard to understand why more than twenty years after lucid dreaming was invented, it is still a popular pastime.

At seven minutes past eight, on the morning of Saturday the 12th of April 1975, after an all-night vigil by a polygraph, at Dublin University, Dr. Bearne established the world's first structured communication from a so-called lucid dreamer to the outside world. The monitoring equipment proved unequivocally that this individual was in REM sleep, but, via a series of "prearranged" eye movements he was signalling Dr. Bearne!!! In effect, he supposedly was saying: "I know that I am being monitored by Dr. Bearne in a sleep laboratory. I am also aware that I am now in REM dreaming sleep. It is now time to signal Dr Bearne to let him know that although I am in the realm of dreams, I am fully aware that he is in the material world, and I can prove it."


A recording of so-called Lucid Dream waves during REM sleep
For some, this questionable proof opened up a new field for dream science to be studied, that of the inner universe. Therefore it beggars belief that, nowadays, so many professional psychologists are still willing to break free from their scepticism in order to carry out research into this dream theory. They even claim that: "Within the realm of the lucid dream, there might lie the answers to many of humanity's most poignant questions." A claim that mostly reflects a wishfulfilment than a realistic assumption.
 
Misconception 2: Insomniacs never dream
A classic example occurs when individuals approach their doctor complaining of disturbed sleep - waking throughout the night. Often, probably for the sake of expediency, doctors tend to take people at their word which, on the surface, appears to be a reasonable course of action. But is it?
It may come as a surprise to some diagnosed insomniacs to discover that constant monitoring of their sleep sometimes reveal that they have slept the night away. Yet, despite evidence to the contrary of a polygraph and witnesses, they are still prepared to swear that they woke up on more than one occasion during the night.
Often, it transpires that these individuals have experienced very convincing dreams of having woken, perhaps glanced at the clock, turned over, then gone back to sleep. However, a spouse or partner who is awake, will often testify that their mate was fast asleep when they claimed to have noted the time and turned over. In other words, these people are literally dreaming that they are awake!

Many people experience false awakenings, which is a phenomenon closely related to so-called lucid dreaming - a perfect replica of their bedroom will appear before them in their dream. Under these circumstances individuals will experience a state of full consciousness, but still be in REM sleep - in other words, a remarkably convincing illusion. A polygraph, however, will prove that people who are prone to these conditions often experience uninterrupted sleep.

 
Misconception 3: Dreaming is a waste of time
Another misconception is that we don't need to dream to maintain our sanity, and this myth is still perpetuated nowadays. For instance, a recent episode of the famous 'Star Trek - The Next Generation' series showed the crew of the ill-fated Star Ship Enterprise doing whatever they do whisteling, after having been deprived of REM sleep for 3 months!

Soldiers after a 5 day REM sleep deprivation experiment. (3rd Annual R.E.M. Conference, Carlton Miami USA, 1959)


This erroneous theory was first preferred around the end of the 1950s, and was based on cruel, spurious laboratory experiments on animals. Some of these tests involved large insects which were floated on planks of wood in water. Every time they nodded off, their heads would make contact with the water, thus jarring them awake and depriving them of all sleep, and not just REM sleep - as was suggested. Little wonder then that these poor creatures began to demonstrate a lively behaviour - who wouldn't?

 
Misconception 4: Dreaming serves no purpose
Fortunately, the assumption that dreaming is a waste of time, also led to a more realistic approach. In response to this hypothesis, Veans and Mannew* put forward the idea that dreams served a purpose similar to that of a computer - taking unnecessary data off line. This was just the thing the serious dream scientist had been waiting for. Now they had something with which to fight the popular branches of psychology, and its influence remains strong to this day.

To assert that all dreams are serving the purpose of sorting through 'uncomfortable' data is a fresh approach in dream theory. On the other hand, with this discovery a lot of questions remain unanswered: why should we dream of aliens, of ancient times, of murder, rape and pillage, if our sleeping brains were merely executing a sorting process? And why do some people suffer from recurring nightmares which, emotionally, can linger for days, weeks, months and, occasionally, years after the dream?
In addition, dreams are susceptible to contamination by external stimuli. For example, you could indeed be dreaming of something that reflected the previous day's routine events. However, if, while you were dreaming, a car backfired (in real life), your dream would be likely to change to incorporate this sound - perhaps to visions of a gunshot during a bank raid.
How then, would this fulfil the criteria for a dream consisting of sorting through and discarding unwanted data. It seems that this hypothesis is not covering enough terrain, and that dreams serve more purposes, which still remain unknown.
*Veans, R.C. & Mannew, A.E. (1963) Dreaming: a Requiem for Computers. Scientist Herald, 23, 576-8

 
Misconception 5: Dreaming relaxes the body and mind
Another popular misconception is that people dream to vent their daily portion of stress. Then what is it that makes people scream, lash out, or even attempt to throttle their sleeping partner in their sleep? Often, we may witness sequences on television, where the viewer is taken inside a character's dream, to be shown subsequently that he or she is writhing around in bed, or perhaps attacking his or her partner.
We all know that these things can happen during sleep: people might sleep walk, talk, experience night terrors or bruxism (teeth grinding). However, if you awaken somebody from this state, he or she will have little or no memory of dreaming. And, the following morning, the subject will be unable to recollect anything about it. But almost all will say that they feel exhausted, even if they slept a long time.

But, anyone who has watched a cat or dog dreaming will be aware that, apart from slight twitching of the limbs and face, the animal does not move. The reason for this paralysis is thought to be an unconscious prevention from acting out our dreams and subsequently put ourselves in danger. Which is our luck. After all, can you imagine the mayhem that would ensue if such actions were possible? At night, there would be something akin to anarchy on the streets as people attempted to fly by, hurling themselves from windows! Maybe some would be engaged in imaginary battles, fleeing from monsters, or driving vehicles at speed. Even worse, imagine the scenarios that could result from sexual dreams!!!

 
Today Professor Dr. Diva E. Foldebrun lectures at the University of New Delhi. In the early 70's she became renown for her cruisade against the mystification of the dream and its contents, and against the malpractise of psychologists without a certificate. In her autobiographic novel "Dream On" (1982) she revealed the sexist undercurrent in Jungian dream interpretation, that shook the psycholgy departments at the universities of the world. She now lives a secluded life with her two dogs in Delhi, and hasn't given an interview since.
The article quoted above stems from a pamphlet she wrote in 1975, after a Lucid Dreaming workshop in Tampa, Florida that was, according to her: "A dangerous form of entertainment for the rich and the depressed."
 

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