Psychology: Dreams and Dreaming

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Psychology: Dreams and Dreaming

January 13, 1997

Dreams, a nightly gift and a part of the natural process of being alive, are being rediscovered by our publisher. The meaning and value of your dreams will vary according to what you and your society decide. Our society is changing. We used to only value dreams in the context of psychotherapy. There are also a few assumptions about dreams. One is that you are always the final authority on what the dream means. Others can offer insight, suggestions and techniques for exploration and expression, but no one knows what the final meaning and value of the dreams will be for you, except you. Another assumption is that dreams come in the service of wholeness and health. If you find an interpretation that does not fit this, perhaps you need to change methods of interpretation. Dream interpretations that lead you toward self-criticism, depression or despair are simply wrong and if these conditions persist you may wish to seek help from others. Finally, there is no such thing as a dream with one meaning. If you feel stuck on one meaning or feel another person is pushing one meaning, it is time to reconsider your methods and approach. (Lemley p. 17).

Clinical dream work is done within the context of psychotherapy and clinical and sleep research have different approaches and goals than peer dream work. (Koch-Sheras p.16).

A dream is a period of spontaneous brain activity usually lasting from about 5-40 minutes that occurs during sleep several times a night usually about 90 minute intervals (Barret p.8).

There are also certain types of dreams. There are fantasy, daydream and waking dreams. There are also lucid dreams, nightmares and night terrors. There are also certain stages in the dream cycle. In the first stage, your body temperature drops, your eyes close and your brain waves begin regular alpha rhythms, indicating a relaxed state. Muscles lose their tension, breathing becomes more even and your heart rate slows. Second, random images begin to float through your mind mimicking the dream state. Jolting or involuntary movements will take place at this time. Third, muscles lose all tightness, breathing becomes slower, heart rate decreases and blood pressure falls. At this point, it will take a loud noise or disturbance to wake you up. You are now fully asleep. Finally, you are in a deep sleep. This is the most physically rested period of sleep and longest in duration. (Time-Life Books p. 97).

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Whether awake or asleep, one of the brain's most critical functions is the construction of the model of the environment that we perceive as our conscious experience (Barret p. 9). While we sleep, very little sensory input is available, so the world model experience is constructed from what remains, contextual information from our lives, that is, expectations derived from past experience, and motivations. As a result, the content of our dream is largely determined by what we fear, hopeful and expect. From this point of view, dreaming can be viewed as the special case of dreaming constrained by sensory input (Koch-Sheras p. 15). Dreaming experience is commonly viewed as qualitatively distinct from waking experience. Dreams are often believed to be characterized by lack of reflection and inability to act deliberately and with intention. (Barret p. 20).

Although we not usually explicitly aware of the fact that we are dreaming while we are dreaming, at times a remarkable exception occurs and we become reflective enough to become conscious that we are dreaming. During such ‘ lucid' dreams it is possible to freely remember the circumstances of waking life to think clearly, and to act deliberately upon reflection or in accordance with plans decided upon before sleep, all while experiencing a dream world that seems vividly real. (Time-Life Books p. 57).

As previously stated, lucid dreaming is dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming....
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