What is a dream? Some dictionaries say, “A series of thoughts, images, and emotions that occur during sleep” (Webster’s). Other references say dreams are “a communication of body, mind, and spirit in a symbolic communicative environmental state of being” (Lukeman 61). Dreams have both a metaphysical and physical existence. The metaphysical aspect is the imagery in a dream and its relation to the subconscious. The physical aspect is the chemical reactions that occur within the brain during dreams. There are many commonly asked questions about dreams. Some can be answered scientifically, but the majority cannot. You might unsuccessfully try to scientifically answer questions like: What are our dreams trying to tell us? Why are dreams so strange with frequent shifts of scene? “When we sleep we do more than just rest our weary bones; we tap into our subconscious mind” (Ullman and Zimmerman). Many people simply look at dreams at a literal level. They view dreaming as just another one of those peculiar, uncontrollable happenings within our brain. However, this is not the case. The fact is everybody dreams, whether they remember their dreams or not. These dreams, which are very difficult to influence or manipulate, are the language of our subconscious mind. There are many ways to look at dreams as well as interpret them. For centuries, philosophers and scientists have tried to understand how dreaming and the unconscious works and the undeniable connection between the two. Dreams are an important part of people’s lives and culture around the world. In this symposium, I will elucidate the importance of dreams in one’s life, discuss the scientific perspective on dreams, and use the studies and viewpoints of the well-known dream philosopher Sigmund Freud to exemplify the psychoanalytical view on dreaming. Since the time of the Babylonians, scholars have studied with curiosity the meaning of dreams and their symbols using the cultural beliefs of their age. Some of the earliest examples of dream interpretation are in the Bible itself. In Genesis (37-41), Joseph interpreted dreams of two persons; a cupbearer and a baker. In fact, this interpretation by Joseph had a tremendous impact not only on Egypt but also on the future of dream interpretation. In later centuries, well-known philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle studied dreams and believed that dreams were connected to future illnesses. The Egyptians and Greeks believed dreams were messages from God. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the famous philosophers Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung came up with their own explanations and theories. I will go into great depth on their theories later in this symposium, as these men, with out a doubt, sparked an evolution in the study of dreams and are still regarded as the fathers of modern dream interpretation. Dreaming is a form of mental activity that occurs during sleep. Most people spend in total about 25 years of their life sleeping and of that about 6 years are spent dreaming in the REM stage. With few exceptions, all mammals go through the same sleep cycle. Each sleep cycle lasts for about an hour or two and repeats itself on average four to five times per night. Within each cycle are four stages. Dreams can occur in any of these stages but usually the more vivid dreams occur in the last stage also known as REM sleep, which is reached about 90-100 minutes after the onset of sleep. The stages repeat themselves throughout a night. The REM stage is reached 5-7 times per night, depending on the length of sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement and is so named because during this stage, the eyes move quickly under the eyelid. This eye movement is the result of unconscious thought of the dreaming person who is viewing the images like a scene passing before his eyes. Dreams occur in the REM stage, which also happens to be the lightest stage of sleep because this is the only stage that the conscious mind can interpret the imagery of...
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