I love hearing about people’s dreams (sleep dreams, not wishes). Whenever a person tells me about a dream they’ve had, they reveal a hidden part of themselves without necessarily meaning to reveal anything at all. And this happens because most people don’t recognize the fact that their dreams are a complex and intricate creation concocted by their very own brain and emotions. In fact, language itself testifies to this misconception: “I had a dream”, “мне приснился сон”, “J’ai eu une rêve …”, as if it’s something that comes to you, or over you, that you have no control over nor any responsibility for…But let me back up a bit…

There was a time a few years back when I was really interested in dreams and dream interpretation. And I don’t mean that psychic / new age / celestial mumbo-jumbo.

I wanted to know where dreams came from, how they were formed, what they meant. I read some basic scientific literature about dreams, like Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and some work by Carl Jung on his dream theory, as well as more modern works on dream analysis and sleep patterns. The common denominator between the various views that I read about the formation and meaning of dreams seemed to be this:

During our waking life, we are bombarded by stimuli. Some of that stimuli, be it information, suggestion, association or recollection, we cannot or do not allow ourselves to process.

For example, you hear a name at work of a person which brings you back to a traumatic experience you’ve had as a child. You can’t sit there and deal with the memory, so unconsciously you push it back, down into the subconscious level.

Or. You overhear a bit of news that interests you but that you cannot research at the moment.

Or. You smell olive oil and recall that you had planned to make that vinaigrette dressing, and put it on your mental to-do list.

Or. A mysterious and arrestingly attractive person passes by you and you hardly notice him and yet…

All of this great fodder gets relegated to the subconscious or even the unconscious level. It has to, otherwise we would not be able to function correctly, getting distracted by all of the impulses coming at us ’round the clock.

But the brain can’t just ignore these signals. Not for long. And so when you fall asleep your consciousness turns off. All of your censors and inhibitors loosen their grip, and the unconsciousness begins to sort through all of the junk that went through the stimuli spam filter over the course of the day. Imagine someone sitting cross-legged with a huge ball of bits and pieces of yarn, all tangled up, trying to sort them out.

Let’s see here…getting hit by a car while riding my bike as a child and never really dealing with the fact that it was Father driving…new healthcare reforms that might affect my grandparents, I wonder where to find more information on that…and that dressing, oh how wonderful it would be if it weren’t for the oil…fat…am I fat? Am I getting fat?

And so your brain works all night long, sorting and rearranging, trying to make order out of the chaos, making sense, making peace, coping. All without you ever knowing about it. Well, except for the dreams. The dreams offer a glimpse that our conscious self gets into the work of the unconscious mind as we sleep. If we look at those dreams attentively, we may get a better understanding of what is really bothering us – often it is things that our internal censorship units (aka. the conscious mind), for our own sake, will not allow us to know.

We may also better understand what we want.

Sometimes the dreams come out as total nonsense. That’s the confuzzled ball of yarn, all taken apart but not put back together yet.

Sometimes parts of a dream do make sense. One interesting fact about dreaming: everyone dreams, having 4-6 dreams each night, depending on how many sleep cycles they go through. Some people can recall those dreams. Most cannot. Dreams over the duration of one night get more and more complex and vivid. As if the brain is trying to resolve the issues that we left untouched during the day, and with each attempt coming closer to a resolution. Often these dreams will be different versions of the same main plot. Usually if we do remember a dream, it is the last dream that we’ve had, typically right before waking up.

Dreams can reveal a lot to you, about you.

Sometimes my dreams are EPIC. They play out on the mental screen as marathon movies, with battles, struggle, natural disasters, good vs. evil, apocalyptic stuff. I wake up with my heart beating fast, as if I’d just been running…and usually, in my dreams I am running, typically from a tsunami that ends civilization as we know it. After the initial relief I marvel at the creativity of my own mind.

Or sometimes the dream is a sort of four-dimensional pun, playing out through time. I wake up thinking, Damn I’m clever 🙂 .

But most of the time when I wake up, all I think is “Yeah, I know, I know…” I make a resolution to deal with it during the day. But each day has enough worries of its own. And apparently each night does too.