What is the purpose of dreams?
There have been many ideas put forward over the years by psychologists, religion and culture. Freud described dreams as outlets of sexual desire, escapism for the repressed id so the consciousness would be protected. His obsession with the sexual basis of dreams overshadowed any other interpretation they may have warranted at the time. Jung looked at dreams as having a broader messaging context, in an attempt to balance the person as a whole. He asserted that dreams gave an indication of possible future illnesses via the unconscious to warn the individual before symptoms manifested in the physical body. I believe that they do perform a certain cleansing and balancing function and this is particularly relevant with the stress experienced by most people in their daily life. Dreams often hold no storyline and can flit from image to image, environment to environment, featuring people we recognise intuitively as friends, relatives or acquaintances yet physically they are different or have taken on a different form. The dreamer has an unknown wealth of intuition stored deep in his/her unconscious that it screams out with imagery and creativity while the conscious mind is resting and not interfering with pre-set cognitive patterns which have trained the brain to behave, and shut down what will be too painful to reveal in its full ugly form. Dreams and wisdom go hand in hand. Ancient religious texts such as the Bible tell stories of visions and prophecies that have been presented in dreams. Perhaps the most famous dreamer in the Bible, is Joseph in the book of Genesis, who dreams of seven fat cows being eaten up by seven thin cows. His interpretation of seven good years of harvest followed by seven years of famine earned him a place in the royal court. Mohammad is said to have been presented with divine information in his dreams by the angel Gabriel, which was then recorded and forms parts of the Koran. Ancient Egyptians took the meaning of dreams seriously as foretellers of omens. The ancient Chinese civilisation saw dreams as indicating the balance of energies in the body, the yin and yang. If the body is in a state of imbalance, bad or sometimes terrifying dreams would occur to alert the dreamer. The universal consciousness is also a factor in dream life and the purpose dreams may have. Studies into telepathy show that when in a dream state messages can be transmitted between two separate people. This suggests a universal consciousness that can be tapped into when the brain is functioning on a different wavelength. Whether this is proven to be the case or not it cannot be escaped that premonitions do occur in dreams. Along with the premonition comes the certainty that an event will occur and a distinct blurring between reality and dream state due to the intense, vivid life-like nature of the dream.
What is the meaning of dreams?
Ancient Greeks believed that the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos, and god of dreams, Morpheus, communicated while people slept. Indeed now pre-cognitive dreams are highly regarded as having significant meaning in Greek culture. Early Indians believed that the nearer to waking the dream occurred, the more important or representative it was of future events. Aborigines use the term 'the dreaming' which forms an integral part of their culture, where symbolism is highly regarded. These are often depicted in artwork. The 'dreaming' is much more than a dream state and relates to ancestral history and connections to all things natural on a universal level. Colours, environment and sensory stimuli are also a very important indicator in dreams, in addition to symbolic imagery. Some dreams may present as very dark and dreary with little colour, whereas others display a distinct pattern or theme. This should all be noted, as symbolism does not lie and will show itself in a form it feels will be best interpreted. In each of these distinct and separate cultures, the 'opposite effect' is prevalent. For example, if the dream shows images of happiness and joy, this inevitably means doom. The 'opposite effect' is also true when a bad dream or nightmare occurs, as it can be seen as a particularly good sign bringing to the dreamers awareness that a problem needs to be dealt with now. A common nightmare manifests as a 'chase dream' where the dreamer has a recurrent dream of being chased and is very fearful of what is chasing them. This more often than not represents a problem or situation that is being overlooked and not being addressed in conscious life and the subconscious is bringing attention to it by making the dream vivid and thus memorable upon waking so it can be addressed. No two dreams are the same because no two people are the same. Even recurrent dreams which may show an on-going repetitive theme will be different or alter from dream to dream. The dream interpretation is purely unique and can only be truly verified by the dreamer his/herself. For example, a spider in a dream may symbolically represent several interpretations for different people. Some may find it intensely frightening, others a symbol of building a new home, others still a more sinister weaving of a web. The connotations are vast and point to the need for individual significance rather than rigid symbolic clear-cut meaning.
Dreams for the 21st Century
Dreams are such a huge aspect of our being that they simply cannot be ignored. They are a valuable internal teaching aid that help the individual to develop their mental, emotional and spiritual self. Dreams always inspire, may shock, puzzle or serve as an emotional release mechanism. They are a vent for emotions which are repressed and I believe perform a vital function of clearing out debris and making space for new ideas and areas that need concentration or attention. Dreams can fade and be forgotten but by writing them down upon waking, in a dream diary, they can be recalled almost indefinitely down to the separate sensory experiences by reading the script. I believe it is important to record even what may seem as insignificant because it may be relevant and still yet to manifest itself fully. By doing this dated, written recording it is easy then to look back at a period of time and extrapolate a theme that when interpreted is relevant to that stage in a persons life. For example, a theme of water in dreams, which symbolically represented the emotions, denoted a tumultuous, overwhelming emotional period in that person's life. This theme ceased when they overcame that emotional issue. Cultural and religious bias will have a significant impact on dream symbolism. Eastern and western cultures may vary considerably when it comes to interpretation, this is why it is so important to take the personal perspective. A snake for someone may be good, but for others an omen of bad luck. Resolving issues and problems with dreams is also a useful skill to develop. The lucid dream may provide the dreamer with insight into a problem that they may have no idea how to tackle. It is a form of directly asking the unconscious what is best for me, what should I do and the answer may come, almost always, in symbolic form but further questions can then be asked until it is clear that an interpretation can be made. Dreams are too important to be disregarded, they are too valuable to be discounted and they are too widely accessible to be ignored. They are an infinite source of wisdom and once tapped into can help make a person's life fulfilled and understandable. I will continue to research my own dreams and the dreams of others possibly until the end of my life because I believe there is a wealth of knowledge out there in the universal subconscious that is waiting to be discovered.
About the author:Article written by Polly Hall
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