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).

Jubera 2
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. Lucidity usually begins in the midst of a dream, when the dreamer
realizes that the experience is not occurring in physical reality, but is a
dream. (Lemley p. 3). A minority of lucid dreams are the result of returning to
REM sleep directly from a awakening with unbroken reflective consciousness.

When lucidity is at a high level, you are aware that everything
experienced in the dream is occurring in your mind, that there is no real danger,
and that you are asleep in bed and will awaken shortly. With low level lucidity
you may be aware to a certain extent that you are dreaming, perhaps enough to
fly or alter what you are doing, but not enough to realize that the people are
dream representations, or that