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The Psychology Behind Dreams

Hyderabad, India

Dreams have always intrigued us with all their peculiarities. The human brain making up its own stories while the body is fast asleep has fascinated and kept awake psychologists and psychiatrists for ages. Interpretations trying to explain the concept of “dreaming” have changed with time; from ancient civilizations firmly believing that dreams were a channel of communication between humans and the gods – to the evolved Romans, who were convinced that dreams could predict the future.

In an era where science, psychology, and the curiosity of the human mind advance at astonishing rates, the question often arises: What are dreams? Why do we dream? Do these dreams mean anything, if at all?

Dreams are a chain of feelings, images, and ideas spontaneously occurring in the mind when a person is in a particular stage of their sleep cycle. Science concludes that we have 3-6 dreams per night, out of which 95% is long forgotten by the very next morning; two hours of dreaming a night, with each dream lasting between five to 20 minutes. What’s essentially happening when you are dreaming is that the brain is playing a story in your mind.

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Do our dreams make sense?

Do these dreams usually make sense? Well, yes and no. In reality, your dreams would often seem bizarre and unlikely. However, when you are dreaming, the story playing in your brain portrays incredible sophistication – which in turn allows you to believe that the dream makes total sense at the time. This prompts the theory that dreams are driven not by logic, but by emotions. Dreams thus tend to magnify feelings than to keep them tucked away.

Why do we have dreams? Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst, explains that dreams occur as a form of people’s thoughts. They are a continuation of their thoughts from earlier in the day, just in a slightly more unorganized manner. In humans, dreaming occurs during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of your sleep. This is the phase wherein, as the name suggests, one’s eyes move quickly in all directions – and happens about 90 minutes after a person falls asleep. As a result of the brain being very active at this time, one has intense dreams during the REM period of the sleep cycle.

Moving on to one of the most popularly asked questions: Do our dreams mean anything? The truth is, nobody knows for sure. There have been several theories, all proposing different possible explanations. One of the neurobiological theories proposed by John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley, Harvard University psychiatrists suggests that dreams are merely electric impulses of the mind that extract random thoughts and images from our previous memories. This theory revolves around how dreams might not really have any meaning at all. On the other hand, Sigmund Freud believed one’s dreams portray their unconscious bottled-up struggles and desires. According to this renowned psychologist, your dreams reveal your suppressed wishes to you. Another theory circles around the idea that dreams prepare you by acting as a safe simulation through which you can face your fears. This view would confirm another theory stating that people have more dreams when in a state of fear or anxiety. In a nutshell, it looks like people are progressively becoming more open to the idea that dreams are not just meaningless slides of random imagery, but might have a deeper meaning ingrained in them.

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Meaning hidden in dreams

Despite the lack of certainty when it comes to dreams, much more is said to be confirmed when it comes to the perks of dreaming. Aside from providing emotive benefits, dreaming aids thinking by helping one commit the things they acquire to recollection.

Summing up in Loewenberg’s words, “Our dreams are full of information, advice, guidance and even warnings we need to know about ourselves and about our lives. Dreaming is a very deep and profound thinking process in which we focus solely on the self.”

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