Wednesday, June 29, 2011


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Throughout history dreams have been documented, studied, and interpreted by researchers, therapists, even the Bible, proving that despite doubts and disbelievers, dreams can reveal issues in relationships, causes of stress, a childhood trauma, etc; things helping people to heal mentally, who otherwise may not have. Looking back thousands of years people have been trying to explain them and what they represent. The ideas that have seemed to stick are the ones that deal with dreams as the subconscious, trying to tell your conscious something, rather than some of the earlier ideas that dreams are messages from God, or that they will tell you the future. For such philosophies to come about, it is necessary for dreams and all their details to be documented. While specific objects do not always represent the same thing, the idea of what is being dreamt can be very revealing.

The earliest records of dreams are the Assyrian and Babylonian dream books from Egypt, around 66 BC (Stevens, 14). During this time period, the primary interest in dreams was in warnings they were believed to provide about the future. For example, if one were to dream of drinking water, it meant long life, while drinking wine meant a short life (Stevens 15). There was an Egyptian god of dreams know as Serapis. He had numerous temples throughout Egypt that were worshiped regularly, just as other gods were. Dreams were not taken at all lightly. The first dream analysis to come from Egypt was Chester Beatty. His papyrus is now in the British Museum. It contains some 00 records of dreams. While Beatty supported some ideas of dreams telling bits of the future, he also used the same principles in interpreting dreams as Sigmund Freud did many years later the elucidation of visual or verbal puns, the detection of hidden associations, and the use of contraries (when a dream’s meaning is the opposite of what it represents) (Stevens, 15).

The Greeks also had a set of beliefs and rituals for dealing with dreams. Their god of healing, Asklepia, played a large role in this. There were a number of sanctuaries for him situated all throughout Greece in places of beauty with hills, woods, and sacred streams near the sea. This is where healing and the incubation of dreams took place. Incubation was a ritual commonly preformed. A sick or deeply troubled person would undergo a long hard journey to a temple. Here he would remove his clothes and drink sacred water. Then he would be dressed in clean robes before entering the abaton (the sacred abode of the gods), which was filled with snakes. Here the patient would be left to sleep. The healing god would appear to him in a dream with a message to help in making a cure (Stevens, 4).

Dreams have great significance in the Bible as well. Larry Kettlemen tells us this in his book Dreams. They are said to be messages from God. He was reported as saying, “Hear now my words If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream.” Because of this, dreams were taken very seriously in terms of religion. For example, in the Bible Jacob dreams of the ladder reaching up to heaven (8th chapter of Genesis) “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven And behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Angels are spoken of quite frequently in the presence of dreams. There is a Jewish story of what happens to us before we are born. Supposedly an angel reveals the soul of all things (heaven and earth) and everything our human destiny will bring. At the moment of birth, the angel flips our nose and we forget all we have been shown. At night however, our souls escape from our bodies to heaven. That was thought to be a dream. From ancient cultures to the Bible, there are many different ways of explaining dreams and their purpose.

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The best-known philosopher on dreams is probably Sigmund Freud. He was an extraordinarily intelligent man with many ideas sifting around. His book explains in great detail is theories. More specifically, he explains the conscious and the subconscious, two states of mind. The conscious is when you are awake and fully aware of what you are doing, thinking, feeling, etc. The subconscious is usually when you are sleeping and are not in control of you thoughts (dreams). Freud referred to dreams in a number of ways. He said they are “the guardian of sleep… they represent the best in us and the worst…they are derived from childhood experience… they can be caused by a disturbance while sleeping.” There is also the popular saying, “dreams come from indigestion” (Freud, 150). Freud devoted his life to studying dreams and their hidden meanings. He actually developed a method to help people overcome their problems by analyzing their dreams. He called it psychoanalysis- an analysis of the mind and the personality. Often times he discovered that personality troubles originated from the basis of desires. The strongest desires came from people’s childhoods. Children are sometimes forced to hold back their desires and therefore they are forgotten by the conscious mind, but not the subconscious. He called this repression. He was able to determine what that desire was by looking at the person’s dreams. If he could find it in the subconscious, then he could expose it once again to the conscious mind, therefore allowing the person to confront the issue at hand and deal with it.

While this was a large focus of his career, he also recognized that events in dreams could be in relation to events in recent days or even to a disturbance while sleeping. For example, have you ever dreamt of a fire drill or a siren, only to wake up and realize your alarm clock is going off? The mind plays tricks on itself, allowing it to remain asleep. The most important dreams, however, are usually the reoccurring ones. They tend to represent something important, something one needs to discover about him/herself.

In Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams, he discusses a specific reoccurring case that originated from a childhood experience. Freud explains

Someone who attending a course of lectures of mine and boasted that his dreams very seldom underwent distortion reported to me that not long before he had dreamt of seeing his former tutor in bed with the nurse who had been with his family till his eleventh year. In the dream he has identified the locality where the scene occurred. His interest had been aroused and he had reported the dream to his elder brother, who had laughingly confirmed the truth of what he had dreamt. His brother remembered it very well, as he had been six years old at the time. The lovers had been in the habit of making the elder boy drunk with beer, whenever circumstances were favorable for intercourse during the night. The younger boy-the dreamer-who was then three years old and slept in the room with the nurse, was not regarded as an impediment.

This is where the dream is of what has been called the ‘recurrent’ type that is to say, where a dream was first dreamt in childhood and then constantly from time to time during adult sleep.

Carl G. Jung is another man recognized and well respected for his studies in dream analysis. He believed that the unconscious contains repressed material and possibilities for development, or in other words, to enhance the clarity of one’s conscious choices (Clift, 0). “Amplification” was the method of association he taught (symbols and aspects are amplified by the dreamer’s association with the symbol). He also believed that figures in dreams could be interpreted objectively or subjectively. An objective interpretation would represent the dreamer him/herself. Mostly, however, he thought dreams could be analyzed subjectively, meaning that the dream represents something within the dreamer (Clift, 6). Jung also had some rather farfetched theories. He was convinced that dream symbols are passed from generation to generation. This he called the “collective unconscious.” Symbols once present in a father’s dream could be passed on to his son, and to his son, and so forth.

Recording one’s dreams is something everyone should take the time to do. Besides the fact that is can reveal things about yourself you never knew, it actually gets to be quite fun. Dreams are a part of us, but more often then not they are forgotten or ignored. So many things happen in all the years of living some are big some are small, some are celebrated some are mourned, while others are simply brushed aside. A great many of these events will weave themselves into a dream in some way or another, even if it is just once, in a very tiny way. If those dreams are not recorded, most times they will be forever forgotten shortly after awakening. In keeping a journal of dreams, one is able to look back at them and try to relate them to what is going on in his/her lives, good or bad.

Recording your dreams does take some discipline. It is best to do it every morning. Keep a notepad and pen right next to the bed. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you can remember about the dreams from that night. Be as specific as humanly possible. Record every detail The weather, the colors, the time, furniture, buildings, landscape, feeling, tone, words head/spoken, thoughts that came, the people, their features (age/height, hair/eye/skin color), describe everything. Even the smallest detail may help in analyzing the dream.

For thousands of years dreams have been fascinating philosophers. There are many different theories on them, but all support that dreams are important and worth documenting and analyzing. Dreams are more than entertainment while resting the body and mind; they are a window to the unknown of oneself.

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