Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yes, Your Dream Does Mean Something (A Beginner's Guide to Dreaming) Part 1

Hundreds of years ago, dreams were considered a channel to the divine. Gods, spirits and the universe revealed things to us when we were asleep. The Egyptians, biblical characters, the Aztecs, all of these gave special significance to dreams and interpreted them to see the future or gain valuable information. Unfortunately, today dreams have been reduced to random electrical activity in the brain. However, we will see that dreams are much more than that.

While it is true that dreams have their origin in electrical activity, it would be silly to dismiss them, just as it would be silly to dismiss everything you think and feel just because it happens due to neurotransmitters racing from neuron to neuron. Even if the electrical activity is random, the way the brain chooses to interpret it is clearly relevant.
Yeah right! That dream you had about your ideal partner was just random brain activity...

 Hundreds of writers, historians, psychologists, philosophers, kings and even common people like you and mean have pondered about the meaning of dreams. Is it a message from the gods? A vision of the future or of your past life? Your imagination and creativity set free for a while? Your true fears and desires being revealed? A metaphor or a symbol?  An internal compass guiding you? Maybe its all of that and more.

To avoid creating an argument about the existence or non-existences of gods and of the possibility of seeing the future/past, those two possibilities will not be further explored here but will be left up to you to decide whether they could be true or not. (At the end of the article there will be links if you are interested in any of those topics).

Dream as Creativity, Imagination and Problem Solving

The interesting thing about the unconscious is that it keeps working for you, putting bits and pieces of information together and analyzing things while you rest. Even if you don't  remember your dreams, the labor of your unconscious isn't lost. There are two ways dreams can help us in this area. Have you ever had a problem where you couldn't make up your mind, go to bed and when you open your eyes you know the answer? 
Lets use an example: I had met two girls and felt attracted to both of them and couldn't decide which one to ask out. One of them had stunning good looks but I got along better with the other one. I spent the whole day thinking about which one I should choose (for those of you one step ahead, I couldn't choose both because they were friends). So I went to bed and entered the world of the unconscious, hoping to gain some insight from it. Anyways, I had dream in which I went a got a really cute puppy for a pet, everybody was so excited about it, but it bit me and ended up causing an allergic reaction.
If I hadn't been so driven to get help from a dream I probably would've ignored and forgotten the dream. But that wouldn't have mattered because as soon as I opened my eyes I already knew who I wanted to ask out: the "nice" girl over the "hot" girl. My interpretation of the dream only confirmed it. Here's how it went: everybody had seen me flirting around at a party with both of the girls and all the guys told me to ask the hot girl out (that's the PG-13 version of what they said anyways). In my dream those were the people who were all excited about the cute puppy (emphasis con cute). However, one of my more mature friends advised me to "choose the girl you had more fun with, because when you think with your libido instead of your head, you end up getting hurt". So, getting bit by the hot girl (a.k.a the metaphorical puppy in the dream) seemed like something worth going after, but getting hurt in the end (yes, you guessed it, the metaphorical allergic reaction) was a deal-breaker.

So in the end I chose the "nice" girl (who was good-looking as well by the way) and 3 and a half years later, here we are married, with 2 beautiful kids.
Just kidding; she had a boyfriend.

As anticlimatic as that was, it was not my unconscious' fault for choosing her, because the dream never told me to go for the nice girl. Even if it did, it still was been my conscious's  responsibility to have found out that she had boyfriend (the unconscious had no way of knowing). However, there is also a positive note to the finale, because later on I found out some information about the hot girl and her ways that make me grateful that I didn't ask her out.

Now when it comes to creativity, the unconscious can also be of assistance. Dreams often deal with issues that are important to us, and since the unconscious has access to millions of videos, pictures, sounds, memories and thoughts that we can't access as easily, dreams can often express important feelings, desires, and ideas in original and unconventional ways. Below, a short list of some great people inspired by dreams:

  • Paul McCartney: woke up humming the melody to what would become the song "Yesterday" by the Beatles.

  • Authors: Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) were all inspired by their dreams
  •   Jack Nicklaus: the greatest professional golfer of all times changed his swing after realizing in a dream that there was a better way to do it
                                                                    Jack Nicklaus
  • Carl Jung: came up with his model of the unconscious from a dream (in an attempt to improve Freud's oversimplified model in which everything came down to sex and aggression).
  • Albert Einstein: got clues from a dream that allowed him to discover the Theory of Relativity (yes, the one with the E=MC2 equation).

  • Salvador Dali: the most famous surrealist artist was constantly searching for new ways to explore the unconscious to get more creative material from it
                                              Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion, c.1954 Art Print

Ok, I think you get the point. Maybe you're thinking of a new idea for a business or perhaps you're unsure about whether you should move to another city. Try putting this wise Latin-American saying into practice: "Why don't you consult your pillow?"

Ready for more? Part 2 will include "Metaphors and Symbols: the Secret Language of the Unconscious" "Dreams as Your Inner Wisdom" and "True Desires and Fears". Check it our here.

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