The stuff of dreams

Ever awaken from a dream where a giant monster made of pink ice cream was chasing you down the street? As you try to escape, your legs felt like lead, or were nailed to the floor. No one comes to your help. Just as you find your running legs and spring into action, you find yourself leaping off a cliff! The feeling of falling you experience feels so real it awakens you. Your heart is pounding, maybe you feel out of breath. It was an unsettling experience, and you're glad to be awake as you say to yourself: ''it was just a dream.'' The next day as you tell a friend, they laugh. They look at you strangely because they say they never dream.

Everyone dreams-- but for those of us who do remember our dreams it seems another world where logic and probability are suspended. It can be a place of wonderful beauty and vivid color, or just black and white images that seem to appear and disappear with no warning. Our dreams can have reoccurring themes, nightmarish, or just the same theme over and over again.

I remember at least one dream every night. Many times I find myself walking around in houses that seem familiar yet each house is different. Before my life-altering experience with Lyme Disease, I used to chronically dream I was swimming in a pool without enough water. Swimming was an exercise I thoroughly enjoyed-- yet in my dreams I would find myself having to laboriously propel my body along the bottom of the pool filled with 6 to 8 inches of water. In the dream, my body would always feel heavy and tired. Since I now choose water as my main drink, and plenty of it, I rarely have that dream. Coincidence, or a message sent from my body via the subconscious underworld of dreams?

Dream images are highly personal. To understand and work with the messages your dreams may be sending you will require that you-- and you alone-- determine what those images mean. Some things are pretty universal, but for example, a dream of an old, deserted house may produce fear in one person and feelings of nostalgia in another.

There are many theories about dreams. The famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, believed that dreams were the ''royal road to the unconscious'' and represented thoughts that the conscious mind had censored. Many of today's dream interpretation books are based heavily in this theory. But, when REM or rapid eye movement sleep cycles were discovered, and dreams were found to have a biological component, many scientists and psychologists reformulated their thinking about the meaning of dreams. Some go as far as to suggest that dreams are nothing more than the result of random nerve activity and have no real significance. Yet many of these hard-liners have had to concede that the plots or stories in the dreams closely follow the individual's need to resolve certain glaring issues in their lives-- be they physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual.

Current research theories regarding the function of dreams have suggested that dreaming may have a biological as well as an emotional function, that perhaps dreaming serves as a mental housecleaning or memory processing-- literally ridding the mind of unwanted unneeded information. It's kind of like emptying the hard drive on your computer, getting rid of what isn't needed, and making room for information that is viewed by the mind as useful. As one researcher put it ''we dream to forget.''

Dreams can and should be a pleasant experience-- in spite of their bizarre imagery. I remember one client telling me he never remembered his dreams until he stopped smoking. Now he says he can't wait to go to sleep to see what or who he will dream about. ''And,'' he added, ''they're always in living color.'' If you have a troublesome nightmare or recurring dream you may need to seek some professional help to resolve it. It will require some work on your part as well.

Here are some tips to help you remember your dreams:

Make a written or recorded message of your dreams as soon as you awaken from the dream. A word or two will do. Later, write out every detail that you can remember. As you write you will be surprised what phrases or word pictures begin to make sense.

Always note the date and day of the week. This can be important in future interpretations.

Share your dreams with people you care about. Ask them about their dreams.

Read a book on dreams or dream interpretation and be open to suggestions-- not gullible.

Till next time, sweet dreams, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online November 9, 1999

Back to The Zephyr