Dreams and their Significance

I dream that I am here
Loaded with heavy chains,
I dreamt the brilliant life
In which I late saw myself.
What is life” A lie,
A patch of shadow, a fiction.
Fortune? An illusion.
All life is a dream,
And dreams—O mockery—
Are themselves but a dream.

‘La Vida Es Sueno’. X. Calderon.

How much do you know about your dreams? In a period of human history when all disposable energy is spent in the investigation and examination of nature, very little attention is paid to the real essence of mankind, which exists in the form of psyche. The still deeply shrouded areas of the human mind that govern the psyche are being unexplored in favour of more concrete concepts that deal with more conscious tangible functions of the mind.

In his book ‘Man and his Symbols’ Dr. Carl Gustav Jung points out that the human mind just like any geographical terrain is made up of its own evolutionary history derived from the plateau of the unconscious which retains many traces left from earlier learning.

To know and understand the psychic life process it is important to realize that dreams and their symbolic images have an important part to play. Various schools of thought consider symbolic ideas to be the vital link to a healthy development of the personality. From the sixth century B.C. to the sixth century A.D. dream interpretation was a popular practice. The Chinese were one of the first civilizations to actually deeply probe into the phenomenon of dreams and to offer principles of interpretation.

Two important literary classics that emerged were Japanese astrologer Abe No Seimi’s ‘Book of Divination by Dreams’ first published in 1772 and Pierre Vattier’s French translation of Gaddorrchamon’s Arabic manuscript ‘L’onirocrite Musalman on Doctrine et Interpretation des Sanges Selon les Arabs’. These texts were significant because they were the first of their kind to attempt to explain dreams as groupings of images and symbols.

At present there exists many popular theories of dreams all offering Scientific, Physical, Psychological or Psychical explanations. The chief theories currently being; (i) The physiological or heavy supper theory, (ii) The personal reminiscence theory, (iii) The theory of racial reminiscence and (iv) The premonitory theory.

The physiological theory put forward by Aristotle over two thousand years ago operates from a digestive model and proposes that dreams are caused by other bodily disturbances which occur as a result of internal evaporation. A heavy meal by drawing blood for the digestion affects the circulation to the brain and gives rise to the dream.

The personal reminiscence theory views dreams as basic mental images that are released by everyday experiences which carry strong significance for the dreamer.

The premonitory theory which proposes that dreams are important because they are in fact ‘gateways’ to the future which is supposedly predetermined for each individual. In order to accept this theory in its entirety, we must believe that the future is fixed and that there exists a possibility of our knowing it.

Anatomical studies have revealed that the brain is the most complex and single most important organ in the body made up of a series of inter-linked structures that are associated with language, thought processes and sensory experience-all necessary for the production of dreams. Humans sleep on average eight to ten hours each night. This means that one third of our life is spent sleeping, so by the time we are seventy five years old, we have slept and dreamt for twenty five years!

As a physical and mental restorative sleep is unequalled. The first concentrated experiments in sleep deprivation were performed by physiologist Marie de Manaceine in the second half of the nineteenth century.The consequences of sleep loss are; restlessness, irritability, photophobia, fearfulness and bizarre reactions to food. According to Prof. J. Empson author of several books concerned with sleep research, persistant insomnia in middle age or earlier is commonly associated with affective illness; i.e. depression, drug abuse, alcoholism and respiratory difficulties.

Psychiatrist Dr. Ernest Hartmann of Boston State Hospital’s Sleep and Dream Laboratory has interestingly linked personality types with length and character of sleep and discovered that short sleepers as a rule tend to be very energetic, decisive, ambitious and socially adept individuals who fit into the extrovert band speculated by philosophers such as Galen and Hippocrates. Long sleepers on the other hand tend to be, according to Dr Hartmann, highly creative speakers who have a tendency to be non-conformist and critically selective in their social views.

Sigmund Freud interpreted the introverted type of personality as an individual morbidly concerned with themselves. Carl Gustav Jung on the other hand held introspection and self-knowledge in high esteem and valued its importance. Beyond doubt, man and woman becomes whole, integrated, calm, fertile and happy when the process of personal individuation is complete. When the conscious and unconscious have learned to live at peace and to complement one another.

On a relatively simple level, dream language is often figurative and our dreams are trying to tell us something. They do not use words to express their meaning but communicate through visual imagery and, to a lesser extent, through the other four senses- sight, smell, taste and hearing. Imagery, in dreams often takes the form of the symbolic and representational, implying that persons and places represent specific principles or situations in the dreamers actual life. When the dream has been explored and a symbolic meaning discovered it can then be applied to the dreamer’s circumstances.

Below is a dream which make sense when we recognize that the characters do not represent real people but rather principles.

I am house hunting and decide to investigate a house that captures my interest. Externally the house is very attractive but once inside, feelings of oppression overwhelm me and force me to flee from the building in a state of terror.

INTERPRETATION

This dream highlights the dreamer’s fundamental insecurity regarding new experiences which relate to adult independence. On the surface, the dreamer appears to be looking forward to the challenge of independence as represented by the ‘attractive house’ but is really subconsciously afraid as represented by the dreaded feeling of terror that they may not be up to the task and will want to flee from the responsibility of adulthood instead.

Shahnaz Khan is a Psychotherapist & Writer. She offers both weekly private individual and group dream therapy sessions for those interested in understanding their dreams and improving their relationships. As well as dream interpretation she also offers astrological analysis. Shahnaz received her training with the late Prof. Petruska Clarkson in Harley Street, London in the mid 90’s.

Image reproduced from retiredindelaware.blogspot.com

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About Pia Madison

Pia is a trained Psychotherapist & Trainer who made her first media appearance in 1997 when she was invited by the Editor of the then cutting edge psychotherapy magazine’ Dialogue’ to submit an article dealing with health and emotional intelligence. She was at the time studying on Harley St under the eminent Clinical Psychologist Prof. Petruska Clarkson. Since then she has received acclaim as a regular professional guest on Yorkshire’s award winning Sunrise Radio, successfully interpreting dreams live on air to a captivating audience of over 60,000 listeners. Pia writes as a Features Writer for City Connect on Health & Beauty and Relationships as well as offering individual life coaching support to both individuals and companies.
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