This is part two of the blog series where I talk about how to use dream to elevate your conscious self. Check out the first part related to this blog post if you have not read it yet before reading this one. In this blog post, we will unravel the theories of two psycho-analysts and one real scientist (that was a joke, please do not be offended). Let us start with this dark matter.
If Freud and Hobson fight over the same bone
Dr. Sigmund Freud believes that dreams express your suppressed desires and wishes. Dreams are formed by our motivations and emotions in life. What gets expressed during our dreams is most likely a representation of who we really are. Yes, to some degree that can be a pretty hard reality. According to Freud’s theory, people normally get a distorted vision of certain, less appropriate dreams in order to protect them from the anxiety that goes along with these kind of dreams. It is not fun to get confronted with your fear of being rejected by your mother during a dream.
If we follow the analogy above, in order to spare you from these anxious feelings, your mother will be in your dream replaced by a Teletubby. Rejection by a Teletubby does not feel half as bad, I guess.
Anxiety dreams can happen, according to Freud, when there is a motivational conflict in your life. For example, when I started my recovery I had anxious dreams about becoming fat. I was motivated to change but at the same time there was still a lack of full internal motivation and body acceptance.
The theory of Hobson
Dr. Allan Hobson is an American psychiatrist and dream researcher. His research has developed over four decades which means there are several theories that he has presented. I will share them very briefly.
Dreaming is initiated by the chaotic pons activity during REM sleep. The pons is a part of the brainstem and is essential in controlling processes like breathing, sleeping, swallowing, hearing etc. The word “pons” is actually derived from Latin and means bridge. You could remember this brain structure as the bridge to your life.
During dreams, our forebrains will interpret that noisy electrical activity that comes from the pons. Because of your forebrain, you can become aware of the phenomena called dreams. This will also result in the creation of conscious elements like emotions, perceptions, and thoughts.
The AIM model stands for activation-input and output gate control-modulation of brain chemicals. This theory simply states that dreaming is based on the neurochemical changes and its consequent operations. Even more simply stated you could say that dreams are a chemical experiment in your brain while each chemical reaction corresponds to a different state and consequent reaction.
This hypothesis states that REM sleep generates a state of consciousness during sleep that could be essential for your conscious state during the day. With other words waking consciousness is built during your sleep. It is the same like muscles which are being built while we sleep.
We will, for example, practice skills during our sleep that could be essential to our survival as species. A kid that practices running, this would replicate these same movements in his or her mind during sleep.
This was a lot of information to digest. Maybe this would be a good time to read the previous paragraphs again. I want you to really grasp the theories I have explained in order to be able to move to the next paragraph.
The problem with Hobson’s theory
Hobson claims, mostly in his first claim, that dreams are chaotic and random. We are faced with a couple of problems because of that:
- Dreams appear to be coherent. They will repeat themselves a lot of times. They are in essence not random.
- Recurring dreams should not occur under chaotic conditions. That goes against the definition of randomness.
- Drug dreams during withdrawal also go against the random nature of dreams.
So maybe there is more truth to Freud’s ideas than Hobson’s ideas. Dreams do definitely have a motivational driver. On the other hand, Hobson’s ideas contradict each other. If dreams are made to rehearse learned skills during the day, how can they appear to be totally random. According to research, dreams do tend to reappear a lot which makes the randomness even less likely.
The complete truth about dreams is not discovered yet but maybe Jung has also something to add to the equation.
Jung runs away with it
Dr. Carl Jung believes that our dreams are suppressed emotions, feeling, and memories that will present themselves to you in your sleeping phase. This way you can learn more about the true you during your awakened life. This theory feels very similar to the theory of Freud. Let us see if there are any differences.
The biggest difference is that Jung takes the principles of Freud a bit farther. Dreams are like a communication tool to our conscious mind. Analyzing your dreams is one of the ways to reach true individuation. Dreams are almost like Google, they have all your data. This data is crucial to achieve personal growth and self actualization.
Dreams actually go about authenticity. If this sentence did not make sense to you, I failed this blog essentially.
Anxiety dreams tell us more about our real fears. Dreams about being a mother tell you more about your maternal instinct (if you are a woman, obviously).
Ok, now you know that analyzing your dreams can be interesting to discover some of your subconscious aspects. This can be necessary to truly discover your life purpose and to grow as an individual. The essential question, however, remains, “How do we analyze our dreams?”
In contrast to what popular social media posts would suggest, there is no one way to analyze a certain dream. A dream where you fall out of the sky does not not have the same meaning to everybody. This should always be analyzed according to the bigger pictures of one’s life. Let us dig deep into the steps you can use to analyze your dreams.
How to analyze your dreams
Write them down right after you wake up. This step is the hardest because it requires a sense of discipline. I know you are thinking right now that there is no way you will add another thing to your already endless morning routine. I understand you completely. However, if there is a dream that gave strong emotional reactions, it can be a good idea to write it down while that dream is still fresh in your memory.
While you write down your dream, do not skip the details. A dream is most of the times not really logical. It could even be that the main story is not so relevant on itself but the relevancy hides itself in little details. This means that details can matter a lot in dreams!
There is no way you can start analyzing your dreams if you do not make up a story line. During your REM sleep there is no point for your brain to invent a specific story line. During our conscious times though we will make sense of the world through stories.
This story is not going to be correct but that will not influence the interpretation of your dreams. The interpretation and creativity you use in creating this story is just as important as the process of the dream itself.
Discover the major themes. If you, for example, have been dreaming about a car crash together with your parents, where you found yourself and your parents stuck in the car, then there could be a couple of major themes to be discovered. This is also going to be personal.
- Emotions: The overarching emotions of this dream were anxiety, sadness, and panic.
- The main characters were you and your parents. Maybe there is something to discover about the relationship between you and your parents.
- Thoughts: Most of the thoughts will be about loss of control, helplessness, regret, shame, and grief.
- The scene: Where did the car crash? Why was it a crash in a car and not in another vehicle?
- Reactions: What were your reactions? Maybe you were content with this bad faith. This could mean you have taken peace with something. Maybe it goes about the process of letting go of the need to have extrinsic control over situations and relationships.
Find the connection between those themes and your own life. This is the most essential part. This is the step where you can learn something about yourself. Do not look at it from an observer standpoint. Your dreams are a creation of you. Look at your dreams like they belong to you! Understand what could be causing certain feelings. Understand why certain characters were in your dream. Connect the dots with your own life.
What results can you expect?
Your results will depend on a few factors like the frequency of your dreams, how actively you recall your dreams, how consistently you note down your dreams, and how good you are in analyzing your thoughts and emotions. The possible benefits can be the following:
- You will remember more of your dreams. Active recall and noting them directly down will help you to consolidate these dreams into your memory.
- You will maybe get confronted with a part of yourself you have been avoiding for a long time. Then it is time to start working with that newly discovered part of yourself.
- You will start to notice patterns in your dreams.
- You can get more in line with who you really are and who you want to be. (The previous sentence could win the Nobel prize for the “most corny sentence ever” if there is one.)
The grand conclusion
Dreams are a very curious phenomena that happen during our REM sleep. There are different theories of why we dream. The psycho-analysts believe that we dream to expose our suppressed thoughts or feelings. Dr. Allan Hobson, however, believes dreams are more random electrical activity in our brain and that we make up our own story about these brain signals afterwards.
But if dreams are not random and tell you something more about yourself, then they are a great opportunity to learn more about yourself. I have given you a framework with a couple of steps you can follow to analyze your dreams. There is only one thing I would really advise you to do, which is to become more aware of your dreams. You do not have to follow all the steps above. Awareness is already enough for now.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.