Function of Dreaming
1 – An expression of what is happening in the physical body. Some doctors consider dreams to show signs of illness long before they are evident in other ways. Women frequently know they are pregnant very early on through sleep awareness in a dream. See: body; body dreams; Kasatkin_Vasily; consciousness-mind body split.
2 – A link between the sleeping mind and what is occurring externally. For instance, a person may be falling out of bed and dream of flying or falling.
3 – A way of balancing the physiological and psychological activities in us. When a person is deprived of dreaming in experiments, a breakdown in mind and body quickly occurs. This type of dreaming can often be a safety valve releasing tension and emotion not dealt with in waking life. See: compensation theory; self-regulation dreams and fantasy; science and dreams.
4 – An enormously original source of insight and information. Dreams tap our memory, our experience, and scan information held in our unconscious to form new insights from old experience. Dreams often present to us summaries or details of experience we have been unable to access consciously. Sometimes this is as early as life in the womb.
Are there any limitations to the inventiveness available to us when dreaming? The answer would be a resounding No! for Frederick Greenwood, the London editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. In his 1894 book, Imagination in Dreams and Their Study, he recognised that while dreaming, “we draw on a power of invention which it would puzzle us to equal with our eyes open.”’ He posited that “no conception of the sweep and force of imagination is too wide to be brought to the study of dreaming, and that its possibilities include what is now called miraculous power” Quoted from Our Dreaming Mind by Robert van de Castle. See: creativity and problem solving in dreams.
5 – A dream image is an expression of a dimension or aspect of your mind or awareness. What this means is that we are not simply one thing. We have various ‘programs’ running at the same time. If you are standing you are using a ‘balance’ program that you learnt with difficulty as a child. At the same time you might be using a language program and also a vision program. A while ago I experienced a serious stroke and lost the ability to speak and write; so I have had to relearn much of that. Without them facets of me were missing. But there are so many subtle things that we might be missing; many of us live very much in their thoughts or emotions, or within the restrictions of a belief system, and dreams can illustrate dimensions that can leave those restrictions behind.
6 – A means of compensating for failure or deprivation in everyday life, and as a means of expressing the otherwise unacknowledged aspects of oneself. Such dreams are a move toward wholeness. See: compensation theory.
7 – In dreams we may be integrating new experience with what we have already gathered and digested. In this way our abilities, such as social skills, are gradually upgraded. See: computer, computer-dream process as a; Evans, Christopher.
8 – Dreams often stand in place of actual experience. So through dreams we may experiment with new experience or practice things we have not yet done externally. For instance many young women dream in detail of giving birth. This function of what might be called ‘imagination’ is tremendously undervalued, but is a foundation upon which human survival is built. See: imagination and dreaming.
9 – An means of exercise for the psyche or soul. Just as the body will become sick if not moved and stressed, so the mind and emotions need stimulus and exercise. Dreams fulfil this need.
10 – An expression of human supersenses. Humans have an unconscious ability to read body language – so they can assess other humans very quickly. Humans have an unimaginable ability to absorb information, not simply from books, but from everyday events. With it they constantly arrive at new insights and realisations. Humans frequently correctly predict the future – not out of a bizarre ability, but from the information gathered about the present. All these abilities and more show in our dreams. See: esp in dreams.
11 – A means of solving problems, or formulating creative ideas, both in our personal life, and also in relationships and work. Many people have produced highly creative work directly from dreams.
12 – A presentation in symbols of past traumatic experience. If met this can lead to deep psychological healing. Such dreams are therefore an attempt on the part of our spontaneous inner processes to bring about healing change. See: abreaction; compensation theory; nightmares.
13 – In the widest sense nearly all dreams act as a process of growth or a move toward maturing. Some dreams are very obviously presenting internal forces or dimensions of experience that might lead the conscious personality toward a greater balance and inclusiveness. See: individuation; LifeStream.
14 – A way of reaching beyond the known world of experience and presenting intimations from the unknown. Many people have dreams in which ESP, out of the body experiences, and knowledge transcending time and space occur. This type of dream may indicate a link between the present person and people who had lived in the distant past; or between the dreamer and all existing life. Some of these dreams present powerful insights into how the transitory human personality may arise out of an eternal consciousness. They thus deal with the spiritual aspects of human nature. See: Buddhism and dreams; Cayce, Edgar; collective unconscious; Christianity and dreams; esp in dreams; occultism and dreams; hallucinations; history of dream beliefs; religion and dreams; yoga and dreams; Dream Yoga.