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The Many Facets Of Dreaming

Although there is no final agreement on what dreams are and what their value is, if we look at the various findings, dreams can be seen to hold in them something of all the many aspects of human life. Just as society overall has hospitals and churches, schools, libraries and sports facilities to cater for the physical, spiritual, mental and recreational needs of people, so dreams express these departments of ourselves.

· Body Dreams – Bernard S. Seigal, M.D., assistant clinical professor of surgery, Yale University School of Medicine originated the ‘Exceptional Cancer Patient’ group therapy. Through encouraging his patients to tell their dreams and express their feelings via paintings, he found that patients often dreamt clearly about the condition of their body long before normal diagnostic methods could define the illness or healing. Other physicians, such as Kasatkin in Russia, have also drawn notice to this aspect of dreaming, and kept careful records of such dreams in patients.

· Virtual Reality – Sigmund Freud recognised that dreams are different in quality to waking fantasies or daydreams. While dreaming we are usually convinced that our surroundings and what is happening, is completely real. This sense of complete immersion in the dream does not pervade our fantasies. Although during a nightmare this feeling of reality can cause us to be very frightened, the positive side to it is that dreams give us experience as full of impact, and therefore as educational as waking life.

· Regulating – In experiments where volunteers were woken each time they began to dream, a breakdown in the efficiency of mind and body soon became apparent. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described dreams as compensatory. He was particularly referring to the way dreams help balance our conscious personality. According to this view, any extreme is compensated for by an expression of the opposite in our dreams. In this way, lack of love or success in our life may be compensated for by a very powerful release of dream imagery and experience. One may have a vision of ones dead mother or Christ for instance. Without such compensatory experience, continuing life in the face of failure and loneliness might be extremely difficult.

· Personal Growth – The growth of our personality from infancy is a very complex interplay between largely unconscious factors in our body, our experience of our environment, and the way we integrate and deal with these different influences. Dreams do appear to present clear indications of what is emerging as transforming forces in oneself. They also definitely reveal past experience that through trauma may need to be met in order to live ones life more satisfyingly or efficiently. This is why they are so often used in psychotherapy. Because our mind integrates experience, as described below under Creativity, some investigators believe that during our dreaming we ‘upgrade’ such skills as social interaction, speech, etc., which also leads to personal growth. There is neurological evidence that brain cells undergo a learning process during dreaming. Also in the area of personal growth, inquiry into dreams such as recurring nightmares, shows them to be an attempt, occasionally successful, to bring to consciousness and release past traumas such as childhood abandonment, involvement in war environments, or car accidents.

· Creativity – In 1912 Gestalt psychology was launched in Germany when Max Wertheimer published a paper on a visual illusion called apparent motion. Wertheimer had noticed that when we view a sequence of still pictures, as happens watching a film, we have the illusion of seeing movement. This perception of movement was different to the perception of its components – the many static images. This led to the understanding that many of the perceptions we have of the world around us, and many of the concepts we build, are radically different to the many pieces of information or experience they arise from. The sum is therefore different or greater than the parts. Sudden inspirations and creative leaps, when seen from this point of view, are usually a new ‘whole’ formed out of many parts which previously had no connection. The symbols and drama of dreams particularly express this creative forming of new experience and new realisations, new gestalts, out of the mass of separate pieces of experience or information.

· Imagination – This has been listed separately to creativity because they are not necessarily the same. Imagination has been described as the “ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.” To be creative or resourceful is considered highly admirable, yet being imaginative is frequently put down as a time waster. Most of the greatest things in the external world arose out of imagination. Such things as vacuum cleaners and pictures that could be sent through the air – TV – seemed outlandish to logical rational people when they were first mentioned. Dreams are possibly the most powerfully imaginative experiences we can have. Through them we can break free of the restrictions and lack of perception the logical mind has.

· Exercise For The Psyche – Freud believed that dreams expressed repressed sexual desires such as sex and anger. Jung said that in dreams we compensate for what is not experienced in our life. Seen in a more positive light, we can each see that our daily life only allows us to live a small range of the things we would like to do or feel. The circumstances of our life may lead us to prevent ourselves from expressing openly the intensity of the love, the pain, the anger, the creativity we have inside us. In dreams such restrictions fall away to some degree, and our mind, our emotions and sexuality can unfold and we can discover our fuller range of expression and capability. Howard Roffwarg, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York, suggested that nervous activity during REM sleep helps to stimulate the developing brain in very young children, thus promoting the growth of neural connections necessary for learning. In adults, according to Roffwarg, REM serves, like physical exercise, to maintain tone in the central nervous system.

· The Supersenses – Even if we cannot accept there are aspects of life that our senses and sensitive instruments do not show us, most of us agree that our mind, through our senses and emotions, can extrapolate from the thousands of bits of information we take in. For instance is we look at a person for a few minutes we might have few thoughts about what type of person they are. But if questioned carefully, we will realise that we have very definite impressions about them from the way they dress, stand, talk and move. In fact we ‘know’ a great deal about them. In our dreams we not only browse through the huge amount of information we have taken in and build insight or knowledge out of it, but sometimes we leap right beyond what our senses have enables us to gather, and arrive at true intuitive perception.

(2)What a waste of a wonderful resource, what criminal negligence it is if we therefore fail to remember dreams and gain enrichment from their fresh and unique perspectives, their ability to give pungent comments on our relationships and their possible outcome, and the opportunities dreams present to explore new approaches to our everyday life. What a loss if we do not discover the many splendored facets of our own mind and consciousness. As Robert Van De Castle says – You were issued a lifetime pass to free dreams at birth. Why not take advantage of it? (3)

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