Dream Interpretation Essay

This essay has a total of 2548 words and 13 pages.

Dream Interpretation

December 7, 1999

It Was Only a Dream

She awakens in the night, the visions from her mind still vivid. The dream was amazingly
realistic. A long hallway stretched before her. Several doors lined the hallway, each with
a padlock. A ring full of keys weighed heavily in her hand. What did it all mean? Did this
hallway symbolize her life? The doors could have meant many things, possibly the choices
she faces daily. As she drifts back to sleep, thoughts of the dream cloud her mind. She
hopes to remember it in the morning and search for answers.

The description of this woman could match any number of people. Years of research have
produced findings that everyone dreams. While not everyone may remember his or her dreams,
sleep studies have shown that each person does dream as he or she progresses through the
stages of sleep. Whether or not these dreams contain any significant meaning for the
dreamer is a source of arguments today, as well as in years past. An in depth study of
dream interpretation will reveal the benefits of exploring the meanings behind dreams.

To begin this study, it is helpful to first understand the different aspects of sleep. In
Atkinson's Introduction to Psychology book, she states that sleep contains five stages,
including "four depths of sleep and a fifth stage, known as rapid eye movement (REM)"
(193). In various sleep studies, most adults go through all stages during their normal
sleeping hours. While they drift from one stage of sleep to another, activity in the brain
increases and decreases. However, this study is interested mostly in the fifth stage, REM
sleep. Individuals incur a great amount of details during the course of any given day,
including dates, places, times and people. "During REM sleep, the brain creates a story
line that allows this large volume of events to be stored and remembered in a coherent
form, albeit at an unconscious level" (Chopra 107). REM occurs at different times
throughout an individual's time asleep, and consumes from thirty minutes up to two hours
of an individuals non-waking moments.

Every individual is subject to REM sleep, and some suffer from REM Sleep Disorder. The
disorder involves a severe attachment to a person's dreams. Dotto reports that while
sufferers consist mostly of men over fifty years of age, it can affect anyone. She also
states that research has discovered that 60% of the disorder is due to aging, while 40%
can be blamed on neurological problems (119). This disorder is no laughing matter. "One
case in England resulted in a man shooting his new bride to death while he was dreaming of
being pursued by gangsters" (Maas 161). The severity of this problem is treatable with
medication; but sufferers are encouraged to sleep in protected surroundings, with no sharp
objects in the room, and no open windows.

With a better understanding of REM sleep, progression can be made toward the history of
dreams and the study of their meanings. In Restful Sleep, Chopra relates that dreams were
first believed to tell the future of entire communities (102). The Bible also gives
evidence of the importance to dreams. Joseph was told about Mary carrying the Christ child
during a dream. "At the beginning of recorded history, and for the millennia thereafter,
dreams were considered divine messages in virtually every religious culture" (Maguire 2).
Thus, the importance of dreams to a vast array of cultures was made quite evident from a
very early time.

However, not everyone believes in the importance of dreams. "Some scientists today attach
almost no importance to dreams. They are only random thoughts drifting into our minds
during sleep, no serious relationship to our waking life" (Kavey 33). While some of the
arguments presented may have validity, the benefits of dream study and interpretation far
outweigh the possible conflicts these studies uncover. For instance, the Journal of Mental
Health Counseling published a study concerning ways dream interpretation could benefit
individuals with mental health disturbances. "The elements of a dream should be examined
in detail for two reasons. First, the dream is a symbolic depiction of something in the
client's inner world. The second reason for exploration is that the dreamer often does not
remember all of the dream's elements at its first telling" (Barrineau). By delving into
the contents and meanings of these dreams, the mental health professional may be able to
better understand the patient's underlying problem, thus allowing more appropriate and
effective treatment.

Additionally, exploring children's dreams can be very beneficial when a child begins
having problems in his or her daily life. "Children's dreams often hold clues to the same
anxieties and insecurities that plague their parents" (MacGregor 69). Children can gain
approval of dream sharing when encouraged to do so by the adults they live with. In The
Everything Dreams Book, MacGregor states "If they live in households where dream sharing
is simply a part of the family routine, they'll be more apt to remember and relate their
dreams" (69). Therefore, parental encouragement is key to helping unlock the mysteries
contained in a child's dream. Dream study can also give the counselor or parent a handle
on what type of dreams the child is experiencing.

For example, nightmares make up one element of dreams. A person suffering from a nightmare
may wake up scared, experiencing heavy breathing and a racing heart. Chopra states this
person will recall the dream in its entirety with a lot of detail. He also writes that
themes are frequent in nightmares (109). Often, nightmare sufferers experience the feeling
of pursuit, of falling, or of dying. Perhaps a person exposed to frequent nightmares will
find a study in dream interpretation especially helpful as a start toward a smoother
nights sleep. A person tormented with repeated nightmares may wish to end them because
"nightmares can influence how you feel and how you behave the following day" (103). Thus,
putting an end to the torment would be essential to that individual's well being, both
personally and professionally. Nightmare sufferers could benefit from the knowledge of how
to begin exploring those dreams.

The first step to dream interpretation is vital. It concerns actually remembering the
dream. "Many people say they don't remember dreaming when, in fact, they forget them"
(Dotto 36). When the dreamer first awakens, the dream may be vivid and fresh in his or her
mind. However, these impressions fade quickly, seemingly in seconds. An article in USA
Today reveals the following tips to remembering dreams:

· Write down the details as soon as possible.
· Sort out the elements of the dream.
· Define these elements.
· Consider the significance of the symbols.
· Match the elements with a meaning (Your Life).
Because of the difficulty recalling ones dreams, it is vital to begin a form of
journalizing if one wants to remember and interpret his or her dreams. By starting with a
simple notepad and pen next to the bed, the dreamer has the first tools needed to begin
the process of dream recall. Upon waking, the dreamer should write down notes immediately.
"The dream you remember is not the dream itself. By the time you are fully awake, you have
forgotten 90%, if not more" (Moss 64). Jotting down details is important, but extra
wording is not necessary. The main points of the dream, or specific aspects, are of
greatest importance when beginning this process.

After the dreamer gets in the habit of recording his or her dreams, the analysis begins.
"Most people find even casual analysis of their dreams helpful in understanding themselves
and solving problems of everyday life" (Kavey 33). Because dreams seem to mimic the events
of daily living, with strange twisted details, it seems only natural to want to discover
the hidden meanings of the dreams. People should analyze their dreams to "gain personal
insight and identify conflicts" (Your Life). After reviewing notes of several dreams, the
dreamer may begin to see patterns in the dream content. These patterns begin to take on
the aspects of a theme in the dreamer's life.

The first step to analyzing a dream is to identify the theme. USA Today states "dreams
mirror the themes in our lives" (Your Life). Thus, when writing down the details of a
dream, it is helpful to note a theme, if possible. The majority of what one dreams
pertains to oneself. The typical dreamer is "selfish" and, while arriving at a theme is
not the interpretation entirely, it does head the analyzer in the appropriate direction.
Creating themes can be easy and doing so requires reasonable thought processes. During the
process, it helps to match a theme to the emotions the dream represented. Noting the
dreamers "emotional state" while dreaming is extremely helpful. Additionally, basic theme
identity can "set the tone" for theme analization (Dream Basics). "The feeling you have
about it, rather than the memory of an incident, may suggest the focus of the message your
unconscious is sending you" (Parker 39). Essentially, the dreamer must be open to what the
dream is trying to say. He or she should not force personal desire into the dream, but
rather see the theme for what it really is, or presents itself to be.

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