Every single night, a single person will have at least 76 different images that float through their brain. These 76 images will filter into one large movie. Movies like this will play through our minds and in a sense, give us something to do while we sleep. These movies are called dreams. Not only do dreams offer a private means to explore inner reality and to gain unique, undeniable, personal experiences, but there is overwhelming evidence that can be used to improve waking life. Dreams offer opportunities for fun, adventure, wish fulfillment, creativity, deep personal insight, and healing. As we sleep, mental images tell stories that are beyond any that can be lived in reality. In 1953, Eugene Aserinski of the University of Chicago, noticed that the eyes of sleeping babies moved beneath their eyelids at certain regular intervals. This led to the discovery of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During this 60-90 minute period, a person will have flittering pictures of these “76 images.” These images will eventually develop into movies that will cause a human being to think differently than ever before.
During this REM sleep that everybody goes through every single night, many occurrences happen. One of these occurrences is called Stress Related Relief. SRR is said to be a way for our lives to brush away all of the stress we build up during a day. Even though there are many theories as to why we dream and what dreams mean, there is one general consensus that scientists will agree to: dreams don’t mean a thing. There are psychological reasons why people think that dreams mean something, but the point is that they don’t. Most scientists believe that we dream because of the “Mental Housekeeping Model” which holds that dreams are a result of our neurological “housekeeping” that is done while our brain sweeps unimportant data away as we sleep. Consequently, this model is very similar to SRR and people tend to believe that it is true. Although dreams do seem to tell a story, these stories have no purpose in our life. Most dreams are just our brains attempting to function while we are attempting to not make them function. During sleep, our brain supposedly shuts down and stops working. This is true in a hypothetical sense, because our minds can play tricks on us during the day. Meanwhile, as we sleep, our minds play tricks with our dreams.
Several types of dreams flitter through our heads every time we sleep. As I mentioned earlier, dreams offer opportunities for fun, adventure, wish fulfillment, creativity, deep personal insight, and healing. Healing is just one of the aspects of the dreams that we can have. Since the beginning of recorded history, and probably further, dreams have been employed for guidance and healing. The dream temples of ancient Greece are a classic example where the ill would perform a sacred ritual and sleep in a specialized healing temple. The Greek God, Asklepios, would often appear in a visionary dream, perform a symbolic operation, and the seeker would awaken healed or having received guidance. Dreaming in order to heal is an ancient phenomenon that modern scientists have declared mythical and false.
Almost everyone has experienced one or more dreams that contain anxiety or outright fear. These experiences can be quite traumatic or become recurrent. For some, unpleasant dreams or nightmares repeat in actual content. For others, the content may change while the theme remains the same. Some examples are scenes of falling, being pursued or attacked, being late or unprepared for class, or a presentation or an exam. Some people even dream of being stuck in slow motion and unable to move, or of being naked in public, to name a few common themes. Research has shown that most recurring dreams are described as being unpleasant enough to cause problems and anxiety during consciousness. Furthermore, many dream theories converge in their view that this type of experience is associated with lack of progress by the dreamer to recognize and solve related conflicts in life. Once again, theories have been made as to why this is, however, it doesn’t matter because dreams have no real purpose. Some will say dreams provide what Star Trek fans might call a nightly experience, or what hi-tech buffs might see as the ultimate virtual reality, where there is no limit to graphics resolution, computing power, or online storage. This virtual reality world is just a way for our minds to get a moment of relaxation. Contrary to the idea that dreams really don’t serve a real purpose, there are some scientists that would argue against that.
Although research says that dreams have no purpose and are just movies that our minds play, they can, however, reflect upon our lifestyle and our daily activities. Though they are generally symbolic of psychological processes, some dreams and nightmares are intended as guidance or warnings on a very practical level. For example, if somebody were to dream about the brakes failing on their car, it might help to ponder whether they are figuratively having trouble “slowing themselves down” in their life, ergo, it would also be very wise to check the actual brakes on their automobile in waking life. Assuredly, not all precognitive dreams are about dire events. Though when they are, such nightmares or anxiety dreams warn of current behavioral trends, courses of action, or decisions, which may soon become detrimental unless we change them, as exemplified in this dream by Stanford University pioneer sleep researcher, Dr. William Dement:
“Some years ago I was a heavy cigarette smoker, up to two packs a day. Then one night I had an exceptionally vivid and realistic dream in which I had inoperable cancer of the lung. I remember as though it were yesterday looking at the ominous shadow in my chest X-ray and realizing that the entire right lung was infiltrated. I experienced the incredible anguish of knowing my life was soon to end, that I would never see my children grow up, and that none of this would ever have happened if I had quit cigarettes when I first learned of their carcinogenic potential. I will never forget the surprise, joy, and exquisite relief of waking up. I felt I was reborn. Needless to say, the experience was sufficient to induce the immediate cessation of my cigarette habit.”
Dreams can sometimes be a fortune-teller. Perhaps it is only a mistake and when we dream of these fortunes, our minds force us to believe that they relate to real life. Unfortunately, my views on the subject will always remain the same; dreams can show us the future, tell our fortunes, and give us reasons to live and die, but they are still only movies that are false in our minds.
Scientists say that dreams make a difference in our life styles. Other scientists say that dreams are a waste of time to analyze and are just there for entertainment purposes. Either way, dreams serve a purpose. Whether they are there for just entertainment purposes, or they are there to make a difference, it doesn’t matter. When a person slips into REM sleep, their dreams will take them into new worlds. It is almost like reading a book. Books can take a person into alternate worlds and into the minds of others. Dreams can do the exact same thing. Dreams are with us every night and there is no way of stopping them. No matter how people look at them, there is a purpose for dreams, and every night, our dreams will make a difference in the way we think.