The Meaning of Dreams

The Meaning of Dreams

The Meaning of Dreams

Wanting to know the meaning of dreams is something humans have been wondering since we started dreaming. Dreams can be scary. Dreams can be fun. Dreams can be downright weird. We've all had that one dream, at least one time, and thought, what does that dream mean? You know the one. You're giving a presentation at work or in front of the class, and for some reason, you're in your underwear. That's the one.

We've all been to dreamland and who hasn't woke up right after a dream and thought, what does my dream mean? Well, there isn't a definitive answer as to exactly why we dream the way we do, or what our dreams mean. That is if our dreams mean anything at all. There is, however, a great deal of science that supports dreams being involved in several neurobiological processes including learning, memory, and emotions.

A few different theories as to why we dream. 

One theory is called the activation-synthesis model of dreaming. This dream theory was first hypothesized by psychiatrists at Harvard who published their paper on the theory in the American Journal of Psychiatry back in 1977. They proposed that dreams are a neurobiological process that doesn't have any concrete meaning. Instead, they suggest our dreams are caused by neurobiological processes.

When we sleep, different areas of the brain become very active at different stages of our sleep cycles. This includes the thalamus. The thalamus is responsible for filling our dreams with images, sounds, and sensations. The theory of activation-synthesis says that dreams are simply a result of the electric impulses caused by activity in different areas of the brain. The reason we apparently see our dreams as cohesive, yet sometimes very odd, stories, is an attempt by our forebrain to make sense of it all.

At the time this theory was introduced, it upset several sleep scientists who study the meaning of dreams, especially those whose research followed in the footsteps of Sigmund Freud. Dream analysis by Freud was one of the most followed theories of why we dream for decades, and there are still many who believe it has some merit.

Freud sought to understand how dreams could be interpreted. He believed dreams had deeper subconscious meanings linked to our deepest wishes and desires. Essentially, Freud believed dreams represented things we really wanted but repressed for one reason or another. He believed your dreams could reveal your inner desires to you through your sleep, and by interpreting these desires, one could better understand themselves. He wrote the book, The Interpretation of Dreams, which is one of the most famous books on the meaning of dreams.

Then there's the threat simulation theory of why we dream. This area theory was published in 2005, in the Journal of Consciousness and Cognition. The researchers proposed that our dreams are an evolutionary function for survival. They suggested dreams serve as a natural  defense mechanism to prepare us for threats in real life by simulating threats in our dreams.

That would make our dreams to be like a threat-simulator machine that trains our brain to react to threats, while still being in a safe environment. This simulation is said to make it easier for us to experience real-life threats or dangerous situations. It supposedly does this by eliciting a first-time fear response to a situation that may actually happen, like coming face to face with a grizzly bear. Have you seen The Revenant? It can definitely be a scary and dangerous situation to be in.

As the theory goes, during the dream, our brain experiences the fear that would be caused if the situation would be really happening. This way, if we do run into a grizzly bear while out in the woods, it won't be the first time our brain has had to respond to the situation. Theoretically,  our real fear at that moment would be less than if it was happening for the very first time because we've already dreamt about it. As a result, this would help us survive by reducing the chances of panicking and running for our lives, which is a big no-no when it comes to bear encounters.

Fun Facts: Dreams can serve as sources of creative inspiration for new ideas. Several inventors, musicians, painters, and authors have admitted to being inspired by something they witnessed or experienced in a dream. It's well known that renowned painter, Salvador Dali, was inspired by a dream to create a painting of his, titled, Persistence of Memory. Dreams can sometimes seem like movies, and they can also be the creative source behind the ideas for movies. At least, that's what acclaimed film director, Christopher Nolan, has said when asked how he came up with the idea for the movie Inception.

When do we dream?

You can dream at any time while you're sleeping, but your most vivid and life-like dreams are going to happen during REM sleep. However, you have to get there first. There are four stages of the sleep cycle. REM sleep is considered the fourth stage of the sleep cycle. Having more vivid dreams is actually one of the health benefits of REM sleep. It usually begins around 90 minutes after falling asleep. Before you head off to dreamland, you've got to transition through the other three stages of sleep first.

The first stage of the step cycle is the beginning of transitioning from being awake to falling asleep. This is when your brain waves start to slow down, your muscles begin to relax, and you drift into a light sleep. The first stage is short and usually lasts for several minutes before you enter stage two of the sleep cycle.

Stage two is where you spend the of your time sleeping as the sleep cycle essentially  repeats itself on a 90-minute loop. This is when your brain and body prepare to enter a deep sleep during stage three.

In the third stage of the sleep cycle, you go into a much deeper sleep, but this still isn't when you normally dream. This is when your brain waves become very slow, and it may be hard for someone to wake you up. Then, after about 90 minutes, you should enter into REM sleep, and that's when all the dream fun begins.

How Do I Interpret My Dreams?

Although there isn't a lot of compelling scientific evidence to suggest there are hidden symbols and meaning in our dreams, trying to figure out what our crazy dreams may mean does make for some great entertainment. This is especially so because dreams seem to transcend space, time, and cultures, with people from all around the world having many dream similarities. It goes to show just how much we have in common as human beings.

Dreaming About Being Naked in Public

Embarrassing! Dreaming about being naked may feel embarrassing, but according to expert psychologists, it's quite common for people all around the world to have these types of dreams. Dream interpreters suggest there are a few meanings for this, all of which are related to feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy, or imperfections.

Dreaming About Falling

Another type of dream that people all over the world seem to share is dreams about falling. We all know the falling feeling that will sometimes wake us from a dream, and it can be scary. Common interpretations about having dreams where you fall can be related to fear or feelings of failure. Sometimes they have been said to be signs of a need to let go or leave something behind and move on.

Dreaming About Being Chased

One more type of dream that we all seem to experience is being chased by someone or something. These types of dreams can be scary but they've probably been happening to humans since the first person who dreamt about being chased by a lion. Dreams of being chased can apparently have several meanings depending on signs in the dream.

Being chased could be a sign you want to escape from something, so running away in your dream could simply mean you have something you want to run away from in your real life. Bring chased by animals can sometimes suggest running from your own feelings, and you could be trying to avoid your true emotions.

Those are only three of the most common types of dreams that people everywhere seem to share. There are countless dream interpretations for all sorts of things that happen or things you see in your dreams. No matter what kind of dream you have, one very interesting thing is how motivational interpreting your dreams can be.

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered that people can be so motivated by dream interpretations that it has significant impacts on their everyday lives. That gives dream interpretations a whole new benefit. So the next time you wake up from a dream, maybe you can try to interpret it yourself to find some life-changing motivation.

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