“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”
― John Lennon
As someone who has very real and lucid dreams each night, I find sleeping and dreaming to be fascinating subjects.
I dream about a myriad of things: current friends, pain, old boyfriends, moving residences, ghosts, happiness, the Energizer Bunny, summers at the beach, Kit Kats, people cheating on each other, something someone said to me that one time… the list goes on and on.
Sometimes, I get so emotionally involved in my dreams that I don’t even feel rested when I wake up because my mind has been so active during the night. I know that I’m technically unconscious when I’m dreaming, but it feels so real. Thusly, I decided to do some research on dreaming.
The brain is amazing, fascinating and complicated, and here is what I found out:
You Can Control Your Dreams
As mentioned before, I finally have started to be able to control my dreams. It took a lot of confusing dreams to finally decide I wanted to look up how this is even possible.
My first lucid dream, which is what they call the dream that can be manipulated by the dreamer, was very simple. I remember that my goal in the dream was to fly, but for some reason, my legs would not let me. My dream self stopped for a moment, and declared out loud that this was a dream and that I could do anything I wanted to. Then, I started to fly. I woke up both very impressed and slightly confused.
A few years back, CNN published an article on lucid dreaming, saying that, “In fact, humans have known about lucid dreaming for centuries; Tibetan Buddhists began practicing “dream yoga” more than 1,000 years ago as a means of attaining a purer form of consciousness through awareness in dreams.”
So how does one have a lucid dream? For one, you can try to remind yourself before you go to sleep that you will be dreaming soon. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it can help ease you into the process of lucid dreaming.
Or, you can assume the old fashion way and just let yourself have dreams that unfold without your dream self’s intervention.
When You Dream, Your Body is Paralyzed
This is extremely scary to think about, in my personal opinion. However, it happens to every person while they dream every single night. This occurs during the REM atonia stage; REM means Rapid Eye Movement and is the phase most closely connected with dreaming, while atonia means lack of muscle tension.
According to World Of Lucid Dreaming:
“REM atonia is an essential sleep mechanism. As you fall asleep, it cuts off the electrical signals between your muscles and your brain so that you can sleep peacefully each night. In short, it stops you from acting out your dreams.
The experience of sleep paralysis occurs when your mind (in part) wakes up, but your body remains asleep. Physically asleep, you remain paralyzed. But mentally conscious, you may start to panic and the half-dreaming mind conjures up nightmarish images to “explain” what is happening, often based on cultural beliefs.”
But alas, it’s all normal! So that makes me feel a little bit better. Sort of?
You Forget 90% of Your Dreams
For the longest time, I refused to believe this was true. I feel as if every night I have a certain number of dreams and remember at least a few (weird and quirky) aspects of each one. How could I possibly still forget 90% of my dreams?!
“It is said that five minutes after the end of a dream, we have forgotten 50 percent of the dream’s content. Ten minutes later, we’ve forgotten 90 percent of its content.”
There are many different theories on why this is so. “Freud theorized that we forget our dreams because they contain our repressed thoughts and wishes and so we shouldn’t want to remember them anyway. Other research points to the simple reason that other things get in the way. We are forward-thinking by nature, so remembering something when we first wake up is difficult.”
In Our Dreams, You Only See Faces You Already Know
This is yet another fact that I refused to believe for the longest time. I was completely convinced that there was no way in hell that I could have seen every person in my dream. In fact, I was sure that my mind was trying to mess with me after a while.
The fact of the matter is: we only dream of what we know. It’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around, seeing as though I always that creative people’s minds were different and could create new images. However, it’s simply not so.
I was on the Phillippine Psychiatric Association page when I came across this fact: “The strangers that we see in our dreams are actually real people that we might have actually seen during our lifetime even though we might not just know or even remember them. Because we meet a lot of people everyday during our lifetime, it is only natural for us to have an endless supply of characters that our brain could use when we dream.”
Brain: 1000000, Me: 0.
Dreams Are Symbolic
This one is one of the more interesting pieces of information on dreaming, in my opinion. Dreams can be weird, bizarre and have nothing to do with anything; they can also be symbolic and reoccuring due to the fact that your brain is trying to tell you something important. It just varies.
Like a lot of women, I’ve looked up “themes” in my dream dictionary only to be convinced that the symbolic representation of my dream was incorrect. But sometimes, it takes a bit more work to figure out what our dreams mean to us.
According to Harvard-trained psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber (found on Women’s Day), “The meaning of our dreams oftentimes relates to things we are needing to understand about ourselves and the world around us. We tend to dismiss these dreams due to the strange components, yet it is the feeling we have in these dreams that matters most.”
So, dreams are obviously up to interpretation. What matters most is your interpretation and how you feel about your dream. While you may not focus on the actual figures and go for the overarching picture.
And if you don’t get it right away, don’t worry. Your brain has that handled. Sometimes reoccurring dreams will occur as a way of trying to get a point across.
Men and Women Dream Differently
I always assumed both sexes had the same type of dreams, but looking back, how could they? We don’t even think in the same way. In general, men and women experience the world very differently.
According to a recently published article by Huffington Post, themes pop up differently for each gender during the time that they dream.
For example, “women may have a tendency to dream of emotions, relationships, and family members. In contrast, men may have a tendency to dream of violence, strangers, cars, and sex with unknown partners.”
That sounds about dead on.
And as if that doesn’t differentiate our dreams enough, women and men also interpret dreams differently. Shocker there? Not at all, because we interpret things differently when we are awake, as well.
“Women tend to recall more details of their dreams and regard them as more important, on average, than most men might. Women are also more likely to share, record, and discuss their dreams with others. Additionally, women are more likely to define a dream as being a nightmare and are more likely than men to seek out dream interpretation and/or use a dream dictionary to help them to understand the meaning of their dreams,” states the article. That sure explains why I have three different dream dictionaries, doesn’t it?
Sure, there are exceptions to these very scientific but “gender-based stereotypes,” but I am talking generally here.
For more of a breakdown of how differently men and women dream, check out the amazing Huffington Post article here.
So, is a dream a wish your heart makes? Probably.