Among humanity’s greatest mysteries, one of them has always been a great enigma, which is still far from being solved: the world of dreams. There are those who think that dreams are purely random manifestations of the unconscious and there are even those who believe in divine messages. But, after all, what are dreams?
The meaning of dreams involves something that is among the most incredible things that human beings are capable of doing. And since everyone dreams, but no one manages to fully master what happens in the dream, the theme has fascinated humanity for thousands of years. Theories and ways of interpreting the meaning of dreams exist in droves, precisely because it is not an exact science – it is far from it! What happens while we sleep is very personal and deeply connected with our experiences while awake.
What is a dream?
In summary, the dream is an experience involving imagination, unconscious and, for some, spirituality . The fact is that it is a projection of our mind that occurs when we are sleeping. To give you an idea, even babies still in the womb dream during the REM sleep phase (rapid eye movements).
What do babies in the womb dream of? Why do we dream what we dream? Do dreams have meaning or are they mere randomness? We prepared this article to make some discussions about it, but understand that there is no definitive answer, since we still know very little about the world of dreams.
Why do we dream?
The truth is, we don’t know. What we have are theories. There are those who think that it is the divine communicating, there are those who believe that they are manifestations of our repressed desires, there are those who talk about randomness and the more rational ones, like the renowned American psychiatrist John Allan Hobson, who talk about “a mere by-product of activity nocturnal brain”. I mean, meaningless.
The truth is that we don’t know much about the function of dreams, since comparative studies between people who report dreaming every night and people who report never dreaming do not show very different results in the behavior and impact of dreams on these people’s lives.
Anyway, the fact is that sleep is necessary for our mind and body to rest, so we can say that the dream is part of this state of relaxation. Even because it only occurs during the REM phase, in adults, which requires deep sleep. That is, a lot of relaxation.
Dreams throughout history
To get an idea of how dreams fascinate human beings, the first records of clay tablets portraying dreams date back to 4,000 BC That is, since a very primitive time, human beings have tried to understand what dreams are, what they are their meanings etc.
What we do know is that until the emergence of civilizations such as the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, the most common thing is that primitive peoples (as many other indigenous people still do today) thought of dreams as a continuation of reality, not making a distinction between dream world and real world.
When Egypt, Ancient Rome and Greece began to rise and dominate global culture, dreams began to be related to divine manifestations, as these three civilizations were very religious, each in their own way and following their own beliefs and their gods and deities themselves.
In Greece, for example, temples were even built where people could simply go to sleep under the blessings of the gods, especially Morpheus, who was none other than the god of dreams.
In Egypt it was also common for priests to be called upon to interpret the dreams of pharaohs and other leaders, which were always considered prophetic and premonitory.
Christianity uses the dream figure a lot as communication between God and the human being, which helped to popularize the belief that dreams are connected to the divine.
During the Middle Ages, this changed, as the Church began to consider dreams as demonic manifestations, as opportunities to succumb to temptations that the morality of waking life kept away, and here the interpretation of dreams as our hidden or repressed desires was born.
From the 19th century, with the modernization of medicine, the separation between Church, science and State, as well as with the development of fields of knowledge such as psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, dreams were being moved away from being purely spiritual to gain scientific and psychological.
Dreams for science
Science does not have an exact explanation as to what dreams are. The most likely and accepted is that dreams play an important role in the development of our central nervous system, because the younger the person, the greater the amount of REM sleep and, consequently, the number of dreams.
In addition, science also explains why we remember some dreams and others we do not: we usually remember dreams that are interrupted, that is, from which we wake up abruptly. Furthermore, it is common that, between 10 and 15 minutes after waking up, we remember what was dreamed — and then we gradually forget, it is not known why.
Dreams for the Bible
According to the Bible, dreams may be a means used by God to communicate with human beings, but that does not mean that the Lord will always do this. If only a few dreams have a purpose in the Bible – and that is for figures important to Christianity – then it is reasonable to assume that most dreams are common.
Dreams appear in the Bible, for example, to warn Christians, as in Matthew 2:12; to reveal a prophecy, as with Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 37:5); and also to encourage people who are in doubt, as in Judges 7:13.
Dreams for psychoanalysis
According to the work of Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, the content of dreams is always related to the fulfillment of a desire that we often repress in waking life. That’s why he divides the dream into two parts: manifest sense (what we “saw” in the dream) and latent sense (the meaning behind it).
In this way, his work “The interpretation of dreams” tells us that the superego, which is our “censor”, puts on a facade (manifest meaning) to camouflage our true desire, as we are often afraid and ashamed of its content.
Types of dreams
More than understanding the meaning of dreams, it is important to know the types of dreams, because that way, according to what you believe and what makes more sense to you, it will be possible to interpret them correctly. Check out the main types of dreams:
They are dreams that warn us about something that is going to happen, usually something negative and/or dangerous. People who have these dreams are usually considered sensitive, because they have connections with the spiritual dimensions of the Universe.
Lucid dreams are those that we manage to conduct and in which we can consciously and actively interact with people, situations, environments and everything else that appears there. This type of dream requires technique and a lot of study to become possible.
They are very rare, but they do happen: they are dreams in which we communicate with other people, whether they are alive or not. In the case of widows, it is common for them to have a similar dream or, at least, a dream in which you appear and communicate, even if the message is different.
They are dreams that reveal something that, logically and rationally, we could not know. Unlike the premonitions, they do not reveal the future, but something that is happening in the present, but without our knowledge or our conscience .
They usually reveal our fears, our shame, traumas or pain that have not yet been healed, alerting us to the need to recover from this in order to have a healthier life.
How do we dream?
Dreams arise at specific times during our sleep. They are more vivid and frequent during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase, when the closed eyes move quickly. At this time of night, neurons are almost as active as they are when we are awake. If we wake up in this phase of sleep, the chances of remembering clearly what we were dreaming are greater.
The REM phase happens several times in the same night and its duration increases as the night progresses, ranging from 5 minutes to approximately half an hour. So, those who sleep an average of 8 hours spend about 2 hours dreaming.
Adults usually have 4 to 6 dreams a night, but they rarely remember more than 10% of them. That’s why sometimes we wake up very happy (or sad, or angry), but we can’t say exactly why. That is: even if you don’t remember, you probably must have dreamed last night!
What is the difference between lucid dreaming and vivid dreaming?
The lucid dream is one in which we know we are dreaming , that is, we are able to recognize that the situation is not real and even control it, with full capacity and know that it is, in fact, a dream.
“An example is the dream of flying: we know we are flying, but we are not afraid and we take the opportunity to fly ”, explains neuroscientist Dr. John Fontenele Araújo, professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in an edition of the Sleep Bulletin, from the Brazilian Sleep Association.
A vivid dream is one so intense that it seems real and this intensity makes it easier to remember. Vivid dreams are more common in people who are pregnant and/or stressed, but they can happen to anyone. This vividness can be positive or negative and interfere with sleep quality .
But how do I remember what I dreamed?
First, try to get a good night’s sleep . This is essential to allow the brain to dedicate itself to the wonderful mission of making you relax and giving you the chance to interpret the meaning of dreams. Second, when you wake up, avoid opening your eyes right away and try to remember as much of your dream as you can. The recommendation with closed eyes is so that you don’t notice what’s around you and disperse your mind with the day that begins and with the tasks you have to accomplish.
Third, try to feel yourself in the dream and write down everything you can retrieve. Over time, you will have an easier time gathering this information and associating it with how you felt when you woke up. In this way, you develop your self-knowledge and the ability to understand and interpret what you dreamed of. With this, your ability to deal with and process your own feelings improves.
The meaning of dreams
We have the premise that every dream has meaning. The big challenge is to discover the message behind each dream in order to interpret it. Some themes are more common than others. However, dream meanings are unique to each person – after all, experiences and reactions are individual.
Even so, it is easy to find someone who has dreamed that he was being chased, that he was falling or losing a tooth. In this last topic, for example, the lack of a tooth can be associated with a positive feeling, such as the beginning of a new stage in life with the arrival of permanent teeth. On the other hand, someone who has lost a tooth in an accident may have a negative reference.
Most common dream themes
Some symbols are universal. They cross the boundaries of culture and are part of the psyche. Therefore, around the world, many subjects are repeated in people’s dreams. Check below the most frequent ones that arouse more interest in interpreting the meaning of dreams.
The interpretation of the meaning of dreams
Interpreting dreams is a way to mature and evolve. Self-knowledge, inspiration , dealing better with emotions, changing attitudes and behaviors and even solving problems are some of the benefits. However, not every dream can be interpreted: sometimes, several elements are articulated and generate a very advanced level of complexity. That is, only with professional help is it possible to decode what that super complicated dream represents.
In fact, the habit of registering what we dream in order to follow and decipher the messages that the brain tries to send us is a very powerful therapeutic tool. It is a collection of data that allows us to understand deep feelings, resolve internal conflicts and release our full potential. That is, dedicating yourself to understanding the meaning of dreams is truly waking up to life.
The information on this page has been made available for purely recreational purposes. Therefore, they have no therapeutic function, predictive validity or scientific basis. Always consult an expert on any matter concerning your mental health.
Is it true that people dream in black and white?
Some yes. In fact, 12% of the population dreams entirely in black and white.
This number, however, varies sharply according to age and the era in which the analysis is carried out. People under the age of 25 rarely dream without colors. Those over 55 have black and white dreams about one out of every four nights.
This is believed to be because older people grew up with little or no access to color media and television , which influence the way we dream. In fact, in the 1940s, 75% of Americans rarely if ever dreamed in color. Today, that number has reversed.
How do blind people dream?
In the case of people who are blind or have low vision, the way they dream varies depending on whether the blindness is congenital or acquired and, if so, when it happened.
Even people with complete blindness are able to have visual content when they dream, depending on when the blindness was acquired. This discovery was made by analyzing the sleep encephalogram of this group. The visual experience is just different from the others, smaller and less intense.
In the case of acquired blindness, the age at which it occurs has a great impact on how the dream is formed. A person who saw fully by the age of five is able to create images in their sleep for years to come. Naturally, the later vision is lost, the more likely it is that a person will be able to see during his dream.
It is worth remembering that dreams involve all the senses and not just vision, which is another indication of what a blind person’s dream is like.
Do animals dream too?
In a scene right at the beginning of the classic Cinderella, we see the protagonist waking up the dog Bruno right in the middle of a sleep in which he was chasing Lucifer the cat. But that’s a drawing thing, right? Maybe not.
Animals dream too, at least that’s what the sleep cycle of many of them indicates. While it is difficult to say with absolute certainty that animals dream like humans, the likelihood of this happening is real , as researchers believe that mammals , birds, reptiles and fish go through REM and non-REM sleep.