Why Do We Dream?

I have a rich dream life.  In fact, I very much enjoy the prospect of each night’s new dreams – it’s much a form of entertainment for me, quite different of course than a logical, plot centered movie – although I have tried to sit through some movies that I’m sure were structured to imitate dreams, and frankly, that’s not enjoyable for me!  No, what I mean by my dreams being entertaining is that each one is like a fantasy journey, seemingly beyond my personal direction and control, but always containing little snippets of connection, so that the adventure is never quite completely foreign – as the “observer” of the little fantasy, I can most always see the relationship of my dream subject matter with real-life experiences from my past – although often amazingly obscure!  I frequently wake with the thought, Where the hell did that come from?

But here’s my greatest objection to my dream life – I have trouble remembering what I dream!  Some nights are fantastically vivid, and I awake with what seems like a full recollection of the night’s dream scape – but there are little clues that suggest that there is always more, hidden just under the cloak of consciousness – if I try hard to concentrate on the task, I can often pull little pieces of related dream scenes into my active memory.  So, I really doubt that I’m ever remembering all there is there.

I have this sneaking feeling that most of the dreams I do remember are only reflective of those dreams I was having just before I woke up – the prime reason why I suspect this is that sometimes I wake very slowly, and at those times, there’s a period of such light sleep that while I’m dreaming, I also know consciously that I’m dreaming – so it’s like half of my brain is still in a dream state, but the other half is conscious and introspective.  It’s like I’m watching myself dream, all the time knowing that the dream content isn’t real, so it doesn’t matter what happens.

Yup, that’s the frustrating part, knowing that your brain has undergone all this activity, but that for whatever reason, a whole bunch of that information is withheld from you.  Frustrating, and fascinating at the same time.

I find it strangely interesting that science knows so little about dreams, and sleep in general.  In the same way that so much of our own dream life is withheld from our conscience awareness, it seems as if there are secrets of dreams and sleep that are being hidden from us by nature itself.  Or is it another example of how our intelligence is simply not up to the task, as it may well be in the attempt to understand the concepts of “eternity” or “god”.  It is rather telling that our understanding of a common process that occupies one third of each of our lives still lacks a scientific explanation of why it is even necessary in our existence – except for a handful of “educated guesses”, there really is no known reason for sleep, or why we dream while we sleep.  Here’s a short collective list of the principal dream theories.

Would you like to hear my theory?  I didn’t think so, but … I’m going to tell you anyway.  Well, it’s really not MY theory, just one I like more than the others.  While it may sound like fantasy to you, there is a serious current research going on which centers on the emerging recognition that life itself has an uncanny resemblance to the hardware/software of a computer – this study is for the most part being done by the same researchers who are engaged in developing artificial intelligence .  I promise to do a future post on this subject – but back to my favorite dream theory – the one I like simply suggests that our brains need a daily “re-setting” just as our computers do!  And therefore, that’s what dreams are – I love it.

Interesting as hell, people – and worthy of additional discussion – you bet.

But even in the face of our collective ignorance about sleep and dreams, our society’s interest in the subject seems to be growing – maybe this is true BECAUSE of our lack of knowledge.  The recent movie, Inception, is a good example of our desire to open the secrets in this box – but when we do, will we discover Pandora, or a treasure chest of beneficial gems?  Indeed an interesting question.

I haven’t seen Inception yet, but I have read many of the reviews, and some of the thought provoking articles arising from the film’s subject matter.  One of the interesting theories from the movie is that we can structure our dreams so that their content will be controlled, with something known as “lucid dreaming” – yup, it’s apparently enough of a real thing that current academic studies are ongoing.  Humm.  If it’s real, why then do  folks continue to have dreams that they’d love to stop, if they only could?

On a personal level, I would love to have more adventurous dreams, but most of mine seem to center around my old work life – and then, only those facets which were problematic, or things that I did not do well – it’s like they’re coming back to haunt me now.  I know I’d love to switch them to another subject, but I sincerely doubt any amount of wishing and concentrating is going to do the trick.

Maybe, if we’re lucky, before we move on to whatever’s next, medical science may unlock the secrets of sleep and dreams – but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  And in the meantime, there are enough “good” dreams in my repertoire to make me look forward to popping off to bed each night.

Happy dreams.

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Photo credits:
top- ideachampions.com
bottom- eso-garden.com

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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4 Responses to Why Do We Dream?

  1. Mimi says:

    I think you need to take up some adventurous hobbies such as hiking, skiing and river rafting. You are also next to wine country, right? Go on day trips to wine taste and explore. You just need more input so that you can crowd out those nasty work dilemna’s that are still creeping in.

    Go see Inception today. It was the best film of the year. (I may be a little biased. Christopher Nolan is my favorite film maker by far). If you don’t know his work, rent Memento. You’ll watch it over and over.

  2. drfugawe says:

    Now Mimi, you make it sound like I don’t have any excitement or activity in my life!!! Au contraire. Under your assumption, dreams should contain current stuff – which means that I should have been dreaming about work stuff while I was working – Right? Only I didn’t – but now I am.

    Naw – see this ain’t simple stuff.

    Yeah, I fully intend to see Inception – I like Nolan’s stuff too. And among my crowd, I’m one of the few who claim to have understood and liked Momemto on first viewing.

  3. I don’t know what you mean when you say that science knows little about sleep or dreams. There has been a lot of research done on the neurological processes that take place when people are asleep/dreaming.

    Of course, there are many things that we still don’t know, but that is what science is all about – learning new things and revising our theories.

  4. drfugawe says:

    I’m only repeating what dream researchers themselves are saying! Yes, there may be a lot of research going on, but given that fact, there should be much more known than there is. If medical science still didn’t know why we needed to eat every day, or how the process of digestion really functioned -as is admittedly the case with sleep/dreams- then we’d have to admit a similar lack of knowledge re that as well.

    I’m not a scientist, nor do I spend the day engrossed in science self education, but old age and experience has taught me well that medical science is still in the infancy of its attainment of knowledge – and I believe also that the knowledge about sleep and dreams is near the bottom of that long list.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting Marsha.

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