Dreams are an extension of our thoughts and experiences in the most creative and associable mean possible. What you see, what you experience, what you think and what you feel throughout your day will somehow find its way out through your dreams and will get you thinking about the importance of what you saw. Sometimes dreams are an extension of the reality but sometimes they are just jumbled up thoughts that seem to be an accumulation of different thoughts and images. Your brain can exaggerate your phobia into an animal figure that you fear, or it can use elements of your emotions to create a familiar looking scenario or just get you to meet your favorite celebrity. All these make up a dream and there are many stories regarding the concept of dreaming, some of them are discussed below, to help us understand the concept of dreaming better.
Theories on Why We Dream
There are many other theories that differ with tradition and religious believes, but many individuals still argue that dreams do not hold any significance in them; they are just an outpour of our thoughts jumbled up with facts and figures that we think of.
Below are some popular theories about dreaming:
1. Dreams Are Expression of Unconscious Desires
Dreams can be an expression of desires, thinking and motivations. It can be a strong representation of an opinion, idea or a desire. From a psychological perspective, every human has some unfulfilled desires or desires that they constantly suppress during their conscious state of mind, but after sleeping their pseudo consciousness takes over and all suppressed thoughts find their way out in the form of dream.
Freud is one of the most popular dream interpretation experts, according to him dreams consist of two kinds of images, one is an actual image that we see, while the other image is perceived by the brain in extension to our thoughts and inspirations.
2. Dreams Interpret Signals from the Brain
Theorists: J. Allan Hobson and Robert McClarley
Another theory puts in use the actual physiological function of the brain, upon analyzing brain electrical signaling; it was found out that the brain becomes active during REM (resting eyeball movement) sleep. This state of consciousness activates the limbic system, which is associated with amygdala and hippocampus. These parts are involved with memory, feeling pain desires and pleasure etc. The brain then tries to interpret all the data in the limbic system into some logical output, which usually manifests in the form of dreams.
However, this theory has been subjected to a lot of questions which is has not answered as yet, some still maintain that dreams are the most elaborate and spontaneous expressions of one’s mind, therefore it should be considered more than meaningless interpretation of data.
3. Dreams Are Practice Session to Threats
Theorist: Antti Revonsuo
We often find ourselves in very difficult and phobic conditions in our dreams, be it facing an animal we fear, or getting hurt or seeing the death of our loved ones. Some scientists believe that dreams are a practice session for fight and flight conditions, this can be accounted by the fact that dreams are often high paced, or extreme scenarios that we would not normally face every day.
This theory has originated from the fact that our brain receives many electrical impulses from the limbic system during REM sleep; this part is associated with emotions and elicits an appropriate reaction during fight and flight conditions. Due to this association, we experience dreams with such vivid and exaggerated visions and situations regarding ourselves.
4. Dreams Clear Up the Mess and Create Wisdom
Theorist: Matt Wilson
Our eyes perceive everything around us and our brain keeps storing it, it is not necessary to remember everything, since your prioritizes everything. So if you see your parents in your dream you will remember that image more than remembering the background or the place they were in, similarly you can relate some of your dreams in this way, this indicated that our brain uses some pieces of stored information that we prioritize more and dumps the remaining information. Scientists believe this to be a training exercise for the brain and is one of the ways our brain trains in learning how to store the useful things and discarding the useless ones; this enhances a person’s wisdom and keeps the balance of memory intact.
5. Dreams Are Like Training Sessions in Psychotherapy
Theorist: Ernest Hartmann
Dreaming can be considered as a training session in many ways, it allows the brain to face harsh and unexpected emotions, ones that a person can successfully ignore during a conscious state of mind. It forces your brain to come up with a logical reaction to different scenarios it is provided with, and allows you to explore your fears without actually having to face them. In Many ways, these training sessions can be considered similar to an appointment with a psychiatrist, where you talk about your worst fears and phobias while lying down on a couch, in a relaxed environment.
6. Dreams Result from External Stimuli
Theorist: Dr. William C. Dement
Another theory regarding dreaming states that external stimuli such as vision, sound and even scents can inspire our dreams. Many studies have been conducted concerning this theory, such as one experiment conducted in Stanford used sound stimuli such as a dog barking, the sound or rain and car engines etc. while a person was dreaming. The dreamer was then asked to state his dream, which included elements of the objects whose sound was made. In another experiment, water was dripped periodically on a person’s face towards the end of his sleeping time. When he was asked to state his dream, he said that it ended like a raindrop, which clearly indicates that, the stimuli of water droplets hat his brain perceived was incorporated in his dream.
Here is a video that illustrates more concepts regarding dreams.