Dreams & Dream Interpretation


I.  Introduction

-We begin with a famous dream:

A man, while dreaming, wakes up in his bedroom and it is dark; he hears sobbing so he gets out of bed; he goes into his wife's room--her light is on but she is not there; still in his nightshirt he goes out into the upstairs hall--neither of two men are on duty--the hall is empty; he looks in his secretary's room it is also empty; he goes downstairs to find that the main hall is empty as well, and there are no doorkeepers, ushers, or messengers in sight; finally he enters a room crowded with people; at the room's center, on a catafalque covered with black velvet, a body lay wrapped in a sheet, the face covered by a cloth; grim-faced people file by the body, some sobbing, some stare, some are simply horrified; he crosses to one of the soldiers standing guard at the room's entrance: "Who is dead in the White House?" he asks.  "The President," said the soldier, seeming to look through him as though he were not visible "He was killed by an assassin."  Then a woman at the catafalque suddenly shrieked, and Abraham Lincoln awoke in his own bed, covered with sweat. 

April 14, 1865, 1 week later, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth

-My initial interest in dreams due to frequency of certain nightmares, bizarre material of dreams, famous examples of dreams (e.g., Lincoln)

-Interest usually stems from 1) creativity 2) desire for insight 3) psychological mindedness

-Dreams are a popular part of culture, conversation, music

-Some famous people have said this of dreams:

   a.  “Dreaming men are haunted men”  -Stephen Vincent Benet
   b.  “The waking have one world in common; sleepers have each a private world of his own” -Heraclitus
   c.  “We are not hypocrites in our sleep”  -William Hazlitt
   d.  “It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top”  -Virginia Woolf

-Professional/Personal View:   Typically (not always) dreams symbolize an unresolved conflict; the more bizarre the material, perhaps the less you are willing to confront the problem

II.  Biological Aspects of Dreams

-Five (5) stages of sleep in a cycle, about 90-110 minutes per cycle, 4-5 times a night
-Stages 1-4 “slow-wave sleep” and Stage 5 (REM “rapid-eye movement”)
-Most dreams occur during REM sleep
-We have to experience REM sleep / “REM rebound”
-Prominence of REM sleep in infants (50%) compared to adults (25%) suggests that REM sleep  contributes to the development of the brain and to learning
-Old thought: rapid eye movements related to "viewing" dream scenes
-Nightmares and night terrors: nightmares are long, frightening dreams that awaken sleep from REM sleep; occasionally confused with "night terrors" -- a sudden arousal from slow-wave sleep marked by intense fear, sleepers do not recall a vivid dream but rather remember a sense of a crushing feeling on their chest as though being suffocated

III.  Cognitive Aspect of Dreams 

1.  We simply dream to forget

-Crick and Mitchison (1983) "The function of dream sleep" NATURE
-REM sleep a period of reverse learning--false or irrelevant memories routinely accumulated during the day dumped out ("mental housecleaning") less our senses become overloaded with bizarre/unusual associations

2. We dream strange things that have no meaning

-Hobson "The activation-synthesis hypothesis" The Dreaming Brain
-Absence of information from outside world makes reality testing impossible 

3.  We dream to create

-Robert Louis Stevenson, racked his brain for two days in an effort  to come up with a story about good and evil in the same person, he  had a dream in which a man drank a substance turning him into a monster, hence The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

-Gaston Leroux, writer of “Phantom of the Opera”

4.  We dream to problem solve

-Discovery of the double-helix shape of the DNA molecule

IV.  Spiritual Aspects of Dreams

-Ancient cultures place great emphasis on the truthfulness of dreams
-Ancient cultures viewed dreams as divine revelations, predictions of the future

1.  Ancient Greeks and Romans

-The ancient Greeks and Romans visited dream temples, where they searched their dreams for messages from the gods (to dream of having one's throat cut meant good luck)

2.  Cuna Indians

-Lived off of the coast of Panama; they viewed dreams as predictors of imminent disasters, and their dream “analysts” had a variety of objects to ward off dreams and their consequences

3.  Judeo-Christian Bible

-Example 1:  Genesis 28:11  He stopped for the night, and took a stone to put under his head and went to sleep.  He had a dream where he saw a stairway resting on the Earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the Lord and he told Jacob his descendants would be like the dust of the earth--spread far and wide, and the Lord would never leave them.

-Example 2:  Matthew 2:13  An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream.  "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child and kill him."  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.  And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

4.  Personal Examples

-Example:   “Grandma’s dream”

-Example:   “Staff Senate”

-Example:   “God is in Atlanta

V.  Psychological Aspects of Dreams

-Psychologically a dream is viewed as an actual or symbolic form of your problems, fears, struggles

-What are universal dreams? why do we dream them?
Losing teeth

-Freud (1900) in The Interpretation of Dreams called them
"the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious mind" and
"every dream is a wish fulfillment"

-Inner censor/Dream censor guards the gate to the consciousness, so the material must be disguised and distorted to pass by; material is ucs representation of sexual wishes from childhood

-Displacement occurs: important emotions of a dream may be directed toward a "safe object"

-Decoding the symbols:

-describe the setting: familiar/unfamiliar; changes in setting

-describe feelings about different aspects of dream

-describe other people present: familiar/unfamiliar; number; changes in people

-describe objects, animals:  what do they mean to you?

-describe current problems that may relate to dream content

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