Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Do dreams have any meaning?

A couple of times, my wife slapped me in my slumber, jerking me out of sleep.My cardinal sin, I quickly learned, was that I giggled and laughed in my sleep. She says that I talk in my sleep and, on this occasion, I was cooing like a dove, saying something about ‘Baby come to papa’. Apparently, I got the biggest whack after I giggly asked, still in my slumber, “Girl, is this all for me?”

It did not help that, when I woke up, I still could not suppress the contented smile on my face no matter how hard I tried to extinguish it as she tried to read my face and search my mind.
All I can say is that there ought to be a law. A man can no longer sleep and dream in peace. Even dreams are subject to violations by the missus.

And there are also several times when I woke up to find myself in my wife’s tight embrace as I cried in my sleep and continued even after being woken up. Genuine, deep and emotional crying, triggered by something I had dreamt about.

It appears my wife doesn’t sleep at all, does she?
Many times I have lovely ‘meetings’ with my late father.

Father and son do well and my father would impress on me that he cares just like he used to say in this our world. And yet during all these happy moments, he always has his face turned away from me. I never see his face.

The same with my late sister; and I find myself wondering if there is a pattern, if there is something in dreams.
Is there something in dreams? Do dreams have any meaning?

The American Heritage Dictionary says a dream is “a series of images, ideas, emotions and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.”

Some people believe that dreams are tools we have in hand in order to gain better understanding of ourselves, says the BBC, adding that they are a way for the brain to communicate messages between the conscious and sub-conscious mind, and relate to issues and problems raised in the passing day or two.

But it also concedes that the majority of people dismiss dreams as insignificant nocturnal events that are not remembered in the morning. Even nightmares are dismissed as ‘just a bad dream’ and get no further regard than that. From childhood, it says, we learn to neglect our dreams and take on board more important things, such as toys and arithmetic.

“Every person on earth dreams every night ÔÇô every mammal, in fact,” says The Dreams Foundation. “It follows then that something extremely important must be going on while we sleep and dream, yet in the industrialized world, the majority of people pay little attention to dreams, and sometimes shortchange themselves on sleep because it is perceived as lost time, or at best, unproductive.”

Wikipedia says that dreams are the images, thoughts and feelings experienced while asleep, particularly strongly associated with Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM) during which an electroencephalogram shows brain activity to be most like wakefulness.
“The contents and purpose of dreams are poorly understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history.”
It goes on to say that there is no universally agreed biological definition of dreaming.

“During a typical lifespan,” says How Dream Works, “a human spends a total of about six years dreaming.”

This, says Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2006), is about 2 hours each night.

Meanwhile, it is unknown where in the brain dreams originate, if there is a single origin for dreams or if multiple portions of the brain are involved, or what the purpose of dreaming is for the body or mind.

From the 1940s to 1985, Calvin S. Hall collected more than 50,000 dream reports at Western Reserve University. In 1966 Hall and Van De Castle published The Content Analysis of Dreams in which they outlined a coding system to study 1,000 dream reports from college students, (Hall & Castle, 1966, The Content Analysis of Dreams. New York:

Appleton-Century-Crofts). It was found that people all over the world dream of mostly the same things. Hall’s complete dream reports became publicly available in the mid-1990s by Hall’s prot├®g├®, William Domhoff, allowing further different analysis.

“The most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety. Negative emotions are more common than positive feelings. The U.S. ranks the highest amongst industrialized nations for aggression in dreams with 50 percent of U.S. males reporting aggression in dreams, compared to 32 percent for Dutch men.”

Dreamer Research, an online information service, says that it is believed that in men’s dreams an average of 70 percent of the characters are other men, while a female’s dreams contain an equal number of men and women.

“Men generally had more aggressive feelings in their dreams than women, and children’s dreams did not have very much aggression until they reached teen age.”
These findings parallel much of the current research on gender and gender role comparisons in aggressive behavior.
“Rather than showing a complementary or compensatory aggressive style, this study supports the view that there is continuity between our conscious and unconscious styles and personalities.”
Hall’s data analysis shows that sexual dreams show no more than 10 percent of the time and are more prevalent in young to mid teens.

Another study showed that 8% of men’s and women’s dreams have sexual content. (Zadra, A.”Sex Dreams: What Do Men And Women Dream About?”) In some cases, sexual dreams may result in orgasm or nocturnal emission. These are commonly known as wet dreams.

Castle says that while the content of most dreams is dreamt only once, many people experience recurring dreams, that is, the same dream narrative is experienced over different occasions of sleep. Up to 70% of females and 65% of males report recurrent dreams.

Content-analysis studies have identified common reported themes in dreams.
Researchers Simon G├Âtz and Lutz Wittmann say these include: situations relating to school, being chased, running slowly/in place, sexual experiences, falling, arriving too late, a person now alive being dead, teeth falling out, flying, embarrassing moments, failing an examination, or a car accident and add that twelve percent of people dream only in black and white. (“Typical Dreams: Stability and Gender Differences”. The Journal of Psychology, November, 2004).
There are also different types of dreams.

Lucid dreaming, says researcher Watanabe, “Lucid Dreaming: Its Experimental Proof and Psychological Conditions, 2003”, is “the conscious perception of one’s state while dreaming.” In this state, a person usually has control over characters and the environment of the dream as well as the dreamer’s own actions within the dream. He says the occurrence of lucid dreaming has been scientifically verified.

In an empirical study of cognitive withdrawal symptoms, Hajek Belcher, (Dream of absent-minded Transgression, 1991, p.487), addresses another type of dream, absent-minded transgression, and says reams of absent-minded transgression (DAMT) are dreams wherein the dreamer absentmindedly performs an action that he or she has been trying to stop (one classic example is of a quitting smoker having dreams of lighting a cigarette).

“Subjects who have had DAMT have reported waking with intense feelings of guilt. One study found a positive association between having these dreams and successfully stopping the behavior.”
There is also “dreaming as a skeptical argument”. In this type of dream, dreams can link to actual sensations, such as the incorporation of environmental sounds into dreams, or dreaming of urination while wetting the bed.

Some philosophers have extended this idea to a skeptical hypothesis about ontology. The first recorded mention of the idea was by influential Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi, and was also discussed in Hinduism. Buddhism is reported to make extensive use of the argument in its writings.

But the idea is said to have been formally introduced to western philosophy by Descartes in the 17th century in his Meditations on First Philosophy.

Sweet dreams!

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.