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What are Dreams?

What are Dreams and What Do They Really Signify?

Most of us must have often wondered at some point of time, about what dreams are and what they mean. Keep reading ahead to get a 'realistic' perspective about them.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
All of us know how strange dreams can be. They can range from very scary to very beautiful, mind-boggling, and extremely weird. They make you wonder about what they really are and how seriously they should be taken. Are they messages from the subconscious? Can they be premonitions of the future? Are they just random storylines created by a mind in the process of assimilation? Why do people dream? While I cannot give you definite answers here, my aim in this article is to explore this subject in detail.

I can remember countless instances of hating to wake up from sleep, when my dreams have taken me to a utopia of beautiful possibilities. I once took up a project to study them as a large part of research involved sleeping for long hours, which I found to be a very convenient exercise.

I was also introduced to the concept of lucid dreaming, wherein you consciously embark upon a quest to experience it, while staying aware that it's only a dream.

What are They and What Do They Mean?

Neurologists have studied the phenomenon of dreams by studying brain activity during sleep. They study the brain, which is a highly-advanced neural network that projects the mind and consciousness. Through brain imaging, they have studied the phenomenon of sleep and dreams. They have discovered that dreams occur during a stage of sleep called the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase.

During this phase, scientists have found that the brain's activity is similar to what it would be, when it's awake. The one difference is that the mechanism that causes the brain to control body movements is deactivated. This safety mechanism ensures that a person does not hurt himself from movements made in sleep. Dreaming mainly occurs during this REM phase of sleep that occurs in periodic spells of 15 to 20 minutes each. One remembers it most lucidly when one awakes directly from REM sleep. It is estimated that a normal human being dreams for about six years in his lifetime.

There are many different types of dreams, which include recurring, precognitive, prophetic dreams, and nightmares. There are many theories about what they could be and the psychology of dreams is a hot research topic. Let us see what we can find from exploring some basic concepts and facts.

Being in a dream is living in a subjective reality, created by your own subconscious. What is the subconscious? It is the sum total of all your accumulated memories, impressions, fears, beliefs, insecurities, and irrationalities. It is the very deep core of what you actually are.

In a dream, you are shut off from the external world and your normally subdued subconscious reigns supreme. The sensory impressions are shut off and the mind which is normally busy exploring the world outside, looks inward.

As it turns within, your most deep-rooted fears, your passions, deep longings, and desires find an expression in the form of dreams. A lot that happens in a dream may seem illogical, but it is all there, because of a reason. You explore the most feared to the most ideal of scenarios through them.

Some think of dreams as premonitions of the future. There is no way of validating this belief as it's more a matter of faith, than fact. Dream symbolism and it's meaning cannot be absolute. That is, meanings cannot be the same for each one of us. Everything that you see in it has a different context with respect to you and your personal memories. So, an interpretation related to a particular symbol, cannot be the same for all of us.

Psychotherapists give due importance to the dreams experienced by their patients, as they do hold important clues regarding what the person is feeling and what are the inherent problems bothering him or her.

Your subconscious mind is highly creative in how it puts together your dreams. Many have found inspiration and solutions to problems in them. Whatever be the reasons for their genesis and their nature, dreams should be accepted as imaginative and quirky ramblings of a mind which ceaselessly keeps processing and analyzing memories.

They hold important clues about what you feel deep down inside. As a recent science-fiction flick showed us, the 'inception' of an idea in a mind may happen through dreams that significantly alter our subconscious thoughts.

Dreams are an alternative fictional story, concocted out of fertile imagination and memories, that lie on the thin line between truth and fiction, authored by your subconscious. It is your mind analyzing questions and searching for answers. The signals they send us are quirky and ambiguous, but if you really explore them deeply, they have an origin in some deep-rooted insecurity, fear, or desire, which has been gnawing and pushing you from inside. They are simply possibilities that your mind presents you with. So take them seriously, but not too seriously, would be my advice.