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What Do Dreams Really Mean?

The question of the significance of dreams hasn't been clearly answered by science yet. So what do dreams mean? It's possible they are a way to exercise the brain. Some theorize that dreaming is a way to categorize and "file away" things that weren't sufficiently dealt with during the day. This theory could explain why daily events so often become a part of that nights dreams.

Dreaming does seem to be necessary. In experiments, people have been prevented from dreaming by being woken up whenever they started, as evidenced by their REM or "rapid eye movement," which accompanies dreaming. This seems to cause mental distress, although this distress was often nothing more than increased attempts to dream. Still, those woken an equal number of times, but randomly, didn't seem to suffer as much.

We may need to dream, but we don't know why, and we could argue endlessly about the meaning of the content of our dreams. However, despite this essential ignorance about what dreams mean, we do know that there are ways we can use our dreams. A couple examples follow.

Dreams as Entertainment

You may occasionally remember a dream you had that was better than most movies you've seen. Sometimes you may not even want to wake up from a dream, because it is so enjoyable. Perhaps you wish you could have more dreams like these.

You can, by waking up IN the dream, and taking control. Want to fly over that lake? Or join that party? You can direct your dream if you know that you are in a dream. That is the idea behind lucid dreaming.

Does it work? many swear that they regularly are conscious and in control during their dreams. I have had more than one dream where I argued with someone that we were in a dream (and of course proved it by waking up). Without getting into an argument about what consciousness is, it is still easy to see how much fun such "controlled dreams" might be.

One common way to induce lucid dreams is to have a "trigger" that reminds you that you are dreaming. This trigger can be any common object you're likely to see in a dream. If you choose a clock, for example, then whenever you see one, you say "I am dreaming right now and can do what I want." Once this is habit, you are likely to say it when you see a clock in a dream, thus "waking yourself up" to the fact that you're dreaming. Then you can take control and have some fun.

Dreams as a Way to Solve Problems

I've had many good ideas come to me in dreams. In fact some of the pages on this web site started out as dreams.To have creative ideas or solve problems in your dreams, try some of the following.

1. Do mental work in the area where you want ideas or a solution. Think about it, write some notes down, and consider some solutions. This work signals the brain that the topic or problem is important, so it will continue to work on it below consciousness.

2. Stop using an alarm clock. Waking up naturally, you are more likely to remember your dreams.

3. Put a recording device or a pen and paper next to your bed. Note any ideas you have if you wake up in the night, and especially when you first wake up in the morning.

4. Be still when you first wake up, and review your dreams. This process "sets" them in your mind, so you won't forget them as easily. You can think back on them later, to search for any useful ideas.

The techniques above are not scientifically "proven." Still, having had lucid dreams, I can tell you that they are least entertaining. Also, after using numerous techniques to get good ideas from dreams - and always with more success than when I do nothing - I'm convinced there is some value in this playing with our dreams, even if we never completely understand what they mean.


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