• David Unger, PhD

Dreams



A lot of people are interested in dreams. Some people write them down in journals, other people share them with their therapists and most everyone likes to take a shot at interpreting them. I think part of the allure of dreams is that we seem to have no control over them. Some mornings you wake up with a memory of a dream, other times a dream jolts you awake and other nights seem to be absent of dreams. All of our dreams tell a story that are conjured up from our unconscious imagination. That mysterious creative process captures our interest and like the magic eight ball reveals all.


When I teach students about dreams I liken them to movies. I ask who is the screenwriter, the director and who stars in the movie. They usually answer that they indeed, are the movie maker. One theory about dreams would have you believe that not only do you also create the sets and props but they too represent parts of you. Some therapists in helping you understand your dreams, would have you be the chair you are sitting on or the flashlight you are holding. Therapists believe that since you are the architect of your dream everything you create is a representation of something meaningful to you.


Our unconscious mind conjures up our dreams. What exactly prompts our dreams is hard to know. Some would say we process so much information during the day that when our mind finally settles down it has time to sort through everything and the only way it can talk to us is through images. Our concerns about the past and our anticipation about the future all can find their way into our dreams. Those researchers who explore dreams have the same challenge the rest of us do when our infants or pets are not feeling well but are unable to tell us what is wrong. We know something is happening, but we don’t quite know what it is, do we Mr. Jones.


Sometimes we wake up and our dreams are vivid and we can retain them for some time. Other days we open our eyes and our dreams vanish. I tell students that just like in the theater, the movies in our dreams are created in the dark. If you want to try to remember them keep your eyes closed when you first wake and see if you can recall the dream. Once you open your eyes, it is like leaving the movie theater - your attention immediately goes to your surroundings.


Many people have dreams where they are being chased or less than desirable events are occurring which are disconcerting. Sometimes these dreams scare us and waken us. I tell my students they can take a more active role in their dreams. They can close their eyes and take themselves back into the dream. If someone or something was chasing you instead of running away, turn around and face that threat. Tell that threatening thing to stop bothering you and instead of scaring you to give you a present. The theory being twofold. First, you face your fear which is, in and of itself, empowering. And secondly, often those things that scare us have value for us if we can just hear them in less threatening ways. But, my students protest, they are not dreaming. They are making this up. To which I respond, the same part of your brain that is creating the dream is creating your active response to it.


If you want you could close your eyes now and day dream. Think of a situation and create your own movie. You are the screenwriter, director and star and you can fashion the dream to your own making. This kind of dreaming is not the same kind of conjured visioning that occurs when you sleep, but it can train you to become a more active participant in your dreams. I know when I have scary dreams that leave me unsettled I close my eyes and finish the dream in a manner more to my liking. It doesn’t completely eradicate the queasiness but it does help.


Dreaming is something we all do, but we don’t all remember or hold them to be significant. While we are unsure of their meaning, value and purpose, many people find answers to their life concerns come through the messenger of our dreams. You may want to listen and interact more with them and see what they may offer you.


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