Dreams - The language of subconscious


 The language of subconscious

I.                Preface

I chose this topic, because it is something I am really interested in. I do not know exactly when or how this interest came into existence. I only remember this special dream. I woke up and I reexperienced the dream again. It was that real, colourful and filled with feelings, that I went to the library the next day, to find out what this dream may be caused by and what it may mean.

It was not the last time I went to the library, because more and more questions came into my mind about the 'language of subconsious '

Dreams are a topic that is loved by scientists as well as philosophers. But no one of these people will ever be able to answer all the questions that this mysterious territory delievers.

I know very much about 'dreams' after working on this paper and I am always looking forward knowing much more about them.

Perhaps, in the end, the dream world will yield its deepest secrets not to those who analyse it with the most advanced scientific instruments, but to those who explore it with the most imagination.


Don't dream your life,

live you dream!

II.              Some interesting facts about dreams:

On average you need 2 minutes to fall asleep.

Most people dream 5 times a night, humans will have about 136,000 dreams in a lifetime, spending the equivalent of six years in a REM sleep dream state.

Women usually dream much more passive than men do.

Students who study and get some good REM sleep retain the information better and longer periods of time than students who study longer, but have no sleep.

On average people change their position while sleeping from 40 to 70 times.

By recording tapes it is possible to learn while sleeping.

40% of the people dream in colour, only 23% report on black-white dreams.

For a newborn, REM sleep constitutes 50% of sleep. At adolescence it decreases to 20 to 25% and during old age even to 18%.

Mentally retarded and those with extremely low IQ spend less time in REM sleep than normal subjects do.

Nightmares get rarer the older people grow.

Sensual 'input' while sleeping is incorporated into dreams. Most notable, while sleeping, you hear as well  as while waking.

Some studies indicate that girls have more pleasant dreams than boys have.

One study found out that children in India tend to dream about food more often than do children in the United States.

III.            The history of dream research

On average, we spend about one third of our lives sleeping. Events in dreams may seem disjointed, and the ordinary logic of cause and effect may disolve. Dream characters may flout the laws of physics or behave in ways that seem wildly out of character. Indeed, when the mind is freed of its normal shackles, dreamers can radically reshape themselves and everything around.

Fantastical as the dreamscape may seem, however, it is not unfamiliar territory. Dreams has fascinated people of all cultures from the earliest times. About 5,000 years ago, in what is now Iraq, high priests of the Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer considered dreams to be direct instructions from heaven to the kings. The Egyptians, a thousand years later, regarded dreams as a source of supernatural wisdom and kept inventories, which have since been recovered by archaeologists, of the most important types of dreams and what they might predict. As told in the Old Testament's Book of Genesis, Joseph interpreted the Egyptian pharaoh`s dreams as visions of a coming famine. Tibetan Buddhist lamas even today believes that dreams can reveal the shape of life to come after reincarnation.

For the most part, people seeking to understand the dream world, no longer look to the supernatural for answers. Over the past century researchers have focused instead on two earthly sources of information: analysis of the human self (psychology), and physical probing of the body and brain (physiology). A great deal of modern research falls in the second category and rests on data from experiments conducted on laboratory animals.

(By the way, there was an  expriment that showed, that rats were not able to live if their REM sleep periods would be banned for more than 2 weeks )

But although these scientific explorations have shown valuable light on what physically happens to the brain when it enters the dream state, they have not solved the essential mystery of why we dream. In many ways, they only deepened it.

In 1900, Sigmund Freud ushered in the modern age of dream research in his monumentally original book 'The Interpretation of Dreams'. According to Freud, dreams are disguised thoughts from the unconscious mind. He developed an elaborate theory of dreaming and how the mind works while asleep. Carl Jung, and early student of Freud, broke with his teacher in insisting that the surface content of dreams is the meaning and that deep symbolic interpretation has little importance.

IV.                   The dreaming process: The 4 stages of sleep

There are four stages of sleep in which the sleeping person sinks down:

·     Stage 1: The first stage of sleep is a very light sleep. Stage 1 usually lasts just a few minutes. If the sleeper is not disturbed by anyone or thing, he or she will quickly journey into stage 2 sleep.

·     Stage 2: This is much deeper sleep than stage 1. Dreams start to brew around here and although there are no clear images, vague thoughts and ideas drift through the sleeper's mind. If the sleeper remains undisturbed he or she will drift off into stage 3.

·     Stage 3: Once more a deeper sleep stage. The sleepers' muscles are all relaxed by now, and his or her heart rate has slowed down. The sleeper's blood pressure is also falling. His or her breahting is steady and even. The sleeper is difficult to wake now. Only two things can wake the sleeper now: a loud noise or an repetitious calling of the sleeper's name. Before long, the sleeper will dive into stage 4.

·     Stage 4: It's the deepest sleep of all and the sleeper is almost impossible to wake now. If there is a loud noise or if the sleeper is shaken, it will take the sleeper a few seconds to wake up. The sleeper lingers the longest in this stage, but climbs back then to stage 2 and then enters the night's first REM period.

V.             The 2 types of sleep:

There are 2 basic types of sleep: NREM, (non rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

NREM and REM sleep alternate during a normal sleep cycle. The beginning of sleep cycle is dominated by NREM sleep which gradually takes us into a deep state of unconciousness in which there is diminished brain activity, allowing blood to flow to muscles and organs. Researchers believe that during this period that the body has a chance to recover from the stress and strain of the days activities and replenish cells for the new day.

Unlike NREM sleep, REM sleep is characterized by an increase in brain activity and a strong and commensurate increase in blood flow to the brain. During REM sleep, scientists discovererd, the eyes move rapidly even though the eyelids are closed. REM sleep first appears, briefly, at around an hour and a half in to the sleep cycle, and then continues to rotate with NREM sleep appearing for greater lenghts of time as the night progresses. REM sleep periods and NREM sleep consist of more stages,which are explained afterwards. It is during the REM sleep that we dream, but researchers found out that dreaming is also possible in NREM sleep, but then much more passive. Moreover dreams launched during any of NREM sleep's four distinct stages tend to be shorter and more mundane than the often vivid and bizarre REM dreams.

VI.           More about the phenomenon:  REM sleep

In 1953 sleep researchers led by Nathaniel Kleitman made the important discovery of rapid eye movement - or REM sleep. Curious about th long-standing observation that the eyeballs of sleeping subjects, in both, humans and animals, periodically move during sleep, they connected sleeping laboratory subjects to equipment that measured their brain waves (yielding an electroencephalogram, or EEG), muscle tone (electromyogram, or EMG) and eye movement (electroculogram, or EOG).

As is often the case with major discoveries, this one - after its announcement in the jounal Sience in 1953 - suddenly seemed glaringly obvious. Many people had observed the restless eye movements of sleepers, but no one had recognized the regularity of the twitches of had tried to puzzle out their significance. Once the news was out, however, other researchers quickly confirmed the phenomenon, and it was formally dubbed rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. The next step was to figure out what purpose REM served.

VII.         What causes dreams, anyway?

Good question Many different theories, nothing for sure. According to the Freudian school, dreams are the result of subconscious thoughts and desires. The other extreme attributes dreams to random 'noise' in the neurons without special meaning.

I do not agree with this last opinion, because I think that dreams really can tell us about ourselves.

Some say that dreaming gives us a chance to cope with stress and other emotional crisis that we are unable to cope with in conscious state. One study has shown, that REM sleep may play an important role; properly filing useful information, and helping us in the learning process by reviewing the days more difficult lessons.

Considered physically it's because of the stimulation of mainly two areas in our brain, called 'pons' and 'medulla', which produce our dreams while sleeping. These two brainareas are also decisive for the beginning and inhibition of the muscle functions, because they send down messages a special cord, called 'Spinal cord' to inhibit the muscle functions. Which moreover indicates the body's inability to move during REM sleep.


VIII.        How long do dreams last?

No one had ever tried timing a dream before, but many people had long subscribed to the opinion of French psycologist Alfred Maury, who postulated in 1861 that dreams were infinitesimally brief. It is also known as the popular 7-second-theory, but latest researches say that REM sleep periods, and therefore dreams, can even take 5 to 45 minutes. Anyway, time is one ot the perceptions that are heavily distorted in dreams.

But a scientist called Dement established how long people linger in REM state, thereby providing an estimate of the duration of dreams. For a newborn, he determined, REM sleep constitutes 50% of sleep. This level gradually decreases to a stabilization level fo 20 to 25% at adolescence. It reaches a low of 18% during old age. The severely mentally retarded and those with extremely low IQ spend less time in REM sleep than normal subjects. Variations in REM sleep also occur with some kinds of mental disorders.

With approximately five dreams a night, humans will have about 136,000 dreams in a lifetime, spending the equivalent of six years in a REM dream state.

IX.            Does everybody dream?

Yes. Everybody dreams. Not only all humans, but in fact all mammals are shown to have REM sleep, which is associated with dreams. So if you think you don't dream you probably just don't remember.

Adult humans spend as much as a quarter of their sleep time in REM, integrating the constant influx of new information and shifting in to longerterm memory. By contrast, birds, whose behavior is so reflexive that they have little need to store memories long term, spend only

1-5% of their time in REM sleep. And reptiles, even more

primitive and genetically programmed creatures, have

no REM sleep.

Therefore is one mammal that does not experience

REM sleep. The echidna, or spiny anteater belongs

 to a group of primative mammals called nontherieans,

which includes just one other species, the platypus.

The amount of nightly sleep that healthy individuals

require, varies widely from person to person and is

 considered to a biological attribute, like weight. Although

there is no 'normal' length of a good night's sleep for a

given age group, sleeping requirements genereally decrease with age. Adults sleep, on the average, between 7 to 8 hours each night, with individual averages ranging from 4 to 10 hours. Studies have shown that a person forced to sleep slightly less each night, because of a job, school, and so on, will still function normally. Even extended periods without sleep, such as one week, do not appear to harm the body seriously.

X. How do external stimuli affect my dreams?

Sensual 'input' while sleeping is incorporated into dreams. Most notably, while sleeping, you hear as well as while waking - the ears are never turned off. This leads to the consequence that what you hear while sleeping, you will hear in your dreams. The sound is always coming from 'somewhere'. Common experiences of this kind are a telephone ringing or music from the radio. The same holds for the other senses. Note that it is not important how loud some noise is to get noticed while sleeping - even an otherwise unnoticed sound, like a mouse running over your floor, can wake you up if it is uncommon or otherwise alarming to you - on the other hand, you can get accustomed to high levels of noise, like construction work nearby. (What you definitely will wake you up is someone knocking at your window if you live at the 10th floor :o)

It is an interesting experience that you can hear exactly what is going on, but will forget it on waking up along with forgetting the rest of your dream. This includes things such as news broadcast heard on the radio - after waking up, you have forgotten it.

XI.                   How do my dreams interact with my waking life?

Dreams seem to be a way for the subconscious mind to sort out and process all the input and problems that are encountered in waking life. Therefore, a scientist could be working on a problem say the structure of the DNA molecule. Then said scientist could have a dream in which he sees two snakes interwining in a double helix. When he wakes, he has discovered the structure of the DNA molecule.

It was not 'a' scientist. It was F.A. Kekeulé who discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. But dreams were also a help for other great men, for instance Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote one of his best poems inspired by a dream, or Guiseppe Tartini who had a dream in which, like Faust, he sold his soul to the Devil. In his dream the devil began to play the most wonderful melody he had ever heard and awaking from his dream he seized his violin and tried to play the piece he had just heard. You can say that this dream gave birth to 'The Devil's Sonata'.

Students who study and get some REM sleep, retain the information better and for longer periods of time than students who study longer but have no sleep. This is because the brain needs time to process the information, form sensible pattern out of it, and place it in long term memory.

Dreams can also improve your emotional well-being, reduce stress, improve your creativity, and provide a playground for your mind while your body recovers and repairs itself.

There seems to be a biological and a psychological need for REM sleep, though it is not clear why. Subjects who are deprived of REM sleep for a night by constant awakening upon entering each REM cycle increase their REM sleep the following night. This is called the REM rebound effect.

Despite the apparent need for REM sleep no serious mental effects seem to result from REM deprivation, at least within a six-month time span. Well, rats died after a 3 weeks deprivation, but depriving some depressed people of REM dreaming alleviates their depressions. This extreme is just another example for the greatness of our ignorance concerning the dream territory. (Or maybe the simple fact that you can't compare human beings to rats? :o)

XII.          Dream interpretation

In the second century, a Greek named Artemidorus Daldianus compiled five volumes listing and attempting to interpret hundreds of events and items that appear in dreams. Recognizing how the dreamer's life would impinge on any interpretation, he well understood the difficulty of his task. Some 1,800 years later, researchers are still trying to catalog and analyze dreams - and the job has become no easier.

Studies depend on what dreamers report when awake. They may forget or purposely not mention some dream experiences. And the test itself may affect results. Subjects awakened repeatedly in a sleep lab may relate mundane dreams, but after a night of uninterrupted sleep at home may recall only dramatic dreams, presumably having forgotten the dull ones. There were many studies that only showed on important outcome: 'dreams tend to change as people age.'

Symbols are one way of interpreting dreams. Researchers have tried to find, for each common dream occurence, a psychological situation that matches the dream in some way and link it as a cause. But from my point of view, dream interpretation by catalog of symbols  doesn't take into account individual differences between dreamers. You can imagine this flaw by taking into account that the cultural background is an important point that should not be neglected. Freud's theories, that give high importance to hidden signs of sexual desires, are based on a society that has suppressed sexuality. And so on. In a more global context, asking for special symbols is of dubious value.

Dreams  are made up of the dreamer's thoughts. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to interpret dreams if you don't know the dreamer, since to recognize the meaning of dreams (if there is one) you need to know the background. But nevertheless, sharing dream experiences with the others and getting response, is a nice thing anyway and may help you to find out more about yourself.

XIII.               Why do I keep dreaming the same thing over and over?

Recurrent dreams are a sign of thoughts that occupy the dreamer much, consciously or unconsciously. Such thoughts have influence on the dreams and they are often remembered better than 'random' dreams since you somehow know their importance.

Sometimes those dreams are unpleasant, a sign or symbol of some conflict situation that you still have to overcome. Ask yourself what the dream signifies - probably you can interpret it better than anybody else, since you are the one who knows yourself best.

Of course, there are also nice recurring dreams. Some people build their own dream world which they explore, meeting friends there etc. But all those recurring dreams ask you to take a careful look at yourself.

XIV.              What causes dream disorder?

Of course, almost everyone has experienced sleep problems at some time in life, but for some people these problems become chronic and extremely debilitating. Insomnia a well known sleep disorder can actually be caused by many things such as intake of alcohol, drugs or caffeine. Smoking, Pain, diabetes, lack of exercise and psychological problems can also be causes of insomnia.

One way of classifying sleep disorders is according to whether they are primary - that is, the principal or only symptom of disturbance - or whether they are secondary to a larger problem.

Among the primary disorders are narcolepsy, in which the individual almost uncontrollably falls asleep at any moment, and apnea, in which the sleeper actually stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. Instances of death in sleeping infants, known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS may also involve apnea when the air passage is blocked by the tongue.

By far the most common form of secondary sleep disorders is insomnia, characterized by extremely slow sleep onset or repeated awakenings during the night. In addition, in the condition called pseudoinsomnia, the individual claims to be unable to sleep; independent observations, however, show that the subject has indeed slept through the night. Insomnia may also occur secondary to a large number of medical, psychiatric, or sleep-inducing drugs may find their sleep becomes disturbed.

Sleep disorders also are fairly common among depressed or psychotic patients and among chronic alcoholics. Insomnia may be a problem for people who are tense, anxious, or worried; in these situations, a vicious cycle may develop in which the harder a person tries to fall asleep, the less that person is able to relax and actually sleep. Focusing on the primary problem as well as the sleep disturbance generally effects a cure for many of these secondary sleep disorders.

XV.         How do blind and deaf people dream?

Although the specific content varies to a greater degree, the dreams of both, blind and deaf people also seem specially attunded to their condition. How blind people dream, depends primarily on when they lost their sight. Those born blind have no visual dreams at all, but instead have more vivid auditory dream experiences that sighted people. Children who lose their vision between the ages of five and seven may dream in pictures later, but as they grow older, other sensory elements including touch, taste, and smell take center stage. Most people blinded after the age of seven continue to dream visually and in some cases create images in their mind's eyes of people they have met after losing their sight.

The dreams of deaf people similary reflect the circumstances of their disability. In one study, the congenitally deaf and those who had lost their hearing before the age of five, reported dreams with more vivid colors and more three-dimensional detail than individuals afflicted after in life - almost as if the dreaming mind had done a better job of compensation of the missing sense when the dreamer had no real-life experience or little memory of it. As for communication, even deaf people who could remeber hearing, tended to use sign language in their dreams.

XVI.              Is there a difference between children's and adults' dreams?

Children report dreams that are shorter and simpler than those of adults, and the more so the younger the child. But simplicity is double-sided: Studies of American children, for example, suggest that they dream more often than grownups about pleasurable objects such as toys, but they also have a greater mumber of frightening dreams involving aggression and weapons. Some psychologists think that this is because of the big violence - supply in TV, that children get to see every day.

Many authorities believe that fearful children's dreams reflect the precarious aspects of being smaller and less powerful than almost everyone else in an oversize world. Perhaps the most dramatic difference is that dream images of animals - including ferocious beasts - appear much more frequently to children than to adults. But youngsters also seem to dream more often about people they know and less about strangers than do grownups. Some studies indicate that girls have more pleasant dreams than boys - at least they experience less physical aggression in their dreams. Childhood dreams also differ from culture to culture, sometimes for no readily apparent reason. For example, one study of middle-class children in India found out that they tend to dream about food more often than do children in the United States, even though the Indian youngsters in the example were as well fed.

Animals appear in 39% of young children's dreams, a rate that falls to roughly 14% for teenagers and only 7,5% for college-age students, according to one study.

XVII.            Visions in the twilight years

Studies of the elderly suggest that as people age their dreams continue to change in ways that reflect their changing lives and circumstances.

The elderly often dream of losing all their resources - money, property, the ability to take care of themselves - or of getting lost and not knowing how to get back home, fears mirroring real - life anxieties.

One fairly common characteristic is that in dreams as in their waking lives the aged behave less aggressively than younger persons and are more inclined toward passivity and introspection. These traits

are not universally evident, however. Older women, who can be more assertive than older men in waking life, may also behave less passively in dreams.

XVIII.   Don't leave me, sweet dream

                                   how to remember your dreams

.        You must have the right attitude towards your dreams! Take your dreams seriously, if you are unsure about their importance and signification your conciousness has no reason to store them up.

.        Compose a fixed resolution! Think of dreaming every morning and evening. But do not produce any pressure! In particular before going to bed you have to free your dream-resolution, compulsion chases the memories away.

.        Write down what you saw, felt and heard! Found a dream-diary and try to write down everything you can remember. It is easier to interpret your dream then and actually even the resolution of writing down your dreams has a stimulating effect.

.        Caution, alarm clocks! Alarm clocks supply the brain with new information and oust the dream-memories.

.        Take your time! Stay in bed for some more relaxed minutes after awaking. Don't jump out of bed right away and don't look right into the sunlight. It puts out the memories too.

.        Share your dreams with others! Talk with a person you know well and tell him /her your dream. By telling dreams you learn to see it from another point of view.

XIX.       These theories in reality

I wanted to test these interesting facts and so I asked some teenagers between 15 and 16 what they think and know about dreams.

My question

What my questionnaire says

What world wide statistics say

Do you dream in color or in black/ white?

80% in color

20% in black /white

40% in color

23% in black/ white

How long do you need to fall asleep, on average?

7 to 15 minutes

2 minutes

How many dreams do you usually remeber a night?

1 to 2

at least 3

everybody dreams about 5 times a night

What proportion of your dreams are pleasant?

female: 73%

male:    70%

girls usually have more pleasant dreams than boys

Do you think that dreams have any function or purpose?

yes: 99,8%

no:    0,2%

dreams are a essential part of existence

Can you influence your dreams?

yes: 40%

no:  60%

conciously it is not possible to influence dreams

Do you think that dreams can predict future?

yes: 20%

no:  80%

it is pretty impossible that dreams can show you the future. Dreams can only warn of illnesses

And there was one more question I personally was really interested in:

Would your prefer sleeping without dreaming?

And I must say I was really astonished as one of the 20 answers was: Yes.

XX.         Bibliography

Secrets of the inner mind - journey through the mind and body, 1993 Time-Life Books

Mindell, Arnold 1985: Working with the dreaming body

Wienerin, November 1998

Make your way with english, 7th form

Dreams that are not understand are like letters that are not opened.

                                                                                                                      The Talmund

Nothing said to us, nothing we can learn from others, reaches us as deep that which we can find in ourselves.

                                                                                                                      Theodore Reih

Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myhts.

                                                                                                                      Joseph Campell

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