The Language of Dreams
For decades, Universities have conducted independent sleep studies to research and document individual’s dreams and perhaps more importantly, determine what they mean.
Unfortunately, the data collected is saturated with variables: the proverbial pebbles in the shoes of scientific studies. For instance, in 2014, a six month study of 100 adult men and women found that while most people report dreaming in color, over 20% claim to dream in black and white. Also, varying degrees of dream activity from several to just one dream each night are reported with a small percentage claiming they do not dream at all. Additionally, the majority of people surveyed claim they awaken from their dreams with residual emotion, both positive and negative, while some people say their dreams lack any emotional resonance, whatsoever. The most conclusive yet inconclusive finding is that dreaming occurs during the REM state of sleep, although not all REM states seem to produce dreams, or at least a memory of their occurrence isn’t always retained.
Those who did recall their dreams more than often described the images as fragmented. Despite the lack of clarity, many felt convinced that their dreams contained significant symbolism, even if they did not understand the message. Often reporting that the scenes in their dreams jump from one event to another as if watching a badly edited movie, they sensed a streaming story but usually lacked the details to connect the dots to clearly define the plot.
It’s been suggested that dreams offer insight to our emotional state and help to show us how we truly perceive ourselves. Famed psychiatrists, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung often assigned meanings to dream symbols that their patients reported seeing in their dreams. One of the most common reported was that of a snake of which Freud and Jung’s definition differed from one another. Freud, ever on the hunt for a phallic symbol, felt the snake represented a man to whom the dreamer was either threatened by and/or sexually attracted. Jung’s interpretation suggested growth and transformation, citing a snake’s ability to shed its skin.
Perhaps they are both correct and dream symbolism is not entirely a universal language.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve had both frequent and vivid dreams. Over the years and still today, I’ve experienced recurring dreams and endured countless, terrible nightmares that robbed me of much needed rest. Cruelly, I was often left with haunting images in my mind while I tried to function in the waking world.
I struggled to understand the meaning behind the invasive images forced into my short term memory. Assuming dreams are a product of our subconscious where our intuition and “gut feelings” reside, it seemed a prudent move to pay attention and at least attempt to understand their meaning. Ideally, to truly comprehend something’s meaning, one should know its language, specifically the language of symbols.
There is little argument that dreams are conveyed using a combination of images both strange and familiar and there may be an explanation for the content’s duality.
The earliest known writing system dates back to approximately 8,000 BC and is referred to as Sumerian cuneiform. The written language was a collection of pictographs and other symbols that were initially used to represent livestock and trade goods on clay tablets. Soon, the glyphs defined not only an object, but a sound and eventually a word. Thus, a language was born.
Symbols proved to be a fast and effective method of communication for early man. Embedded in our DNA, the ancient form of conveying messages surfaces from deep within our subconscious while the rational, prose-ruled brain takes somewhat of a backseat.
Maura Goldstein took part in a clinical dream study in 2011 at a local University in her home state of California. When asked about the categorization of dreams, she replied, “I believe they utilize our individual lexicons, or our personal definitions for symbols to give us messages. There are three different kinds: release dreams, memories and premonitions.”
Release: “There is no shortage of sources of anger, frustration and sadness in our daily lives. Many of these patience-robbing moments however go unresolved as we suppress our inclination to react in favor of choosing to avoid a confrontation with another or telling ourselves that maddening events occur and we should just “roll with it”. The suppression of emotion can be dangerous and surface at inopportune times, sometimes misdirected at those very undeserving of its expression. Dreams help release the feelings we keep buried to assist in a more balanced, emotional state.”
Memories: “The mind often blocks very old and even uncomfortable memories. But, the subconscious demands we face our fears and deal with them. Additionally, while the brain knows this lifetime, the subconscious can travel back to our previous lives and show us events that may have significant importance to who and what we are today. The dreams we have of strangers and odd places are often memories from another incarnation.”
Premonitions: “Time doesn’t exist in the subconscious state. It has the ability to see both backward and forward in time. Dreams that display events that have not occurred are often future events. Of course, once we obtain the knowledge of their occurrence, we can alter their manifestation. These dreams can be wonderfully enlightening by alerting us as to a particular path we may not even know we are on and thus, enable us to make changes for our benefit.”
The language of dreams or more accurately, our dreams of language, continue to mystify and intrigue us as we endeavor to understand their meaning. The images that present themselves are very much required reading that begs for comprehension. Whether or not you believe they are indeed messages intended for you, it certainly can’t hurt to listen to them.