It’s amazing that with all the technology that has defined the 21st century, a big mystery is still at large. We spend a quarter to a third of our lives sleeping and dreaming. But what purpose does a dream serve? Why does it happen? This much is a mystery. However, this poses an interesting conversation, as dreams are as mysterious as they are telling.
Sigmund Freud was one of the first to explore this facet of the mind’s process. His theories discuss the two kinds of consciousness, the dominant consciousness, which one is aware and in control of, and the sub-consciousness, which is completely foreign to their waking intentions, but also reflects their inner self. When one is dreaming, his waking consciousness is dormant, and the sub-conscious is free to express itself. This is where the practice of keeping "Dream Journals," or recording one’s dreams, stems from.
This makes perfect sense, especially when paired with the advances in modern science. Several stages of sleep have been identified, each approaching the important one called "REM sleep." An acronym for "Rapid Eye Movement," REM sleep is exactly that. This stage is the most likely one for a dream to occur, and the eyes can be seen flickering back and forth during this stage in, possible response to the dream stimuli. It is also theorized that sleep may be essential for one’s brain to sort through and organize thoughts and memories acquired through
Actual interaction with the dream universe is interesting to think about, as every night, even though we don’t always remember the dream, we have them. This remembrance is usually determined by the mental state of the dreamer, if they are intoxicated, or mentally exhausted, it’s rare to recall a dream.
In dreams, I often recall them as if playing a video game. I remember having an actual thought process during the dream thinking, "Oh, what should I do in response to this?" In dreams, they never seem any less real, either. This is until you think to take a step back and realize that there was some strange oddity that could never be real that occurred in the dream.
Another theory states that these strange occurrences, such as talking animals or revived dead, are accepted by your brain because the logic center of your brain is located along with the waking consciousness. Since the waking consciousness is dormant during sleep, logic often ignored. This is how our dreams keep the sense of realism in the moment, but are ridiculous in hindsight. There are some instances, though, where one doesn’t have to look back to see that a dream is real or not.
A method known as "lucid dreaming" exists, where the dreamer realizes that he is dreaming while he is in the dream state. Once this realization has been made, the dreamer has broken the barrier between sub-conscious and conscious dreaming. Dreams are nothing but figments of our imagination. They are made by our own minds using bits and pieces of information stored in our memory. In essence, lucid dreaming is the manipulation of one’s own dreams. Given the proper training, one can dream of flying, or nearly anything that comes to mind.
To do so requires concentration and determination. The simplest, but hardest part of the practice is the part where one realizes he is dreaming. In preparation for this moment, several measures can be taken, though the effectiveness of each depend on the person attempting to lucid dream. The one I have deemed the most effective is the "reality check" method. Theoretically, If one gets into the habit of performing this check to determine their position in reality or dream world, they will be in the habit when they are in their dream world as well, and be able to enter the lucid dream this way.
This could involve pinching oneself, as they would feel no pain in their dream, or leaning against a wall, as a hand would penetrate the unreal walls of the dream. Another suggestion is to keep a dream journal, not for the interpretation of the visions, but for the recognition of one’s dreams. If one has repetitive dreams, recording prior ones into a book will provide reference, and steel one’s memory to help pick up on if the dream is real or not.
Lucid dreaming is also been a source of therapy, as people with night terrors can be trained to not fear their dreams. The simple notion of control over the bodies that cause the dreamer distress is a huge relief. However, lucid dreaming seems to be used mostly for the simple means of personal enjoyment. This much, I cannot iterate further, as I have yet to experience lucid dreaming. So far, I have only woken up to dismay as I realized that I had been dreaming and hadn’t figured out that it was only a dream. This is the part where determination comes in, apparently. The bottom line is that dreams and lucid dreaming, conversely, are personal ventures and well require different means for the end result. Maybe with more people learning about dreams and the hidden parts of their minds, we can take that knowledge and apply it to knowledge of the brain as a whole.
Chace Perkins is finishing up his junior year at Bellows Falls Union High School. His column appears monthly.