Like patches of life coming together in bits and pieces, you see a dream unfold. People you might have caught a glimpse of in the metro, or spaces that seem familiar but you cannot really place them, everyday scenes with a twist, and nothing making sense even though it seems like it does. Dreams have a funny way of being both, absurd and so very real at the same time. Why do we dream of people dying? Why do we see people whom we haven’t met? Are dreams trying to tell us something? We spoke to a psychotherapist who details the science of dream analysis and why we dream what we dream.
What is dream analysis and what is a dream?
Stories conjured by the mind while we are asleep, dreams have the potential to tip on either side of the scale - be utterly bizarre or even completely rational. Though we may think sleep is just a phase of the brain having no activity, the sleep cycle is in fact divided into phases. Explaining this, Shubhangni Seth, a psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist says “Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is one of the four stages that the brain goes through during the sleep cycle. This period of the sleep cycle usually takes place about 90 minutes after a person first falls asleep. It is marked by a number of physiological changes that include muscle relaxation, eye movement, faster respiration, and increased brain activity.” This is the part of the cycle when we tend to dream.
While speaking of dream analysis, the world-famous name Sigmund Freud comes to mind. A way of tapping into the unconscious, dream analysis gets its name from the very act of analysing the dream and breaking it down to decipher why certain patterns keep repeating.
Why can’t we recall dreams?
Have you ever had a really, bizarre dream that try as you might, you couldn’t recall the next day? We’ve all been there. But what about dreams makes them so impossible to recollect? Turns out it isn’t ‘what’ but rather ‘when they occur’ that determines whether one will be able to remember it.
As mentioned, dreams occur during different stages of the sleep cycle. The ones that occur during the REM stage are usually difficult to recall the next day. Lucid dreaming on the other hand is the state between the REM and being fully awake, and this is when you can actually take control of your thoughts and direct the dream.
Shubhangni says “We dream when we are in our REM sleep state which makes it extremely difficult to remember dreams in our waking state. Because they are hazy and vague in detail, one can only speculate several possible meanings rather than have a concrete answer when trying to understand them.”
Why do we dream what we dream according to dream analysis?
“Dreams are often our mind's repressed memories and therefore, it may seem that some dreams reflect our own personalities and deep-rooted fears. Having a healthy state of mind and working on your mental health makes you likely to have peaceful dreams,” she elaborates.
Throughout the waking day, the brain is alert and silently absorbing information which it later processes at a deeper level when you are asleep. This is why dreams are often insightful, offering perception even or alternate ways of looking at situations that you never figured during the time you were awake. Dreams are a combination of the daily sensory stimuli, says Shubhangni. “When our mind is active we are prone to have an eventful sleep with more dreams and when our mind is relaxed we are likely to have dreamless sleep. Dreams may be one way that the brain consolidates memories. This could be a period when the brain can reorganize and review the day’s events and connect new experiences to older ones.”
Why do we dream of people dying and does it mean anything?
Dreaming of death is anything but an experience we’d like to have. The death of a loved one can be hurtful even if it is only in a dream. Superstitions are associated with the fact that when we dream of people dying they in fact live longer. But does this hold truth to it? “Death in dreams actually means there’s some sort of change or ending happening in your life. To the subconscious mind, this represents the end of life ‘as you now know it,” says Lauri Loewenberg, a dream analyst in an article about the same.
Other experts too have shed light on the fact that there is nothing to fear if you dream of death. It is not an inclination that something morbid is to take place. “Death of your loved one in your dream indicates that this particular quality that you possess is being transformed in some way. The transformation is often the result of a major change in your waking life where you have to let go of old habits and welcome new ways of doing things,” says Ian Wallace, a dream expert and psychologist, in his book The Top 100 Dreams: The Dreams That We All Have and What They Really Mean.
Shubhangni asserts that dreams are not fortune-tellers. “Some researchers believe that dreams are more like a background “noise” that is interpreted and organized. These people have more control over their dreams than others. For these people, the last thoughts before going to bed may influence the content of a dream.”
Have you had some really bizarre dreams? Write to us about these and we’d get the dream analysts to break them down for you.