Free and Professional Dream Analysis and What Dreams Mean
MODERN HISTORY OF DREAMS and its Scientific Origins
THE SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND OF DREAMS
Freud was the 20th century’s most famous pioneer in psychoanalysis, but was not the first to study dreams. Distinguished predecessors such as Scottish physician Robert McNish (1802 ‑ 1837) noticed that "a man wearing a damp nightshirt" dreamed of being dragged through a stream. This brought up the early question of whether sensations of the body produce dreams and by the time Freud came onto the scene, research on how physical stimuli affect dreams was quite the rage. Modern research confirms that physical stimuli affect the details of a dream but not overall its overall story and meaning.
Freud was the first to identify the subconscious as the part of the mind that stores memories and desires and linked dreams to our daily activities and motives, confirming that dreams act as a mirror of the psyche's contents. Freud thus revived and explained an idea readily accepted by the ancients, that dream content is linked to waking life.
Freud made many brilliant observations that opened up our understanding of the psychology of the mind. He also left some muddy waters, especially some distortions about dreams. One of his most pronounced distortions was to link all dream content to sexuality and sexual motives, a perspective no longer held in modern times. Speculating on how Freud came to this mistaken perspective, imagine him as a modern‑day Columbus sailing out into the middle of a mysterious waters of the unconscious; as the first to chart the unconscious, he wondered which way to go. His biographers describe Freud's struggle with his own sexuality which may explain how sex became a major area of study for Freud, leading him to think the same issues perhaps applied to everyone the same way it affected him. Freud lived in the Victorian Age during which sex was a hidden, yet a hot topic, so for his day, his thinking may have been more relevant. All things considered, Freud's brilliant legacies in understanding ourselves will be acknowledged throughout history.
2. CARL JUNG
Jung was a younger contemporary of Freud who brought new understanding about dreams as a focal point for growing into one's full potential. Jung restored balance to Freud’s perspective by adding dimensions self‑awareness, psychological growth and spirituality as aspects of dream insights.
3. DREAM LABS - HOW DREAMS WERE DISCOVERED
The next breakthrough in understanding dreams and sleep came during the 1950’s. NathanielKleitman was a physiologist at the University of Chicago, who made an accidental discovery about sleep and was the first to set up a "sleep laboratory" to understand the physiology of sleep. Like many scientists, he often worked late into the night. In 1952 Kleitman and a colleague returned to his home to unwind. They looked in on his infant son, sleeping peacefully, and noticed that his son’s eyes, though closed, were moving back and forth as though watching a tennis match. Kleitman wondered whether the side to side movement indicated that a dream was taking place. To test that thought, in the weeks that followed he hooked up electrodes to the eyes of adults sleeping in a lab, waking them when their eyes moved back and forth. Kleitman and his associates were astonished that each time they woke a person, the person reported a dream. They named this phenomenon "Rapid Eye Movement" or "REM sleep", for short.
Kleitman’s research opened a new phase of the scientific study of dreams and sleep. Using electrodes (tiny metal plates) attached to the eyes of a sleeping person, scientists discovered a great deal about dreams and sleep such as the fact that everyone dreams every night, even if you don’t remember your dreams. We dream like clockwork about every ninety minutes for a total of twenty percent of our sleep time. A dream lasts from ten to thirty minutes and tends to be the longest and clearest just before waking.
Dream researchers William Dementand CharlesFisherof New York's Mount SinaiHospital were the first to show that the dream or REM portion of sleep is important for psychological well-being, not just for physical rest. To test the effects of dreams, they carried out "dream deprivation" experiments. They woke subjects whenever a dream began, seen as REM movement in closed eyes, and subjects were not allowed to begin or finish a dream for a few nights, up to six nights for some subjects, nor could subjects nap during the day. The subjects were allowed to sleep, but not to dream, so they were not sleep-deprived, only dream-deprived. During the day, these "dream‑deprived" subjects became more and more anxious and irritable, and their decisions became poorer and less in accord with choices they would normally make. For example, they drank more, smoked more, and showed increasingly more and more hostility, resentment and falling apart of their personality, as compared to their normal state.
Dement and Fisher had a second control group of subjects who were awakened during the same nights for equal amounts of time, but only during "non‑dreaming" sleep periods, so that they were equally sleep-deprived, but allowed to dream. The second group showed no change in personality or behavior, allowing Dement and Fisher to conclude that "lack of dreams" rather than "lack of sleep" was related to the strange behavior of the dream-deprived group, and hence, that dreams were important for emotional and psychological well being. Such research showed that dreams are critical to your psychological welfare.
4. SCIENTISTS STUDY DREAM CONTENT
As scientists began to ask the question, "What does this dream mean?", they looked at the content of dreams. This led to two crucial observations. First, they noticed dreams are stories linked to waking thoughts and feelings that revolve around daily problems and activities. Secondly, dream story lines or themes make a relevant statement about the waking life and its directions.
5. CONCLUSIONS OF EARLY SCIENTIFIC STUDIES
Progress in modern science always includes different points of view, which in dream studies, includes researchers who see dreams as merely the random firing of neurons. Nevertheless, many researchers, past and current, conclude that dreams are worthy of serious consideration. Words from ancient traditions such as Hebrew text in the Talmud suggest dreams are "A letter unopened from a friend." Modern appreciation of dream use shows that dreams function as a built-in counselor and problem-solver; it’s time to become adept at opening these memos from the mind’s nightly review.
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