The word “dream” derives from the Latin somnium , derived from somnus and is a psychic phenomenon linked to sleep, in particular to the REM phase, characterized by the perception of images and sounds recognized as apparently real. The study and analysis of dreams induce to recognize a type of mental functioning having laws and mechanisms different from the conscious thought processes which are instead the object of study of traditional psychology.
The divinatory art which claims to interpret dreams is called oneiromancy ; while the ability to become aware of dreams is called oneironautics or lucid dreaming .
An average man dreams for a total of six years during his life, or about two hours every night. We do not yet know the area of the brain where dreams originate, nor do we know if they originate in a single area or if multiple parts of the brain compete in it …
There are many hypotheses related to the function of dreams. During the night there may be many external stimuli, but the mind processes the stimuli and is an integral part of dreams, in the order in which sleep proceeds. The mind wakes the individual up should he find himself in danger or if qualified to respond to certain sounds; for example a crying baby. Dreams can also allow the repressed parts of the mind to be fulfilled through fantasy while keeping the mind away from thoughts that would cause a sudden awakening.
Freud suggested that nightmares leave the brain to control emotions; they are the result of “painful” experiences. Dreams also let the mind express sensations that would normally be suppressed when awake, thus keeping us in balance …
In addition, the dream activity can offer a view on the emotions related to future events (it happens in the waking period, on the occasion of a job interview or, in any case, an important experience).
Carl Gustav Jung suggested that dreams can compensate for one-sided awake attitudes.
The famous Hungarian psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Sándor Ferenczi, proposed that the dream can communicate something that is not being said completely. There have also been similarities with the automatic computer maintenance operations operated when they are in offline mode. Dreams can remove “parasitic knots” and other mental “junk”. They can also create new ideas through the generation of mutations of “random thoughts”; some of these can be rejected by the mind as useless, others can be seen as valuable and maintained. Blechner, another famous American psychologist and psychoanalyst, defined this as the theory of Darwinian Oneirism. Dreams can even regulate mood!
Heinz Hartmann said that dreams can function like psychotherapy “by activating connections in a safe place” and consequently allowing the dreamer to integrate “things and thoughts” that otherwise would be dissociated from awake.
Recent studies by Griffin have led to the formulation of the “theory of fulfilling the expectation of dreaming” which suggests that metaphorically dreaming complete emotional expectation models and therefore lower stress levels (decrease in cortisol production).
Sometimes it happens that you become aware of being in a dream. Being aware of the fact that the whole environment is the creation of our mind, it is possible to manipulate the dream itself at will. Some people, defined as “natural lucid dreamers” or “oneironauts”, have the ability to realize that they are in a dream without applying particular techniques. On the contrary, many people research these experiences by engaging in the application of some techniques that can help them achieve the goal.
The role of the dream interpreter is present in the history of the main civilizations of the ancient world, where it was held in high regard and prestige at the court of the Kings. The faculty of interpreting dreams and visions was generally associated with the gift of prophecy, and the privilege of a personal conversation with spiritual entities, such as angels, gods and God himself.
Historical personalities who held this role of power were for example:
the Arab Achmet, son of the interpreter of dreams at the court of Caliph al-Maʾmūn, founder of Islamic oneiromancy, who in turn affirms in the Oneirocriticon that he was a pupil of the court advisers of the Indian kings of India, Persia, Egypt.
The Greek Artemidorus of Daldi who dedicates the first three of the four books of the Oneirocritica to Massimo di Tiro, rhetorician in Rome with the Emperor Commodus and
the Greek Artemidorus of Ephesus, sent as ambassador to Rome.
The Greeks resumed the custom of incubation by going to a sacred forest or a cave, where they dug a hole, or going to a temple in Asclepius. There they cuddled hoping to be able to dream and then consulted the oneiromancy expert. Interpretations took on a role of spiritual care and guidance. Among the interpreters there were famous ones, such as Daldi’s Artemidoro, perhaps the first to write a book on the subject, entitled The interpretation of dreams .
The interpretations provided by Artemidoro and others were passed down from generation to generation. The first to pick up the topic in modern times was Sigmund Freud, who in turn published his Interpretation of Dreams in 1899 .
In addition, ancient forms of exorcism are witnessed, useful for freeing oneself from anguished dreams, such as purification through the use of water, sacrifice to the gods and the narration of vision in the light of the sun.
According to Hesiod, dreams were children of the Night. The idea of a specific divinity of dreams is later and is generally attributed to Ovid, who in his Metamorphoses gave a name to the three children of Hypno, sleep: Morpheus, Fobetore and Fantaso.
The interpretation of dreams in popular cultures is often “minimalist” and the same key formulas are applied indifferently to completely different individuals. The famous Neapolitan grimace, for example, is a list of associations of images, situations, objects, events with the numbers of the lotto game, a real prêt-à-porter dictionary of desires.
The sleep phase in which we dream is called REM (Rapid Eyes Movement). During REM sleep, the brain undergoes an “overwork”. During a night, various REM phases alternate (at least 4 – 5): generally the first begins after about 60 minutes from when we fall asleep. We all dream, even those who say no!
Dreaming is as necessary for biological and mental balance as sleep itself, oxygen and healthy nutrition. By alternating relaxation and tension of psychism, it fulfills a vital function: it serves, from the psychological point of view, to free the repressed impulses during the day, brings out problems to solve, suggests some solutions in its development.
Man has always wondered about the visions that populate his night’s rest, trying to grasp its hidden meaning.
The dream uses diurnal residues, that is, it draws on events that happened recently or in the previous days, it takes this material and through dreamlike work it masks and deforms the desire it wants to fulfill.
To start learning oniromancy (lightly), follow the following steps:
- write your dream as soon as possible, before consciousness clears or modifies it
- seize the emotion that accompanies you during this dream and upon awakening (sadness, anger, tranquility, etc ..)
- break up the dream: identify the protagonist, the place where the scene takes place, the actions that take place …
- as you read the dream piece by piece, notice the associations that your brain produces (words, memories, images, people, episodes, ideas, etc.)
- ask yourself: what does my Unconscious want to tell me, the deepest and wisest part of me?
- Finally remember that just as it should not be underestimated, the dream should not even be placed on a pedestal. Don’t worry if you can’t understand anything … interpreting a dream is not so easy.
We often hear talk of premonitory dreams, that is, of images and situations experienced in our dream world, which sometimes recur in the real world in identical or at least similar ways. Compared to common dreams, these would have a divinatory character, as they would show us a vision of the future.
Needless to say, those who do not believe in the prophetic arts do not accept this state of affairs, claiming that it is not possible to attribute to the films that our mind creates during sleep, a divinatory power.
According to philosopher and writer Robert Todd Carroll, the premonitory dream would fall under the famous law of large numbers: there are 6.5 billion people on this planet who boast an average of 5 dreams per night. Ergo, if some of them dream of natural disasters or tragedies that then occur, it is only a pure chance, perhaps given by a shared emotion.
The premonitory dreams in history
The classic example for this theory comes from history and is the sinking of the Titanic. Of hundreds of people who, it seems, had dreamed of the ship’s disaster, as many as 19 testimonials were judged reliable and their predictive dreams. According to Carroll, they were only pessimistic and “sensitive” minds to the media advertising of the Titanic, acclaimed by the newspapers as “unsinkable”.
However, even if skepticism reigns supreme in the field of premonitory dreams, it must be admitted that not everything that concerns them can be explained in a rational way. Examples are those dreams whose meaning need not be interpreted, but which recreate the exact situation which is then verified.
Obviously, premonitory dreams can also be less explicit, but give indications on what could happen through symbols. A classic in this case can be represented by travel, the meaning of which is normally the beginning of something new or even the end of a situation.
But is it possible to recognize premonitory dreams? According to experts in the dream field, a good clue to think that our dreams fall into this series is that they are recurrent and emotionally pregnant, therefore when we wake up they leave us with memory and feelings of what happened.
Of course, it could also only mean that we are experiencing a particular period of worries, hopes or expectations. In this case dreams are mere images of our moods, therefore descriptive and not predictive.
Dreams are also an incredibly powerful way to connect directly with your spiritual guides. During the dream the mind is calm and silent and you have a lot of time to be able to connect directly with your subconscious and the Divine.
The dream can be playful, profound, spiritual, prophetic, uplifting, exciting, strange, disturbing or even frightening … But all dreams have a purpose and have a significant vision and healing to support our life here on earth. After all, the average human being sleeps about 7 hours per night, which if added up equals 1/3 of life which cannot be ignored.
By learning to understand the symbolic language of dreams, there is a huge opportunity to experience spiritual growth and progress.
Dream experiences most commonly affect us and our personal lives (only about 10% of the time can affect another person). Even when another person is in our dream, in most cases, that person still affects a part of ourselves.
A dream offers the opportunity to get in touch with the divine guide, to know the content of our subconscious and to see past, present and future.
There is something about the sleep phenomenon that makes it difficult to remember what happened. Most dreams are quickly forgotten, unless they have a strong emotional or spiritual impact, or are transcribed. Sometimes, one suddenly remembers a dream later in the day, or in the future: this suggests that the memory of a dream is not totally lost, but is only difficult to recover.
Nightmares are very common among children and quite common among adults. In the case of adults, nightmares are believed to be caused by excessive stress, unresolved fears, indigestion, traumatic experiences, emotional difficulties, drugs or medicines, disease. However, some people have frequent nightmares that don’t seem in any way related to any of the conditions listed above, nor to their awake lives. In such cases, it could be assumed that their nightmares are related to “memories” of previous lives.
The great masters of yoga claim that the memories of our past lives, although buried deep in our subconscious or superconscious being, are always with us. This theory would also explain the higher frequency of nightmares among children than adults.
«We are made of the same substance that dreams are made of»
-William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV